Goldsworthy, Adrian - Andy Goldsworthy
Photography has an important and specific place in Goldsworthy's practice, and has done so since his student days. Goldsworthy's first use of photography for documentation purposes, and the earliest prints, negatives and slides in his Archive, date to 1975. Although there are sequences of transparencies and slides that document Goldsworthy's permanent commissions and projects, as well as his exhibitions, the majority of the original photographic material in Goldsworthy's Archive documents his ephemeral outdoor work.
Goldsworthy's use of photography differs according to the different modes of his practice - outdoor ephemeral work, permanent commissions, and temporary, gallery-based installations. Whilst Goldsworthy does record his permanent projects photographically, he does not do so systematically or consistently as with the photographic documentation of his ephemeral work. He will photograph the making of a permanent work or commission, and then will photograph the completed state. However, these are not necessarily photographed upon completion. Goldsworthy will often return to photograph a permanent work at a later date.
It is well known that every ephemeral work that Goldsworthy has made is invariably photographed, always immediately following the making, and often in revisiting the work. He has described the process of photography as one that is 'routine' and 'demanding.' Certainly in terms of the setting up, timing, viewing, and awareness that it requires of Goldsworthy, the photographing process constitutes a performative corollary to the making of the sculpture.
The resulting photographs have an indexical relationship to the sculpture(s) that they record, an aspect that is enhanced by Goldsworthy's preference for maximum depth of field in picture quality. Goldsworthy also 'brackets' his exposures, shooting a number of different exposures sequentially. This is necessitated by constant, and often imperceptible, fluctuations in atmospheric and lighting conditions, and the influence these have on the photographic rendering of the work.
When making ephemeral work outdoors, Goldsworthy generally takes three cameras out with him, as well as a tripod. He carries a 35mm SLR, a Hasselblad (square-format), and a Fuji GX617 (panoramic format). He typically takes a number of different shots of any one work. Most frequently, he takes a close-up shot, in which the work is centrally framed, and a shot showing the work in its immediate context. If the work is one that is 'activated' by a particular type of lighting, or by the flow of water or incoming tide for instance, or is 'time-based', then Goldsworthy will take multiple successive shots, usually framed from the same vantage point.
Goldsworthy has spoken of the importance of receiving the film back once it has been processed. It gives him, he suggests, a chance to 'look again' at what he has done, and to reassess the work.
Insofar as Goldsworthy's outdoor ephemeral works are mostly made in private or remote circumstances, they are made 'public' as photoworks, framed for exhibition or published in the artist's books. The public's ability to access and experience Goldsworthy's ephemeral sculptures is, thus, mediated by two factors: the artist's decision as to which works are printed or published, and by limits of the still photograph in determining how those works are 'viewed.'
Author: Adrian Goldsworthy
Date of Publication:Jan 1997