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Unearthed: Photography's Roots

The Gallery is closed due to the national lockdown. Unearthed: Photography's Roots will be extended to the end of August 2021. Sign up to our emails to hear news of re-opening dates.

Discover the pioneering story of photography from the 1840s to today, told through stunning still lifes of plants and botany.

Our first major photography exhibition, Unearthed traces the rich history of the medium through depictions of nature, with over 100 works by 41 leading international artists. Unearthed: Photography's Roots will reveal the fascinating technical processes and narratives behind these images, showcasing innovations in photography by key figures including William Henry Fox Talbot and Imogen Cunningham as well as several overlooked photographers including rare works by Japanese artist, Kazumasa Ogawa and the English gardener, Charles Jones. Jones’ striking modernist photographs of plants remained unknown for 20 years after his death, until they were discovered in a trunk at Bermondsey Market in 1981.

 

"Nature is a constant, and there’s a reason that artists through the centuries have always returned to it…We can’t help but be inspired because it’s unwavering." 

Curator Alexander Moore, Creative Producer at Dulwich Picture Gallery

The exhibition opens with some of the first known Victorian images by Talbot, with his experiments with paper negatives, and will also feature many works by one of the first female photographers Anna Atkins. Focusing on botany and science throughout, themes range from typology and form to experiments with colour and modernism. The show culminates with more recent advancements in photography, from the glamour and eroticism of artists Robert Mapplethorpe and Nobuyoshi Araki, to experimentations with still life compositions by Richard Learoyd.

Our mausoleum hosts a contemporary installation from renowned video artist Ori Gersht, On Reflection, which reimagines a still life painting by Jan Brueghel the elder, and has never before been on show in the UK. 

The Exhibition Catalogue is supported by The Elizabeth Cayzer Charitable Trust

With support from the Unearthed Exhibition Syndicate: The Barton Trust, Bunt & Susan Ghosh, Julia Morley, Chris & Margaret Smith, The Topinambour Trust, And all those who wish to remain anonymous
Images: Richard Learoyd, Large Poppies (detail) 2019 © the Artist. Image courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery. Charles Jones, Broccoli Leamington, c.1895-1910, © Sean Sexton, Photo copyright Dulwich Picture Gallery. Kazumasa Ogawa, Morning Glory from ‘Some Japanese Flowers’ ca. 1894. Photo copyright Dulwich Picture Gallery.