Out of Obscurity - Flowers Gallery
Is there a place for abstract and experimental photography in the photographic world? I found that during my undergraduate and postgraduate studies the types of photography I was introduced to were primarily people who used the camera to show what they saw. From Julia Margaret Cameron to Martin Parr the photographic world appeared to be dominated by people making images with a camera in a traditional manner. These images documented history, people, time, and conceptual ideas all of which are completely relevant and very much should be included in education. However, when it came to photographers who used the camera in an alternative way they seemed to be glossed over or put into a subcategory.
As someone who loves experimenting in the dark room and building my own cameras this is something that has bothered me, which is why when I saw that Flowers Gallery was doing an exhibition showcasing abstract photography I knew I had to go.
This exhibition is an excellent example of photographers using the camera in a unique and interesting way. Each artist explored the photographic medium and questioned how we define photography.
‘Out of Obscurity’ is a response to Alfred Stieglitz cloud studies, ‘Equivalents’ created in 1920. This body of work by Stieglitz is generally recognized as the first photographic abstract work. The horizon line and subjects pertaining to the sky are a continuous theme running throughout the show. As you walk into the gallery you are greeted by an array of colours and patterns.
My two favourite pieces from the exhibition absolutely have to be Edward Burtynsky’s ‘Phosphor Tailings Pond #2, Polk County, Florida’ and Chloe Sells ‘Alliance’. When viewing Burtynsky’s abstract landscape you are completely enveloped in lines shape and colour. At first glance it doesn’t even feel like you are looking at a photograph. From far away the image could be interpreted as an abstract expressionist painting, but as you move closer details from the photograph reveal themselves slowly. You begin to see coast lines and details of the algae blooms. His use of perspective abstracts the piece creating a painterly ethereal vibe.
Chloe Sells work almost attacks you with its vibrant bursts of colour. She does not conform to the typical rectangular format of photography and focuses on the physicality of the film. She utilizes overlaying of images while manipulating the film with chemicals in the dark room, the result being beautiful representations of a flock of birds.
This exhibition showcased artists using cement, sun trails, satellite data, and other experimental practices to visualise a common theme. ‘Out of obscurity’ proved that experimental photography is relevant and important part of contemporary art that needs to be discussed more. Photography is not just a singular form, but rather a varied and multifaceted medium. I was truly impressed by the diversity of work included in this show and its ability to prove abstract photography’s importance.
Written by Elizabeth Ransom