What Photography has in Common with an Empty Vase; Edgar Martins


Edgar Martins
Edgar Martins

Taking as a starting point a collaboration with HMP Birmingham, its inmates and their families, in his new work Edgar uses the social context of incarceration in order to explore the philosophical concept of absence and address a broader consideration of the status of the photograph when questions of visibility and documentation overlap.

It has been enormously inspiring working with Edgar Martins as part of his Grain commission.  The work seeks to reflect on how one deals with the absence of a loved one, brought on by enforced separation.

From an ontological perspective it seeks answers to the following questions: how does one represent a subject that eludes visualization, that is absent or hidden from view? How does Photography address the politics of visibility in an era that privileges transparency but is also skeptical of fact? And what does it mean for photography, in an epistemological, ontological, aesthetic and ethical sense, if it does not identify with the referent but the absence of the referent?

Finally, can photography exist outside a relationship with evidence and memory and does this invalidate its capacity to document and represent?

Edgar Martin’s work employs a multifaceted approach encompassing speculative, documentary and historical archive imagery (ranging from portraiture, landscape, still-life, abstraction, etc.), text, projection, audio and photo-installation, signalling his growing inclination towards a more interdisciplinary perspective of the practice of photography and the experience of images.

This project is structured in 3 distinct chapters/moments and the outcome is a research project, photobook and exhibition.

Based on a commission by GRAIN Projects, in collaboration with HMP Birmingham and supported by Arts Council England and Birmingham City University.