Photography exhibition to open in Dulwich

An exhibition tracing the history of photography through nature, touted as the first of its kind, will open this autumn.

Unearthed: Photography’s Roots will be the first major photography show at Dulwich Picture Gallery, as told through depictions of nature, revealing how the subject led to key advancements in the medium, from its very beginnings in 1840 to present day.

The exhibition will bring together over 100 works by 35 leading international photographers, many never seen before.

Presenting just one of the many possible histories of photography, this exhibition follows the lasting legacy of the great pioneers who made some of the world’s first photographs of nature, examining key moments in the medium’s history and the influences of sociological change.

Arranged chronologically and with a focus on botany and science throughout, the exhibition will highlight the innovations of some of the medium’s key figures, including William Henry Fox Talbot, Imogen Cunningham and Robert Mapplethorpe.

It will be the first show to publicly exhibit work by the English gardener, Charles Jones, whose striking modernist photographs of plants remained unknown until 20 years after his death, when they were discovered in a trunk at Bermondsey Market in 1981.

Questioning the true age of photography, the exhibition will open with some of the first known Victorian images by William Henry Fox Talbot, positioning his experimentation with paper negatives as the very beginning of photography.

It will also introduce a key selection of cyanotypes by one of the first women photographers, Anna Atkins, who created camera-less photograms of the algae specimens found along the south coast of England.

Displayed publicly for the first time, these works highlight the ground-breaking accuracy of Atkins’ approach, and the remarkably contemporary appearance of her work which has inspired many artists and designers.

The exhibition will also foreground the artists who produced unprecedented photographic art in the twentieth century without artistic intention.

A central focus for the show and a truly rare opportunity for visitors will be a display of 11 works by the inventor and pioneer, Kazumasa Ogawa, whose effectively coloured photographs were created 30 years before colour film was invented.

Unearthed: Photography’s Roots will aim to highlight how nature photography has remained consistently radical, inventive and influential over the past two centuries with the final rooms in the dedicated to more recent advancements in the medium


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