Boyarde Messenger, Business Design Centre, London

Entranced by shots in the dark
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The Independent Culture

The world is never as we see it. It may resemble what we see, certainly; but we know from experience that we all see things differently. Which makes an instant nonsense of the phrase "the camera never lies". In fact, that is exactly what the camera does with distinction. It lies by selective framing; it lies by image manipulation and leaves plenty of scope to build lies from interpretation. And ever since Stalin airbrushed Trotsky out of a famous picture, it lies by omission, too.

Boyarde Messenger has made something of a virtue of this latent quality of the frozen moment in her series of pictures titled Night Prowls, edgy streetscapes from the Central American country of Belize where she resides six months of the year. Night Prowls shows us a world that we can never see, a world that does not exist to the naked eye, because Boyarde does not work just with space; in this series, she is working in the quantum realm of time and space. There is a sense in which this is true of all photography in that space equals framing and time equals exposure duration. What makes Messenger's Prowls so eerie is the duration of the exposure and the time of day. She skulks the streets in the dead of night when people are sleeping and buildings assume the lifeless, protective quality of enclosed space. Using ambient light and sufficient duration to allow the moon or street lighting to illuminate her streets and buildings, these unpeopled scenes awaken and boogie in a baleful moonlit masquerade that suggest dream states full of spectral narratives.

Because the scenes are often illuminated by streetlights or shop signs, Messenger goes to work to strip out the colour casts of orange or green or blue to reveal what we would see if the light temperature were "normal". Strangely, this is what makes them otherworldly. If you saw one of her buildings in your waking state, you'd run a mile, or sit and muse till dawn stole your vicarious vision.

Not everyone might share this view and Messenger also has a "bread and butter" line in sensuous buttocks to boost her bottom line. Shapely bottoms painted with shape-enhancing patterns (Messenger trained as a painter) are what she may be best known for. As the brochure says, "one purchased by a Premier League footballer"– that should cover the airfares to and from Belize.

Finding the unusual in the mundane is the hallmark of gifted photographers and another series of photographs from Belize reveals the technical gifts and social documentarian lurking in Messenger's closet.

Her Washing Line series captures more than just clean washing aired in public. These strung-out tales of domestic routine have a covert status, in that, as she says, "you need to hang things out in good order, either by colour or type or graduating lines of size... People will judge others on the way they hang out their laundry". Her series shows they are not kidding.

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