It is fascinating to see how a brand can subvert its country’s heritage and then be transformed by a talented photographer into a work of art. I can’t see that happening with any of our current supermarkets, but then none of them has taken such a key part of our country’s heritage as its brand as ‘Inca’ had in Peru – a brand that encompassed a huge range of products from cigarettes and tinned fish to guide books and soft drinks, all transformed by photographer Susana Torres into a photographic work of art in ‘Fourteen Incas’ (1999).
Photography is a fascinating art form where, to all intents and purpose the photographer is merely recording what he or she sees, but in doing so gives it new meaning, which might be quite factual but with a new twist or it may be glamorous, glitzy, sexy, sensual at one end of the scale or depressing, socially-concerning or hard-hitting at the other end, with a whole range in between including artistic interpretations by photographers such as Man Ray, Constantin Brancusi, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Mapplethorpe and Idris Khan. Everyday objects such as light bulbs are transformed under the astute eye of the photographer.
Sometimes photographer just record a world that has passed (usually in black and white), perhaps where you and I grew up. Was the world of the 1950′s really so gritty, so grim – it didn’t feel like that at the time, but then the eyes of a five year old see things differently.
Phillips London’s current viewing of photographs covers all these positions, with some interesting juxtapositions – the reality of a hard life set alongside the glamour of an unreal world of fashion. Many of the best-known photographers are here, plus there is a focus on Latin American photography – which reflects the growing interest seen, for example, in the recent exhibition at the Photographers Gallery, though it is surprising that there are no Cuban photographers on show.