It seems appropriate that there should be a gallery devoted to photography in an exhibition whose main theme is light. What’s more, this is the first such gallery ever in a Summer Exhibition. These days ‘photography’ is an elastic concept. It embraces not only imagery conventionally produced with a camera and darkroom (like Aubrey Leahy’s evocative, tonally exquisite West Wittering) but also computer-generated or computer-manipulated imagery.
Jane and Louise Wilson, Safe Light Corridor, 2003. C-type print on aluminium in perspex, 160 x 270 x 3 cm
Unusual printing techniques are employed too. Jane and Louise Wilson’s disturbingly bland Safelight Corridor is a C-type print on aluminium, while Boyd and Evans’s view of the slushy streets of Medicine Bow was made with an inkjet printer. ‘Rather than a room devoted to just photography, I prefer to show artists whose work uses photography as a medium,’ says Bill Woodrow, who hung the gallery. ‘Photography is very fluid now, thanks to digital processes. It’s no longer true that the camera never lies. It lies all the time. I especially like Atlanta by Paul Graham, the very large, very pale landscape behind glass. It’s hauntingly beautiful.’
Beautiful in another way is Nim Yan Chan’s dark view of a mean street in Streatham, the only brightly lit area the face of the old man waiting patiently for the bus. One work looks just like a photograph but is in fact a painting. What’s more, Nicholas Middleton’s piece of precise Photorealism seems also to be about photography and its practice. A girl holds a Rolleiflex, now obsolescent for all but the most traditional photographers: has Photorealism had its day as well? The sculptures have nothing to do with photography. Most striking is the work made from ‘rich boozy fruitcake coated in marzipan and icing sugar’, the words of Rachel Mount, the cake artist who made it.