Future Backgrounds brings together the contemporary geographies of Israel/Palestine with photographic styles that emerged as a result of British and French Imperial rule in the nineteenth-century. This exhibition considers what interests photographers about these distant places, and how their images have shaped and reshaped various ideas about the Middle East. Focusing on the use of backdrops and landscapes, the work pays close attention to how photographic backgrounds inform the fantasy of the exotic.
Since the mid-nineteenth century, professional studio photographers have often used backdrops to create realistic yet imaginary settings for their sitters. Figures have been positioned in front of the backgrounds, surrounded by props and drapery, making the scene more believable and meaningful. At the turn of the twentieth century amateur photographers also began travelling with easy-to-use cameras, capturing images of friends and family against scenes to bring back home as souvenirs. Whether captured in the studio or outdoors, the photographic background has quietly shaped people’s views of foreign lands.
Among other objects, my installation features backdrops depicting examples of flora imported to Israel to recreate the country’s landscape for political reasons. Point-and-shoot disposable cameras and digital line drawings are used to explore how the simplification of photographic processes further blurred the boundaries between actuality, representation and the imagination.
I also enter into dialogue with black-and-white archival images of non-European botanical specimens, zoology and pictures of Victorian subjects in exotic dress. Displayed as a slideshow, these images were captured more than a hundred years ago by Captain H. W. Brook, an Imperialist soldier, amateur photographer, and one of my current objects of research.