The term 'conceptual photography' is often used but rarely defined. Does it say merely that photography can be an intellectual activity? Or, does it refer specifically to an inheritance from an art movement of the 1960s and 70s? We decided to produce an issue to explore these questions and, in a parallel enterprise, have made a film asking various artists and critics the same question. The film will be available on our website in July.
We are not very much closer to a definition than when we started. However, our sampling of the various ways the term can be used has shown that, although contemporary photography is a diverse field, the legacy of Conceptual Art is an influential one, manifest in as many different forms as there are photographers.
Suzanne Mooney's new work The Edge of Collapse continues 'the conceptual play with the processes involved in image making' begun in her early work. The new series is introduced by Chris Clarke who notes that the objects Mooney photographs disappear into her pictures. The resulting 'play of shapes, shift in tones and sheer seductiveness of surface' doesn't just represent desire but activates it in its own right.
Emma Hart tackles the question of how to represent something, by using the camera to produce impromptu tabletop dramas in restaurants. Car crashes are the theme of these dramatizations, which take shape through the careful positioning and collision of objects to hand, as directed and performed by Hart's dinner guests.
Trish Morrissey used reconstructions in her earlier projects to critique and mimic the images familiar to us from family albums. In her new work, The Failed Realist, she continues to renegotiate remembering, this time in collaboration with her young daughter. Through drawing and photography the pair attempt to represent something from life.
Adam O'Meara's new works, Foil and White Van, show discarded scraps of aluminium used to smoke heroin and the marks on the back doors of our most commonly-seen delivery vehicle. These surfaces show both a trace of the people that have touched them and accidental pictures that register these people's lives.