Joel Sternfeld at Beetles + Huxley

February 3rd 2017

Joel Sternfeld – Colour Photographs: 1977 – 1988 Beetles + Huxley Gallery

This exhibition was one of two reasons that I was already visiting London on that day. I have only become a follower of Sternfeld’s work in the past few months so seeing that some of his work was going to be exhibited was reason enough for me to head to London.

The first thing that struck me unfortunately was the size that his work was being presented at. I saw the Alec Soth exhibition at the Science Museum last year and was moved by the sheer size that his work was presented at. I had simply assumed that as Sternfeld shot most, if not all of this work on an 8×10 large format camera that the work would be presented in a much larger size. To be honest, in this respect it was a little underwhelming. That is not to say that they were small. Each framed print was probably eighteen inches across the longest side. I had just expected larger. Maybe it was simply due to the amount of framed work they had to get into X amount of space. Perhaps I should have queried that. In fact I shall contact them and see if I can find that out.
The mounting of the images was also slightly disappointing. I do not know how long these prints have been in these frames, whether they were framed specifically for this exhibition, but the prints themselves were definitely starting to sag behind the glass. They were not flat.

But, I did really enjoy the exhibition. I really liked the fact that even at the (small) size they were presented at, you could see the detail within the work that Sternfeld is renowned for. Tiny birds in trees, lines within peoples skin, blades of grass. Some of the images even showed the movement of foliage caught by the longer shutter speeds he must have used. This is why I would have liked the work larger, to see that easier I suppose. You could even see dust that was in the print, that was on the original negative. I liked this as well. It showed that the image had not been processed to within an inch of its life.