Graduates 2020: George Roast: Photography

I work primarily within the realm of cameraless photography which by its nature explores photography from a material sense in a manner that I find intriguing.

It places emphasis on the components of the medium rather than the content of the photograph. Many photographers spend their time working out the tricks of their cameras, choosing lenses to best capture the subject, manipulating light levels to create the ‘well exposed’ image etc, the list goes on. I like to see all of these things, they just don’t interest me all that much. I’m interested in the fact that, when you take a piece of darkroom paper in your hands, you are holding a canvas that contains within itself its image making capacity. It is filled with light sensitive chemicals that will alter when in contact with light, it would be like to imagine a canvas that is filled with paint, and when you use your brush on it, the colour appears. If you use your brush again on the exact same area the colour will darken. Maybe if you keep using it on the same patch continuously, the colour will gradually change. This is what photographic paper is.

I enjoy to use these materials in a way that you are not supposed to, like for example, taking a pack of paper that has ‘Open in darkroom only’ written on the front, and opening it outside, in daylight. Or maybe develop the paper without ever letting it see light at all. I simply just enjoy to use these very specifically made materials that are made for a specific proper use, in the way that they were not designed to be used.

Recent work – ‘Little Jacket for a Man’ 2020 – Series Statement

For the past three years or so, my practice has become increasingly minimal. With each new idea or project I seem to remove a component or process in order to find a simpler expression. My exploration of cameraless techniques has helped to facilitate this, first removing the camera, then removing the negative, then removing the enlarger, and then the light, reducing it to a process which is at its base, just an exploration of a photographic effect.

My current work ‘Little Jacket for a Man’ concerns the image generation capabilities of expired darkroom paper, with as little interference from myself as I can allow. This in many ways is the logical conclusion of my key interest in photography which falls upon a curiosity to understand ‘how” something is made rather than why it is made or what it depicts. Much like taking apart a mechanical object to see how each component operates, I separate the elements of darkroom process to see how each one works independently.

Naturally, it is unavoidable that the method raises questions regarding photography as a material process, as well as drawing attention to the physicality of photographic paper. It can also open up a dialogue regarding the history of photographic practice, not only due to the fact that the papers themselves are historical photographic objects, antiques of a past photographic age, but also further back than that, the first photographic images were indeed made without a camera.

The images themselves exist as a culmination of several years’ investigation into techniques of cameraless photography. Over this period I have experimented with many techniques including photograms, luminograms, chemigrams, cyanotypes and chemical paintings. With each different process I have sought to simplify the elements to the fewest necessary that will still produce an image, and to find a pure expression of photography, or rather to discover the purity of photography expressing itself.

 

How have you found your course/time at Brighton?

My time at Brighton has been extremely beneficial for me to find my desired way of working. When I first arrived on the course, I was quite a photography purist in many respects. I liked very direct photography, for example the work of Ed Ruscha or Robert Frank’s ‘Americans’. However, over the duration of the course I began to move rather drastically away from this.

The discovery of cameraless photography altered my perspective greatly, I became familiar with the work of Garry Fabian-Miller, Susan Derges and in particular, Pierre Cordier whose work greatly influenced me. I enjoyed his mischievous approach to image making, his Chemigram method seems to unavoidable force a conversation to occur regarding what a photograph is, he often even encourages the conversation before declaring that it is not and never was important.

Discarding the camera gave me the opportunity to explore the medium as a generative rather than imitative art form, but it was also a very symbolic act, it was a refusal to have my understanding of photography be warped to a 19th Century lens based perspective. The very act of holding an object in front of my eyes became a metaphor for a lack of vision.

I think that to this end, the photography course at Brighton helped me to achieve a more personally authentic way of working. I realise now that it was a place in which I could explore whatever strange idea would occur to me. It produced a scenario in which the purpose was not to achieve a successful image, the purpose was the simply the pleasure of finding things out.

 

What are your plans after Graduation?

Post-graduation my plan is to move away from Brighton. I hope to relocate to Hungary at the end of the summer and continue working from there, setting up a darkroom and continuing to produce work. I’m looking forward to escaping the fast pace of city life and finding a quieter place to reflect on my work and where to take it in the future.

I also am determined to exhibit my most recent work ‘Little Jacket for a Man’ either towards the end of this year or in the early part of next year. The work has its creative base in the physical properties of darkroom paper, physicality and material are central aspects to the work and I would like to see this exhibited in a gallery or exhibition space in the near future. Naturally, after the outbreak of Covid-19, my work had to be dramatically repurposed for digital submission and exhibition, it is now an ambition of mine to see the work installed as it is meant to be.

See more of George’s work

Follow George on Instagram

Find out more about BA(Hons) Photography

See George’s work in the Graduate Show 2020

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