BJP #7834: Driven to Abstraction

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Analogue photography is undergoing a massive resurgence right now, and the more obscure the process the better, reports Diane Smyth in the lead article for our April issue, which is devoted to process, experiment and abstraction. In London alone, there are two shows (at Tate Britain and James Hyman Gallery) devoted to salt prints made at the very dawn of the medium, and another, Revelations. Experiments in Photography at Media Space, considers early scientific imaging and its influence on contemporary artists.

We talk to the curators behind Revelations, and we visit Timothy Prus of Archive of Modern Conflict to hear the thinking behind The Whale’s Eyelash, his ‘re-enactment’ of 19th century microscope slides as a ‘five-act play’ in photobook form.

But it’s not just that early photographic practices are being reappraised; as the Media Space show illustrates, contemporary artists are also turning to analogue processes, and many take inspiration from the experiments and investigations conducted by photographers of their grandparents and great-grandparents generation. Smyth investigates this shift towards abstraction, talking to gallery owners, curators and art world observers about its genesis – not least as a response to the digital realm. As photographs have become so ubiquitous in our daily lives, on social media and elsewhere, can this resurgence in analogue usage be attributed to artists’ desire to give their work more currency – to create unique objects that can’t easily be replicated, shared and repurposed? And is this all part of the wider trend towards the artisan, or, is it led by the art market and its drive towards exclusivity.

This might be the wider picture, explaining the appeal of this work to dealers and collectors, but the artists are led by their own practice and, it seems, a desire to test boundaries. Mariah Robertson is one four featured in this month’s issue, and she’s very much a part of the vanguard of artists experimenting with analogue, pushing it in directions that stretch the medium to its physical limits rather than simply regurgitating old-school processes. She sees in these processes an alternative to photography’s tendency towards order and control, embracing chaos. “All your attempts at controlling life are going to fail,” she declares. “So you should let that go!”

Elsewhere in this month’s issue, we have our usual mix of previews and reviews, including Salt and Silver at Tate Britain, and extended coverage of this year’s World Press Photo. Our Projects section features an unusual take on financial data, as interpreted by Catherine Losing and Anna Lomax in a commission for Riposte magazine (and which made our April cover). In Intelligence, we speak to two of the photographers tasked with documenting one of Europe’s largest construction projects, Crossrail, and we consider the value of gallery representation against a more DIY approach to print sales. Plus our technology briefings include reports on RAID storage, wireless flash, and a test of Canon’s new 24mm f/2.8 pancake lens.

This issue is available from the BJP shop.

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