Galerie Laboratorio: ONDŘEJ PŘIBYL: Children / opening November 28, 6pm

You are cordially invited to the opening of the exhibition

 Ondřej Přibyl / Children

Ondřej Přibyl /1978/ dedicated his entire doctoral studies at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design /AAAD/ in Prague to the reconstruction of the daguerreotype process, the first photographic technique, patented by Louis Daguerre in 1839. This protracted and dangerous process /daguerreotypists risked poisoning through the inhalation of mercury vapors/ very soon passed into oblivion, replaced by simpler and cheaper methods.

 The daguerreotype process differs from all other common photographic techniques in the manner in which the image is created. In its level of complexity, this first technique enabling the creation of a permanent positive image resembled alchemist experimentation. Přibyl had to revive the technique by learning it on his own, since almost nobody works with it anymore. Each daguerreotype is unique, each image exists only once, essentially impossible to reproduce. The resulting image is extremely sensitive. In order to be preserved, it must be protected by glass. Although it is the ancestor of today’s analogue and digital photography, the daguerreotype paradoxically stands on the other side of the barricades. It blurs the lines between positive and negative, the original is unsuitable for further reproduction, and in its adjustment and mimicry of the painter’s artistic signature it more resembles an artistic object than a two-dimensional photograph.

 Ondřej Přibyl first exhibited the outcome of his five-year efforts at the exhibition Signs of Causality /2011/, which represented the culmination of his doctoral studies. At this exhibit at the AAAD gallery, he presented a respectable set of forty two daguerreotypes in which he experimented with traditional photographic genres such as still-life, floral arrangements, and portraits.

 The far more intimate exhibition at Galerie Laboratorio is devoted to portrait daguerreotypes, specifically daguerreotypes of children. Portraits represented a great professional challenge for daguerreotypists, but they are an even greater trial for their models. The endless exposure time required them to sit absolutely still, and the final result could easily be ruined by merely batting an eyelid. Photographers thus made use of various aids: more than anything else, their headrests and devices for holding the hands and legs in place looked like torture instruments. The subject’s cadaver-like stiffness makes it easy to identify the era when the photograph was taken. By taking pictures of children, Přibyl further emphasized this ambiguity. The photographed subject is, by definition, a part of the past. With every passing minute children are less innocent and more mature, and we are all a little older. The subject of children in conjunction with the timelessness typical for daguerreotypes evokes a sense of uncertainty and creates associations that evoke a sense of extreme anxiety. The beginning meets finality. What is more, photographs of real children, even if they are unknown to the viewer, may evoke a slightly unpleasant sense of the voyeurism we feel when looking through someone else’s family album.

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