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Light from the Dark

Photographer Jo Bradford’s work captures a moment in time from her analogue dark room, with an intense kaleidoscope of colour. Words by Hannah Tapping.

As master of the camera-less photography method, Jo Bradford has developed a unique, painstaking and highly skilled process of working with analogue darkroom techniques. Using only the primary tools of analogue photography, her work encompasses the full spectrum of colour. Using light and paper, it is essentially the ‘photography’ itself making its own self-portraits.

“I am a colourist at heart, the wellspring for my practice is in recording the essence of the purest colour contained within light.  My camera-less photography addresses the relationship between how we view and experience the intangible in an age increasingly defined by technology. I enjoy exploring the vast, elemental landscape of my home on Dartmoor.  I am also very interested in geometric abstraction and colour theory.”

Jo’s meticulous recording of timings and colour combinations are extensively and intricately catalogued so that she can return to these as a starting point for her continued work known as luminograms, tracing light onto light sensitive paper. Countless hours have been spent in her darkroom over a 20-year span, working endlessly with only light, coloured filters, photosensitive paper and time itself to create her finely tuned studies of colour. Her detailed working methods result in photography at its purest. The light itself is the subject, the result entirely abstract, sometimes described as akin to a Rothko painting.  Some of Jo’s more recent work uses instant film to directly expose to light in natural environments as opposed to the darkroom. 

“I primarily make work with experimental camera-less photographic mediums such as luminograms, photograms and cliché verre prints in my darkroom.  I’m interested in exploring alternative and historical processes, and passionate about my substantial stockpile of out-of-date peel-apart polaroid film. I love printmaking and painting for sketching my ideas, so I can occasionally be found making monotypes, screen prints and linocuts or gleefully throwing colour at canvas.”

Born in Hertfordshire and raised in South Africa, Jo received her Master’s in Photography: Critical Practice from Falmouth University in 2004 and since then has exhibited regularly and widely. She has works in many public and private collections and is represented by Eyestorm in the UK. She now lives off-grid on the fringes of Dartmoor, a place from which she draws constant inspiration.

Jo Bradford’s latest exhibition will be at Somerset House for Photo London 2024 from 16th to 19th May in the discovery section with Gina Cross Projects.



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