No singular observer, after Marie-José Mondzain’s ‘Can images Kill?’

Knowing about my fixation with the ethics of photography, particularly when it comes to documentary images, a friend suggested I might be interested in a portuguese edition of Marie-José Mondzain‘s ‘Can images Kill’. As I went searching online, I came across an article, with the same title, that she had published back in 2009, @ Critical Inquiry. As I started to read, it took me a while to understand where she was going. She takes her time. She speaks about the crisis of the visible and traces links between capitalism and the passive role we, as consumers, assume, when we enter the sphere of visual language (in our daily narratives and in the fictional arena). Mondzain also evokes the importance of religious icons, in order for us to better understand what she means about the gaze being the agent that gives visibility to an image, in the sense that the gaze “has” the desire and the passion that empowers images to come into their own. Let me quote from her:

…today there is an additional strange anxiety: the power of images consists in pushing us to imitate them, and the narrative content of images could commit direct violence by pushing us to enact it. Images were once accused of making visible; now they are accused of making us do things. 

However, as she astutely notes, the existence of violence implies the existence of subjects. Without these, there is nothing to gain/nothing to lose. Then when she finally formulates THE question, what I understand is that what puzzles her is who is the agent in an image? Are images subjects or objects? Are they autonomous? Do they act on their own? Who is responsible for what happens when they get to the observer: the maker, the photograph or the viewer? Can images kill? Do images make us killers? she finally asks…

As an object without body, hand, or will, can it [an image] act as a magical influence?” It’s a tricky question, as we all know. I’d say it’s difficult to define the autonomy of an image, what it can go on to do, and in that sense an image has an ethics; an image is not only a mechanism of representation, so what does it manage to create that is beyond the realm of the visibly known?; on the other hand, can its maker be responsible for its path? It’s no easy answer… To try and resolve this problem, Mondzain suggests we look at the dynamics of the images, and not at their “referential content”. In other worlds, Mondzain wants to address the power of images, not particularly in terms of the semiotic language, but in terms of their “magical” power, i.e., that which transforms them into “substitutive objects”. It’s here that I find one of her most interesting ideas: referencing the myth of Medusa and Narcissus, Mondzain states that the potential violence of images derives from identification, meaning:

The violence of the image explodes when it permits the identification of the unrepresentable within the visible; this is the same as saying that the image is only sustained through a dissimiliarity, in the space between the visible and the seeing subject.

And then comes the recipe: “Becoming one with what we see is fatal, and what can save us is the production of a liberating difference.” As I understand it, for Mondzain that critical liberation is only possible when an image incarnates, i.e., not to imitate, not to replicate, not to incorporate, not to simulate, but instead to give flesh:

To incarnate is to give flesh and not to give body. It is to act in the absence of things. The image gives flesh, that is, carnal visibility to an absence in an irreducible distance from its model […] in the incarnated image three indissociable authorities are formed: the visible, the invisible, and the gaze that establishes their relation. The image belongs to a strange logic of the included third.


The manifestation of truth entails the incarnation of the world in the flesh of images. The image becomes a human construction, and what gives value to this construction is not to be found outside of the visible but rather within it. The invisible in the image is the word itself. The image produces neither evidence nor truth and can only show what is produced by the gaze. The image awaits its visibility, which emerges from the relation established between those who produce it and those who look at it. As an image, it shows nothing. If it consciously shows something, it communicates and no longer shows its real nature, that is, the expectation of a gaze. This is why, rather than invisible, it is better to speak of an unseen, of what.


My allergy to any lexicon that addresses The Church has brought me some misfortunes in my academic life. It will one day be overcome, but not today. Mondzain’s constant references to the iconic power of images in a religious context keep taking away my enthusiasm for her arguments. I feel she’s on to something new, but then the references to Christ keep taking me back to a place where the gaze is fundamentally different from that of a spectator’s who’s role, in the “spectacle of visibilities” has a more immediate impact. Mondzain states that “[V]iolence within the visible concerns neither images of violence nor the violence of images as such but rather the violence committed against thought and speech in the spectacle of visibilities.

The question of responsibility is a difficult one. How can we decide if one is absolutely responsible for the images one makes for him/herself? How can we become alert and conscious about everything that constitutes that “spectacle of visibilities”? How can we control the violent actions of our gaze? Can we really choose what and how we give meaning to images? At one point, Mondzain addresses what she calls “objects that resist the murderous erosion of idolatrous appropriations” that she describes poetically with the following words:

These works are all the more authoritative because nothing can exhaust them, as if they invariably escape all fixed and definite meaning. They fully assume a kind of atopia that gives their mortality a semblance of eternity. They operate as incarnations of a dubious and endless freedom. They are real, although they are identifiable not in how they appear, nor in the program they fulfill, nor in the circumstances of their commission. They are real, but free of all conditions. Fictions, semblances, and immaterial shapes have a real goal: to satisfy desire by keeping it unsatisfied.

It’s almost cruel to resume Mondzain’s arguments (I don’t even mention her reflection about ‘the screen’ and I recommend reading the article, of course), but as I understand it, her conclusion regarding violence and responsibility indicates that context is the key and, in that sense, an inclusive and collective effort to address images and meaning as something that is constantly being transformed by the way we relate to them, might be an answer. That’s not to say a singular observer is no longer responsible for not having a critical eye, but, instead, that one’s lack of responsibility in this communal space of images is always our responsibility. In her own words:

Every image signifies a dangerous storm, where we must know how to govern.Weare all responsible for the visibilities that we make available and want to share. In a politics of the visible it is not a question of counting voices but of giving each voice a place where it can be heard and of giving each spectator a place where he or she can respond and be heard. The violence of the visible is no more than the disappearance of such a place and thereby the annihilation of the voice.

Marco Breuer: brightness can fool you

© Marco Breuer, ‘Early Light/Radiant AG-1B (C-902)’.

Breuer has been making abstract photographs since the early 1990s. However, in contrast to Aaron Siskind, whose black-and-white photographs of walls were linked to the gestural paintings of the Abstract Expressionists, particularly those of his friend Franz Kline, Breuer works with sheets of chromogenic paper, which, as the label for “Untitled (C-1773)” (2016) informs us, has been “exposed/ embossed/ scraped.” Ordinarily when it comes to photographs, we tend to look at the image and ignore the surface. […] Conventional photographs might be able to halt time and preserve a particular moment, but Breuer is having no part of it. His photographs are — as Rosenberg would say — the aftermath of an event. 

excerpt from: After the Storm, and Before, by John Yau @ Hyperallergic

© Marco Breuer, Untitled (C-1379), 2013
Chromogenic Paper, burned/scraped
20″ × 16″ (50.8 × 40.6 cm)
© Marco Breuer, “Untitled (C-1178)” (2012)
chromogenic paper, burned
31 3/4 x 25 1/2 inches. Unique.
© Marco Breuer, Untitled (Fuse), 1995
Gelatin Silver Paper, burned
18″ × 14″ (45.7 × 35.6 cm)

excerpts from a conversation  between Vanessa Kauffman and Marco Breuer, from 2016. More @

Kauffman: Your work is full of gesture, which removes it from any specific place but also gives it intimacy. The marks in your images could represent any moment, any place.
Breuer: The work has become gestural over time. I used to work with self-recording phenomena, photograms, and that was tied to objects. In these current projects, the work is much more about line and color. When you’re starting out after school, you’re trying to claim some space for yourself, and you’re trying to define who you are as an artist. If you have a contrarian personality, like I do, you do it by deciding who you’re not. But that’s not a sustainable mode—you can’t work in opposition for thirty years. Eventually you realize it doesn’t matter what other people do—what matters is what you do and the choices you make—and you have to own those choices. For me, that meant moving away from more automatic or chance-driven work to making concrete decisions: to put a certain type of line in a certain place because that’s what I want to do.


Kauffman: You’ve talked a lot about collaborations with writers. Is language an important aspect of your work, or an entry point into it, for you?
Breuer: As an artist, you write about your work on a regular basis, and you work on press releases and other texts, so language is a necessary crutch. But it’s certainly not how I get into the work. I do have a complicated relationship with language because English is not my first language. Halfway through my life I switched from German to English, which has changed things. There are different cultural concepts that can be expressed in certain languages, and you quickly become aware of them when you start speaking another language. At this point, I can barely talk about my work in German anymore because I don’t have the conceptual vocabulary — I developed it in English. I speak German, just not that particular slice of it.

Kauffman: The experience of the work can too easily become about the words and the description of it. Your work has a visual vernacular, but that vernacular is elusive in a delightful way—you see the impulses of a language, but there is not a particular semiotics.
Breuer: Every time you do attach words to artwork, you limit it. Obviously when visual work is written about, everyone’s looking for a hook—one sentence that describes what the work is about. I’ve always thought that’s a problem. If you can describe someone’s work in one sentence, there’s not enough happening. I try to point this out when I talk about the work. I make it clear that the verbal discussion is a secondary stage, and what we should be doing is looking at the work. When reproductions are involved—whether they are projections, slides, or reproductions in a book—there is loss in that translation too. I try to play this up, rather than pretend it’s not
there. The ideal scenario is somebody encountering your work without preconceived notions in the original piece, seeing all the surface violations and the actual marks on the paper. The reality is that much of the work is consumed online, encountered either in some dematerialized form, or described in words, and none of these ways are ideal.
I gave a lecture at California College of the Arts on April 21, 2016, and the question of language is a big question I consider every time I speak. My work is not based in language, but I prepare to talk about my work for an hour. Lectures are also an opportunity to think about different aspects of your. I built this lecture in five different loops. The reason that I chose the loop is that I don’t believe in linear progression—I always return to things I’ve done before, or some variation of them. There’s a circular element in the forward motion of everything.

© Marco Breuer, Untitled (C-659), 2006
Chromogenic Paper, exposed/embossed/scratched
14 11/16″ × 11 3/8″ (37.3 × 28.9 cm)
© Marco Breuer, Untitled (Clean), 1999
Gelatin Silver Paper, exposed
10 3/8″ × 6 5/8″ (26.4 × 16.8 cm)
© Marco Breuer, Untitled (E-87), 2005
Gum Bichromate on Fabriano Paper (640 gsm), abraded
17 11/16″ × 13 5/8″ (44.9 × 34.6 cm)
© Mrco Breuer, Untitled (C-1469), 2014
Chromogenic Paper, exposed/embossed/folded/burned/scraped
20 1/8″ × 14 1/8″ (51.1 × 35.9 cm) . Unique.

≡ True color thinking ≡

For the past 4 years, in collaboration with two colleagues – Luis Pavão & Paula Lourenço -, I’ve been teaching Alternative Processes in Photography. One of the courses we used to teach was dedicated to Color Printing Processes, which I particularly enjoyed. About two years ago I decided to tattoo the color scheme on my hand, so I’ll always have a trace of how meaningful these years of teaching have been like.


I recently came across a new set of paints called Nameless Paints, by a young designer duo from Japan, Yusuke Imai and Ayami Moteki. Instead of carrying labels with their names, these paints have a deconstructed version of how colors come together to give birth to a new one. Unfortunately, and although I was supposed to be teaching Color Processing since September, we’ve been prevented from teaching, otherwise I would be using this set to show students how creative we can be when we think of color.

nameless-paints-1 nameless-paint-set-1-new

A color archive of the world from the beginning of the 20th century.

≡ Multilayered timeframes in Binh Dahn’s work ≡

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA© Binh Danh, Iridescence of Life No. 22. Chlorophyll print on nasturtium leaf, butterfly specimen, & resin, 2008

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA© Binh Danh, Iridescence of Life No. 5. Chlorophyll print on nasturtium leaf, butterfly specimen, & resin, 2008

In Michigan Quarterly Review (Volume XLIII, Issue 4, 2004), John Schafer writes about Binh Danh’s intertexual images before going on to recount how he experiences Vietname (Danh’s birthplace, 1977) through iconic war photographs, despite having lived there 4 years during the war:

«Literary critics emphasize that stories and poems are intertextual. When one reads, one hears what Roland Barthes called “off-stage voices,” references to prior texts. Visual “texts” are also intertextual, of course. Binh Danh’s images are striking in part because they are so vividly and concretely intertextual. Within each leafy image is a photo that we have seen already — maybe not the exact photo we know but one like it. How we react to his images depends on our experience with the earlier photos and on how we see the text of the photo interacting with the text of the leaf.»

Schafer sees Danh’s leaves as a place where history is given a chance for truce, in which pictures of suffering, violence, and death are enshrouded by the greenness of life and hope, but he also recognizes in them the power to convey a special message about the way civilization deals with nature, and I would add the way history affects memory and vice-versa:

«Binh Danh’s works, like the plants they are printed on, are produced by photosynthesis, the same process that the U.S.’s defoliation program was designed to inhibit. Evidence suggests that Agent Orange, one of the agents used to defoliate, has caused illness, birth defects, and chromosome alterations. In peacetime too, humans out of greed or ignorance often destroy nature and render it unable to hold us in its protective grasp. In Binh Danh’s works, however, images of human suffering are cradled in the hand of nature

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA© Binh Danh, Shock & Awe, 2008. Chlorophyll print and resin, from the project Immortality, The Remnants of the Vietnam and American War.

1082077212© Binh Danh, Mother and Child, 2005. Chlorophyll print and resin, from the project Immortality, The Remnants of the Vietnam and American War.

binh-danh-vietnam-war-1© Binh Danh, Ambush in the Leaf #4, 2007, from the project Immortality, The Remnants of the Vietnam and American War.

In the context of an exhibition held at SOMArts in 2012 entitled The Future Is NOW: Asian America on, Its Own Terms, Danh told interviewer Corinna Karg how photography is always dealing with death, resurrection, memory, nature and rebirth:

«When I was looking at pictures of the war, photos of civilians being wounded or killed saddened me. I imagined as they are bleeding and possibly dying, their essences sank into the ground and the memories of the event join with the landscape. For me, a photograph is always a picture of the past, but that past lives in the present moment when the image is resurrected in ourselves by the pure act of us looking at the artwork.

We could use photography to meditate on themes of death, resurrection, history, landscape, time, and our collective memories. For me looking at the pictures of war and especially those on leaves, I understand that death is within reach and life is fragile. It is acknowledging that we will die at any moment makes our lives more meaningful. And when it does happen, we know that we ultimately become part of nature. I hope the viewers are able to form narratives about the Vietnam War. Why people were leaving the country during and after the war? And as a result, Vietnamese communities formed through out the world.»

and the conversation goes on…

«How did you arrive at the technique of printing on leaves trough photosynthesis, and what made you later transition to daguerreotype?

One summer, I was motivated to experiment with photosynthesis and its pigments after watching the lawn change color due to a water hose that was placed on it. Soon after that observation, I was making chlorophyll prints. For the past 5 years, I have been making daguerreotype, a 19-century photographic process. I have taken a historical process and applying it to a contemporary theme. A study of photo-history is a study of humanity. Time and space are recorded for future evaluation and studies. Photography became a process that changes the way we record history, no longer just use words but images too. I love the quality of the daguerreotype, the reflective surfaces. The viewer becomes part of the artwork as the view the photograph.

Are the tropical plants you use in your chlorophyll prints Vietnamese or American plants?

They are plants grown in my garden.

Why did you choose something organic, like the leaves, as a canvas for images of something man-made, like war?

This process deals with the idea of elemental transmigration: the decomposition and composition of matter into other forms. The images of war are part of the leaves, and live inside and outside of them. The leaves express the continuum of war. They contain the residue of the Vietnam War: bombs, blood, sweat, tears, and metals. The dead have been incorporated into the landscape of Vietnam during the cycles of birth, life, and death; through the recycling and transformation of materials, and the creation of new materials. Since matter is neither created nor destroyed, but only transformed, the remnants of the Vietnam and American War live on forever in the Vietnamese landscape. This body of work addresses this continuum.»

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA© Binh Danh, Memory of Tuol Sleng, child 3, 2008. Chlorophyll print & resin, from the project In the Eclipse of Angkor.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA© Binh Danh, Ghost of Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum # 2, 2008. Daguerreotype, from the project In the Eclipse of Angkor.

binh© Binh Danh, Angkor Wat, 2008. Daguerreotype, from the project In the Eclipse of Angkor.

The Eclipse of Angkor is Danh’s work that shines a light to the victims of the Khmer Rouge, who were executed in Cambodia’s Tuol Sleng prison. Writing about this project, Max Weintraub (art21 Magazine, 2010) reflects on the artist’s relation to events he remembers only through photographs, such as the Vietnam War or the Cambodian genocide. For this project, Danh rephotographed archival imagery which was then reprinted as chlorophyll prints and daguerreotypes. Weintraub writes how the body of work constitutes more then a haunting index of systematic genocide:

«But Danh’s distinctive photographic processes and prints also transform the images into something more. Incised on a shimmering plate of metal or into a delicate leaf, each portrait becomes part relic and part photograph, and is invested with a powerful presence. It is no coincidence that both of the photographic processes Danh employs are time-consuming, complex methods that generate unique prints. By re-photographing images of anonymous victims of mass genocide using photographic processes that generate unreproducible images of extraordinary detail, Danh’s chlorophyll prints and daguerreotype plates restore a sense of individuality and intimacy to the victims depicted in the Khmer Rouge portraits. In addition, the extraordinary surfaces of Danh’s prints, as indexes of the time and great care required to produce them, invest the portraits with a significance and uniqueness that offsets the detached, bureaucratic objectivity of the original photographs.»

bd-thetransamericapyramid-copy© Binh Danh, The Transamerica Pyramid, 2014.  Daguerreotype, Unique (in camera exposure), from the project This, Then, Is San Francisco.

bd-thewomen_sbuilding18th© Binh Danh, The Women’s Building, 18th Street, 2014. Daguerreotype, Unique (in camera exposure), from the project This, Then, Is San Francisco.

bd-sanfranciscocityhall-copy© Binh Danh, San Francisco City Hall, 2014. Daguerreotype, Unique (in camera exposure), from the project This, Then, Is San Francisco.

Pete Brook, from Prison Photography, talks with Danh on account of yet another one of his impactful works, namely This, Then, Is San Francisco. They speak about the political nature of the work and how form and content are always conceived as a unified element is his work. Danh explains that “[t]he daguerreotype results in a reverse image. So, the cityscape is familiar but it’s odd. I like the uncanny.

٠ ‘Am I Nothing But Black?’ ٠

2008_8© Myra Greene, from the series Character Recognition, 2005-08. Ambrotype on Black glass, 3 by 4 inches.

2008_11© Myra Greene, from the series Character Recognition, 2005-08. Ambrotype on Black glass, 3 by 4 inches.

Myra_Greene_06© Myra Greene, from the series Character Recognition, 2005-08. Ambrotype on Black glass, 3 by 4 inches.

profile_norm© Myra Greene, from the series Character Recognition, 2005-08. Ambrotype on Black glass, 3 by 4 inches.

myra greene© Myra Greene, from the series Character Recognition, 2005-08. Ambrotype on Black glass, 3 by 4 inches.

“In Character Recognition, artist Myra Greene explores issues of the Female body, historical trauma and dismemberment and the healing power of memory. By using the antique photo process called wet collodion these pieces evoke a forgone era where slavery and colonialism reigned.

Introduced in the 1850’s, a glass plate was coated with collodion and then sensitized by dipping it into a bath of silver nitrate, while still wet the plate was placed in the camera and an exposure was made. The plate was then immediately developed, while still wet, to form the negative. In this work Myra has replaced the traditional transparent glass with black glass creating a unique positive image.

It is no coincidence that the five senses are represented here. This is meant to be a sensory experience. The most potent triggers of memories can be as subtle as smell, taste, sound, sight and touch. They take us inward on an excavation of shared histories/ memories. These are sites without artifacts only the stories etched in the DNA of our grandmothers. Make no mistake, Character Recognition is not meant to speak for any particular race, gender, or generation. This is a specific tale one that seeks a re/ memory, a re/ turn, a re/ telling, and re/knowing in the work of Myra Greene.

These images, however reminiscent, are not merely rooted in the pre-Civil War portraits of the enslaved and colonized. They are as current as the faces of the women of Darfur and Rwanda, the dismemberment as fresh as the missing limbs in Sierra Leone. They are as dark as the faces of the displaced in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans. However there is a reluctant beauty to these self-portraits, to these fragments. The full lips, the teeth, the eyes, the nose and the ears are isolated and seemingly dismembered from the rest of the body. Dark and lush they are a re/clamation, a re/membering and a re/ cognition born of a re-memory.”

essay by Deborah Jack

٠ Old fashioned = inauthentic for the present time ٠

esq-11-exclusive-sundance-portraits-jesse-eisenbergesq-13-exclusive-sundance-portraits-maggie-gyllenhaalesq-exclusive-sundance-portraits-jason-schwartzmann-22© Victoria Will, tintype portraits at Sundance film festival.

There is no denying that alternative photographic processes are fashionable these days. I’m sure there are people reflecting upon this at the very moment, writing articles and giving conferences on the very same issue. As for me, due to an investigation regarding ‘authenticity’, I got to think how this hype with ancient techniques may relate to the ‘quest for authenticity’.

In a short comment about the portraits seen above, the author said: “I am fascinated by the slow process, the finicky nature of the chemistry, and the beauty in each unpredictable result. There is something really special in each wet plate being one of a kind. It’s incredibly honest.” The discourse is undoubtedly romantic, as if the ‘nature’ of the chemistry could attest for the ‘nature’ of the subject depicted. As for the word ‘honest’ it is just plain wrong, for honesty is a moral quest. I suppose she means they are ‘sincere‘ for the origin of the word ‘sincere’ (sine + cera) does in fact mean something clean and pure, but that was long ago. The word ‘sincere’ now also applies to moral qualities…

This turn in the photographic medium is clearly related to the digital take-over and the excessive cleanliness and hyper-stylized images that now dominate the media – from publicity to photojournalism. There’s a lot of talk about photographs having lost their ‘authenticity’, but what people mean when they use this word in such a context is that they have lost their uniqueness. They may be beautiful but they are not sublime.

Alternative processed photographs – like tintypes – have the particularity of being manufactured and singular. Even if you can multiply them, each image will have its own print. But what does it say about the images themselves?

I’m not questioning the beauty of the objects. They definitely have more dimensions than digital images, not only because they have texture and they smell but mainly because they evoke the sentiment of being, both of the photographer and of the subject photographed. Tracing the hand of the author makes it easy to find empathy with his choices.

Anyway, this sudden fascination with the ‘old-fashioned’ is not exclusive of the photographic medium. It is  also very present in the music scene and in fashion. It’s the ‘mod’, the ‘rockabilly’, the ‘vintage looks’, the ‘retro shops’. It’s people going on protests singing protest songs from half a decade ago, it’s all this and much more.

So the question is: what is happening in society that makes people look back and feel nostalgic, instead of ‘being’ here and now?

One thing about ‘authenticity’ that many authors agree with is that the ‘rhetoric of authenticity’ derives from an anxiety with loss. The heideggerian take is that the anxiety of the everydayness is precisely what prevents us from ‘being authentic’. Though I now discard any proper definition of ‘authenticity,’ I can agree that without the chance to exist in the present, in no way can you feel or act in truth to yourself.

In “Sincerity and Authenticity”, Lionel Trilling writes: “Here and now may be unpleasant, but at least they are authentic in being really here and now, and not susceptible to explanation by some shadowy there and then.”

٠ ‘The Evidence of the Natural’ in Nádia Rodrigues Ribero’s work ٠

#05© Nádia Rodrigues Ribeiro, Sem título (Untitled) – 11.07.12, from Flora. Negative in chromogenic paper, chromogenic process, unique print 12x9cm.

#06© Nádia Rodrigues Ribeiro, Sem título (Untitled) – 20.07.12, from Flora. Negative in chromogenic paper, chromogenic process, unique print 12x9cm.

#09© Nádia Rodrigues Ribeiro, 215 Horas (215 Hours), from Flora, 2013. Diasec Print, 90x60cm.

Sofia Raquel Silva: Given your training at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Lisbon, to what extent are your painting studies reflected in your work?

Nádia Rodrigues Ribeiro: I could talk about the influence of painting in terms of the construction of the photographic image at a formal level, but there are other aspects that have been important in the development of my work. […] I consider that the key aspect is the constant persistence of the gaze, a trained perspective that I have progressively developed through the discipline of drawing. The act of looking and grasping that which stands in front of us, confrontation with the mirror, daily recording, drawing as an instrument for thinking — and as a record of memory — have all been important within my working methodology: providing important (or unimportant) notes about the images compiled in my notebooks. […]

#04© Nádia Rodrigues Ribeiro, Sem título (Untitled) – 10.07.12 to 20.07.12, from Flora. Silver paper negatives with Sabatier effect, gelatine and silver, unique prints 12x9cm each.

#03© Nádia Rodrigues Ribeiro, Sem título (Untitled) – 10.07.12 (15h30? to 16.07.12 (13h10), from Flora. Silver contact prints of infrared film, unique prints, 12x9cm each.

SRS: The project that you are presenting within the framework of the BES Revelação Award constitutes a kind of treatise on photographic morphology, intimately related to temporal aspects, such as photographic exposure and processing times. Your knowledge of this area has derived primarily from Paula Lourenço and Luís Pavão, who taught you alternative processes during your photography course in Tomar. When I asked Paula to describe this project in technical terms, she said: ‘The project is constituted by silver paper negatives, chromogenic negatives, silver paper negatives with application of the Sabatier effect, silver contact sheets, silver contact sheets obtained from infrared-sensitive, chromogenic contract sheets and cross-processed contract sheets.’ Could this painstaking attention to detail reveal a superhuman dimension, that ‘hides’ the artist’s sensitive gesture, leaving less room for error and anomalies, elements that establish a bridge between the beautiful and the sublime?

Nádia Rodrigues Ribeiro: I know what you mean when you refer to extreme attention to detail and the quasi-eradication of margin of error and the manner in which this can conceal the artist’s ‘sensitive gesture’. Error and anomaly are essential in any artistic practice. I believe that they are always present, although they’re sometimes not visible. Errors will occur throughout the artistic process that lead to a moment of reflection and sometimes a reformulation of a work. In my case (and I’m not solely talking about this specific project, but my work in general) I develop an intense laboratory practice, not only in the sense of regularity, but also involving a certain element of exhaustion — even, physical exhaustion, although I often don’t realize my own fatigue — perhaps it’s a question of love.

[…] error and anomaly and sometimes the related process of discovery constitute an integral part of my working process. I’m aware of the risk of paying excessive attention to form, that’s why you talk about Kantian greatness and smallness, in the passage from the beautiful to the sublime. The trajectory that is attained through practice, with continuous learning, with constant reshaping and restructuring of the work, or the artist, in a maturation process… is also attained with time.

#10#11© Nádia Rodrigues Ribeiro, Sem título (Untitled) – Test Pannel #1 front and back, 2013. Photographs by Flávio Nuno Joaquim.

SRS: Your work testifies to a strong desire to structure that which is apparently obvious — nature — as if this organizational gesture underpinned the construction of your own identity. There’s a curious tension between the simplicity of the represented object (such as a vase of flowers, a leaf or an animal skeleton) and the fragility of the individual that presents it. What do you think?

Nádia Rodrigues Ribeiro: Several questions arise during development of the work. However, there isn’t an overriding concern to find answers to everything. I try to ensure that this doesn’t become an obstacle during the process that is I avoid extreme
rationalization or justification for each step, and make sure that this doesn’t become an attempt to insert biographical or hereditary aspects as a justification.

My goal is to establish a relationship of confrontation with my work, to understand what interests me, think about the recurrent approach to nature, death and as a consequence to repetition and memory, perhaps thereby enabling this rooting of identity.

Behind my organized and methodical approach, perhaps there’s another chaotic and somewhat unstructured method, which explains the fragility of the individual that you referred to.

SRS: We’ve used some terminologies that provide a link to the work Autenticità Riflessiva, by the Italian philosopher Alessandro Ferrara, who, in the search for a definition of authenticity suggests four attributes that must be present in a work of art: coherence, maturity, depth and vitality. It seems to me that the first three can be fairly easily located in your work, so I suggest that you think about vitality as the ability to enhance new associations and other perceptions of reality. Considering this project and others, such as Herbarium (in which you present plants through various forms of contact printing), how do you think that a mimetic representation of reality can make room for the imagination?

Nádia Rodrigues Ribeiro: I don’t believe that humans have the ability to create from nothing, or from a void. Thinking about mimesis and its relationship with art, I think that however much representation has been associated with the idea of copying or imitating reality, it’s not actually a question of a relationship between art and reality (in the sense of representation), but rather of a practice that mediates them and that has more to do with a question of proximity or remoteness of the individual in relation to reality. This degree of distancing is related to the degree of familiarity or oddness that reality will have for the viewer.


excerpt from a conversation between Sofia Silva and Nádia Rodrigues Ribeiro, published in Bes Revelação 2013, cat.exp., Porto: Fundação de Serralves, 2013.

expo view_03exhibition view. Nádia’s exhibition Flora in the context of Bes Revelação 2013 will be on show until January 19th in Serralves, Porto.

٠ Douglas Nicolson’s Mobile Darkroom ٠

bicycle-trailer-darkbox-web-1-of-1© Douglas Nicolson, Wet Plate image of Bicycle Trailer Darkbox

mobileboth these images by Alice Bernardo

darkbox-day-2-plates© Douglas Nicolson, Nigel and Fernando were out for a Bank Holiday cycle from Bethnal Green and stopped to ask about the strange looking structure.

The Wet Plate collodion process is an early photographic process which involves the use of a glass or metal plate sensitised by placing it in a bath of Silver Nitrate and then exposing the plate while it is still wet.

douglas© Douglas Nicolson, self-portrait, hand tinted tintype

portrait© Douglas Nicolson, portrait, tintype

٠ Anne Geene’s natural topography ٠

511_geene© Anne Geene, from the series Ornithology

1f© Anne Geene, from the series Ornithology

“Geene is not only a keen observer; she is also a patient scholar, arranging the world around her. For instance, in her book, Parcel no. 235. Encyclopedia of an Allotment, 2009 – 2010, she thoroughly observed the 245 square meters of her own parcel no. 235 in the allotment garden ‘Eigen Hof’ in Rotterdam. The microcosm of her allotment became a metaphor for society at large. But what exactly is it that she is categorizing? Is this an objective reality that is universally applicable, no matter where or when? Or is she, while rooting in the earth, simply doing what she likes? Geene thus explorers the boundaries of scientific objectivity and of photography as a neutral reflection of the world.” via BredaPhoto international photo festival

4a© Anne Geene, from the series Notes on Scaling

5e© Anne Geene, from the series New Facts

Boek - voorbeeld_Page_1© Anne Geene, from the book PARCEL NR. 235. Encyclopedia of an allotment garden.

Boek - voorbeeld_Page_3© Anne Geene, from the book PARCEL NR. 235. Encyclopedia of an allotment garden.

Boek - voorbeeld_Page_5© Anne Geene, from the book PARCEL NR. 235. Encyclopedia of an allotment garden.

More of Anne’s work here

┐ Ian van Coller └

© Ian van Coller, Daisy Angy Kekae (left), from the series Collage Portraits, 2009

“This series combines several influences that have personally been relevant to my art-making process. The work grew out of my experimentation with the use of quilting techniques based on traditions from Africa and Gees Bend, Alabama as a way to tell stories and record oral histories. The manner in which individuals in these portrait collages are presented, was heavily influenced by posters from the period of resistance against apartheid in South Africa. The union posters are now iconic examples of the strong printmaking tradition that grew out of resistance and artistic movements that began in the townships, and which often created “heroic” figures out of ordinary people. The individuals portrayed in the portrait collage series are primarily female domestic and farm workers.

The collages themselves consist of a multi-layered, two-dimensional piece. I print images on Mitsumata fiber paper, which is then soaked in shellac to provide a transparency that allows me to rework both the front and back of the image. The transparency of the paper allows me to layer images on top of one another so that the final piece is essentially multidimensional.”

© Ian van Coller, from the series Memory Boards, 2000-2007 (ongoing)

“This body of work deals with the colonial legacies that have become the social and economic realities of a modern South Africa. Each piece is an exploration of how Euro-centered attitudes have affected my personal history, as well as how they helped construct notions of Africa as the “dark continent.” In an attempt to resolve these dramatically different influences on my life, and to come to terms with my place in the world, I have made very specific choices about the images, materials, and the frames. This body of work originated with the idea of  Zambian “memory boards” as a way to trace personal memory/history, as well as the social memory/ history of South Africa. The frames themselves are transformed into objects that carry content in and of themselves, rather than merely encasing a photograph. Old family snapshots or culturally significant images and texts are also inserted in the frame, expressing the tension between the African and European influences on my identity.”

© Ian van Coller, Ndonganazibovana (left) + IMbedle (right), from the series Colonized Trees, Photogravure & photo litho, 1995

more of Ian’s great body of work here

┐ David Halliday └

© David Halliday, Parmesan, 2004, sepia-toned silver gelatin photograph

© David Halliday, Pomegranate and Cheese, 200, 0archival pigment print

© David Halliday, Spigots & Squash, 2003, sepia-toned silver gelatin photograph

© David Halliday, Pomegranate & Corn, 2007, archival pigment print

Information about David needs to be updated. Almost everywhere he is described as a traditional photographer working almost exclusively on sepia-toned gelatin silver prints (the exception being a group of platinum prints). I’m happy this ceased to be the case. Although his traditional still life compositions are etherea-like wanders in the realm of simple things I find his awakening for colour even more delicate and surreal.

“Whether traveling to a foreign land, wandering through a neighborhood market to shop for food, or engaging in convivial conversation with a friend at his home, David Halliday is easily charmed, intrigued, excited, or amused by all that surrounds him. An artful documenter of life, Halliday uses his camera as a tool for recording the multitudinous special moments that capture his attention. Once in the darkroom, he editorializes his finds, subtly embellishing each image until it somehow evokes the sensation that led him to photograph a subject in the first place.

With the exception of a series of platinum print portraits, Halliday produces all of his photographs as sepia toned silver gelatin prints. Both processes are highly trad- itional and, in requiring that the artist avoid the use of any color other than sepia, they stand in sharp contrast to splashier modes such as Cibachrome, Polaroid, or digitally produced Iris prints […]. For Halliday, the warm tones afforded by age-old processes reflect his desire to reclaim the past or cherish the present in the form of
soft, tranquil, frozen moments in time.”

excerpt from the essay by David S. Rubin for the catalog of the exhibition When Time Stands Still. The Photographs of David Halliday

His site here and his colour work can be seen in Arthur Roger Gallery

┐ Lesley Dill └

© Lesley Dill, Face Pull, 2000

© Lesley Dill, Tongues on Fire, 2001

As a young teen, Dill had a vision, one that she had kept hid den until this project, “I grew up in Maine and had a bedroom window that looked out onto some woods. One morning when I was fourteen and was getting dressed for school, I sat on the bed and looked out the window at the dark leaves against the sky. Somehow, my whole visual screen was suddenly filled with a sort of weblike spiral of images that appeared black on white or white on black. At that moment, I was given to understand the world. I understood pestilence, sorrow, and the hugeness of everything. I understood that there was a pattern threaded through all things – and that it was all right. This was accompanied by a feeling of bliss, which I had never experienced before.”

Excerpt from text by curator David J. Brown. Continue reading the essay here

Lesley’s work can be seen here

┐ Steffi Klenz └

© Steffi Klenz, Untitled, from the series Hewitt’s Heap, 2011

© Steffi Klenz, Untitled, from the series Hewitt’s Heap, 2011

“The first thing we ought to note here is that the German word for the uncanny is ‘unheimlich’. As Freud famously pointed out a century ago, ‘heimlich’, which literally translates as ‘homely’, means two separate things; both familiar and safe, but also secret and concealed. Freud suggests that the logic of the word heimlich develops along its own path until it begins to coincide with unheimlich, allowing him to argue for a proper psychological description of the uncanny as the trauma of the unfamiliar appearing from within the familiar. In Freud’s case this leads him onto the discussion of doubles, phantoms and severed body parts, but it retains the architectural hints of its etymology.

So we might now begin by reading Klenz’ images as visual analogies of this sensation – at the simplest level the forms of the image are easily recognisable and yet in their negative light they are estranged, twisted, unfamiliar. Let us consider the setting, a domestic interior: here the metaphors abound. We already note that the uncanny is related to the home, but of course both uncanniness and the home are the conditions of and for haunting, and Klenz’ images play substantially with this language of ghostliness.(…)

The notion of ghostliness should be treated a little more seriously, however. Without having to take ghosts literally one has to accept that the idea comes from somewhere; perhaps like deities, the notion of ghostliness arises automatically to fill an absence in being. The inescapable tension between the veridical finitude of being and its phenomenological endlessness allows for a condition whereby when we make marks we transfer a fragment of our being into the realm of the dead. The folk notion that photograph steals the soul is a naïve way of describing the genuinely uncanny effect of having a likeness frozen onto material in time, a strange hint of our own paradoxical ghostliness.”

excerpt from an article by Douglas Murphy about Steffi’s other series: Caster, but that I think accompanies this one just as well. Full article in Photomonitor

Steffi’s www home here

┐ Heidi Kirkpatrick └

© Heidi Kirkpatrick,Mother, 2001

© Heidi Kirkpatrick,Mahjong tiles, 2011

“Portland based photographerHeidi Kirkpatrick uses photographs to transform found objects into playful pieces of art. Her images reveal a view of the world experienced by women and she prints them on film positives which she mounts within or on found objectssuch as vintage tins, blocks, boxes, copper plates, dominos and children’s toys. These wonderfully unique pieces can be handled, arranged and adorned on a table rather than hanging on a wall, allowing each object to possess its own unique interactive charm.


Kirkpatrick has struggled with a fair amount of physical pain in her life and feels that by dissecting Gray’s Anatomy and using it in this latest project it has helped her to work through her anguish. When creating the image, she prints the photograph on a film positive in the darkroom, develops it in trays, selects a page from Gray’s Anatomy then works on the pairing until she finds a combination that visually stimulates her.”

excerpt from text by Susan Burnstine

More of Heidi’s work here

┐ Amanda Tinker └

© Amanda Tinker, Untitled (Left Foot #1), work in progress, 2011

Palladium Print 8″x10″

© Amanda Tinker, Untitled (Julian with Peonies), work in progress, 2010

Palladium Print 8″x10″

“My latest work, still in progress, explores the intersection between the psychological landscape of family relationships and the body’s physical form, compromised, intact and otherwise. This work deals both specifically with the physical effects of a degenerative nerve disease in my family, and generally with the anxieties, joys and ambiguities of family life. I want to confront my own anxieties over my children potentially developing a debilitating illness, but at the same time appreciate the simplicity and overwhelming urgency of childhood.”

More of Amanda’s work here

┐ Gunnel Wåhlstrand └

© Gunnel Wåhlstrand,

© Gunnel Wåhlstrand, White Peacocks, 2007/2009

109 x 160 cm, ink-wash on paper

“For eight years, Wåhlstrand has worked exclusively with a kind of re-development of private photographs, using black ink and water, a precise and time-consuming technique that she masters to perfection. The earlier body of motives consisted of her father’s family photo album, but has now been expanded to a wider family group. One of the larger works, Mother Profile, is a rendering of a studio photograph of the artist’s mother. In the exhibition, it is placed so that she gazes at the landscape where her father dramatically crashed and fell to his death. Further on in the room, a portrait of him can be seen. It is the smallest work in the exhibition and the only one in colour. The artist decided that the fact that no colour photographs ever existed of her grandfather, was a strong enough reason to return to colour, for her sake as well as for his.

Wåhlstrand’s depiction is a both deeply personal and universal process. The precise and demanding task of depicting these documents is a way for the artist to physically and psychologically approach a personal history of which she, without any own experience of it, lives the consequences.”

source: Andréhn-Schiptjenko gallery

More of Gunnel’s work here

┐ Walter Hugo └

© Walter Hugo, Oli Sims, from “reflecting the bright lights”

© Walter Hugo, Natalie Darby, from “reflecting the bright lights”

“In order to create the portraits, his sitters must stare at a bright light for 10 seconds without blinking, creating an intense and concentrated glare, a glass window into their souls. (…)

Can you talk us through the process of making a glass photograph?

Ok, I’ll try and simplify this as much as possible as it’s quite a scientific process. The process I’ve developed pre-dates modern photography, it’s from around 1850. First I had to build a camera, in order to make the glass plates in the size that I wanted. My camera houses a dark room, so the whole process takes place inside that, something like a 150 year old Polaroid! I prepare the glass meticulously before each sitting, cleaning and applying the chemicals that I have made specifically. My subject will then have to sit absolutely still for between five and ten seconds. This is more difficult than it sounds, especially with bright lights shining at them. Once the image is developed and fixed I can bring it out into the daylight and show everyone for the first time (including myself). This is a lovely joint experience.

source: i-D online interview

More of Walter’s work here

┐ Alice Miceli └

© Alice Miceli, from the Chernobyl Project – The Invisible Stain, 2007-10

© Alice Miceli, from the Chernobyl Project – The Invisible Stain, 2007-10

“The project’s ambition is to create a radiographic series of images of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone depicting the most affected regions located on the Belarusian side of the border. These stunning images are imprinted by the invisible radiation that has contaminated the area since the disaster on 26 April 1986.

Requiring the creation of specific technologies, including the development of auto-radiographic techniques and led-pinhole cameras, The Invisible Stain uses new processes in the field of photography to uncover haunting images of an abandoned place filled by an invisible matter and exposed only through Miceli’s documentation, enabling her to produce mimetic, life-size negative images of Chernobyl’s past.”

source: transmediale

More of Alice’s work here