Photographer Tessa Traeger’s newest project is based on a collection of 19th century glass plate negatives given to her by a great uncle. For the project, she rephotographed these old plate negatives as still lives, using natural light and mirrors to highlight the dramatic forms of chemical decay that have transformed the negatives over their hundred plus years in storage.The results are ghostly, dreamlike views of Victorian England. Some of Tessa’s photographs show everyday scenes, like a crowd at the beach. Other images are abstractions in which the negative’s curled or damaged emulation creates rainbows of color and folds of texture that nearly obscure the photograph’s subject.
According to Tessa, The Chemistry of Light is also about photography itself. She says that as chemical processes give way to digital technology, her collection of damaged and decaying photographs serves as a metaphor for the death of analog photography as a medium.
Recently, I spoke with Tessa over the phone while The Chemistry of Light was on view at Purdy Hicks gallery in London. The exhibition has since closed, but you can see the photographs on Tessa’s website.
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