Photographer's 'Blue Hour' makes retro statement
Uri Gershuni's images reflect his fascination with a simple, unvarnished town in the English countryside.
Uri Gershuni's keen eye has long been celebrated.
The Israeli photographer has had his work shown in every major venue in his home country, including the Israel Museum and the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.
A recent project, based on a visit to Lacock, an unspoiled town in the English countryside, has produced two books and a mesmerizing series of blue photographs. Such was its reception that he was invited to exhibit work from the project at the Israel Museum as part of its 50th anniversary celebration this year.
Gershuni first visited the town several years ago, drawn there by the fact that it was home in the 19th century to William Henry Fox Talbot, who invented the calotype process, a precursor to the photographic processes of the 19th and 20th centuries.
From this trip he produced the book "Yesterday's Sun."
The images are meant to create a dialogue with the era in which Talbot worked. To do this, Gershuni had to get creative.
"I decided to convert my digital camera into a pinhole camera," he told From The Grapevine, referring to the ancient device in which a light-proof box with a small hole in one side captures light from a scene and projects an inverted image on the opposite side of the box.
"I wanted to use this hybrid apparatus, which was kind of modern but also kind of primitive, to create a vagueness in my imagery almost without my control or intention," he explained.
The images, though taken in the digital age, hearken back to an era more reminiscent of the one Talbot lived in.
"I wanted to reflect on the past, so on the one hand it has this feeling of being really material and sensual, like the images went through a modern process, but at the same time they look very distant and untouchable."
The "Blue Hour," was a continuation of his dialogue with the town, albeit through a more novel approach. Instead of returning to Lacock, he photographed images of the village he found on Google Maps and developed them in black and white.
The term "Blue Hour," popular in French culture, refers to the twilight hour, when the day is neither bright nor dark, a neutrality conveyed in the photos.
Uri Gershuni's photos from "The Blue Hour" were taken from Google Maps. (Photo: Uri Gershuni)
Having already photographed the town in person, Gershuni wanted to emphasize how technology changes the way we experience place. "It came out of this notion that reality doesn't exist, or that it's not important anymore, or that it's unreachable, in a way," he said.
The concurrent exhibition at the Israel Museum gave Gershuni a new platform from which to experiment, taking the images and, applying a more literal approach, developing them with a blue tint.
"I wanted the objects to have another presence or manifestation, and I was already working with cyanotype," Gershuni explained, referring to the photographic printing process that produces a cyan-blue print.
Gershuni's love affair with Lacock spans years and has produced several projects. He says such commitment to a theme or idea is the result of several factors.
"Sometimes a thought triggers an action, and sometimes a material like the cenotype triggers another process, so it always happens, I think, simultaneously," he said. "Some decisions are conceptual. But then I'm never satisfied by only conceptual ideas so it needs to meet or integrate with something not rational but more intuitive or emotional."
And though the English countryside is far from the Mediterranean beaches of Tel Aviv, the Israeli city Gershuni calls home, as the project unfolded the two places came to complement each other in surprising ways.
"In a way I was very far away, in 19th-century England. But in another way I was in the present, dealing with the Israeli sunlight. The Blue Hour forced me to leave my surroundings but also to confront them."
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