Photo historian Geoffrey Batchen presents the lecture ‘Light and dark: a little history of the negative’ at the Art Gallery of NSW coinciding with the launch of his book ‘Apparitions: Photography and Dissemination’ co-published by Power Publications and NAMU.



One of the distinctive characteristics of photography is the fact that most analogue photographs are positive prints made from a negative. However the negative is often regarded as a secondary entity by critics and scholars, if it is discussed at all. This talk offers a condensed history of the negative, looking at work by a range of practitioners, including William Henry Fox Talbot, Man Ray, Dorothea Lange, Richard Avedon and Andreas Gursky. Learn about the ways the negative complicates our understanding of the photograph through this fascinating exploration of its role.



Geoffrey Batchen teaches art history at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand. His books include Burning with Desire: The Conception of Photography (1997), Each Wild Idea: Writing, Photography, History (2001), Forget Me Not: Photography and Remembrance (2004), William Henry Fox Talbot (2008), Suspending Time: Life, Photography, Death (2010) and Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph (2016). Batchen has also curated exhibitions for the Museu Nacional de Belas Artes in Rio de Janeiro, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, the National Media Museum in Bradford, UK, the International Center of Photography in New York, the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum in Cologne, the Izu Photo Museum in Shizuoka, Japan, the National Museum of Iceland in Reykjavik, the Adam Art Gallery in Wellington, New Zealand, the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery in New Plymouth, New Zealand and the Centre for Contemporary Photography in Melbourne. In January 2020, Batchen will be taking up the professorship of art history at Oxford University in the UK.


This event took place on 9 October 2019. For further information about the lecture and the book, visit