It started in the 1970s with a group of artists seeking to reengage the physical facts of photography, its materials and processes, by turning to the history of photography for metaphors, technical information, and visual inspiration. By the 1980s it had become a movement with a fervent following. And now, for the first time in book form, Photography's Antiquarian Avant-Garde charts this full-blown rebellion of contemporary photographers against the advent of digital technology and their reversion to photographic methods used in the nineteenth century.
The photographers in this volume are from all over the world and use a wide array of processes. Among the artists and methods featured are Adam Fuss's Cibachrome photograms, Jayne Hinds Bidaut's tintypes, Jerry Spagnoli's daguerreotypes, Gabor Kerekes's carbon dichromates, and Laurent Millet's toned silver prints. An interview with Sally Mann about her collodion prints and a statement written by Chuck Close about his work with the daguerreotypes give the reader a clear sense of what has driven them to pursue these long-obsolete processes. The book is completed by a glossary of technical terms to enhance the reader's understanding of the technical aspects of each process.
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Some fear that the photographic community's widespread and controversial adoption of digital processes will lead to technical standardization and numbing artistic uniformity. Fortunately, whatever the future of photography, we can all be grateful for the artists, such as those covered in this book, who are investigating and exploiting its past. This is a stunning survey of current work by inventive artists employing pre-20th century means to address postmodern and contemporary issues and aesthetics. The 60 artists, including Sally Mann and Chuck Close, utilize an array of processes (e.g., wet-plate photography) and applications (e.g., emulsion on steel) to create images that are dependent on light and time and that, as Mann states, "cost you dearly in time and energy." The 120 images include luscious cyanotype prints on various materials, enduring daguerreotypes, dreamy ambrotype prints, and eerie tintypes. An informative and accessible text by photography writer Rexer gives historic and theoretical perspective, and the brief technical glossary serves as a primer for the novice. Highly recommended for large academic and public collections, this is also an affordable resource for smaller libraries.
Debora Miller, Minneapolis
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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