Harry Watts has made the fitting companion book to Darkroom by Michel Campeau. His latest Black Box publication turns the camera onto the all the crap that clutters our studios, the stuff usually left outside the frame; broken fans, crumpled back-drops, cables. Whereas Darkroom is, for me, quite melancholic and nostalgic, considering my history of years in the darkroom, Studio is more whimsical and quirky, because all of this “stuff” is still used today. From certain repeated patterns and forms, I think al of the images were probably made in Harry’s studio. It is a glimpse back stage where, regardless wether your images are digital or not, analogue is still king and duct-tape and zip-ties are worth more than any new plug-in.
There is a very good text in the book from Aaron Schuman whch I am taking the liberty of grabbing from the publisher’s homepage.
The photographic studio is generally regarded as an invisible space — a non-place, distilled of reality, where photographers are presented with an opportunity to ‘make’, rather than ‘take’, photographs. At the centre of this stripped-back monochrome environment sits an isolated three-dimensional void that is exclusively intended to serve the two-dimensional image, where precise, polished, elaborate and imaginative worlds are conjured up and transformed into a single plane.
In STUDIO, Harry Watts turns this environment inside out, allowing the camera itself to inhabit the void and explore its surrounding boundaries, where the means, mechanisms and ephemera of the photographic image — and the photographic imagination — reside. Remarkably, he discovers that upon closer examination the borders and tools so often used to define this space and generate sleek, idealized visions are themselves clunky, cramped and awkward. Painted cinderblocks, crumpled backdrops, crooked ladders, half-broken fans, snaking wires, crumbling styrofoam, and countless bits of gaffer, masking and packing tape encircle such sites, alluding to the hidden character and true nature of the studio itself.
Within the series, the charm of the functional trumps the thrill of the fantastical, and through clever and considered observation, Watts sheds light on both the making and taking of photographs, returning these environments — originally created for the purposes — of illusion — into places of photographic insight, intrigue, investigation and ultimately, study.
Text by Aaron Schuman
It is 32 pages, in an edition of 500 and the current price, thanks to a holiday sale at Black Box Press, is 8 quid.