Broomberg & Chanarin
For their solo exhibition to Photograph the Details of a Dark Horse in Low Light, internationally highly acclaimed artists Adam Broomberg (South Africa, 1970) and Oliver Chanarin (Great Britain, 1971) lead viewers through a meandering and disturbing history lesson on the relationship between photography and race. It is a must-see for all engaged film photographers.
The photographers first worked together in the 90’s, at the magazine COLORS, published by Benetton. As editors under Oliviero Toscani they saw hundreds of photos per day, of which the identity of the person depicted always remained unknown. When in 2000 they were given the opportunity to fill in the magazine in a different way, they decided to tackle this problem of representation and only publish a photograph if there had been contact with the subject. Instead of taking photographs, they produced the photo series themselves, and traveled around the world to record twelve contemporary ghettos in words and pictures. This also resulted in the book Ghetto, with series include a high security prison in South Africa and an upscale gated community for the elderly in the United States.
The project poses interesting questions about the role of photography in the perception of the world and the way in which the medium represents a topic. Both photographers have a very objective way of recording, without inordinate aesthetic input. What makes their work so special and unique is the fact that they stimulate us with their photos to think about these questions, without giving us a ready-made answers.
In response to a commission to ‘document’ Gabon, Broomberg & Chanarin made several trips to the West African country to photograph a series of rare initiation rituals, using only Kodak film stock that had expired in the 1960’s. In the late 1970’s the French-Swiss filmdirector Jean Luc Godard famously claimed that this early colour film was inherently ‘racist’, because it was better at depicting white rather than black skin. Using outdated chemical processes Broomberg & Chanarin salvaged just a single frame from the many rolls of expired film they exposed during these trips. This piece called Ektachrome 78 serves as a starting point for the exhibition. After their trips to West Africa they inherited dr. Rosenberg’s darkroom equipment. Some of his notes were about making photographic test strips to determine the correct exposure time. Broomberg & Chanarin followed these instructions to produce a series of oversized darkroom experiments they call Strip Tests.
Strip Test 4, To Photograph the Details of a Dark Horse in Low Light, 2012, fibre-based print, 1100mm x 1900mm