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‘King’ by David Claerbout, after Alfred Wertheimer’s 1956 picture of a young man named Elvis Presley

In this group show at Parasol Unit, photography is shown to be no longer limited by a lens. The images in Magical Surfaces: The Uncanny in Contemporary Photography stray into realms of the sublime, imagination and human projections of the infinite.

David Claerbout takes historical photographs and brings the subjects back to life using three-dimensional digital reconstruction. The results of that reconstruction are then printed as conventional two-dimensional photographs.

A pre-stardom Elvis Presley is perhaps his greatest ‘magic trick’. Every detail of The King, including skin tone and the sweat on his brow, was rendered from a 1950s black and white photograph.

This uncanny valley Franken-Elvis is disturbing. What is more real, if there is more information in the reconstruction than in the original photograph?

How the structure of meteorological forces and ‘patterns’ of waves and winds are embodied and perceived challenges our sense of ownership over nature, something which dates back to the Romantic period.

Julie MOnaco

Julie Monaco

Julie Monaco uses algorithmic software to create dramatic photographs of weather phenomena that blur the lines between nature, art, photography and abstraction.

The human hand is intentionally detectable in the work of Sonja Braas, who works entirely in analogue.

Braas uses ready-made sources, artificially creates landscapes or builds models, which she then photographs, rather than photographing actual nature. Her work questions what is real and what is unreal in any image.

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‘Firestorm’ by Sonja Braas from the series The Quiet of Dissolution

Stephen Shore’s empty scenes of America evoke a lost civilisation. He and fellow photographer Joel Sternfeld travelled independently across the USA, taking what are evocatively revealing photographs of the time and place, capturing an atmosphere almost palpably uncanny.

As a traveller, any new landscape you enter is uncanny, as traces accumulate and subtly inform and betray intelligences and choices that seem alien.

All photography is uncanny as a result of the artist’s presence and desire to create. But do we trust this unknown other, and what is it that we are being pushed into? Magical Surfaces attempts to provide an answer.

Magical Surfaces: The Uncanny in Contemporary Photography is at Parasol Unit, 14 Wharf Road, N1 7RW until 19 June
parasol-unit.org

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‘You Are Here’ by Sonja Braas

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