Literature Review II- Photographs as photographs

Adam Fuss, 1992. Invocation. [Cibachrome photogram]

Leading on from Literature Review one, I am continuing my look into Adam Fuss’s         (b 1961) ways of working, his motif’s and influences in comparison to my own modes of making.
Fuss has taken “the idea of  ‘natura naturata’ almost as if nature were taking a hand in his work” and reactivating William Henry Fox Talbot’s (1800-1877) “legacy ‘The Pencil of Nature’”. “Fox Talbot, who was interested in the photographic image for its own sake rather than in any theory” (Kellein, 2003). Fuss works mostly with pinhole and in
1986 made his first photogram by accident (Kellein, 2003). His works depict ideas around life and death. Photo’s of  decaying sunflowers, the intestines of rabbits gives a sense of life and the preciousness of it, before it is loss. Fuss capture’s the movement of water,
snakes, babies and considers this “a pictorial world coloured by his sense of the existence of higher realms”. (Kellein, 2003) The photo’s I am interested in making are images that the outcome encourages questioning around what photography is, rather than what it
is representing. Material, duration, scale, the social and light are all elements of importance within my work but it is the unmediated potential that light and light sensitive material make together that stimulates the outcome. The outcome is just that, an outcome, but it is the process itself that is the work.
My process starts with the idea of a camera I want to build. Outcomes need not have a certain look or fit a type of photograph. They push against what is easily made in a digital camera and allow the physical touch of light to make an object out of the subject. Fuss’s view on technology, history and experimentation, as discussed in Literature
review one, is that photography does not need to involve digital technology. He says “ I’ve found that the image gets more and more sophisticated as my equipment gets simpler and simpler. That’s why nineteenth century photography looks so beautiful”.


Adam Fuss, 1992. Untitled. [Cibachrome photogram]. 

What I feel is important from what he is saying, although I don’t always allow a simple work, in fact the outcomes are often getting more noisy and clustered, but I do agree that once you start to make the image (rather than take) it allows for different conversations about
photography. The process is shared via the duration of the subtle movement as a person breaths or the reflection of the sunshine on the rim of sunglasses that becomes a sold circle. Whilst 1800-century photographers braced their sitters to stop the movement, it was still about the slowing down which I think is more relevant to share this movement now than trying to hide it. I think this is important to my work because everything in our modern age is so instant; messaging, photography, travel, what ever you need you can get at the click of a button. Photographs are held in our phones now and rarely a physical object. Moreover with the onslaught of digital photography everything is intended to be perfectly sharp and representational of the world. The light from that time and space has physically touched the piece of paper presented in the outcome.
At the moment I am working a lot with colour negative paper. A process, that delivers a strong red and orange colour outcome. The outcome is left as a negative and, for some, it is confusing to read as image. I question if this is because negatives were not made to be read as image (or at least a final image). Whilst this is how photography started, it wasn’t until Daguerre developed a positive image; known as the Daguerreotype that photography really took off in the early 1830’s (Solnit, 2003). I choose to leave some of my outcomes as negative because it is demonstrating that these are not prints. Like a film negative, you would make prints, but these are the objects that have touched with light to become what they are. They are too large to fit in a standardize camera, and movement, or a lack of sharpness, are leading clues towards pinhole. Douglas Crimp describes what viewing can become when he talks about Vera Lutter’s, Letting Time Take Its Course; “We begin here to see the world that both does and does not look like the world we are used to”. By working in this way it becomes not about representing what is
there but allowing a new physicality of the same object. Michael Sand talks about Adam Fuss’s in relation to the object in a similar way in an interview for Aperture magazine in 1993,  “Part of the appeal of the photogram for Fuss is its directness. The objects depicted came into physical contact with the very paper on which the final print appears. The experience is somehow more tactile, and in the case of Fuss’s recent work, more visceral”. These are versions of the real world, paired down to the most essential material to photography: light and paper. The outcome envelops these invisible energies of what we can and can’t see. I also comment, in literature review one, photography’s potential. Which in terms of how I work is simply light sensitive material collecting light and the slowing of movement through duration of photo making that gives light the freedom to create. It is observing the light and the small implications it shares in the final outcome. Photography for me is about noticing these small moments. Its about taking the time to notice them and think beyond our technical world that consumes us to see the beauty a little bit of time and patience can produce. And that not everything has to be perfectly understood and maybe a little bit of mystery is a good change from goggled answers and perfectly clear images.


Fuss, Adam, 2010. Home and the world. [Daguerreotype]


Fuss, A. (2010) Home and the world. [Image] Retrieved from

Fuss, A. (1992). Invocation. [Image] Retrieved from

Fuss, A. (1992) Untitled [Image] Retrieved from  Retrieved from

Kellein, T. 2003. Adam Fuss. D.A.P. New York

Koop, Stuart. (1993). Adam Fuss. Art + Test, pg 44

Solnit, R. 2003. River of Shadows. Penguin Putnam Inc, New York, NY


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