Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in
- from Anthem, by Leonard Cohen
William Henry Fox Talbot, one of the great pioneers of photography, described his new photographic process as ‘a little bit of magic realized’. In these days of Instagram and selfies, it may be feared that such magic was lost long ago, and that photography is now just an unremarkable facet of everyday life.
This work is my experience of Talbot’s magic and enchantment. The photographs are made with simple analogue cameras taken to seemingly unmagical places. The cameras are lens free, using zone plates (diffraction gratings) to focus light on film, and lacking any precision means of adjustment. They are not programmed for perfection by large corporations, but are subject to serendipity and the vagaries of movement and weather. They have their own worldview and do not see the world as I see it. The resulting photographs are a collaboration between myself and their participating consciousness. They are formed from the alchemical transmutation of pockets of time by the action of light on silver salts.
These photographs were made in unremarkable nooks and crannies of Palmerston North and Whanganui, places where I happen to live and work. Terrain Vague, places of indeterminate purpose, left alone to be themselves. Magical places where the past is allowed to fester undisturbed.
The prints are hand poured silver-gelatine emulsion on glass. This too is an imperfect process. Most prints are flawed. Each is unique.
Often, when making a photograph, I have the urge to steal. I have taken souvenirs – weeds mostly, introduced species whose seeds have drifted on the wind or been carried in the bowels of animals, taken to nowhere in particular for no apparent reason. Their fate was transmutation into silver by the sling casting process, a combined act of craft, alchemy and pure luck that can, on a good day, produce perfectly formed effigies of the sacrificed specimen.
'How the Light Gets In' is a tangible index echoing the alchemical nature of the photograph.
Su Hendeles is an artist based in Whanganui, New Zealand. Her first exhibition at Photospace Gallery was 'Vigil' (2012).