The new exhibition at Photographers’ Gallery, London, devoted to the photography of William S. Burroughs reveals several sides to the writer that are rarely included in the wildman mythology.
Indeed, Taking Shots (you can probably see what they’ve done there) explores the idea of Burroughs not just as a photographer in his own right, but as a complex artist with ideas that are often extremely personal.
William S. Burroughs used this method for things other than writing. Running through these photographs, which span the 1950s to 70s, is a desire to chop and rearrange images – using collage, shadow, wordplay, magnification and reflection – in a quest to generate new meaning. Burroughs likened the effects of cut-up to time travel: by slicing through order and chronology, he was attempting to break the space-time continuum itself.
Indeed, time and loss are consistent themes. Infinity Photographs involves a painstaking process of photographing, then rephotographing, his own library of photos in order to produce a single image that contained the entire collection (an ultimate act of hoarding that seems prescient of the digital age, not to mention at odds with someone who so often lost and discarded his own work).
Taking Shot is at The Photographers’ Gallery, 16–18 Ramillies Street, London, W1F 7LW
Exhibition Dates: 17th January – 30th March 2014
See also Cut-Ups in memory of William S. Burroughs devoted to his 100 birthday!
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