The only official Festival art exhibition this year is devoted to the first hundred years

of photography. Beatrice Colin talks to the organiser of The Waking Dream and makes a personal selection of some of the most impressive images in the show.

c hotography is the only new and

modern medium,’ says Maria

Morris Hambourg, ‘with none of

the baggage of tradition weighing

it down. For the first time the world

impressed itself onto paper.’ Hambourg is the joint curator of The Waking Dream. an exhibition of some of the finest examples of photography ever made. The show illustrates how the medium developed from the earliest successful experiment, a camera-less print by W.H. Fox Talbot, into a new, hugely accessible, expressive and flexi- ble artistic language.

Spanning one hundred years, 1839-1939, the exhibition was chosen from over 5000 prints belonging to the Gilman Paper Company of New York, by Hambourg and Pierre Apraxime. Of the 253 prints in the exhibition, some, like the portrait of Brunei in front of a wall ofchains by Robert Howlett in 1857, and Lewis Carroll’s obsessive portrait of Alice Liddell, are immediately recognisable but the show includes many others which are less well known, or are by anonymous photogra- phers, to create an intoxicating and intelli- gently arranged show.

‘The first criterion we applied, was excel- lence of image in terms of its physical shape,

pieces which act as an anchor, and others you don’t know, which you have an immedi- ate visceral response to and which in a sense animate the next picture you see.’

The exhibition is split into six episodes of photographs and the French invention,

daguerreotypes, all of which capture something essential of the mood, cultural values and social conditions of the time.

Victorian Britain with its glorification of romance and innocence, its new industry, and its wealth generated from an abundance of natural materials from the Empire is portrayed in the first section. Among the finest work is Roger Fenton’s ‘Still Life with Fruit’, from 1860. Here, like a Flemish painting, fruit is piled high and glistens almost like burnished metal, suggesting repressed sexuality and a taste for the exotic. In the next section, Photography as Art in France, the work is infused with tradition. Gothic architecture and classical nudes record a sombre, formal atmosphere and in Gustave le Gray’s breathtaking ‘Cavalry Manoeuvres at Camp de Chalons’ from 1857, tiny figures stand in silhouette, slightly blurred like ghosts.

Extending the Grand Tour examines a different perspective of the end of the 19th

unquestionable quality the century. Many Europeans were masterpieces basically,’ recalls swe came up travelling to far-flung places, Hambourg. ‘Then we realised that with a Show and they used photography to in order to make the show that Is a record their experiences. From digestible. we had to apply some the newly excavated statues on mixture of . .

other factors. So we put some of undis “ted the AcrOpolis to the ancrent, the masterpieces back and decided p vine-fringed, Angkor Wat in to show some images that people masmmleces Cambodia, the work captures haven’t seen before, to give a sense “men act as an the pioneering spirit of the time. of discovery. anchor! and Americans used the medium

‘Gradually they began to fall into am?“ you not only to take portraits of a categories and we eliminated don t know, newly-formed society, but also

pictures which told the same story, and filled in with others which would complete the story. We came up with a show that is a mixture of undisputed master-

which you have an immediate visceral response to.’

to record the Civil War, the emancipation of slaves, and to identify criminals. A book on display is filled with the sad and

despondent faces of pickpockets

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Main picture (lett): Heroic portrayal ot Victorian engineer Brunel with his trademark cigar standing In front oi the massive ship ' Great Eastern, by Robert Howlett (1851).

Top: Lartigue’s iamous snatched shot ot a Grand Prix racing car symbolised the speed of the new age (1912).

Above: Oscar Wilde by celebrity photographer Napoleon Saron (1882). At the time of this portrait the young Wilde was more notorious as a dandy than a playwright and his pose is oi the

charicature aesthete.

The List 27 August-9 séptéinbé? 1397355