The Victoria & Albert Museum’s re-presentation of its photography collection in a newly opened ‘Photography Centre’ strikes a nice balance between image and information, method and content, historic development and contemporary relevance. Highlights include the 3D illusion of being present at the Great Exhibition in 1851 and acquisitions from shows I have admired by current photographers who should be better known, such as Peter Funch, Jan Kempanaers and Marco Breuer. One small cloud I noticed on the sunny horizon was the label categorisation of Nan Goldin as ‘one of the world’s most influential female photographers’ – I didn’t see any parallel labels commending a ‘leading male’. There are also positive clouds aplenty. Thomas Ruff, who often works by altering pre-existing images, has discovered a kindred spirit in the collection for his opening commission: the wonderfully named Linnaeus Tripe (1822-1902) often retouched the negatives of his views if India and Burma, especially by painted on clouds. Ruff blows the images up big and adds his own emphasis to the interventions.
Penelope Umbrico has sourced images of clouds from the V&A’s online collection, and merged them into an hour’s passing weather featuring 60-odd paintings on a monumental ‘Light Wall’. And at the more dramatic end of atmospheric conditions, Hiroshi Sugimoto’s ‘Lightning Field 225’ is a recent acquisition: one of a series using a 400,000 volt Van de Graaff generator to apply electrical current to a sheet of negative film on a table top. The result image is a lightning-like bolt of electrical current.
Art writer and curator Paul Carey-Kent sees a lot of shows: we asked him to jot down whatever came into his head