The beginning of my Photography domain.
Born in England in 1955, she is now internationally recognised as a photographic artist. Her speciality is in camera-less photographic processes – “The methods of camera-less photography are so simple but the results can be so profound,” says Martin Barnes, the senior curator of photographs at the V&A. Susan mostly works with natural landscapes, her work is now in many museum collections and she’s also exhibited in Europe, America and Japan.
This technique is said to be able to be dated back to as late as the 8th century, used by Arab alchemist, ‘Jabir ibn Hayyan’. It hit its popularity with botanical illustrators in the 1850s, but then was further used by artists like Man Ray in the 1920s.
Martin Barnes quotes further to the above statement on camera-less photography, as to why he believes it is used rather than the traditional way, “By removing the camera, these artists get closer to the source of what they are interested in: light, time, traces, signs and visions – things which have spiritual and metaphysical rather than simply physical qualities. Laying down the camera frees them from documentation to become, like alchemists, more focussed on transformation.”
This statement from Barnes supports the basis of my idea for my FMP, as I want to experience and experiment with a variety of ways as to how I can make my project diverse and unusual with the use of these different techniques I am overseeing in my research. Whether I choose to use just one or a mix of them I come across. I want to be closer to the subject I am covering, and this is a way that expresses to do that and I want to experience others that will enable me to do so.
Although this particular technique of camera-less photography has been used overtime and could be said to be ‘outdated’, it is in fact still used today and in recent events like a new exhibition at the V&A. This exhibition shines the light on 5 of the best photographers that use this technique, one being that of Susan Derges.
Artists including Susan have practised this way of photography for over 20 years, including with the use of; flashes of lighting and moonlight to create exposure and the use of syrup and even nail varnish to create chemical reactions on the photographic papers surface. This approach is basically the same procedure as to what the essence of photography is, just in a different way and with the use of different elements to create images without the use of a camera.
Susan Derges as I’ve previously said, work mostly outdoors with landscapes at night. One major publication of her work was named, ‘Woman Thinking River’. To which she submerged photographic paper beneath the surface of water and then exposes this to a flashlight or/and moonlight. This then enables the creation of patterns by the waves and ripples within the water itself.
Influence and Thoughts
Along with the work from Moholy-Nagy, Susan works with a specialised technique that isn’t just your usual standard taking a photograph with a camera. Although I may repeat myself a number of times during the research and development process of my FMP, I feel it’s right to stress the point being made that I as the artist want to thoroughly study these memorable styles by these photographers in my work. As they form an interest of mine, that inspires and makes me enthusiastic about my work, to want to produce something I am proud of and that I have been passionate in making. I want there to be more than just me and the camera, and researching these different artists and the methods they use makes me more excited about this and future projects. I want to produce work that isn’t just a print on a canvas on a wall, I want it to be experienced by the audience and maybe be felt or walked through, not just looked at, for my work to have more meaning and participation.
Susan also studied painting at the Chelsea College of Art and Design from the years of 1973 to 1976 and also at the Slade School of Art from 1977 to 1979. It was after all of this that she turned to photography, looking at its early techniques ones that she has continued to develop to this day, including the likes of camera-less photography.