New centre reveals the role of photography in shaping

The new centre will not only provide a new home to the extensive V&A photography collection, which dates back to 19th-century times, but will also help to establish photography as an important form of visual expression in contemporary culture.

Vasantha Yogananthan, Longing for love from the series A Myth of Two Souls. V&A

Like the long-established Photo Gallery in London, this new addition to the V&A will contribute to our understanding about photography’s pivotal role in reflecting and shaping our world.

A quick tour

The opening rooms of Photography 1840s-Now, which avoid the traps of genre categorization, offer a more eclectic curation of images. The juxtaposition of images is presented to visitors under a changing theme program, beginning with Energies: Sparks from the Collection.

Visitors are encouraged to reflect on how the medium can capture the energy in a subject. The theme also encourages visitors to reflect on the photo-chemical manipulation of images.

Untitled from Hoda afshar’s Speak the Wind Series. V&A

It will be fascinating to see how this new approach will change the way we view the diverse images in the V&A collection. As you navigate darkened galleries and backlit displays, the knowledge that will be gained from these unique commissions or new acquisitions is evident.

The selected works for the other theme, Photography Now set a political agenda, echoing pressing themes of our time: climate change and socio-political conflicts, gender and identity, and colonial histories.

Tarrah Krajnak, Self Portrait of a Walking Woman with Bag. V&A

Sammy Baloji‘s work is an example of a decolonization attempt. In his mirror prints he overlays archive photos of Congo’s colonial history with fragments of images of copper ore.

Speak the Wind is also compelling, a Hoda Afshar combination between poetic landscapes and humans that attempts to bring the invisible force behind a mythical evil wind known as “Zar” into focus. These works reveal the cultural and physical traces of the Arab Slave Trade from Africa to The Persian Gulf.

A number of the artists showcased create a dialogue with the past by adapting some of the earliest techniques in novel ways. Some of the artists showcased create a dialogue between the past and the present by adapting the oldest techniques in novel ways.

Notable are the performance self portraits by Tarrah Krajnak, who combines projected images with the cyanotype process. It is a form of early photographic printing that uses coated paper and light. Later, it was known as blueprinting. Krajnak explores personal identity through the lens of Peru’s turbulent political past.

Antony Cairns collotypes, a 19th century photographic printmaking technique, are a “translation”. They take images of city spaces that have been frozen on old Kindle screens to reproduce them on paper.

The presence of a large number of female photographers in the Photography Centre is a positive development.

Vera Lutter, September 12, 2013, Radio Telescope Effelsberg XV. V&A

Vera Lutter’s unique, monochrome negative, of a radio-telescope, was inscribed onto light-sensitive papers through an extended exposure time using a large, pinhole camera. It is a reminder of how photography is inextricably tied to time, through the processes used (exposure times and printing).

The final room is a monumental photo-sculpture installation by Noemie Goudal. Her complex process explores the deep time of

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