Essay for Alchemy Exhibition



BCreative worked with fine art photographer Robert Kenney to curate, market and message his evocative series of wet-plate collodion images and his feature exhibition, Alchemy and Other Allusions. Kenney created an extraordinary fantasia of constructed images with this work and he used vintage technology to tell takes that remain potent to a contemporary audience. 

“In Alchemy and Other Allusions, Robert Kenney has mixed up a potent brew of charms, fables and fantastical images that bring a modern sensibility to Romantic sensuousness. Made in our current age of unprecedented technological trickery, the images developed through the wet-plate collodion method feel raw and wondrous – more laboured and lyrical than the flawless images that are processed today. The surface imperfections of each plate, all that wounded beauty, imply expressive emotions into the images, hurt and heartache.

– Barry Dumka  



Essay for Alchemy Exhibition

Curiouser and curiouser.”

–          Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, 1864


In addition to his curiously odd writings, Lewis Carroll, the pseudonym of Charles Lutwidge Dodson, was also a successful wet-plate collodion photographer who shared the 19th century’s taste for the sensuous and the fantastic.  The discovery and development of photography corresponded with the rise of the Romantic age, an expressive reaction to the rationalization of science and the hard edge of industry. Evocations of wonder and awe and the wild spirit of nature were intended to break free of the confines of rational thought. Romanticism heralded the value of myths and folklore and the untamed imagination of medieval thought. That which cannot be proved should still be possible.


While in its earliest development, photography was the purview of chemists and opticians, the camera was considered in popular culture more akin to a magic box. Illusions made material through some alchemical spell that few could understand. To the romantics, illusion was a phenomenon that proved that not all was as it seems; that the artful was not necessarily artificial.  Photography was but the latest iteration of a series of 19th century optical gadgets from magic lanterns to dioramas, zoetropes, phenakistoscopes and phantasmagorias that sought to allow an audience to marvel at an image. The “miracle” of photography was not only in its science but had more to do with its power to astonish. Then, as now, the popular imagination was keen to be amazed.


— (end of excerpt)



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