Rhiannon Adam is a photographic artist, born in Cork, Ireland, in 1985. She currently lives and works between London and the US.
In 1992, her parents sold everything they owned and bought a live-aboard sailing boat, Jannes. From that point, her childhood became nomadic, moving from place to place, mainly around South America and the Caribbean. She eventually moved to London as a teenager to live her with aunt, enabling her to begin mainstream education. She later studied at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design and at the University of Cambridge.
Adam’s work is centred on research-based, long-form, social documentary projects that make use of analogue photographic processes and archive materials, as well as her on-going obsession with Polaroid and the materiality of the photographic image. Her early life experiences have had a lasting influence on her work, with a focus on remote communities, the concept of utopia, and the fine line between fact and fiction.
She has been shortlisted for, and won, numerous awards, including the Meitar Award for Excellence in Photography and was named as one of The Photographers’ Gallery’s New Talents in 2019. Her work has been published widely in the press, including Le Monde, The Telegraph, the BBC, The British Journal of Photography, Stern, Huffington Post, and the New York Times.
She is the author of three books, Big Fence / Pitcairn Island (Blow Up Press, 2021), Dreamlands / Wastelands (Jane & Jeremy, 2014), and her exhaustive resource on instant photography, Polaroid: The Missing Manual (Thames & Hudson, 2017, reprinted 2022).
When not creating her own projects, she can often be found giving lectures and teaching workshops at various photography festivals and institutions around the world.
This body of work is a series of large-scale Polaroid emulsion lifts, creating fantastical locations that span time and geography. Each unique piece is created from a series of lifts, composited, montaged, and rearranged onto a new substrate, in this case, watercolor paper. The pieces are tactile and textural, and embrace error and imperfection.
Taking reference from the composite images created by the lunar surveyor that photographed the moon’s surface, these works occupy the boundary between fact and fiction. A Polaroid cannot be faked, and each one is a “true” original, but when composited in this way, a fictional landscape is built that encourages us to question what is real. This is an entirely analogue process, but can be seen to relate to digital compositing processes more commonly used in commercial photography.
The lifting process is a delicate one, where the Polaroid’s emulsion is removed from its native backing using boiling water, is cleaned and washed, and then finally transferred to the composition one by one. With each image, there is only one opportunity for a successful lift, with the fragile gelatinous image being prone to breakages. The oldest images must be treated differently than the newest shots during the lift process, as the material hardens over time… READ MORE
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