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The Image Wrought: Historical Photographic Approaches in the Digital Age

We are living in a time of photographic revolution. Creating images is faster and easier now than at any other time in our history as a result of digital technology. Yet paradoxically, a growing contingent of photographers has set back the clock on technology, to revive lost photographic practices from the nineteenth century. Reasserting the hand of the artist and rejecting the seamless resolution of the pixel, they turn to past approaches that better serve their aesthetic.Wrought from silver, gold, mercury, and iron, the resulting images have a strong physicality and presence.

The Ransom Center’s expansive photographic collections provide a unique opportunity to present contemporary images alongside vintage examples of their nineteenth-century predecessors. These groupings provide a window to examine how contemporary photographers view the past: some with reverential continuity, others contrasting with fresh imagery that decisively breaks with the past.

The exhibition provides four avenues of exploration: publications tracing the history of the alternative process movement, examples of photographic processes hung in approximate chronological order of their original invention, camera technology, and photographs on alternative supports and with surface treatments.

This exhibition was organized and is circulated by the Harry Ransom Center at The University of Texas at Austin.