Tue 04 Aug 2015 - 16.30

A Young Person Recommends... Shoot! Existential Photography

Pulling the trigger of the gun and the trigger of the camera are two actions that follow the same process; aim, shoot, load, yet usually appear in drastically different contexts. Shoot! Existential Photography traces the fairground attraction that co-ordinates these two actions: by hitting their target, participants trigger a camera that allows them to win, rather than toys, a snapshot of themselves in the act of shooting.

This peculiar funfair game provided inspiration for artists and academics from Simone de Beauvoir to Jean- Paul Sartre; who help the book examine the similarities between taking photographs and shooting, tracing the history of how this everyday fairground attraction can evoke new perspectives in photography and vice versa.

One shooter in particular stands out, memorialized at the bottom of each page in this fascinating little book. Ria van Djk was 16 when she shot her first self-portrait on 5th September 1936. Excluding wartime, Ria has repeated the event every year to culminate in a marvellous photographic timeline of ageing. The artist Erik kessels uses Ria to explore the repetitive process of amateur and domestic photography, symbolic and endlessly fascinating.

The book explores the relevance of the attraction; examining numerous means of incorporating the analogy with contemporary art. Experimenting, several artists have had the similar idea of shooting the gun directly into the camera. The end results are vastly different depending on the specific process, yet all use the bullet's entry as a means for light to enter and expose the film. Rudolf Steiner uses a pinhole camera, whilst Jean Francois Lecourt uses a Polaroid, both piercing the shell of the actual camera and capturing both the photographic process and the path of the bullet. Reflecting the moral nature of this photographic game, Lecourt has in some experiments, destroyed the camera completely. Abstract and surreal, these images provide an aesthetically pleasing contrast to the images of the shooters and delve further into how this simple fairground game has been used to provide inspiration for further development of the concept.

Shoot Existential Photography is an investigation into this curious fairground game that inspired countless artists. Perhaps it is the element of self-destruction that made the attraction so fascinating; a kind of perverse joy obtained from seeing yourself as your own executioner, an adrenaline evoked by a false sense of danger. Shoot Existential Photography lets the reader make their own conclusion. It is an exploration of how art takes inspiration from the mundane and is developed in different and numerous fascinating ways. 

- Tamsin Paternoster