From Negatives to Pixels: Alternative Histories at the V&A’s Photography Centre – 从负片到像素:V&AMA摄影中心的另类历史

On a recent train journey, I overheard a woman, inspired by an especially picturesque landscape, remark to her travelling companion: ‘I should get a photo of that...where’s my phone?’ There is nothing immediately unusual about this in 2018. Though in no history of photography that I’ve ever encountered has Alexander Graham Bell’s name appeared. Despite this, for the past decade, the most common implement used to make photographs is indeed a telephone. And the perception is that the camera is in the phone, not the other way round. Nobody ever says, ‘I need to make a call, where’s my camera’.

In short, the camera has been absorbed into other objects, other technologies, and in the process, the notion of photography as an independent medium made up of its own specific materials and comprising its own specific practices and functions has perhaps gotten lost in the mix. The Victoria and Albert Museum’s new Photography Centre, which opens to the public on 12 October 2018, attempts to redress this balance by dedicating itself solely, as the name suggests, to photography – and not just photographic images, but also the tools, materials, devices and varied approaches that make up the medium’s past, present and perhaps, its future.

William Henry Fox Talbot, Articles of China from The Pencil of Nature, 1844, salted paper print, varnished. Courtesy: © The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A

From Negatives to Pixels: Alternative Histories at the V&A’s Photography Centre - 从负片到像素:V&AMA摄影中心的另类历史

William Henry Fox Talbot, Articles of China from The Pencil of Nature, 1844, salted paper print, varnished. Courtesy: © The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A

The Photography Centre, designed by David Kohn Architects, is housed in a space that incorporates several of the museum’s historic galleries, which were refurbished and reconfigured not only to double the space previously devoted to photographic display, but also to create a unique visitor experience in which viewers are not only able to see some of the world’s most important photographs, but also to engage with many of the materials and processes that brought these images to fruition. An impressive installation of more than 150 historic cameras forms the Centre’s entrance, which also features an interactive station where visitors are able to handle different cameras, peering through the viewfinders to see what the world looked like through those early, rudimentary lenses, and perhaps gaining a better understanding of what photography may have meant for its pioneers.

This emphasis upon the objects, materials and processes of photography runs throughout the Centre’s inaugural exhibition, where purpose-built display cabinets call attention to early photographic forms, such as magic lantern slides and stereographs; as well as often forgotten aspects of the medium, such as negatives – particularly the paper and glass varieties of 19th-century photography; and to a diverse assortment of photographic genres with examples from photojournalism, advertising and science. There is even a ‘dark tent’ – a specially designed space, inspired by the travelling darkrooms of early photographers, in which the pioneering photographic processes of daguerreotypes, calotypes and wet collodions are demonstrated in a series of commissioned films.

Man Ray, La Maison, 1931, photogravure from a photogram. Courtesy: © Man Ray; Victoria and Albert Museum, London

From Negatives to Pixels: Alternative Histories at the V&A’s Photography Centre - 从负片到像素:V&AMA摄影中心的另类历史

Man Ray, La Maison, 1931, photogravure from a photogram. Courtesy: © Man Ray; Victoria and Albert Museum, London

As for the images themselves, although some will be familiar to viewers, such as the snowy Manhattan street with horse-drawn carriage seen in Alfred Stieglitz’s Winter-New York (1898); and familiar names such as Julia Margaret Cameron, Martin Parr and Hiroshi Sugimoto, are even more plentiful, this debut exhibition is not a ‘greatest hits’ of photography, nor is it intended to be. The focus here is on photography as practice, both historically and on-going, and while famous pictures and names will invariably fall within that remit, the greater emphasis is placed on the fact that there is not one definitive history of photography, but rather many different histories. Despite being amassed together in a single exhibition, the images on display manage to tell multiple stories, tracing multiple histories.

The history of photography as a technology, for example, is told in Nicéphore Niépce’s pioneering heliographs, in the early colour experiments of Bernard Eilers, whose stunning Reguliersbreestraat, Amsterdam (1934), which depicts neon-lit storefronts reflected in the shiny wet of an empty street, was made using the ‘foto-chroma’ colour separation process he invented; and in the digital work of Penelope Umbrico. Photography’s history as a means of communication and documentation is told in the photojournalism of Bruce Davidson, Mary Ellen Mark and W. Eugene Smith and the street photography of Mark Cohen whose series of close-up candids, True Color (1974-87), is showcased in an impressive feature wall. The history of photography as the medium of the masses is referenced in a display of random, unattributed snapshots; and finally, the story of photography as a fine art is told in beautifully aesthetic works by Gertrude Käsebier, Man Ray and Cindy Sherman.

Thomas Ruff, Tripe_01 (Amerapoora. Mohdee Kyoung), C-type print, 2018. Courtesy: © Thomas Ruff; David Zwirner Gallery

From Negatives to Pixels: Alternative Histories at the V&A’s Photography Centre - 从负片到像素:V&AMA摄影中心的另类历史

Thomas Ruff, Tripe_01 (Amerapoora. Mohdee Kyoung), C-type print, 2018. Courtesy: © Thomas Ruff; David Zwirner Gallery

Unveiled for the first time, will be a new series by acclaimed artist Thomas Ruff. Specifically commissioned for the opening of the Photography Centre, Ruff’s new series, Tripe/Ruff, reinterprets the topographical and architectural images of Burma and India made by Linnaeus Tripe, in the 1850s. Tripe’s original images of palaces, religious monuments and archaeological sites were made for the East India Company and were intended to act as survey material for the region, but managed also to demonstrate an undeniable artistry, due in part to Tripe’s textured paper negatives and hand-painted clouds. Combining analogue and digital photographic processes, Ruff layered Tripe’s paper negatives with the corresponding albumen prints, pulling the colours and tones from one into the other, while also retaining the effects rendered by years of water damage and discolouration to produce works such as Tripe_01 (Amerapoora. Mohdee Kyoung) (2018), in which a pagoda-like structure peeks out from behind blue, grey and sepia toned trees, the entire scene mottled with the scratches, water spots, and imperfections of the original paper surface.

For Ruff – an artist first and foremost – the haunting and gothic beauty of the final images was undoubtedly the primary objective, but equally notable are the numerous points of convergence that allow these images to slot so seamlessly into this inaugural exhibition. Ruff combines negative and print, analogue and digital, old and new, and in so doing also incorporates many of photography’s individual histories, from the technological to the documentary to the artistic. Blending the old technology of paper negatives with 21st-century digital manipulation, Ruff gives new life to old images, transforming Tripe’s topographical documents into aesthetic works of art. For an exhibition that aims to celebrate the medium of photography in all its material, developmental and functional guises, the Tripe/Ruff series seems an especially fitting first commission for the Photography Centre.

V&A Photography Centre entrance. Courtesy: Victoria and Albert Museum, London; photograph: © Will Pryce

From Negatives to Pixels: Alternative Histories at the V&A’s Photography Centre - 从负片到像素:V&AMA摄影中心的另类历史

V&A Photography Centre entrance. Courtesy: Victoria and Albert Museum, London; photograph: © Will Pryce

The V&A’s Photography Centre offers fresh potential for highly focused future exhibitions, which might spotlight individual photographic genres, displaying not only images, but also specific materials, processes and objects associated with each. Bearing in mind also that this is only Phase 1 of the Photography Centre (Phase 2, which will double the space created in Phase 1, is due for launch in 2022), the V&A’s commitment to preserving photography’s historic movements while still accommodating new trends and developments looks set to continue for the foreseeable future. For a medium whose materiality is increasingly absorbed into other objects, whose processes are increasingly absorbed into other technologies, the V&A’s new Photography Centre and its inaugural display make a timely statement. Those of us who reach for the phone to take a photograph should pay attention. 

Main image: V&A Photography Centre – the Dark Tent, The Modern Media Gallery. Courtesy: Victoria and Albert Museum, London; photograph: © Will Pryce

Laurie Taylor

Laurie Taylor is a writer and editor based in London, UK.

Opinion /

Laurie Taylor
V&A Photography Centre
Victoria & Albert Museum
London
Photography
Thomas Ruff
Opinion


在最近的一次火车旅行中,我偶然听到一位受风景特别优美启发的妇女对她的旅伴说:“我应该拍张照片……我的手机在哪里?”在2018,这件事没有什么不寻常的地方。虽然我从未见过摄影史,但亚历山大·格拉汉姆·贝尔的名字却出现了。尽管如此,在过去的十年中,最常用的制作照片的工具实际上是一部电话。感觉是相机在电话里,而不是反过来。没有人会说:“我需要打个电话,我的相机在哪里。”简言之,照相机已经被其他物体、其他技术所吸收,在这个过程中,摄影作为一种由它自己的特定材料构成的独立媒介,并且包括它自己的特定实践和功能的概念可能已经在混合中消失了。维多利亚和阿尔伯特博物馆的新摄影中心于2018年10月12日向公众开放,它试图纠正这种平衡,正如它的名字所暗示的那样,只致力于摄影——不仅仅是摄影图像,还包括工具、材料、设备和各种认可。他构成了媒体的过去、现在和未来。威廉·亨利·福克斯·塔尔博特,中国的文章,由天然铅笔,1844,盐纸印刷,清漆。礼仪:英国皇家摄影协会收藏,威廉·亨利·福克斯·塔尔博特,1844年《自然之笔》中国文章,盐渍纸版,上漆。礼貌:在David Kohn Architects设计的V&A摄影中心的皇家摄影学会收藏,收藏在一个空间中,它包含了博物馆的几个历史画廊,这些博物馆被翻新和重新配置,不仅使SPAC增加了一倍。E以前致力于摄影展示,但也创造了一种独特的访客体验,观众不仅能够看到一些世界上最重要的照片,而且还参与了许多使这些图像获得成果的材料和过程。一个令人印象深刻的安装超过150个历史相机形成中心的入口,也有一个互动站,参观者能够处理不同的相机,窥视通过查看者,看看世界是什么样子,通过那些早期,残缺镜头,和也许可以更好地了解摄影对先驱们的意义。对摄影的对象、材料和过程的强调贯穿于该中心的首届展览,其中特制的陈列柜唤起人们对早期摄影形式的关注,如幻灯幻灯片和立体照片,以及媒体经常被遗忘的方面。比如底片,尤其是19世纪各种各样的纸和玻璃摄影;还有各种各样的摄影流派,比如新闻摄影、广告和科学。甚至还有一个“暗帐篷”——一个特别设计的空间,灵感来自早期摄影师旅行的暗房,其中在一系列委托拍摄的电影中展示了达盖尔型、卡洛印型和湿火棉胶的先锋摄影过程。曼.雷,La Mayon,1931岁,从照片上照相凹版。礼貌:曼雷;维多利亚和阿尔伯特博物馆,伦敦,From Negatives to Pixels: Alternative Histories at the V&A’s Photography Centre - 从负片到像素:V&AMA摄影中心的另类历史曼雷,拉梅森,1931年,从照片上照相。礼貌:曼雷;维多利亚和阿尔伯特博物馆,伦敦。至于照片本身,虽然有些观众会很熟悉,比如阿尔弗雷德·斯蒂格利茨(1898)的《冬纽约》中那条满是雪的曼哈顿街道,马车拖着马;还有些熟悉的名字,比如朱莉娅·玛格。卡梅隆、马丁·帕尔和杉本广志的摄影作品更加丰富,这个首次展览不是摄影界的“大热门”,也不是它的本意。这里的重点是把摄影作为实践,不论是历史的还是持续的,虽然著名的照片和名字总是属于这个范围,但更多的重点是这样一个事实,即摄影并没有一个确定的历史,而是许多不同的历史。尽管在单个展览中被聚集到一起,但展出的图像能够讲述多个故事,追溯多个历史。比如,在尼采弗尔·尼采普斯的开创性日光摄影中,在伯纳德·艾勒斯的早期色彩实验中,讲述了摄影作为一项技术的历史,伯纳德·艾勒斯令人叹为观止的雷格利尔斯海峡(1934),阿姆斯特丹(1934)描绘了霓虹灯照射的店面,这些店面在空荡荡的阳光下反射出来。T是用他发明的“Foto Chrima”颜色分离过程,在Penelope Umbrico的数字作品中制作的。布鲁斯·戴维森、玛丽·艾伦·马克和W·尤金·史密斯的摄影新闻和马克·科恩的街头摄影讲述了摄影作为交流和文献手段的历史,马克·科恩的系列特写候选人《真颜色》(1974-87)在令人印象深刻的特征墙上展出。作为大众媒介的摄影的历史,以随机的、不归类的快照展示为参照;最后,格特鲁德·卡西比尔、曼雷和辛迪·谢尔曼的美学作品讲述了摄影作为一门艺术的故事。Thomas Ruff,TePePe01(Apple)。Mohdee Kyoung),C型印刷,2018。礼貌:托马斯Ruff.大卫·左纳艺术画廊WPAP6023 602IMG托马斯鲁夫,TePePe01(Apple)。Mohdee Kyoung),C型印刷,2018。礼仪:托马斯·拉夫;大卫·茨威纳画廊首次亮相,将是著名艺术家托马斯·拉夫的新系列。特地委托为摄影中心开幕,Ruff的新系列《Tripe/Ruff》重新诠释了1850年代Linnaeus Tripe拍摄的缅甸和印度的地形和建筑图像。这是为东印度公司制作的,原本打算作为该地区的勘测材料,但是也设法展示不可否认的艺术性,部分原因是Tripe的质感纸底片和手绘云彩。结合模拟和数字摄影过程,Ruff分层Tripe的纸底片和相应的相册打印,将颜色和色调从一个拉到另一个,同时还保留了由于多年的水损害和褪色而造成的影响,以产生诸如三个月(美洲)莫迪京荣(2018),其中塔状结构从蓝色,灰色和深褐色的树木后面窥视,整个场景被原始纸面的划痕,水斑和瑕疵所斑驳。对于Ruff——一位艺术家,首先也是最重要的——最终图像的令人难以忘怀的哥特式美无疑是首要目标,但是同样值得注意的是,众多汇聚点使得这些图像能够如此无缝地进入这个首届展览。Ruff结合了底片和印刷、模拟和数字、古老和新颖,在这样做中也结合了许多摄影的个人历史,从技术到纪录片到艺术。将纸底片的旧技术与21世纪的数字操作相结合,Ruff为旧图像注入了新的活力,将Tripe的地形文档转化为美学艺术作品。对于一个旨在以各种材料、发展和功能面貌来庆祝摄影媒介的展览来说,Tripe/Ruff系列似乎是摄影中心特别合适的第一委员会。摄影中心入口。礼貌:维多利亚和阿尔伯特博物馆,伦敦;照片:威尔·普赖斯,6024602img V&摄影中心入口。礼貌:维多利亚和阿尔伯特博物馆,伦敦;照片:威尔·普赖斯·V&A的摄影中心为高度聚焦的未来展览提供了新的潜力,这些展览可以聚焦各个摄影流派,不仅展示图像,而且展示特定的材料,p与每个相关联的摇滚乐和对象。同时要记住这只是摄影中心的第一阶段(第二阶段,它将使第一阶段创造的空间翻倍,预计在2022年发射),V&A承诺在保持摄影的历史运动的同时,仍然适应新的趋势和发展看起来已经确定。在可预见的将来继续下去。对于一种物质日益被其他物体所吸收,其过程也日益被其他技术所吸收的介质,V&A的新摄影中心及其开幕式及时地作了陈述。我们这些伸手去拿电话拍照的人应该注意。主要图片:V&A Photo.Center——黑暗帐篷,现代媒体画廊。礼貌:伦敦维多利亚和阿尔伯特博物馆;照片:威尔·普赖斯·泰勒·劳里·泰勒·泰勒,英国伦敦作家和编辑。意见/劳里·泰勒·V&维多利亚·阿伯特博物馆摄影中心


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