August 24 – September 6, 2021 (Project Room)
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László Gálos: Collodion Archive
It may be banal to say that every image is a complete story. And, in a similar vein, every image is said to have its own story: a story about the endeavour, the struggle and the occasional playful and impulsive whim that is necessary for the image to be made. It is also a story of the photographer’s relations; of the interaction between the individual, the technology and the vision, or, to put it more broadly, the relationship between the artist and the world.
In most cases, this is a melancholic story. The depressing account of failed, unsuccessful, aborted and resumed images, of what was wanted and what was created. At best, one in every hundred makes it into an actual photographic image. The rest of them sink into oblivion, disappear without a trace, just like the moment that they failed to capture.
Except when it is an ambrotype image. Regardless of what it looks like, the image that was once started, and may not even yet have been exposed, will be there, on the glass plate. It will have a physical reality, a material body, just like we do. It is born into the world as we are. Yet it is destroyed if we do not happen to like it.
We destroy it, even though it transmits its own unique story. A story we did not want, did not foresee, do not welcome and may not even want to know about. Just like the multitude of stories that comprise our lives, our culture, maybe even our whole universe. And it may be worth just as much: our everyday ambrotypes and stories vanish and are forgotten, yet their totality may leave some sort of trace behind. If it is given a chance. That is why I create montages, one after another, using all the images I have ever created. It does not matter how a particular image turned out: once it was born, it may as well have something to tell. If not in and of itself, then as a member of the choir of discarded new-borns.
The glass plates are arranged on photosensitive paper in a way that their properties are considered; they are placed next to one another, they are stacked or rotated when necessary to make them interact: the covered/uncovered parts of the images may sharpen, soften, lighten, distort or even fully hide one another. The process of arranging the plates in the darkroom reveals a tentative outline only, the precise construction of the final outcome cannot be determined or controlled. And thus the ray of light that penetrates the collodion plates, themselves symbols of the documentarist dawn of photography, elevates these montages into the realm of one of the high points of avant-garde photographic artistic endeavours, the photogram. As a result, these particular stories told in images become part of not only a new, composite story told in the present but of a shared history.
History, or even fate. For the creation of every new photogram puts an end to the individual stories of images that were deemed worthless for independent life. Only a couple of outstanding ambrotypes are deemed fit to emerge from the darkroom. The rest, as unnecessary composite parts, are killed off by their creator once they have contributed their part to the composite story of the montage.
Their death, however, does not mean the end of the story of the insignificant ones; a new image, a new story was conceived at the moment their fate was determined by the ray of light – just like the history of photography has not reached its end with the practices of high art. The first such photographic technology – that could hardly be controlled but nonetheless resulted in a more or less precise record of a part of the world – has long put an end to the exclusive appropriation of the art of “writing with light” by a select few, as if this were to be reserved for strong-headed alchemists locked up in their darkrooms or theorists lurking in dimly lit exhibition spaces with their heads in the clouds.
A compact Polaroid camera, as a source of light, not only kills the old image and inseminates the new; it also creates a record of the moment of deadly conception in a single image.
In a teeny-tiny, impenetrable and unplannable image.
The entire exhibition has been obtained by the Jánossy Gallery.
Photography is not the art of the moment. Just the opposite: each picture must contain something from what we cannot experience, living moment to moment. Otherwise, there is no use to spend a second on it. Wet plate collodion as a picture making mechanism and as a creation method – by default – carries within itself the kind of melancholy, that comes with the acceptance of the meaninglessness and unavoidable decay of our lives.
Since 2015, I have been working almost exclusively with wet plate collodion. I am a member of InstArt Group and L1 Independent Artists Association of Public Utility.
In the last six years, I was participited in more than sixty group exhibitions in Hungary, and fifteen international group exhibitions in Belarus, Italy, Lithuania, Mexico, Spain and in the USA.
I have also presented my work in nine solo exhibitions in Hungary and the Netherlands.
Collodion-archive has been supported by the National Cultural Fund of Hungary.
This exhibition was supported by the Local Government of Ferencváros District (Budapest Főváros IX. Kerület Ferencváros Önkormányzata).