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Jonah Samson’s new exhibition at Macaulay & Co Fine Art–his first with the Vancouver gallery–offers up a collection of distorted vintage photographs that mine the history of the medium with their content and form. Entitled “Dream Distortion,” the show finds inspiration in Absurdist Theatre with watery, dream-like cyanotypes and salted paper prints.
For this series, the Cape Breton Island denizen, whose earlier works featured photographs of exquisite miniature models, appropriated vintage images found on EBay, which he then transformed using natural materials from his property including salt from the Atlantic Ocean, sumac, lavender, wild blueberries, and maple leaves. These were combined with photosensitive chemicals to create images whose processes harken back to the early 19th-century when photography began.
Vibrant blue cyanotypes nod to Anna Atkins’ early botanical prints, while William Henry Fox Talbot is brought to mind by the sepia-toned salt prints and negatives. Appropriated images of theater, like a cyanotype of a sad clown, conjure the mass dissemination of the daguerreotype throughout Paris once the medium was popularized. The history here is rich. Where Samson really shines though, are in his creative mixing and matching of techniques. One image showing a group of men in turmoil is cleverly broken up into a triptych of sorts, and the cyanotype blue of the figures bleeds into a sepia-pink above the horizon, creating a wet-on-wet watercolor effect like a beautiful apparition.
“Dream Distortion” is on view through May 2015.