Rhopography
Project info

Rhopography
1999 - 2003

Rhopography refers to the Greek word rhopos, meaning trivial objects, small wares, trifles. This old fashioned term for still life painting is the title for a series of images referencing 17th Century Flemish still life paintings which often included moths and beetles in their imagery.
Instead of using digital technology, the photographs in this series are manipulated through traditional ‘analogue’ processes. Although the pictures show a scenario that does not exist in reality, their language stays strictly within the tradition of documentary photography that signifies truth, including sharp focus and the black border around each print. Informed viewers these days expect to be fooled by digital images, but can be taken off-guard when deception is presented in ‘old fashioned’ black/white photography. Although photography has from the very beginning constructed reality, these images examine whether in a contemporary digital context its manipulation is perceived differently if it is achieved in the tradition of the ‘fine print’ without the help of a computer.
Historically painting in the 17th Century was at a similar crossroads as photography in the digital age. Baroque still lifes developed a naturalism that challenged preconceived ideas about painting and marked the beginning of ‘photographic thinking’. The use of optical tools, and the suppression of all painterly gesture, led to seemingly truthful depictions which nevertheless were highly subjective constructions of, and reflections on, society and religion.
Aspects of this tradition still influenced artists who accompanied the early European explorers since the 17th Century to record the ‘newly found’ coastlines, cultures and species of fauna and flora. These records were regarded as scientific and objective accounts but were nevertheless subjective reactions to unknown territories.