Shoot! Existential Photography

“Just as the camera is a sublimation of the gun, to photograph someone is a sublimated murder…”

Susan Sontag, On Photography, (Penguin – 1979) P.14

Shoot! Existential Photography was shown at Photographers gallery over the Christmas holidays which I was fortunate enough to see. Discovered through the galleries website a fair few weeks before hand. I was looking forward to the exhibition as I thought I had previously missed it. What initially grabbed my attention was imposing typeface “Shoot”, a series of images of individuals pointing various guns at the camera / viewer. Instantly reminding me of ‘On Photography’ by Susan Sontag, who wrote about similarities between the camera and a gun.

Simbeck's Foto - Schiessen, Freiburg -1979

Simbeck’s Foto – Schiessen, Freiburg -1979

During my visit I also saw portraiture from Tom Wood: Men and Women and in passing the absurd For The LOL Of Cats: Felines, photography and the web which featured on The Wall on the ground floor.

Like guns and cars, cameras are fantasy – machines whose use is addictive.”

Susan Sontag, On Photography, (Penguin – 1979) P.14

Split between two floors Shoot! Existential Photography took a look at the popular shooting gallery:

Shoot! Existential Photography

Click on the Image to read it!

On the first of the two floors Shoot! looked at the history of the fairground game. Showcasing early historical photos, while progressing through the decades. It was interesting to see these strange attractions where the individual tries to shoots oneself.

The Highlight was a series where Ria van Dijk would every year shoot herself a new self portrait. I found it really fascinating as you moved along 60 portraits, each photo gradually changing as Ria grow older and her fan base grew larger. The series began when she was 16 in 1936 and comes to an end in 2010. It just goes to show how addictive these shooting attractions can be.

Ria van Dijk - Amsterdam - 1938.

Ria van Dijk – Amsterdam – 1938.

On the second floor of the exhibit featured photographers who have been inspired by the act of shooting and photographing. Such as Jean-François Lecourt who would literally shoot his camera to capture his image. Instead of the formal portraits what I saw before hand, these were more experimental and often surreal. It very much felt that these photographers where trying to take the gun and camera analogies to the limit. Which made for alluring viewing!

Jean François Lecourt-Shot into the camera - 1987

Jean François Lecourt – Shot into the camera – 1987

Other experimental photographers such as Rudolf Steiner also shot his camera in the act of picturing making. In his series “Pictures of me, shooting myself into a picture”. The bullet becomes the aperture in his makeshift pinhole cameras, which on impact produced an image. Which I found mind blowing to say the least!

Rudolf Steiner - "Pictures of me, shooting myself into a picture."

Rudolf Steiner – “Pictures of me, shooting myself into a picture.”

The third photographer that stood out was Steven Pippin in his series “Point Blank”. I found this series to be the most extreme as he set up the camera to record the exact moment of its destruction where Pippin would fire a bullet stright into it. Most bizarre!

Steven Pippin - Mamiya 330 twin lens reflex shot with.25 calibre (self portrait) - 2010

Steven Pippin – Mamiya 330 twin lens reflex shot with.25 calibre (self portrait) – 2010

“When we are afraid, we shoot. But when we are nostalgic, we take photos”

Susan Sontag, On Photography, (Penguin – 1979) P.15

At the very end of the exhibit to my absolute joy was the photographers gallery’s own shooting booth. By this point I dying to have a go! Wink Wink Nudge Nudge get it?

For £3 I found my self with four pellets and an air rife, with sights that were (excuse my French) on the piss. There was definitely the fair ground vibe of getting ripped off, but I proceeded to the mark. Rules were simple hit the bull for your portrait!  As you can see I shot two extra shots thanks to Giuseppe, who accompanied me to the exhibit and managed to hit the bull eye in two (Lucky Git), so he kindly donated his last two pellets to me.

Stuart Matthews

Sadly I missed all six times…

Although it was temping to have another go I decided I might go construct something in my garden over the summer, thereby shooting myself in a more cost effective way!

On a note less disturbing, its a shame Shoot! Existential Photography isn’t showing anymore as I would recommend everyone to go. It was a real pleasure, an exhibit which left me smiling and inspired. I know gun culture may be a techie subject at the moment and if shooting isn’t you’re thing you could always look at ‘For The LOL Of Cats: Felines, photography and the web?’

For The LOL Of Cats: Felines, photography and the web?

Cos everyone loves cats right?


~ by stuartmatthewsphotography on January 16, 2013.

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