Inside the MFAH Lecture: "Shadows on the Wall: Cameraless Photography from 1851 to Today"
In Greek philosopher Plato's Allegory of the Cave, a group of prisoners watching shadow puppets on the wall believe they are viewing the reality of the external world. Photographs made without a camera can similarly create a convincing impression of reality by placing an entity in contact with photographic paper and then exposing the paper to light. Once the paper is processed, the image may replicate the subject's silhouette and other details, as well as convey its opacity or translucence, or whether it has volume. As in Plato's cave, this is a representation, not reality.
Nevertheless, the process has been embraced from photography's invention in 1839 to the present as a method to record reality. Using examples from the exhibition Shadows on the Wall: Cameraless Photography from 1851 to Today, Anne Wilkes Tucker discusses the visual diversity of the evocative images created through cameraless techniques, as well as the issues these photographs raise about the complex relationship between reality and representation.