Black Powder is a term used in the pyrotechnic industry to refer to a specific composition of gunpowder found in fireworks.
Working with a large-format film camera, Damion Berger photographs firework displays in contexts ranging form pyrotechnics competitions, special-events and holiday celebrations, to the inauguration of the world’s tallest building. Reflecting on the contemporary and historical underpinnings that frame the use of fireworks in today’s culture, his series explores the nature of photography through the prism of the negative image, and engages the viewer to look anew at what might otherwise remain cliché.
What is not seen is just as important as what is, what is black is equally important as that which is white. Explosions of light come to the fore in the form of overlapping trajectories and areas of darkness turn into milky highlights of absence. The reversed tonalities of the negative undermine a simple reading and suggest an alternate reality that’s both literal and abstract.
A.D. Coleman wrote in his essay Negative Capabilities, “one could argue that there’s nothing more purely photographic than the negative image.” In elevating the negative from a purely functional role subservient to analogue process, Berger’s images at once celebrate and subvert traditional photographic practice and evoke comparisons with other medium such as charcoal, graphite or Indian-ink drawing.