ALMUDENA ROMERO

Growing Concerns

Growing Concerns uses early photographic processes to reflect on the increasing restrictions of movement for persons and the reduction of regulatory barriers for goods and capitals. The title Growing Concerns refers to 21st century challenges, such us the creation of new barriers (the Trump wall, Calais wall, Brexit...) as well as the growing inequality, anger, support for extreme parties, and the social and environmental impact of deregulation for goods and capitals.

This body of work is divided in two main series. On one side, there is a series of wet collodion tintype portraits, which focuses on the increasing restrictions of movement for persons. I re-examine this historically significant photographic process to address links between photography, colonialism and migration, specifically looking at how photography has contributed to the construction of national identities through photographic archives, as well as to create an encyclopaedic classification of the other. I have developed this research from two perspectives.

1. Through a participatory archive of +200 passport size tintypes of London immigrants initially made during the Refugee Week 2017. The aim of this initiative was to facilitate a participatory archive from a decolonial perspective, in which the photographer doesn’t choose sitters, but anyone who considered themselves an immigrant could decide to participate, and both parties benefited from the experience. Participants gained knowledge of the process and got a copy of their tintype.

2. Through a non-archival archive. This is a series of 10x8” tintypes with chemical residues from the collodion process left over the photographic surface. The residues build crystals, which not only deteriorate the archival qualities of the process, but also act as living and growing barrier between the viewer and the portrayed subject, interfering in the process of observing and identifying the other, and also helping to create an ambiguous, ever-changing layered narrative to reflect on identity as a fluid and complex notion.

19th century photographic techniques, including wet collodion, were and are mainly practised in Europe and the USA, but require minerals such as silver, iron, gold and platinum which are extracted from mines based in former European colonies. This series analyses the links between photographic processes and colonialism beyond its material dependence on colonial economies and focuses the archive as a medium to construct national identity but also a tool to develop decolonial strategies.

Wet collodion was the most popular photographic process between 1850 and 1880. It was the cheapest and most light-sensitive technique, but its most distinctive characteristic was that it allowed the first glass negatives, and therefore, the reproduction of images in albumen, salt and carbon prints from one same negative. This capacity of wet collodion to reproduce images on paper copies coupled with the 19thcentury belief that one’s own identity gets manifested in one’s appearance led to the development of pseudosciences such as physiognomy but above all served to equate identity with identification.

European elites migrated worldwide taking portraits of locals in a style that referenced European drawing and painting tradition. These images contributed to create an encyclopaedic classification of the other, which was often portrayed as primitive or exotic, and to build national identity through photographic archives.

This tintype work uses the most archival photographic process to leave a legacy of a contemporary understanding of colonialism, identity and photographic archives. Based on mutual benefit, collaboration and interdependence; the series reviews decolonial theory and practice to analyse methodologies of making art work and archives.

On the other side, I am developing a series of chlorophyll prints that focuses on the reduction of restrictions and regulations for goods and capitals. Using plants from Asia, The Caribbean and Latin America that are easily available at local daily markets, I print images from cinema, press and photographic archives that relate to the native countries of the plants.

Growing Concerns has been displayed at The Photographers' Gallery, London (UK), at Château Lamazière, Paris (FR), Le Centquatre-Paris in Paris with Festival Circulation(s), at Four Corners Gallery , London (UK), and at Studio BONG Gallery, Florence (IT).


You can read more about this work and my practice here.

Using Format