Following yesterday’s inclusion of Thomas Joshua Cooper’s poetic corner of the landscape, we arrive today at another artist whose innate sense of the natural world has, over the past 30 years, pushed the possibilities of what photography can do. In terms of using the photographer’s tools, Susan Derges, like Thomas, has not taken the easy route. In his case the pursuit of images involves lugging a heavy, fragile antique camera to remote corners of the earth, for Susan it has been a case of moving beyond the camera itself. Her approach goes even further back to the early days of 19th century photographic experimentation to make work in the open air with photo-sensitive paper and light.
Susan has described working with natural processes in the landscape as “a liberation from the baggage of photography” allowing her to act “as a channel through which natural events could be made visible”. What this has often meant is working at night, so that the world around her becomes a kind of darkroom, laying large pieces of chemically coated paper in trays on riverbeds and at the edge of the sea, to capture an instant in the flash of a light. It’s a kind of alchemy - finding new ways of making images, but also new opportunities to see what is usually hidden. Her works made in this way often have something of both the micro and macrocosm about them – simultaneously offering a close up of life, and a sense of something viewed from the edge of space.
The work included here is an appropriate choice for ‘the Unseen Masterpiece’. It was chosen by Susan and resonates especially in the present moment when ponds are full of spawn, and we are somewhat in need 0f the optimism that is suggested by a metaphoric vehicle for growth and rebirth.