This spring, the Print Sales section at the Photographers’ Gallery in London presents us with a new and surprising display of images. What makes it so surprising is that they didn’t invite real photographers to show their works, but what they would rather call ‘image-makers’. Indeed, the common feature all six artists share is that they don’t take the photographs themselves but use pre-existing images they further modify through cut-outs, collages and embroidery. The result is quite refreshing and has the merit of questioning our conception of photography, making us reflect on the notions of appropriation and manipulation.
Lives and works in London (b. 1949, Worcester, UK)
Of the six artists presented, John Stezaker is maybe the best known to the general public. Three years ago, the Whitechapel Gallery held an important retrospective of his work, and one year later, he won the Deutsche Börse photography prize. His collages assemble vintage photographs, postcards and film stills, creating new and narratively powerful images.
“Damage to an image is overtly dissimulative. It is a piercing of the illusion of the image by the exposure of its material support, or of its contingency with the everyday world. But what interests me much more, is the way damage also seems to reveal the opposite; the inviolability of the image; that the image is in some sense untouched by physical damage. The image is also elsewhere, and damage, it seems, is needed to create this awareness of the image as separation. Pictures seem to bear the accidental scars of damage with a digniﬁed indifference.” (Interview by Andrew Warstat)
To see more pictures, visit the artist’s page on The Approach website.
Lives and works in London (b. 1966)
Most photographs used by Julie Cockburn are portraits coming from the 50s’. She completes them by adding geometrical patterns of embroidery on those anonymous figures, hence preventing us from any type of identification. This new technique gives a vintage look to the photographs while, at the same time, inscribing them into the present.
Visit the artist’s page on re-title.com.
Lives and works in Portland, ME, USA (b. 1979, London, UK)
Informed collector of old cabinet cards, he plays with them by adding painted abstract forms on each subject’s face. The result is both disturbing and offbeat.
“I use these portraits as psychological clotheshorses to create grotesque and sinister scenarios, enabling me to project thoughts, fears and anxieties in an immediate and direct way and often with a macabre sense of humor.” (Interview from The Wild Magazine)
Some of his works are also presented in the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. Visit his website to learn more about him and his work.
(b. 1965, USA)
Gerald Slota is the only artist in the exhibition to use both his own photographs and some vintage ones. He cuts them, scratches some parts, writes and draw on them, blures them until he reached the point he wanted to achieve: until he manages to give them this disturbing and dark look loaded with strange narratives.
“It’s a very intuitive process …. I start with a loose theme and work with a variety of materials to see if I can create something that, aesthetically, falls within that idea. If I make a mistake, I run with it, which, ultimately, adds to the feel of the image.” (Interview from the New Yorker)
Visit the artist’s website.
(b. 1951, Boulder, Colorado)
The work of the American artist is maybe the more remote from the notion of photography as the pictorial element is strongly present. The selection on display includes small paintings on which she added tiny photographic elements. The photographs used are abstract but the shapes she gives them leads to the creation of ghostly human-like characters.
Have a look to the artist’s website. where she uploaded some videos on the techiques she uses to produce her works.
Lives and works in Berlin, Germany (b. Santiago, Chile)
The Chilian artist calls her works “analogue collages”. She draws new lines and outlines to the existing figures by superimposing colourful papers to the cut-out photographs. As a result, the balance and dynamic of the original photo are changed, and our overall perception of the picture as well.
“Sometimes I don’t pick the images; I first pick the colors. Then I go through books and make cuttings, or I’ll have cuttings already. It’s really random – I really don’t have a certain way to do it. I collect certain colors, certain shapes, and sometimes I don’t end up using them.” (Interview from Gestalten)
Visit the artist’s webiste to see more pictures.
For more information, visit the Photographers’ Gallery website.