Sight Unseen is a visual exploration of how shadow and darkness function in photography, a medium which relies implicitly on clarity, light and vision to impart ideas, thoughts and interpretations of the world around us.
Stories, rituals and narrative traditions surrounding these elements are found in every era, across a diversity of cultures, and have long been associated with negative phenomena such as nightmares, danger, death, hidden strangers, blindness and the supernatural.
The exhibition is the work of four recent M.A. graduate photographers whose exploration of shadow and darkness is inherent within their practice. Through the manipulation of darkness, creating an underlying intensity and tension, they play with the absence of visual information – or what cannot be seen – to place the viewer in an indeterminate, liminal plane between the real and the imagined.
Rachel Cunningham combines her practice with an interest in art history, especially the place of still life in both history and painting. ‘Place/Home’ is a still-life series of taken in a house, on the outskirts of Paris, which has remained in the same family for generations. Through the contrast of light and darkness, the visible and the hidden, Cunningham explores the depth of time and the unknown or unsaid.
Ellie Davies’ landscapes of forests are those of the imagination, traces of woods from childhood memory. Exploring the fine line between reality and a constructed visual fantasy, they draw on the strangeness that lurks beneath the surface of the commonplace. The dark and shadowed spaces at once lure and repel the imagination of the viewer, as the woodland becomes a world of psychological uncertainty.
Richard Kolker’s work deals with how we engage with the virtual reality of synthetic computer generated environments; but instead of portraying the escapism sought in the online fantasy world, he attempts to reflect the player’s often-mundane physical life. Although computer generated, the use of directional lighting and dark shadow helps to place the imagery at an ambiguous boundary where the blurring of the real and the unreal becomes apparent.
Inspired by Shakespeare’s Seven Stages of Man, Adrian Wood’s portraits are based on a transitional story or scenario from the subjects’ lives which he recreates. The images explore the border between the document and the staged, reality and artifice, and pose questions which cannot be conclusively answered by what is seen within the frame, forcing the viewer to become an invested participant in the triangular relationship between viewer, photographer, and the photographed. Characterised by their use of shadow, the domestic landscape, the gaze and the unseen, the artist intends that we may look at these images and, in reflection, see something of ourselves.