Seeing Things: Photographing Objects at the V&A

By Natalie Dragon | 08 May 2002
Left: Electricite, Man Ray, 1931, photogravure. © DACS.

Left: Electricite, Man Ray, 1931, photogravure. © DACS.

The use of creative photography as a powerful visual medium is explored in Seeing Things: Photographing Objects 1850-2001 at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, until August 18.

Right: Untitled, 1983, Richard Prince, rephotographed cosmetics ad. © Richard Prince.

The exhibition, in the Canon Photography Gallery, is divided into six sections, each examining a different aspect of still life photography over the past 150 years.

The exhibit begins with images of objects that have been created without using a camera or lens. Anna Atkins, a botanist, created natural images of plants using sunlight on sensitized paper.

Right: Dandelions (1854), by Anna Atkins. © Victoria & Albert Museum

Left: Dandelions (1854), by Anna Atkins. © Victoria & Albert Museum

The 1850's saw the advancement of photography with objects being used and interpreted, giving consideration to light, tone and colour.

Shomei Tomatsu's powerful and ugly depiction of the aftermath of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki shows scarred humans, including the use of a distorted beer bottle to show 'flesh in agony'.

Right: Christine Keeler, 1963, Gelatin Silver Print. © Lewis Morley.

Photography combining people and objects is also explored. Lewis Morley photographed Christine Keeler nude in 1963, using a chair to maintain her modesty, despite her public 'Profumo affair'.

Robert Doisneau's photograph of Picasso in 1952, using breadsticks as his hands was masterly crafted, as Picasso's serious expression cannot detract from the overall comical image.

Left: Les Mains de Picasso, 1952, Robert Doisneau. © Robert Doisneau/Rapho.

Perhaps the most creative part of the exhibition is where photographers have used science, sculpture and painting to portray images.

Neil Ruddy's 'Three Feet to Infinity' uses pinholes of light within his camera to evoke a visual experience of white shards of light, so that when moving towards or away from the photograph, it changes form.

The exhibition is free.

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