British photographic history

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Chemistry of Light is Traeger's response to a large collection of 19th Century photographs, negatives and camera equipment left to her in the 1960's by a great uncle in Tunbridge Wells. The collection includes very early Daguerreotypes and waxed paper negatives, leading up to large glass plates from the 1890’s.

Untouched since the 19th Century, many are severely damaged. Various forms of chemical decay have set in as well as dramatic lifting and tearing of the gelatin emulsions which are peeling from the glass. This damage and destruction became a metaphor for Traeger of the steady but inevitable loss of the materials and rituals of her craft as darkroom photography and chemistry has been superseded by digital technology. Traeger has made new discoveries in these old and disintegrating emulsions, finding new and unexpected relevance in their corrupted materials and fading images. They are a hymn to the layered mystery of time and light in photography, and to the miraculous work of its pioneers. They are living again in the present, born, resurrected as the originals die in the splendour of their almost psychedelic chemical erosions and photography’s early crafts die with them.

Details of this exhibition at Purdy Hicks Gallery on 65 Hopton Street, London SE1 from 25th Jan till 21st Feb can be found here. The Financial Times also has a review here.

Photo: Thomas Batting (left), 'great uncle' Godfrey’s father, standing outside the family’s chemist shop in 1880

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