For anyone who loves photography, “Light, Paper, Process” is mind-blowing. Do you want to know what can be done with a photograph processed the old fashioned way? Before Photoshop? This exhibition features experimental photography from seven artists—Matthew Brandt, Marco Breuer, John Chiara, Chris McCaw, Lisa Oppenheim, Alison Rossiter, and James Welling—who focus on light sensitivity and chemical processing including smearing emulsion so that the representational is coaxed into the abstract, often dunking the amorphous semi-developed image into different liquids. One photographer even develops his own gigantic camera and climbs into it for part of the photographing. Other photographers digitize the resulting image and use Photoshop for even more dramatic effects.
The first images in the exhibition feature a brief retrospective from the Getty Museum’s twentieth century photograph collection, especially photographs by Man Ray and László Moholy-Nagy. “Light, Paper, Process” does indeed provide a glimpse into the ongoing reinvention of photography today.
Getty Center’s brilliant show breaks the mental boundary and categorization of photography’s mission as attempting to capture the essence of the object being photographed. Instead, “Light, Process, Paper” turns that mission on its head. The artists are more concerned with exploring the fundamental nature of the medium itself, the unfolding accident-driven discovery of what can be done with the process from the inside out.
Note: If you are at the Getty Center, also try to see “Power and Pathos—Bronze Sculpture of the Hellenistic World” (ends November 1), a dazzling collection that displays rare bronzes influenced by both Greek and Roman styles of the human form, including eyes molded by metal and marble, with distinctive copper eyelashes. Some are newly excavated and being open to the public for the first time.