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Tracts and Traces

Tracts and Traces was stimulated by a conceptual tension between randomness and control, between objectivity and subjectivity and between the found and the constructed. It involved the exploration of a darkroom process, within which control was lost over the preciseness of the eventual outcomes.

The ingredients that were blended (or rendered with to reference painting) were fundamental to analogue photography and included water, developer, fixative, light and light-sensitive paper.

The process allowed me to work with a form of two-way pull between movement of liquids/exposure of light and the unpredictable and fickle ways that the ingredients interacted to form the outcomes on the receiving paper. These ambiguous images are a preservation, in the image mode, of the aftermath.

The title of the images alluded to the wide-ranging elemental tracts and traces seen in landscapes which are the result of the movement and alchemy of materials and natural forces (such as gravity and mass) and the transformation of matter. I was also including in my thinking the traces of change within and on the body as made visible through close observation through medical imaging systems.

Campany (2003) writes that traces and marks have been of enduring interest to artists. He suggests that “A photograph is perhaps the opposite of a ‘decisive moment’. It is the moment after. It records the marks made by the world on the body and by the body on the world.”

In his selection of illustrations ranging from Gerhard Richter to Anna Mendieta, he advocates that “they all share a certain forensic quality, engaging with the scientific use of the photograph” despite their diverse cultural nature. It is this association of the forensic or the scientific that I aimed to suggest in these images in the hope of generating a tension between objective fact and subjective aesthetic experience.

  • Campany, D. (2003). Art and Photography.London: Phaidon Press