When we define the photograph as a motionless image, this does not mean only that the figures it represents do not move; it means they do not emerge... they are anaesthetised and fastened down, like butterflies." That, at least, was the view of the philosopher Roland Barthes. The artists showcased at Photo50 would no doubt disagree.
The London Art Fair exhibition collates 12 contemporary photographers under the title of The New Alchemists, who have in common the will to take the so-called "fastened-down" photographic image and give it new dimension by destroying, rebuilding and re-creating.
Melinda Gibson, for example, constructs rich tableaux by means of a sculptured, surrealist aesthetic; David Birkin uses digital code to depersonalise information about the victims of the war in Iraq; Walter Hugo takes portraits with a camera obscura then "prints" them larger-than-life on a studio wall; Aliki Braine hole-punches negatives as an abstracting alienation device; Michael Wolf has Hong Kong fine-art copiers recreate famous photos as a comment on the art market; and Joy Gregory uses a 1960s-style camera to highlight the differences between shooting on digital and film. Anaesthetised? Anything but.
Photo50 is at the London Art Fair, London N1, from Wednesday to 22 January (londonartfair.co.uk)