Inside the White Cube
1 May–7 July 2013
White Cube Bermondsey
Matthew Booth’s photographs seem to work against an overarching feeling that a subtle detail has been brutally altered in the picture. He is interested in complicating the threshold between straight and staged photography, expanding the ways by which a photograph might originate. Fuelled by an interest in repetition and the polishing of experience through picture-making, Booth often photographs—or recreates—an everyday scene, but transforms it subtly so that it comes across as at once an immediately recognisable image and a peculiar paradox.
In works such as Joe Graham-Felsen (2010), for example, he has subtly altered a photograph of beer cans on a glass table. Photographing through a polarizing filter and then erasing the edges of the table’s transparent surface in post-production, the artist leaves the objects to float, oddly suspended. With this simple act of omission— reminiscent of early surrealist photography, but performed using current-day editing programmes—he de-familiarises an otherwise commonplace scene.
Booth’s images often appear staged, even when they faithfully document the world as it is. In Emergency lighting, Manhattan Municipal Building, October 30, 2012 (2012), he photographed municipal buildings in New York City during the black-out caused by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Using long exposure times, he allowed light from a back-up generator and passing construction vehicles to soak the image in an eerie glow reminiscent of stage lighting.
Phil M. Leonard, Century City, 1988 (2010) creates further tensions between the fabricated and the real. Recreating a scene from a 1980s action film, Booth eschews the film’s storyline to focus on a seemingly everyday image of a table, designed by the film’s set decorator (the eponymous Phil M. Leonard). Rather than working with an image from the film itself, he has remade the scene in his studio. In doing so he produces an odd contradiction: the reproduction of an ‘original’, which has only ever existed in the wholly constructed hyper-reality of film.
Underlying much of this artist’s practice is an interest in reflexively addressing the medium of photography. Certain works make direct reference to photographic history, while others, such as Studio surfaces (2011) and Splash study (2013), reveal the spaces, objects and processes associated with the practice. Showing broken tubes lying in snow beside a mysterious green light, Fluorescent Tubes, New Haven, CT (2011) subtly alludes to light as the basic condition underlying all photographic representation.
With thanks to Andrej Blom, Gregory Keech and Martin Ciastko.