A Celebration of Kodachrome

Judith Katz

Research output: Non-textual outputExhibition


Group show held at Association of Photographers Gallery, London. Show reviewed in Sunday Times magazine, and the Independent on Sunday both on 23 Jan 2011. Reviewed in article in Image magazine, “Focus Kodachrome”, issue 412, Feb/Mar 2011.

'The Practice', shown in A Celebration of Kodachrome:

Katz’ series, 'The Practice', uses imagery taken from the photographic records produced by a dental practice in the United States in the 1940s and 50s. The process of producing the series for exhibition involves the discovery, selection, printing, background reworking and curating from original prints, slides and 16mm film. The result is both an original comment on the work of dental practitioners and their use of photography and also a research project which produces new meaning from found images that are brought into an alien context, investigating the nature of portraiture, the found image and the 'curatorial' gestures inherent in this method of practice.

Investigating the archive collection of a 1940s New York dentist, Katz explores approximately ten thousand slides, alongside the original photographic equipment used. The research questions the nature of subjugated portraiture, the purpose of photographic practice and its use within mid-twentieth-century dental practice.

There is a professional clinical intent behind the original taking of these photographs; the figures are in some sense posed. The stillness of the sitters involves a consciousness of this purpose while at the same time retains their predisposition to photographic portraiture. Facial movements aiming to show the teeth and jaw structure also recall with irony the pose of the traditional smile.

The works are astonishingly well preserved with little degradation save the slight pinkness of some glass plates. In the process of reprinting there is a further questioning of the photographic act, the separation and connection between the sitter and the work produced. The found image is detached from a context and culture, and this research project adds to the debate on how this practice of recontextualisation can further the understanding of the photograph. Elements in the series evoke the later twentieth-century photobooth as well as a history of formal photographic studio portraiture, and this in turn focuses the questions around the use of photography and the increasingly commonplace nature of image-making.

There is also a set of social-historic investigations here. Little is known about the use of photography and the abilities of the photographers working in dentistry in the 1940s. The project has to do with notions of inheritance and what remains behind once someone has departed. But it's also about deliberation, the significance of the object. The images hover between historical and fictional and also make us question the nature of the doctor/patient relationship. There's uncertainty, ambiguity and speculation, the images ask a lot of us and have an unsettling intimate quality.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jan 2011
Eventexhibition - Association of Photographers Gallery, London, 19 Jan - 10 Feb 2011
Duration: 19 Jan 2011 → …


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