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Dust marks, light leaks and scratches are traditionally seen as blemishes that impede a photograph’s depiction of reality. However, some photographers have taken advantage of creative opportunities to explore the relationship between these unforeseen elements and the image captured by the camera. Stephen Gill is interested in how ‘accidental’ or ‘mistake’ layers interact with his exposures in his series Talking to the Ants. In his Buried series Gill explores the degenerating visual effects of burying and exhuming Polaroids. The distressed and weathered surfaces of Rita Bernstein’s photographs are integral to her exploration of human relationships. The title of Cornelia Parker’s piece, Twenty Years of Tarnish (Wedding Presents), hints at symbolism that can be inferred when contemplating her pair of unloved, silver goblets.

Film-based photography

Digital photography

Film and video

Lomography

Holga

Stephen Gill

Rita Bernstein

Cornelia Parker

Lucas Simoes

Sally Mann