Ajamu Ikwe-Tyehimba (RCA) - 2019-20 Students

The Darkroom Encounter: Towards a Difractive Theory of Contemporary Photographic Portraiture.

This research proposes a radical new paradigm for a sophisticated theoretical/material rethinking of contempoary photographic portraiture and its place in the archive. Early 19th century photography via anthropology, ethnography and eugenics created a ‘perverse’ way of engaging with both photography and the archive. Current debates in photography tend to reduce photography to a ‘captured’ ‘representational’ image with an emphasis on the ‘latent’ image and given the impact of digital technologies and selvies has nothing whatsoever to do with the image. In the UK, academic context there remains complex and oppressive marginalisation of Black Lesian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer+ ( LGBTQ+) nuanced and embodied experiences. This seems to result from how racism, and homophobia, sexiam and transfobia intersect. Despite the advances in feminism, queer theory, de-colonisation/postcolonial theory and critcal race theory, these debates are locked into staid binary frameworks ( analogue v digital, print v screen, meaning v matter, subject v objects, researcher v data, black v white, straight v gay etc) . This project will sidestep this entrapmement of both notions of the latent and non-representational photography by privileging ‘making’ in the context of the materials used in the darkroom ( Metals, tones, chemicals) and the archive ( surface, atmosphere. smell, touch, tactility). It is vital that a new kind of darkroom-archival praxix begins to emerge, without staid notions of ‘ photography’, ‘ archive’ or otherwise entering into the picture.

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