Goldsworthy's use of photography

Photography has an important and specific place in Goldsworthy's practice, and has done so since his student days. Goldsworthy's first use of photography for documentation purposes, and the earliest prints, negatives and slides in his Archive, date to 1975. Although there are sequences of transparencies and slides that document Goldsworthy's permanent commissions and projects, as well as his exhibitions, the majority of the original photographic material in Goldsworthy's Archive documents his ephemeral outdoor work.

Goldsworthy's use of photography differs according to the different modes of his practice - outdoor ephemeral work, permanent commissions, and temporary, gallery-based installations. Whilst Goldsworthy does record his permanent projects photographically, he does not do so systematically or consistently as with the photographic documentation of his ephemeral work. He will photograph the making of a permanent work or commission, and then will photograph the completed state. However, these are not necessarily photographed upon completion. Goldsworthy will often return to photograph a permanent work at a later date.

It is well known that every ephemeral work that Goldsworthy has made is invariably photographed, always immediately following the making, and often in revisiting the work. He has described the process of photography as one that is 'routine' and 'demanding.' Certainly in terms of the setting up, timing, viewing, and awareness that it requires of Goldsworthy, the photographing process constitutes a performative corollary to the making of the sculpture.

The resulting photographs have an indexical relationship to the sculpture(s) that they record, an aspect that is enhanced by Goldsworthy's preference for maximum depth of field in picture quality. Goldsworthy also 'brackets' his exposures, shooting a number of different exposures sequentially. This is necessitated by constant, and often imperceptible, fluctuations in atmospheric and lighting conditions, and the influence these have on the photographic rendering of the work.

When making ephemeral work outdoors, Goldsworthy generally takes three cameras out with him, as well as a tripod. He carries a 35mm SLR, a Hasselblad (square-format), and a Fuji GX617 (panoramic format). He typically takes a number of different shots of any one work. Most frequently, he takes a close-up shot, in which the work is centrally framed, and a shot showing the work in its immediate context. If the work is one that is 'activated' by a particular type of lighting, or by the flow of water or incoming tide for instance, or is 'time-based', then Goldsworthy will take multiple successive shots, usually framed from the same vantage point.

Goldsworthy has spoken of the importance of receiving the film back once it has been processed. It gives him, he suggests, a chance to 'look again' at what he has done, and to reassess the work.

Insofar as Goldsworthy's outdoor ephemeral works are mostly made in private or remote circumstances, they are made 'public' as photoworks, framed for exhibition or published in the artist's books. The public's ability to access and experience Goldsworthy's ephemeral sculptures is, thus, mediated by two factors: the artist's decision as to which works are printed or published, and by limits of the still photograph in determining how those works are 'viewed.'

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Andy Goldsworthy, 'The Photograph', statement from Terry Friedman and Andy Goldsworthy (Eds.), Hand to Earth: Andy Goldsworthy Sculpture 1976-1990 (Leeds, 1990).

My approach to the photograph is kept simple, almost routine. All work, good and bad is documented. I use standard film, lenses and no filters. Taking the photograph is not a casual act. It is very demanding and a balance is kept in which documentation does not interrupt the making. Each work grows, stays, decays - integral parts of a cycle which the photograph shows at its height, marking the moment when the work is most alive. There is an intensity about a work at its peak that I hope is expressed in the image. Process and decay are implicit in that moment. A drawing or painting would be too defined. The photographs leave the reason and spirit of the work outside. They are not the purpose but the result of my art. As Yves Klein said of his monochrome paintings: 'They are the left-overs from the creative process, the ashes. My pictures, after all, are only the title deeds to my property which I have to produce when I am asked o prove that I am a proprietor.'

That art should be permanent or impermanent is not the issue. Transience in my work reflects what I find in nature and should not be confused with an attitude towards art generally. I have never been against the well made or long lasting.

The photograph does not need to shrivel and fall to the ground for change to be part of purpose. It is an outdoor experience expressed in an indoor place which uses the conventions of that place to keep its meaning clear. It is appropriate to that space as it would be inappropriate to hang a framed photograph from a tree in a wood.

If the photograph represents the work alive, then work brought indoors becomes its husk. Much of the energy is lost: stones become isolated and leaves dry out ...yet there is still enough meaning left. Not only does such work explore the relationship between indoor and outdoor alongside the image, it emphasises the physicalness of what I do.

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Extract from Clive Adams, 'Catalogue Raisonne of Photographs, 1977-1989,' in Terry Friedman and Andy Goldsworthy (Eds.), Hand to Earth: Andy Goldworthy Sculpture 1976-1990 (Leeds, 1990), 169.

This is a catalogue of ephemeral sculpture made in the landscape by Andy Goldsworthy, photographed by him and made into photographic prints. It is a genre for which he has, to date, been best known through exhibitions and publications. The term 'photowork' was first applied to this work in Rain sun snow hail mist calm, published in 1985, but Goldsworthy prefers to simply refer to all his work as 'sculpture'...

Before November 1983, all photographs were taken on a 35 mm format camera, either Pentax or Nikon, with a standard lens. After that date Goldsworthy used a Hasselblad 2 ¼ in. square format camera. Kodachrome 64 film has been mostly used for all 35 mm transparencies, Fujichrome for most of the 2 ¼ in. square transparencies...

All photographs have been taken by Goldsworthy himself, except those in which he appears (which were mostly taken by his wife Judith, or his assistant at that time)...

The colour photographs in the works are printed on Cibachrome paper (manufactured by Ilford and the most permanent of colour photographic papers) from transparency films. Because the processing of Cibachrome requires expensive and sophisticated equipment, the printing of the photographs from Goldsworthy's transparencies has always been undertaken by commercial colour laboratories.

Up to 1987, most prints were produced by Charlie Meecham of Hebden Bridge, on either pearl (matt) or gloss finish paper. After that date, virtually all have been produced on pearl paper by Quicksilver Ltd, London. Apart from the very large prints exposed onto 50 in. wide Cibachrome paper, prints have been made within standard sizes (8 x 10, 12 x 16, 16 x 20in. etc). Because Goldsworthy rarely gives instructions to mask any area of the original transparency, prints follow the proportions of the original 35 mm or 2 ¼ in. square format.

Black-and-white photographs have been made on archivally processed fibre paper, from Ilford FP4, HP5 or Agfa 100 negative film.

Up to 1987, Goldsworthy mounted most of the photographs himself, using an acid-free paste and card, and framed in sycamore. Since then, all prints have been dry mounted by John Jones Frames Ltd, London, onto acid-free conservation board, and framed in whitened ash or maple. When photographs are joined in the mounting process, they are either butted-up or overlapping...

All works are made in editions of 5 unless stated otherwise. Before 1987 only one copy of the edition was made up at a time, resulting in variations in the size and layout of the photographs, size of frame and in the wording (if any) of the text. Works are sometimes signed. Texts are written in pencil on the mount.