> 30 June 2022
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The oldest photographs ever taken, dating back to 1826, were captured by Nicephore Niépice using a camera obscura. Following this, amateur photography at the turn of the 20th century saw the birth of a mass phenomenon seen today in the form of an overflow of digital images. Every day, millions of smartphone owners around the world take instant photos of their daily life. They publish their photos on social media, mainly Instagram, so they can be shared not only with their friends, but also with people they have never met.
The prints exhibited in ‘Death Row of Posed Portrait: Amateur Photography 1880-1920’ were taken mostly around the early years of the 20th century, an extraordinary period during which portable cameras became accessible to millions of new and enthusiastic amateur photographers. The authors of the images in this exhibition are generally anonymous. In fact, the majority are not considered artists. Despite this, their work demonstrates the remarkable aesthetic heights reached through this popular medium whether they be intentional, experimental, or accidental.
The selection of prints from the collection belonging to Olivier Guyaux embraces the casual aspect of everyday life, and even uncovers the moments of light-heartedness which are often forgotten. They are incredibly rich in detail and interesting in their composition, intimately immersing those who view them in the private lives of the photographers.
This exhibition tells a part of a larger story surrounding the history of photography by revealing the dynamic ingenuity with which amateur photographers started to use the camera, broadening the frontiers of creative expression in a way which captured our hearts and minds. The manner in which they used the camera coupled with the way they saw the world around them has become a compelling centre of interest for collectors, researchers and museums in the 21st century.