Hand-coloured Photographs Making a Powerful Statement

Chemical Reaction (Namib Desert) © Imke Rust

Chemical Reaction (Namib Desert) © Imke Rust

Recently I have invited you all to come to an exhibition of a selection of photographs which were submitted to the “Our Coast Your Photo” Competition, which was on show in Windhoek and Swakopmund.

Initially I was informed that I was one of the finalists, but then at the opening it turned out that the judges did not think that hand-coloured photographs are photographs but are art, and therefore my works were not considered for the actual prizes.  A detailed discussion of this decision would be interesting, considering that hand-colouring photographs is a technique used in photography for almost as long as we have photography itself, but maybe I leave that for another time or for the comments.

For now, I am happy to say that the organizers did think that my work still deserved a “special mention for making a powerful statement. … Rust managed to convey a message of “pretty promises” made by industrialists that paint a pretty picture, while the result would actually be unnatural – and even detrimental to the environment.” (quoted from The Namibian, 2 April 2012, pg7). The special mention came with a small financial prize and a bottle of unpolluted Namibian sea water – which I thought was a very nice touch in line with the background of the exhibition. It might become a rarity soon, but I hope not!

Here are the works which I have submitted for those of you who were not able to see them in person.

Toxic Flow (Swakop River)  © Imke Rust, Digital Photograph

Toxic Flow (Swakop River)
© Imke Rust, Digital Photograph

Toxic Waste (Moon Valley)  © Imke Rust

Toxic Waste (Moon Valley) © Imke Rust

About the works:

“My entries are hand-coloured photographs of  Swakopmund’s surrounding environment.

The idea came while I was in Berlin and was hearing about the planed chemical works that might be built near Swakopmund.  I looked at my photographs of Swakopmund and its surrounding area which I took earlier in the year and wondered what it will look like should the chemical plant be build with all its toxic waste and side effects. I also thought of the “pretty promises” that are made of all the wonderful things (like job creation) such developments would bring Namibians. What at first glance might look pretty and interesting might turn out to be really dangerous, and we are not really aware of how far-reaching the negative effects might be. The colourful interventions on the photographs, give a striking and ‘pretty’ effect, but also allude to the chemical and toxic interference with nature.

We are so used to see really good photographs of the Namibian environment and we often taken our environment for granted. That is why I decided to make some physical and ‘chemical’ interventions in bright and ‘unnatural’ acrylic (plastic) colours to the photographs. I hope this artificial, tampered view, makes people sit up and notice and think about what they are seeing and want to see.”

The exhibition is still up in Swakopmund at “The Art Gallery” in the Brauhaus Arcade till the end of April. According to that gallery it is one of their most visited exhibitions to date. So, if you are in Swakopmund, do take some time to go and see all the finalists work (and mine 😉 ) if you enjoy photography, art and our beautiful coast!

Oh, and I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject:  is photography art and is art photography? Should a hand-coloured photograph be judged differently than a photoshopped one, or an 100% untouched one? Let me know what you think…

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5 thoughts on “Hand-coloured Photographs Making a Powerful Statement

    1. Imke Rust Post author

      Oh thank you so much! I have been following your blog for a while and love it. So much inspirational and fun stuff there. I am happy that you have found your way here and like what you found!

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