The machinations underpinning the photograph rest amidst a metric of aperture, reflection, light and surface. The endless photographic stream that characterises the digital space may well have entrenched itself as commonplace vernacular and communicative form, but the camera – and its various processes and outputs – remains supple, loose and endlessly receptive, if only we allow it to be. It is a magic box: a medium between our experience of the world and that of its evocative, allegorical, formal, narrative and philosophical potentials.
Taking her cue from late Italian photographer Luigi Ghirri and his 1991 essay “A light on the wall”, Emma Phillips’ new body of work adopts a mode of investigation that perpetuates this notion of the camera as conjurer. At once untethered, methodical and speculative in tenor, the Melbourne photographer’s works describe a claustrophobic, disorientating and mildly ominous space; they read as vignettes or sketches, adrift between the schisms of reality and the illusory, authenticity and artifice. Slowly, quietly, they unfold and surprise and reveal.
In this collection of images, Phillips describes various planes of representation. She photographs the photographed and the painted; she complicates the landscape and the architectural. We peer through windows, through doorways, through apertures, both real and contrived; surfaces and thresholds quietly rupture, bleed and permeate. The effect is mildly unsettling. Eschewed from narrative, we are left in a state of perpetual reassessment.
True to Ghirri’s intention, Phillips’ A light on the wall reads as an endeavour towards an expanded understanding of the fleeting nature of the image and its tenuous place in the wider milieu. Through darkness, obscurity and temporality, she offers flashes and fragments of illumination.
48 pages, 26.2 x 18.7 cm, softcover with dustjacket, Perimeter Editions (Melbourne).