The Photographic Original and Artistic Practices
Black& White Photography, Photograms, Pinhole Photography, Cyanotypes, Gum Bichromate, Wet Collodion Process,
A Group Exhibition of Alexander Manchev, Anton Kotsarov, Vanessa Gotsova, Ivan Bogdanov, Ioana Kaludova, Ioana Lagu, Kaloyan Bogdanov, Katina Nedeva, Lilyana Karadzhova, Sylvia Deshkova; Curator: Lilyana Karadzhova
The participants are students and lecturers in the Photography Master’s Programme, National Academy of Art
The exchange between the original, the copy and artistic practices is a theme of the living core of modern photography. The photographic original and artistic media can mutually define one another as opposites; yet, they can also enter into countless symbioses about which critics still have no unambiguous criteria. Such encounter can be seen in fusing various photo printing techniques, negative contact print, breaking frame borders, progress (or interruption) of the meaning of the image in a conceptual sequence, in an object, installation, video or experimental cinema. Blending such techniques may lead to the photographers’ abuse of expressiveness and effects but it can also emancipate them from the canons of the genre, provoke and incorporate the quest for true photography.
The ten authors of the National Academy of Art’s Photography Master’s Programme work with affinity for the classical photographic processes and chemicals but are well-aware of modern art practices. They don’t seek shelter under the noble patina of time but practice photography as a breathing creative process where a spirituality that proclaimed itself in the middle of the nineteenth century continues to manifest itself in new and unexpected forms. In the dynamics of their collaborative work, the presented authors have developed a dialogue through photographic quotes, correlations and counterpoints, both conceptual and technical.
“The Photographic Original and Artistic Practices” Project challenges us with a question almost as old as photography itself – how and why interference in a photographic effort takes away from its specificity and aesthetic aura, and how and when the photographic endeavour achieves not only to preserve its specificity but also to exert some kind of expansion into the „cracks“ of the classical artistic and new media. The „schism“ and the contamination between the photographic original and the artistic practices is an issue larger than the formal study of the classical and modern categories of aesthetics and history of art. This question goes beyond genre definitions and technical capacities of contemporary photographic practice, and instead of proposing an unambiguous response, aims to offer an authentic interpretation in the content of the works of each of the presented photographers: Alexander Manchev, Anton Kotsarov, Vanessa Gotsova, Ivan Bogdanov, Ioana Kaludova, Ioana Lagu, Kaloyan Bogdanov, Katina Nedeva, Lilyana Karadzhova, Sylvia Deshkova.
The project consciously presents a long, dynamic and consistent process that began in the late 1970s. Then the interest in old and alternative processes was revived as a counterpoint to conceptualism and museumification of photography. Contrary to the aesthetic and technical values removed from conceptual art, in contrast to the purposeful cancellation of the genuine, individual photographers and artists attempted to reestablish the classic values of the photographic art. They gradually endorsed their approach and definitive evidence of the success of their work is the Shadow Catchers: Camera-less Photography Exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2010 along with hundreds of events in world-recognized museums and galleries. In the last decade, the revival of photographic processes has gradually unfolded through the classical genres – portrait, landscape, and still-life, but has also reached a state of maturity when it can generate hybrid artistic forms. These enable the direct expression of classical ideas through modern concepts and resound the rolling thunder of the universal in the piercing voice of the photographic attempt and the pursuit of the concrete.
Kaloyan Bogdanov presents a series of cyanotypes combined with experimental oil painting approach resembling paper marbling. The aqueous basis of both processes is interpreted as living fluidity binding the realities of photography and painting. The mixed technique reveals the opposition between photographic cohesion and dynamic processes in artworks.
Sylvia Deshkova explores the storage, transformation and destruction of the photographic original and its copy. Photo-chemical dashes resemble painting practices but are accomplished only through photographic media. Several portraits have been copied numerous times and treated with various chemical solutions of the photo laboratory which raises issues of the photographic aesthetic aura.
Ivan Bogdanov presents an author’s short film, interwoven with experimental approaches to filming, the narrative structure, and the rhythm of film editing. The frames have been taken with a pinhole camera and, through high frame rate, build up a cinematographic pinhole “performance”. The author has come into a symbiosis with an animal mask that allows him to discover animalistic expressiveness in free movement, gesture and dance.
Alexander Manchev has been taking urban landscape images of Saint Petersburg with a pinhole camera. The selected panoramic format allows the small camera obscura to reach the optimal angle of view of 120 degrees. The field of view highlights the space and scale of the historic city while the subjective point of view adds up area to the ground level and transforms the solid foundations of the architectural sites into a cultural metaphor.
Vanessa Gotsova makes copies of portraits on the pages of an old encyclopedia containing botanical species illustrations. The faces and plants are in visible confrontation, after which the portraits sink behind the flowers and seem to bestow them another kind of endurance. This sign hints of the history of illustration that has lost ground after the advent of photography.
The conceptual photograms by Ioana Kaludova go beyond classic representation of recognizable objects through camera-less techniques. The bulk substances, employed in the process, are unrecognizable and imply the possible ruin, inherent to each dry substance. Abstractions are inspired by distant outer space, but their detail retains the connection with the material presence of the particular printed object.
Ioana Lagu introduces the theme of the original and the copy in the reproduction of a single frame (touristic, at that!) through a variety of old processes. The conceptual approach explores the prospect of obtaining authenticity and uniqueness only through the specificity of the material medium. Ioana Lagu ridicules photographic aestheticization of trivial stories when they are ends in themselves.
Lilyana Karadzhova, the Curator of the Exhibition, presents the collaborative effort of the authors from the National Academy of Art Master’s Programme in Photography in an exclusive Almanac of the Photo laboratory. Rather than showing the faces of those working in the dark room, they are documented with their unique fingerprints. The photochemical interpretation of dactyloscopy (fingerprint identification) records the original touch of their hands and their presence.