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Photographers have revealed extraordinary visual interest and occasionally exquisite beauty in the most unlikely of mundane, discarded subjects. Alina Szapocznikow’s photosculptures consist of 20 black and white photographs of used chewing gum, stretched and shaped into dramatic abstract sculptures. Irving Penn’s series Cigarettes is made up of 26 photographic studies of discarded cigarette butts. The appearance of these forms becomes strangely dislocated from our usual perceptions and associations. For Penn it was also chance events that triggered photographic responses and his Theatre Accident documents the cosmetic spillage from a lady’s handbag. In much of Aaron Siskind’s photography it was the cracked charm of decaying surfaces that seemed to him to hold an ironic beauty and his work from the 1940s and 1950s relates closely to the American Abstract Expressionist painters from that period.


Irving Penn

Film-based photography

Digital photography

Film and video

Alina Szapocznikow

Aaron Siskind

Abstract expressionism