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In her seminal book, ‘On Photography’, Susan Sontag suggested that photography was the ultimate in surrealist art forms. At first I struggled to understand this – how could a technology whose very purpose was that of unadulterated representation of the ‘real’ be seen as anything but that?
Photography captures moments (decisive or otherwise); infinitesimal slivers of time sliced from what we label as reality; a photograph is still, rigid and fixed, whereas reality is forever mobile, fluid and transient; a photograph is the least real thing that we have.
‘Photo-Synthetic’ began life as an exploration of the ancient technique of lumen printing; laying plants directly onto light-sensitised paper and allowing the sun to create its impression. Fox-Talbot was doing this 180 years ago during his research into what eventually became photography as we now understand it.
I began to research environmentally sustainable alternatives to traditional photographic chemicals as well as looking into what happens when the chemicals in leaves and flowers begin to interact with those in photographic paper both in daylight (see ‘Helios’) and when left in complete darkness.
The results, in and of themselves, are pleasing and – to me at least – fascinating physical traces of what once was real (as is every single photograph in existence) but I needed to go one stage further, to close the loop…