“You don't make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.”
So said the legendary photographer, Ansel Adams, reflecting on how photography is so much more than just a quick click and release of a shutter. Now that taking a photo is something that anybody with a smartphone can do in seconds, many think photographic prints are strictly DIY, rather than a piece of contemporary art to collect. But a browse through our online shop dispels any notion that photography is easy. The work of our featured photographers ranges from the expressive, experimental, atmospheric and abstract, supporting Adams’ notion that the humble photograph has multiple layers, histories and connotations, for both the photographer and the viewer.
Photography was invented around the year 1800 using a camera obscura; it wasn’t until the twentieth century that it started to be viewed as an art form in its own right. The first fine art photographers relied on imitating paintings, in a movement known as Pictorialism. ‘Straight photography’ became popular when a group of photographers, including Ansel Adams, advocated the creation of sharply focused, non-Romantic images — art forms in their own right rather than mere imitations of something else.
Perhaps Diane Arbus summed up best that sense of magic a photograph can capture: ‘Taking pictures is like tiptoeing into the kitchen late at night and stealing Oreo cookies’. Simply put, there’s something innately enchanting about a photograph, and adding a little realism or illusion is a super affordable way to revamp your interior, particularly if you’re buying limited edition prints. For those looking to expand their art collection, look no further than our hot list of some of the most intriguing and unusual contemporary photography around — we’ve even included some Instragram-inspiration to help you decide how to hang your new print.
The great outdoors
Investing in photographs of the great outdoors is a great way to add some nostalgia to your walls, without plastering them with old pics from family holidays or your gap year — plus the inclusion of some sky or sea will no doubt create a feeling of space within a busy interior. We love the way that Homepolish includes photographs of candy-pink streets or brooding black and white seascapes to their white walls, with simple monochrome framing intensifying the minimalist impact. They may not be places you’ve visited yourself, but chances are you’ve visited somewhere similar — or, it’s the next stop on your wish list.
Shop art online to uncover our range of photographers whose subject matter revolves around places of all shapes and sizes. If you’ve got big walls of fill, photography is a great way to do so; it’s often more economical than acrylics on canvas. Charles Emerson’s wonderfully atmospheric North East South West from Antlers Gallery will inject big skies and monumental mountains into any room; or for something on the smaller side, how about David Rhys Jones’ charming Chelsea Bridge, printed on ceramic for that extra touch of originality.
Photography isn’t often viewed as a medium designed for experimentation. But a number of our artists take their work a step further, using unusual techniques to surprise and delight viewers. Take Zoe Childerley’s gorgeous Another Perspective: Arizona (After Bayer). Childerley’s work is inspired by new environments, our relationship with the land and its lost history. Her works are like collages, overlapping images with geometric forms and drawings, really emphasising the photographer’s role as an artist.
Similarly, Felipe Enger’s work explores abstract concepts such as dreams, ideas of belonging and the unconscious. The result is these breathtakingly unusual, pulsing prints, such as Unlikely Landscape 04. These artists constantly push the boundaries of photography through their explorative work, creating beautiful and fascinating pieces, airy yet dynamic. Try hanging in an area with a lot of light and wall space, to really let the work shine.
Big, bold, beautiful
One of the real wonders of photography is its colours. Hot pinks, bold blues, vivid greens; the intensity with which the camera conveys these hues can be staggering. If you’re tired of a space and need a quick fix rather than a design overhaul, buying photography online is a quick and easy way to uplift a room in an instant. How about Michael Wallner’s fabulous The National Theatre, a celebratory cityscape that will enliven a quiet room in no time. Or, for something a little softer, we love Pedro Correa’s Checkmate. Its abstract, almost painterly style makes it a striking piece, reinforced by its large size.
On the other hand, colour isn’t the only way to achieve boldness; black and white photography has an impact all of its own. Not all moody landscapes or atmospheric seascapes, monochrome prints can pop with character and excitement. Take James Sparshatt’s Woman of Vińales, photographed in Cuba. James’ work is inspired by the Latin world — from the flamenco of Spain to the salsa in Havana — and his photographs are full of depth, emotion and vibrancy.
For a little inspiration of how to make your bold works pop, we love the way that Hunter Interior places her bold photograph on a navy wall. Experimenting with wall colour is a great way to play around with your artwork, giving it a fresh, modern twist with just a lick of paint.
Not quite what meets the eye?
Finally, a photographic portrait isn’t always what you’d expect. Miguel Vallinas Prietof’s weird and wonderful work, such as Flamingo - Portrait Number Forty, undermines traditional portrait techniques by including a panoply of animal characters. Ducks, donkeys and flamingos are his subjects in these surreal and whimsical prints, mimicking human poses and wearing suitable clothing. According to Preito, his intention is to ‘investigate the animal in us all’. Using taxidermy as his models, and then adding the outfit later in his studio, these photographs are a wonderful testament that photograph does not always have to be serious - A wonderful addition to any home, and sure to raise a few eyebrows too!
Charles Emerson, Antlers Gallery, North East South West, £1,100
David Rhys Jones, Will’s Art Warehouse, Chelsea Bridge, £45, Limited edition print, Edition of 30
Zoe Childerley, Caiger Contemporary, Another Perspective: Arizona (After Bayer), £1,200
Felipe Enger, Wychwood Art, Unlikely Landscapes, £300
Michael Wallner, Degree Art, The National Theatre, £1,195, Edition of 25
Pedro Correa, French Art Studio, Checkmate, £3,200
James Sparshatt, Capital Culture, Woman of Vińales, £695
Miguel Vallinas Prietof, My Life in Art, Flamingo - Portrait Number Forty, £625
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