Lenses on the Bible: recent article publications

Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin’s Holy Bible, 2013; David Mach’s Adam & Eve, 2011

2019 has been a year of article publications for me, the first fruits from completion of my PhD in 2017. In that labour of blood, sweat and tears, I considered four photographers as case-studies for new kinds of image/text relations between photography and the Bible. I’ve already introduced Revd Alexander Keith in a previous post, he saw the light of day in the History of Photography 42:4, published earlier this year. Here I’ll introduce Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin briefly, and David Mach in more detail. For another time is that seminal photographer in regard to biblical themes, Julia Margaret Cameron.

Broomberg & Chanarin’s Holy Bible (2013) is a publication I’m very fond of: a Bible with photographs from the Archive of Modern Conflict covering the pages. I’ve written about it twice now, in the Visual Commentary on Scripture as part of my commentary ‘Scaping Sin: Leviticus 15-18‘, and a couple of months ago in ‘Engaging with the Bible in Visual Culture: Hermeneutics between Word and Image, with Broomberg and Chanarin’s Holy BibleReligion and the Arts, 23:4. They present what I call artistic ways of exploding the Bible, with photographs of catastrophe. It’s quite a provocative hermeneutic in which they imagine a de-centering and deconstructing effect of war reportage, in which the Bible holds its own with a de-centred and deconstructive theology of God beyond words, God as rupture.

I’ve also been a long-time admirer of David Mach’s photo-collages – large-format composites assembled by hand from magazine and newspaper images. Mach produced over forty of them for an exhibition in 2011 called ‘Precious Light’ (which I reviewed at the time here), all with biblical subjects in celebration of 400 years since the King James Version of the Bible was published. In ‘The Bible as Photo-collage and Tableau: David Mach’s Precious Light Series (2011), I’ve written for the German Bible Society’s online journal, Bible in the Arts (Volume 3) exploring this work in greater depth. In the vein of Kudos’ helpful interface for the presentation of academic writing, I’ll answer their questions about this article here:

Bristol Through the Lens at St George’s

Cabot Tower Through the Circling Seasons

The last of my three main shows on during the Bristol Festival of Photography is now open at St George’s Bristol. Bristol Through the Lens features 25 pieces celebrating the Bristol landscape, primarily through digital collages of photographs taken at different times of day/year. My book Bristol Through the Lens: An Exhibition and An Essay is also on sale during the show. Displayed in The Crypt Gallery, the venue is open with the box office and bar 90 minutes before all concerts – which normally means from 5.30/6pm and the occasional lunchtime.

From the press release:

‘The work explores the landscape as a changing, animated scene, bringing life to familiar landmarks such as Cabot Tower, Queen Square and the Clifton Suspension Bridge.  Like Monet’s series paintings, they form individual studies of the kaleidoscopic effect of place over a period of time, revealing its capacity to evoke a myriad of emotive and even spiritual connections. Repeated looking is also part of our biology and reveals much about our physical connection to landscape. All of this interconnectedness offers ways to reinvigorate the window-world of photography, not least by bringing the aesthetic of cubism and impressionism into the frame.

‘Also accompanying the pieces in the exhibition are a selection of photographs from Sheona’s Bridge series. These simple, distilled shots of Clifton Suspension Bridge and the two Severn Bridges in different weathers bring a quiet, mystical element to the show, complementing the colourful collages.’