Can photography accidents, like exposing your film to the sun, turn out to be…not so bad?
This week in LA Weekly's print edition, Catherine Wagley weaves together three current photography exhibits — Walead Beshty's “ProcessColorfield” at Regen Projects, Carlo Van de Roer's “The Portrait Machine” at M+B Gallery and Florian Maier-Aichen's self-titled exhibition at Blum & Poe — each of which uses a technique from the pre-digital age to play with chance and allow for a bit of accidental artistry.
Wagley includes the story of the origins of Beshty's current style:
When L.A. artist Walead Beshty went to the former East Berlin in 2006 to photograph the abandoned Iraqi Embassy, he had no agenda. The embassy had stood deserted for more than a decade. Berlin authorities couldn't legally repossess it and, due to political upheaval, the Iraqi diplomatic mission would probably never recommence.
It was a nowhere space, a zone of obsolescence and a monument to bureaucratic idiosyncrasy. But its metaphoric weightiness meant any photo Beshty took of its littered floors or peeling walls had the potential to come off as self-important, inflating these banalities into a political treatise.
Thankfully, Homeland Security saved him from that fate. The X-ray machines through which Beshty sent his film before his arriving flight (inadvertently) and returning flights (deliberately) left him with hazy, purplish, greenish images that harkened back to that pre-digital, less precise era of image making. The photographs became documents of the damage that border crossing and exploratory missions can cause, and they worked so well, in fact, that Beshty continued to send film through airport security. While his embassy photos were still (barely) discernible as real-life locations, his subsequent experiments with exposure weren't images of anything.
Read the whole article: “Turning a Negative Into a Positive.”