Apr 11 2012: Black Glass: Ten Glass Plate Negative Images of Architecture and Reversed Light (c.1930s)

Following on from yesterday’s gallery of domestic portraits, used as the raw material that eventually became the Black Glass sequence of poems, today’s gallery offers the unpopulated, architectural and urban landscapes of the later 1930s from the same collection of boxed glass-plate negative slides. Here, each image but one is developed twice – as both ‘old’ and ‘new’ type plates, whatever the significance of this might be in photographic terms: in truth, the differences between plates seem minimal, though in a few places, at least, are just about visible. The effect of the streetlamps, in particular, is quite striking in this series, the concentrations of light in the city’s darkness (I assume the city is London, since at least one plate resembles Piccadilly, another looks rather like some section of the Thames Embankment) become black spheres in the seemingly twilit streets. The architecture is rendered in a strange way here, its shadows and planes of light reversed to create a kind of x-ray of the city itself, a revealing glimpse of something usually taken for granted and passed over unnoticed. The impact is that of nothing more than a very basic defamiliarisation of the known, but its transformative visual presence is hard to deny.


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