Tales from the Forest

In the ‘Tales from the Forest’ series, we see photographs made using techniques and processes traditional to the early days of photography in the nineteenth century. Using an antique plate camera and lens that date back to the 1870s and 1860s respectively, Anna Lilleengen uses photographic techniques that are almost obsolete and handcrafts her photographs from start to finish.

Each photograph is unique, displaying evidence of time passing in its individual markings. For example, an image may show a light shaft entering in through the antique plate holder where a crack has emerged in the wood or it may show the scratches where the plate holder has indented into the surface of the negative, carrying the dried remains of chemicals used in this camera in the Victorian era.

These markings are testament to the individual nature of each photograph; the authenticity of this handcrafted process. For this reason they are purposefully included; not edited out or rejected.

In an era of copy and paste it takes a revision of how we look at images in order to appreciate each picture as a one-off. There has been a resurgence of interest recently in alternative processes. Aspects of the Pictorialist movement can be seen in Lilleengen’s work, which draws inspiration from the wet plate collodion techniques of, amongst others, the US photographer Sally Mann.

The deep forests of Värmland, Sweden are a place where growing up Anna Lilleengen has spent time, so is a natural setting for her work. Here the forests are reclaiming their elemental status as people move out and ‘the Wild’ (wolves, lynx, bears) moves back in.

Exploring the ambivalent nature of our experience of the forest, Lilleengen invites us to join her on a journey through the dark depths of the elemental forest. A place where fairytale and imagination may play against our rational sense of what to expect. Lilleengen creates work that requires you to look closer, reflect and navigate your own way through the darkness of the forest.