REVIEW: In Camera: an exhibition by Mat Collishaw

In Camera by Mat Collishaw
In Camera by Mat Collishaw

As you step away from the endless shelves filled with books and into The Gallery in the iconic Library of Birmingham, you are plunged into darkness. Bright lights flash, sporadically throughout the room, illuminating images in suspended glass cases around the room, all depicting crime scenes from the archives of Birmingham City Police Force during the 1930’s and 1940’s.

The Library of Birmingham and GRAIN proudly present a new body if work by artist Mat Collishaw supported by the Arts Council of England. In Camera repurposes abandoned images once used as evidence to enquire into the changing nature of crime, photography, and the world around us.

By blocking out all natural light and using intermittent flashing lights, suspense and a sense of unease is created within the space. All the images are of crime scenes, from burglaries to murders. Walking around the space you have no idea where the next light flash is coming from, it’s exciting and makes a change from walking around the edge of a well lit whitewashed room.

Collishaw has printed the negatives using phosphorescent ink, meaning that when exposed to light, the image becomes clear then gradually fades with time, representing the temporary use the photograph once had as evidence. Standing on one side of the space, seeing a flash bulb expose an image, and racing to see what you can see in the image is a pretty similar experience to crime investigation. Time is crucial and soon enough evidence can become useless. Questions are brought to the forefront about how useful photography is as evidence. With no case notes or witnesses, how much can the public seeing these images work out about the crimes committed.

Mat Collishaw’s In Camera presents an exciting look back in Birmingham’s history, and offers an exciting new way to look at photography, going right back to it’s beginnings and utilising the basics. Head to the Library of Birmingham before January 10th 2016 to check out this exciting installation.