Light, the photographer’s medium, is capricious. When an object is hit by light, it casts an
ethereal shadow of itself, an absence of light, not always immediately apparent in its form.
Shadows have three distinct degrees of density, each of which has its own nomenclature:
umbra, penumbra and antumbra. Antumbra is the outer edge of the shadow, particularly
evident in soft light, where it appears as if the object casting the shadow is almost no longer
there, such as in an annular eclipse. This ephemeral moment is in a sense the shadow of the
shadow, and becomes a true metaphor for, and of, itself. It alludes, as all shadows do, to
death, the obscure and the unnamed. But also to transience, absence, and loss.
Both artists draw upon this theme of the shadow of shadows, either through the melancholy
of absence, or through what it means to live with the elusive nature of mortality.
In her landscape photographs, Coates depicts the unsettling nature of loss and beauty, dread
and longing. Perceptive to the non-apparent, being and non-being, she speaks of this longing
as feeling like nostalgia, but not for something once had and has since been lost, but more a
nostalgia for what never was.
Coates explains, “The grandiose landscape that surrounds me, whilst strikingly beautiful,
remains utterly at a distance and unavailable to interpretation. It keeps me from myself, and
torments me with its total inaccessibility.”
For Coates, this void sets up a kind of death space, where connection and intimacy are
longed for but remain forever elusive. Her method then, is to have ‘conversations’ with
individual motifs – a rock, a pool of water, a wooden stump – allegories for wider narratives
that speak of our mysterious relationship to the ‘otherness’ of beauty, and of the natural world
in the face of our own mortality.
She continues, “I want to make work that expresses the idea of beauty as signifying that
death is ever present. If we didn’t die, I think artists and philosophers would say and make
very different work. Perhaps we wouldn’t even make any work at all. For what is beauty when
there is no shadow? In this way the creative impulse is intertwined with our own temporality.”
Seeing her language as essentially aligned with Romanticism, Coates now feels that
photography IS the medium of death and longing.
Berlin-based photographer, Anhut, constructs atmospheric allegories of loss and
disappearance by capturing real, abandoned buildings and creating fictional, narrative
moments that touch on the fundamental issue of transience. His darkly monochrome work
captures abandoned or decaying rooms and spaces, now seemingly devoid of any function,
and transforms them into new stories as captured through his ambiguous lens, thus inviting
the viewer to use their own imagination and resonate with the transient stories held within
For Anhut, the unapproachable, uncanny beauty he has no access to informs his work, he
says, “So all of what remains for me is the traces of transience that I can deal with. I am
interested in the left-over traces of something that existed and is no longer there, in order to
create something new out of it before it disappeared into nothingness.”
At times, characters appear within Anhut’s imaginatively staged settings; strange beings
which are obscure, blurred and sometimes only just shadows of themselves – as shadowy as
the rooms they have been left behind in.
In his latest series ‘Wonderland’ Anhut takes us on an exploration of surreal rooms in an
abandoned hotel, a journey, which challenged him to take his style further and do something
He says, “I even took a rabbit mask borrowed from Alice, to create my absurd and dark
Both artists use either black and white or monochrome tones, which underline the ambiguity
and mysterious tension in their imagery.
Curated by Renata Kudlacek