Photography has had a transformative impact on art. Starting with its inception in the 1840s, photography has given artists the means to depict accurate, naturalistic form – a realism that had been actively sought after throughout much of European art history. However, photography was marginalised for many years and refused the title of ‘fine art’ due to its mechanical, scientific nature and it wasn’t until after the turn of the twentieth century that some leading movements, such as the Surrealists, began to use it in their practice. Artists at the forefront of photography, like Man Ray, introduced techniques such as image manipulation and photo-montage and used these techniques to create manipulated images. Since then, photography has been used not only to capture the true likeness of the world around us but to challenge what we believe to be true.
Here we have a look at two female artists who have incorporated photography into their practice and how it impacts the art they create.
Historically, the nature of photography as an easily reproduced medium has been considered its flaw, with some arguing that reproduction damages the authenticity of art and that the scientific process of photography can’t be considered a free, expressive art form. However, this is certainly not the case for Chloe McCarrick, who utilises mechanical reproduction in her work to reinterpret various motifs, discovering what possibilities lie in reinvention and recreation. Often focusing on themes of female empowerment, McCarrick mixes photography with collage and print to create works which not only reinterpret the visual image but the lives of revolutionary women such as Amelia the Aviatress Over Red Starry Skies, which was inspired by Amelia Earhart and her life as an aviation pioneer.
McCarrick also uses photography to create a link between nature and science. Her Feather Collection, a series of prints depicting various bird’s feathers, uses technology to capture the beauty of the natural world. Sometimes there is nothing better than a photograph to capture ephemeral beauty.
In the age of Instagram, photography has secured itself the title as arguably the most utilised art form. Now anyone with a phone can take a picture to share with the world. An estimated 8.95 million photos are shared on the platform every day. Some of the most popular members are ‘travel bloggers’, those who travel the world snapping the perfect beach, mountain or cityscape and sharing these pictures with their followers. However, what happens when reality differs from the photograph?
Kirsty Paterson combines photography, etching and painting to explore the relationship between expectation and reality, contemplating whether photography has led to preconceived ideas which equal inevitable disappointment. A Paradox is part of a series inspired by Paterson’s travels in Bali. The juxtaposition between traditional Balinese architecture and gridlocked traffic, an element of the island which also epitomises it, is striking. Paterson uses photography to depict a reality which happens to be beautiful and chaotic without creating false expectations.