Claude Cahun // Collection // Paris // 1920’s and 30’s // Silver Gelatin Print

Welcome to #7 in our new series Poignant Pics where I’ve asked photo curators, collectors and makers to write about a photograph or two that, in one way or another, has significantly impacted their cerebral cortex. The next few weeks we are proud to feature the Poignant Pics of several photographers and Diffusion alum participating in a group exhibition “A Cartography of Dreams” at Dimbola Museum Galleries produced by Reclaim Photography Festival.

Paul Biddle recounts coming across the amazing work of Claude Cahun at a flea market.

Claude Cahun Alchemist

I originally wanted to be a painter but was awful at drawing. When I was at art college, over 40 years ago, one of the course modules was pinhole photography and I became entranced with it – suddenly the Sun did the drawing for me and I have been a photographer ever since. I’d been a fan of surrealist art since I was about 10 and like many kids I decided I wanted to be a surrealist even though I was several decades too late.

A few years later I was browsing a book store on a flea market and came across the amazing work of Claude Cahun 1894-1955. Cahun’s work is mostly self-portrait and collage, full of ambiguity as is her adoption of a sexually ambiguous name. She said ”Shuffle the cards, Masculine? Feminine? It depends on the situation.”

For me photography is definitely a meditation.

What I learnt from her work is that photography could be staged just like painting and didn’t have to be a documentation of reality and rely on Bresson’s notion of the decisive moment where he said “Photography is an immediate reaction, drawing is a meditation.” Perhaps Bresson’s meditation happened in a fraction of a second like his shutter speed, but many artists find a slower more careful deliberation more suitable for their work. For me photography is definitely a meditation.

Lastly to quote the BBC: “Perhaps instead of thinking of Cahun as a transgender icon we should think of Cahun as an alchemist: full of discovery forever changing.”

– Paul Biddle

Paul Biddle is an award winning surrealist photographer whose work has gained the respect of his contemporaries for creating imaginative and playful pictures of the highest technical standards. His fine art photography displays a highly original and creative approach to image making. Many are shot and composed “in camera” in the studio. These images are sometimes inspired by found objects from nature or junk shops or start with a drawing and then a search to find objects to fit the idea. They are then brought to life through his exquisite capturing of light, form, surface and space and his thought provoking juxtapositions. Paul’s other way of working is to use objects that he photographs in museums and other places which he then assembles using digital compositing techniques in Photoshop.

Paul’s work is currently in a group exhibition, “A Cartography of Dreams” at Dimbola Museum & Galleries with the works of artists Fran Forman, Tami Bone, and Jonah Calinawan. The exhibition was produced by Reclaim Photography Festival in association with Dimbola Museum & Galleries. Don’t miss this show that runs to January 1, 2017!

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