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Unearthed: Photography's Roots

Coming autumn 2020

Trace the history of photography from the 1840s to present day, as seen through depictions of plants and botany

This autumn, we present our first major photography exhibition, tracing the rich history of the medium told through depictions of nature, bringing together over 100 works by 37 leading international photographers. 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 Japanese artist, Kazumasa Ogawa and the English gardener, Charles Jones. Jones’ striking modernist photographs of plants remained unknown until 20 years after his death, when they were discovered in a trunk at Bermondsey Market in 1981.

"Plants and photographs are similar in their makeup; both require light, water and minerals in order to transform. They are sensitive, delicate objects." 

Curator Alexander Moore, Head of Exhibitions 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.

The exhibition will also feature a contemporary intervention from renowned video artist Ori Gersht, On Reflection will be displayed publicly in the UK for the first time in our Mausoleum.

Images: Kazumasa Ogawa, Morning Glory from ‘Some Japanese Flowers’ ca. 1894. Photo copyright Dulwich Picture Gallery. Charles Jones, Broccoli Leamington, c.1895-1910, © Sean Sexton, Photo copyright Dulwich Picture Gallery.