Exhibition: The End of the Beginning  – Craig  Tuffin

Exhibition: The End of the Beginning  – Craig  Tuffin

A series of round daguerreotypes

We often spend much of our time remembering. It’s easy to experience feelings of nostalgia when looking at old photographs. Even vernacular photographs without authorship, with their bent corners, anonymous handwriting and stains from poor processing and mishandling, can elicit those same emotions. All photographs are in a cycle of surreal transformation, where the present immediately becomes the past, and the past evidence of an inevitable future. 

In the time it takes to make a photograph, an invisible yet essential spectre was prevailing in that space. The photographer, an expert in appropriation, decides where the edges of the rectangular cage should sit.  The contents of that enclosure endure only after carefully selected visual detritus has been filtered away. The lens might be the pen, but the photographer is the forever present hand that manipulates it. 

Occasionally, through operator error, the photographer might discretely reveal themselves. It might be the shadow of a tripod or camera, or possibly even a human limb that quietly reaches into the frame, announcing itself to the audience. We don’t forget that there was a photographer, but to be fair, do we really appreciate the intimate relationship we share with them. 

The daguerreotype presented itself at photography’s genesis. Shortly after Nicéphore Niépce made his heliograph and partnered with Louis Daguerre, Herschel’s “photograph” was publicly and spectacularly born. These unique light-drawn objects are unlike any other photographic process, with an image suspended on their mirror-like silver surface. The successful viewing of such an object is contingent on the light source illuminating it at any time. In a sense, it’s in a state of delicate transformation. What becomes visible to an audience is completely dependent on the environment in which it is experienced. Where truth is equally suggested and questioned in any photograph, a daguerreotype goes one step further and challenges what might be considered reality. The irony rests in the authenticity of the artefact itself. Everything you see on these image-objects occurs at the time of their making. They are a truthful entity, regardless of a visually contextualised environment.

Round images are not something new. Peter Wilhelm Friedrich Voigtlander produced a conical brass camera in 1841 which accommodated small circular daguerreotypes of a 3.15” (80mm) diameter. The Kodak snapshot camera released in 1888 produced circular photographs from a camera containing a roll of film with 100 available exposures. The famous slogan by George Eastman “You Press the Button, We Do the Rest” was borne out of that invention. It seems apt then to visit the circular image once again to represent the revisualisation of an idea.

These circular landscape scenes offer a view of a world where time is characterised as cyclic rather than linear, with no beginning or end. You won’t see any sign of human life, only the ghost of the photographer moving in and around the space during each long exposure. These photographs do not seek to explain themselves, in fact they are made deliberately speculative. What’s left is the grandiose Australian landscape framing a series of muted but staged tableaux, where the author remains dislocated from time and space forever.

Gold Street Studios & Gallery. Trentham East, Victoria. 24 May – 9 July 2023

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Ellie Young owns and runs Gold Street Studio & Gallery.

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