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A dark photo of a seated boy.

Amy Friend's Illuminated Photography


A collection of images reminds us that photography is capable of capturing the invisible along with the visible.

There is a crack in everything.

That’s how the Light gets in.

—Leonard Cohen

Light can transform everything upon which it falls. Thus, it has a symbolic relationship with life, purity and with spirituality. The idea is followed through to its most literal outcomes in a series of photos by the Canadian artist, Amy Friend. By intervening with light in found photographs, she transforms and re-signifies them, igniting each with an unsuspected poetry.

Photograph of a young girl with specks of light.

Dare Alla Luce, the title of the series, means “to give birth” in Italian. The series was named because, for the creator, the process of transforming the material implies the death and subsequent rebirth of the images. Friend began with a careful selection of old photographs which were punctured and then placed in front of a light source and re-photographed. The results are impressive and poignant: the light shining through the holes in the paper endows the photographed subjects with life, and a spiritual quality, as if they were saints or enlightened beings, and this is even in the case of photographs of animals.

The process Friend describes as “re-using light” causes an immediate metamorphosis in which the placing of each of the small holes has a meticulous purpose. The subjects photographed seem to shed light, surrounded by halos or to contain constellations of stars. These are metaphors, perhaps, for the light that all living beings carry within. In a seemingly magical act, the artist comments on the fragility of photography, of our lives and stories, and their delicate, sad and ephemeral qualities. Presence and absence, visible and invisible, body and spirit are the dualities spoken of in these silent, illuminated photographs.

1920s photo of a girl and a dog in a yard.

 In speaking of Dare Alla Luce, Friend asserts that her purpose in creating the images was not to portray a concrete reality, but to speak of the photography’s amazing ability to capture that which is not seen. She describes it as a discipline which, like those extravagant machines said to capture ghosts, is able to translate the metaphysical universe, simultaneously through light, symbol, and instrument.

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