Thursday 8 March 2012

A Moment In An Instant World

From Developing Shadows series

Walter Hugo uses historic photographic techniques in bold and very modern ways, as his exhibition of new works at Shizaru Gallery in London demonstrates.

I first came across Hugo's work at Photo 50, a show curated by Sue Steward that formed part of this year's London Art Fair. I was immediately stuck by Hugo's skill with using old-fashioned, almost aniquated ways of working with photography to make exciting and fresh new work. His method of processing imagery directly onto walls to create a kind of photographic graffiti is particularly intriguing – he has previously created works directly onto the walls of former studio (which he then extricated before the building was demolished) and he shows photographs at Shizaru that are exposed directly onto wood, among other materials. The film below sees Hugo explain his methods in more detail:

Also at Shizaru is a series of portraits created on life-sized glass plates, which Hugo created using a room-sized camera, featuring an 1890 lens, that he built himself. The resulting images have the otherworldly feel of very early photography, yet star fifty individuals chosen by the artist as representing the creative zeitgeist in London today. The most familiar faces are those of actors Eddie Redmayne and Jaime Winstone, who appear alongside fashion designers, artists, musicians and playwrights on the walls of the space.

Eddie Redmayne, from Reflecting The Bright Lights series

Reflecting The Bright Lights series on display at Shizaru

A further series of glass plate portraits are displayed elsewhere, this time themed around the ideals of classical beauty. Hugo's subjects are undoubtedly beautiful, yet this technique of shooting the models also serves to expose all their imperfections, offering a nice counterpoint to the airbrushed, plasticised images of beauty that we are bombarded with daily in advertisements and magazines.

Each of the glass plate works are unique, yet Hugo has also created an installation within the space featuring limited edition digital prints of these portraits. Shizaru is a polished, Mayfair gallery, yet Hugo has tried to rough it up a little with this piece, which features stark, woodchip walls on which the prints are hung, before being splashed, Pollock-style, with blue paint. The piece feels slightly incongrous within the pristine surroundings, though suggests a further interesting dimension to Hugo's work that may be more successful displayed elsewhere.

From Theories series

Theories (The Eyes of the Beholden) series on display at Shizaru

There has been much talk over the last few years about how digital has killed print photography. While this is of course true in terms of everyday, snapshot photography, the move towards digital seems to have ushered in a renewed interest in the techniques of photography's past. Hugo is one of a number of young artists who are proving that these historic methods of making images can be as fresh and exciting today as they were in the very early days of photography.

From Developing Shadows series. All images courtesy Walter Hugo and Shizaru Gallery

A Moment In An Instant World by Walter Hugo is on display at Shizaru Gallery until March 24. More info is at

1 comment:

  1. Wow. he's completely amazing. I wish he didn't snap celebs, but his technique is mind blowing. Awesome