StrayArt with Johnny Messum: Photography


Last updated Feb 5, 2021

StrayArt is a monthly column written by Johnny Messum, Director and Founder of art gallery and centre, Messum’s Wiltshire, London and Harrogate. Johnny’s passion is for contemporary art and sculpture.

Each month he will look at art, exhibitions and events across Yorkshire and sometimes further afield with the aim of guiding and inspiring us.


Considering photography requires a shift in the understanding of what we would ordinarily consider as images. We often think of photography as the pursuit of truth and realism and forget that the process of making photography involves much more creativity than meets the eye.

In fact, as we now know all too well, photographic images do not always speak the truth – certainly that is the case in some of the famous doctored images that have been used to present ‘reality’ in the news agenda.

However, luckily, we are not dealing with those issues today. We are dealing with the question of creativity and originality in the photographic image, and for that we need to start with the maker. That is the artist who is behind the lens.

Often with photography, because we are so caught up in the image, we forget that the person behind the camera is not only capturing the frame in terms of what can be seen, but also creating the composition. Perhaps we should start to think about the different techniques by splitting them first into digital and analogue. Digital has given us one of the greatest creative expansions of photography, so much so that the unique originality of images taken with Polaroid and other analogue techniques was considered dead. In fact, that has proved not to be the case at all. They have resurged and now there is a vibrant and exciting artisan scene using Polaroid and even tintype, which is the earliest form of photography

Gin Bottles, photographed by Tiff Hunter

Tif Hunter is perhaps one of the most extraordinary photographers working today. He not only carved out a career in analogue perfectionism in the advertising photography world of the 1980s and 1990s, but also perfected the historical technique of tintypes, and more recently mastered the art of digital technology to create still lives of exceptional beauty. Their beauty speaks to us most strongly when we think about how his photographic images are so inspiring in their details and composition. It is the sense of time captured which really turns them into an art form that deserve an appreciation of their own.

Once Covid restrictions are lifted, and you find yourselves in Bradford you could step into the National Science and Media Museum (formerly the National Museum of Photography) which is dedicated to the understanding of how photographic images are made.

Tiff Hunter’s tintypes will be on show at Messums Yorkshire in 4-6 James Street, Harrogate from 20 March to 1 May 2021. Paintings of Yorkshire – many of Harrogate – painted outside in January 2021 by Peter Brown, President of the New English Art Club opens on 20 March. While current restrictions are in place, the next exhibition, In Arcadia by Henry Lamb R.A., will be available online from 4 February to 13 March.

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