THE END OF THE BEGINNING – Craig Tuffin 10th November 2021 to 23rd January 2022
We often spend much of our time remembering. It’s easy to become nostalgic about significant past experiences. I often find myself desperately trying to elicit those same feelings when looking at old photographs. I might not know those people frozen in time, but in that moment when the shutter was released, they were living a life as full as my own. More than that, one more fundamental person was present in that space. The photographer took the time to frame the photograph exactly as we see it now, eliminating all of the things they felt were less important. In essence, when looking at photographs, we see through the photographer’s eyes. Their view is a conduit for our visual experience, so we must consider them just as present as every other thing we might observe. Occasionally, through operator error, they might discretely reveal themselves. It might be the shadow of a tripod or camera, or possibly even a human limb that quietly reaches into the frame to announce themselves to the audience. We don’t often forget that there was a photographer, but to be fair, do we really appreciate how intimate our relationship with them is. Even when a photograph seems to be simply an accumulation of random elements within a scene, it is always borne of an idea, one manifested within the mind of the operator.
These circular landscape scenes offer a subjective view of a world, where time is characterised as cyclic rather than linear. You won’t see any sign of human life, only the ghost of the photographer moving in and out of the space during each long exposure. The photograph begins and ends with one person yet begins again with every new audience, long after the photographer has departed. The residue of one experience is a catalyst for another.
Round images are not something new. Peter Wilhelm Friedrich Voigtlander produced a conical brass camera in 1841 which accommodated small circular daguerreotypes of a 3.15” (80mm) diameter. The Kodak snapshot camera released in 1888 produced circular photographs from a camera containing a roll of film with 100 available exposures. The famous slogan by George Eastman “You Press the Button, We Do the Rest” was borne out of that invention. It seems apt then to visit the circular image once again to represent the revisualisation of an idea.
The daguerreotype presented itself at photography’s genesis. Shortly after Nicéphore Niépce made his heliograph and partnered with Louis Daguerre, the “photograph” was publicly and spectacularly born. These unique objects are unlike any other photographic process, with an image suspended on its mirror-like silver surface. The successful viewing of such an object is contingent on the light source illuminating it at any time. In a sense, it’s in a state of delicate transformation. What becomes visible to an audience is completely dependent on the environment in which it is experienced. Where ‘truth’ might be questioned in any photograph, a daguerreotype also challenges what might be considered reality. The irony rests in the authenticity of the artifact itself. Everything in and on that image-object occurred at the time of its making. What might be considered errors are just as present as successes, making it a truthful entity, regardless of a contextualised environment.
**A series of 8” (203mm) round daguerreotypes