Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin / To Photograph the Details of a Dark Horse in Low Light
In our first exhibition of the year – To Photograph the Details of a Dark Horse in Low Light – Goodman Gallery Johannesburg will present two new related bodies of work by Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin. In 1970, Caroline Hunter, a young chemist working for the Polaroid Corporation, stumbled upon evidence that her multinational employees were indirectly supporting apartheid. With the collusion of local distributors Frank & Hirsch, Polaroid was able to provide the ID-2 camera system to the South African state, to efficiently produce images for the infamous passbooks. The camera included a boost button designed to increase the flash when photographing subjects with dark skin. Alongside her partner Ken Williams they formed the Polaroid Workers Revolutionary Movement, and campaigned for a boycott. By 1977, Polaroid finally did withdraw from South Africa, and the international divestment movement – which eventually crippled apartheid – was on its way. The radical notion that prejudice might be inherent in the medium of photography itself is interrogated by the artists Broomberg and Chanarin in this presentation of new works produced on salvaged polaroid ID-2 systems.
Early colour film was known to be predicated on white skin and in 1977 when Jean-Luc Godard was invited on an assignment to Mozambique, he famously refused to use Kodak film on the grounds that the film stock was inherently ‘racist’. The title of Broomberg and Chanarin’s exhibition was originally the coded phrase used by Kodak to describe the capabilities of a new film stock developed in the early ’80s to address the inability of their earlier films to accurately render dark skin. In response to a commission to ‘document’ Gabon, Broomberg and Chanarin recently made two trips to the country to photograph a series of rare Bwiti initiation rituals, using only Kodak film stock that had expired in the late 1970s. Working with outdated chemical processes they succeeded in salvaging just a single frame from the many expired colour rolls they exposed during their visit. In this wide-ranging meditation on the relationship between photography and race, the artists continue to scrutinise the photographic medium, leading viewers through a convoluted history lesson; a combination of found images, rescued artifacts and unstable new photographic works.
With special thanks to David Rosenberg, Josh Ponte and Caroline Hunter.
Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin are artists living and working in London. Together they have published nine monographs and have had numerous international exhibitions including The Gwagnju Biennale, the Stedelijk Museum, the International Center of Photography, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, The Photographers Gallery and are currently showing at Mathaf Arab Museum of Modern Art. Broomberg and Chanarin teach at the Zurich University of the Arts and are Visiting Fellows at the University of the Arts London. Their work is represented in major public and private collections including Tate Modern, the Stedelijk Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, Musee de l’Elysee and the International Center of Photography. They were recently shortlisted for the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2013.