Tate Modern

James Welling and Zoe Leonard

Boiler House Level 4 West

In their series Light Sources and Sun Photographs, artists James Welling and Zoe Leonard ask questions about the nature of photography as a medium, but only as a way to explore deeper concerns about human experience and being in the world

In the mid-90s, Welling brought together a body of old and recent photographs under the title Light Sources. The new group included portraits, landscapes and more or less abstract images, unlike previous series that focused on a single subject. With pictures of bulbs, neon strips and sunlight, Welling photographed literal light sources. But for a camera, any lit object reflects light towards its lens. And by including photographs of his friends, Welling suggests that people who inspire and encourage are a source of light. Photography is both reliant on and vulnerable to light, just as we are with the people around us.

Disobeying basic rules of photography, Leonard pointed her lens at the sun. Her Sun Photographs series came about in 2011–12 after the completion of a major project in which she photographed thousands of objects across the world. Though almost empty, each Sun Photograph captures light and cloud as well as the flare in the camera lens. Leonard hand-printed each photograph using analogue processes, and traces of chemical activity are visible on the paper. The prints are vulnerable, shown unframed. Leonard’s interest was to understand her medium’s dependence on something it cannot record. Extending her interest in navigation, she also wanted to situate herself in relation to the sun. Every Sun Photograph invites us to share her position and viewpoint.

Curated by Mark Godfrey


Tate Modern
London SE1 9TG
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