Gunpowder, also known as black powder, is the earliest known chemical explosive. Following its invention in ancient China, the earliest documentation of fireworks can be traced back to the 9th century when they were first used by the Chinese to frighten away evil spirits and pray for happiness and prosperity.
Reflecting on the nature and form of fireworks and their role in contemporary culture, these photographs ostensively record worldly celebrations memorialized with pyrotechnics, from the inauguration of Earth’s tallest building in downtown Dubai to art performances in the Jardin de Tuileries.
Grand in both size and scale, these images are made using in-camera techniques such as long and overlapping exposures and unorthodox combinations of focus and aperture to select, sculpt and multiply the explosions onto a single sheet of film. They are printed back as negatives by making facsimile enlargements of the exposed film.
The resulting photographs are grounded in the anomalous. Their reversed tonalities animate an otherwise simple reading and suggest an alternate reality that’s both transformative and familiar. What is not seen is just as important as what is. What is black is equally important as what is white. Areas of shadow turn into milky grey highlights of absence and rocket-propelled explosions of light punctuate the night sky in the form of dark lines, whose overlapping trajectories trace a cacophony of concave and convex arcs, a matrix of lines sharp and blurred, straight and wiggly, which can appear warlike, organic or celestial in origin. Stars of polygons and pentagrams populate many of the Untitled works with ‘analogue artifacts’ rendered by the mechanics of the lens and shaped by the arrangement of the shutter blades.
The critic A.D. Coleman wrote in his essay ‘Negative Capabilities’; “one could argue that there’s nothing more purely photographic than the negative image.” In paying homage to the legacy of Fox-Talbot, these images reference photography’s history whilst engaging in narrative between other forms of mark-making – such as traditions of painting and drawing more common to abstract expressionism and calligraphy. The photographs in this series ultimately explore the possibilities as well as limits of photography through the evocative and otherworldly nature of the photographic negative.