f&d cartier: Wait and See: A Retrospective
22 June - 27 July 2013
Review by Rory Duckhouse
f&d cartier premiered Wait and See in May, as part of the Diffusion festival of photography. Installing their brand of camera-less photographic works in the Oriel Canfas, black and white photographic papers were left to transform and subtly shift as an evolving record of the exhibition. With the retrospective at Ffotogallery, these themes are expanded upon, introducing other works that investigate the fundamental relationships between analogue photography, light and time.
Moving the work to a larger gallery space allows a greater selection to be shown. ‘Wait and See’ is a large wall installation of photographic papers. The collection totals about 300 different varieties of fibre-based paper, ranging from 1880s to the 1980s. Collected from colleagues, friends and the internet, they have not previously been exposed and reflect the fundamental basis of the photographic image. Throughout the period of the exhibition, the papers change colour, in constant evolution until they reach a natural saturation point, but never turning black. Revealed in the process is the advancement of technology, with newer papers reacting faster than their predecessors. Each paper has its own unique history and is left to develop its own future depending on its contact to light and the space.
‘Boys Don’t Cry’ uses the photogram technique to reveal a series handkerchiefs sitting on a pink background, their weaves and threads delicately captured in the process. The pink of the paper is commonly associated with identity, eroticism and gender, while the handkerchiefs suggest vulnerability. These objects, placed on the photographic paper and exposed to sunlight, reveal an absence and sense of loss. The handkerchief, often a symbol of mourning and comfort has been removed, leaving only its imprint.
The upper floor of the gallery is dedicated to ‘Veni Etiam’, large framed prints hanging in contrast to more intimate photographic papers, which are pinned to the wall like museum specimens. This work is detailed in comparison to the minimalism of ‘Wait and See’ and ‘Boys Don’t Cry’. ‘Veni Etiam’ is created from glass plate negatives found in a Venetian flea market, depicting images of glass chandeliers, mirrors and furniture produced by artisans. The items described in the images are classically Venetian, reflecting the style and atmosphere of the city. Using digital processes, the artists adjust the light contrasts and colour tonality to reference Venetian frescoes: green represents Verona; yellow and cerulean blue for Naples; and blond, sienna, white lead and black symbolizing Venice. Produced for commercial purposes, they carry the technical specifications of the item, but here they have been repositioned for more artful purposes, reflecting the artists’ impression of the city.
Photography is fundamentally a time-based medium, offering an imprint of a durational moment. f&d cartier take this as a starting point to expand upon our relationship to the medium, using their vast knowledge of the history of photography. Camera-less techniques, often paired with objets trouves, offer a contemplative look at the medium, examining the pre-requisites for analogue photography, light and photosensitive paper. The work remains experimental and at times abstract, but this minimalist approach enables us to visualize the role photography plays historically, and also within contemporary society.