INTRODUCTION TO UNSEEN AGENTS
contribution to the Seeing is Believing Show (Photographers
Gallery, London Nov 2007-Jan 2008), while paralleling other contemporary
photographers’ interest in the visual vocabulary of Spiritualist
photography, nevertheless also sets out to extend previous themes in
her work. At the heart of Strand’s work there is a consistent
and underlying process whereby utilitarian applications of photography
are studied and researched in order to contextualise her chosen subject
provides axes of possibilities between the nebulous and the sharply
focused, the mysterious and the adamant, the credible and the impossible.
At no time in the work does she lead the viewer to a resolution or
a solution, but instead allows a generosity of response where all solutions
are possible, to the enhancement of the narrative richness. At no stage
does she denounce or substantiate, nor reveal her own experiences,
always careful to skirt the autobiographical.
As part of Unseen Agents,
the Photism series proposes the use of the high street, ‘Aura
Camera’ found in ‘Spiritual Shops’ or Fairs, which purport
to provide a detailed study of a subject’s character and energy. The
laying of hands upon a metal sensor produces a small colour Polaroid that bears ‘witness’ to
aura projection and ethereal entity. Strand terms this image a Photism (A
luminous image or appearance of a hallucinatory character). Her subjects are
young women, returning to her preoccupation (Seeing Red, 1998) with
the adolescent girl and their supposed psychic potency and paranormal magnetism,
so often documented in horror movies, paranormal literature and psychology.
It is important also to note that, in Strand’s work to date, there is
a regular juxtaposition in each separate project of two seemingly disparate
bodies of imagery such as in Gone Astray with Portraits and Details and
The Betterment Rooms, Cyclegraphs and Untitled work studies.
Hence the exhibition of the Photism and Kirlian series together.
In the Photism series
there is a perverse sense of denial, achieved by stripping away the very colour
of the original photographic document, so necessary to the decoding of Auras
and Emanations, as extolled by the Theosophists and, even more recently, by
New Age Psychodelics. In contradiction too, the small working Polaroid is promoted
to contemporary Gallery status by its ambitious size and slick production.
In Kirlian Studies Strand
presents us with the Kirlian camera plate (invented by Seymon Kirlian
1939 to detect metaphysical energy of the animate and inanimate). The contradiction
presented to us is that there is no pictorial outcome, just the witnessing
of the process itself. Strand concentrates on the mechanisms of achieving the
image, rather than the image itself. More precisely, the Kirlian apparatus
is brought to bear on the characteristics of the female subjects in the Photisms (Hair,
Tread, Touch, Breath).
With all Strand’s work
there is a constant questioning of what photography is, where photography as
a working mode has been used, and what photography is able to offer in pursuit
of her chosen subject matter. In 2008, her show and a published monograph will
provide a convergence point for separate skeins of her work. Here the forensic,
the scientific, the declaratory, the evidential, the gratuitous and the oblique
will cluster together in a newly configured dictionary of photographic possibilities.