This spring, NOMA will explore historical and contemporary roles of the photographic negative through three complementary exhibitions: Vera Lutter: Inverted Worlds, Paper Negatives, and Negative Image. Although the history of photography has typically focused on the importance of positives in photography, NOMA will demonstrate that the negative possesses a rich, parallel history. Once necessary to all photographic work, the negative is fast becoming a relic of photography’s past in an increasingly digital world. However, certain contemporary photographers continue to engage with its history while pushing the boundaries of photographic imagery.
Paper Negatives and Negative Image reveal the history that Vera Lutter engages with in her work.
Drawing mostly from NOMA’s permanent collection, Paper Negatives presents examples of the oldest kinds of photographic negatives: evocative chemical images on sheets of writing paper. These are some of the earliest examples from the 1850s and 60s, including a three part negative panorama of Taj Mahal. Some will be dramatically backlit. Negative Image features modernist master photographs from NOMA’s collection, some on view for the first time. This exhibition explores the modernist moment when the negative image shifted from an intermediary stage to a graphic, final product in the course of experimentation with abstraction in photography.