Curator-led walkthrough, Richard Learoyd and Real/Ideal

  • The Getty 1200 Getty Center Drive Los Angeles, CA, 90049 United States

The contemplative mood and mesmerizing detail of Richard Learoyd’s large-scale color photographs of the human figure, portraits, and still lifes create an uncanny sense of intimacy between subject and viewer. Working in his East London studio, Learoyd utilizes a room-sized camera obscura with a fixed lens to make unique direct-positive prints. Pared to the essential components of making a photograph—a dark chamber fitted with a lens, sensitized paper, and light—his labor-intensive process is closely associated with the early history of the medium.

In France in the mid-19th century, a decade after the announcement of photography’s invention, dynamic debates were waged about the medium’s prospects in the contrary fields of science and art. As a medium capable of unprecedented veracity, did photography simply record the real world, or could it express an aesthetic vision or ideal? Inspired by writers and painters, photographers began to focus on real people, places, and things as subjects (rather than academic, mythical, or biblical ones), as they explored new technological possibilities.


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