A Little Bit of Magic Realised (4 stars)

Common theme of the natural world in work from Anna Atkins, Garry Fabian Miller and Susan Derges

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A Little Bit of Magic Realised

‘Cameraless’ photography is one of those seeming contradictions in terms that seems intended to deliberately confuse. However, the curiosity inspired by the theme gives way to wonder as you explore the immediate and vivid world depicted in this exhibition. The viewer is drawn at once to the moving image piece ‘Hermetica’ by Susan Derges, which dances and seethes like an imploding sun, with accompanying soundtrack. Later investigation (chatting with the friendly staff) reveals the source of the image to be a droplet of mercury above a speaker, reacting to the vibrations.

The most common theme amongst these works is the natural world, often recreated using the technique of ‘dye destruction’. Once again, only by investigation can the technique be explained: the plantlife acts as a coloured transparency through which the light passes, leaving the tones on the photographic paper. Garry Fabian Miller (who also recently exhibited at the Dovecot as part of Sitting and Looking) makes consistent use of the method, exploring greenery both large and small, and there are historical examples by Anna Atkins (1799-1871) one of the pioneers of ‘sun pictures’.

The mantle of show highlight is shared between Fabian Miller’s large-scale digital enlargement ‘The Night Cell’ and Derges’ ‘Full Circle 2’, in which the development of tadpoles to frogs has been carefully captured. For this piece, the night sky was her darkroom, and the paper placed beneath the fledgling amphibians. It could be argued that half of the joy of this show is the wonder of how the works were achieved, but then again, the other half is finding out about the fascinating world depicted.

Ingleby Gallery, Edinburgh, until Sun 29 Jan

Susan Derges and Garry Fabian Miller: A Little Bit of Magic Realised

  • 4 stars

An exhibition of some of the innovative works by the two experimental cameraless photographers situated in the context of an older tradition of pioneering image-making.

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