“Emanations” was, according to the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, the world’s first comprehensive survey of cameraless photography. That it was happening here and now was the result of several factors coming together at just the right time: the opening of the Len Lye Centre at the Govett-Brewster; the return of New Zealander Simon Rees from Europe to take up its directorship in 2014; the fact that one of the world’s most prominent theorists of photography, Geoffrey Batchen, is now based at Wellington’s Victoria University; and an increasing curatorial fascination at the center with two groups of photograms made by Lye, dating from ca. 1930 and 1947, respectively.
Rees commissioned Batchen to curate a history of cameraless photography, using the Lye photograms as his starting point. The resulting exhibition stretched from the nineteenth-century experiments of Anna Atkins and William
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