Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Shadow Catchers: Camera-Less Photography

Image © Floris Neusüss

If you haven't had a chance to check out Shadow Catchers: Camera-less Photography at the V&A yet, there's still time, as the show closes it's doors on 20 February. Featuring Floris Neusüss, Pierre Cordier, Susan Derges, Garry Fabian Miller and Adam Fuss, the exhibition offers a cross-section of the careers of each artist alongside new work created exclusively for the occasion.

In contrast to the visually verbose nature of much photography, the work of the artists presented here is by turns minimal and reductive. The differing techniques - achieved by not using a camera - create an interesting sense of indexicality and gently coax the viewer into a highly contemplative state. Living up to the title, the ethereal and the fleeting loom large and the work often draws inspiration from nature, religion, science as well as photographic history.

Introducing the exhibition is Floris Neusüss’ work - well developed in exploring it's themes of "mythology, history, nature and the subconcious". At times somewhat fetishised, his Gewitterbild pieces – photographs exposed by lightning – were fascinating in their inversion of ideas of authorship.

Pierre Cordier is unique within the group, insisting strongly that he does not ‘make’ photographs. His highly complex works stem from a strong interest in the cryptic, the cult-ish and the encoded. These, combined with his pseudo-scientific approach provide an intoxicating mix of both control and chance, all enshrouded by an air of obsessiveness.

Renown for her photograms of water, Susan Derges work is largely influenced by ideas of cyclical rhythm and ‘what underlies the visual’. Her Arch series is truly brought to life with a separate room solely dedicated to it allowing you to fully soak it in.

Masterful in his execution,Garry Fabian Miller's abstract images focus on "the essence of photography: time and light". His ‘photographs’ take both a spiritual and meditative form, seeming always to posit the question ‘what is the real essence?’

Seeming to finally underscore and examine our relationship to nature, the final room in the exhibition is dedicated entirely to Adam Fuss’ series My Ghost. Nuss takes us on a journey of the spiritual through symbolic and emblematic motifs.

The truism that sometimes the nature of things can be better understood, not by what they are, but by what they are not, certainly seems apt here, and as a whole, the exhibition is defined in this way - rather than documenting the world, the camera-less photographs show what has never really existed at all.

Shadow Catchers: Camera-less Photography is curated by Martin Barnes, Senior Curator of Photographs at the V&A and exhibits from the 13 October - 20 February.