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Gods and Monsters

27th June – 22nd August

In 1859, French photographer André Adolphe Eugène Disdéri published a portrait of Emperor Napoleon III in the recently patented carte de visite format, the latest development in the young medium of photography. The coupling of the famous face with the pocket-sized, albumen print was to lead to an international phenomenon, which saw Victorian households collecting albums of these contemporary icons, to be treasured and displayed.

Since then, photography has continued to support, measure and produce figures of celebrity. As photographic technologies and styles have shifted, so too has the nature of fame, the two strands wound together in collaboration.

The studied, artfully composed Hollywood portraiture of the 1930s played with shadow and light - just as the stars within would present their pose but conceal a private self, steered by the movie studios of the day. Fame was to be manufactured in this new industry, but represented as heaven-sent.

These mythologies were reliant on the idealising eye of the camera, but with the advent of the paparazzi in the 1950s, shades of notoriety and the messier edges of celebrity began to colour the frame. The celebrity image was to flicker and warp under ever more rapacious scrutiny and demand.

Today, the fraught and flirtatious contract between celebrity and photography continues, with the fractured realities of the digital age providing new scope for image invention and caricature. In this dependent relationship, access remains the key currency; our exhibition explores the cultivated intrigue and the degrees of exposure which have characterised this exchange.