4 photography trends for 2023: by Richard Kalman

4 photography trends for 2023: by Richard Kalman

Photography trends for 2023 will look back to the history of the medium for inspiration. Since the advent of digital cameras and the huge advances in photo-editing software, photography’s origins as a darkroom-based, precise and scientifically driven medium seem further away than ever. As the development of smartphones continues, now the latest Apple iPhone has a camera lens to rival any DSLR. So, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the mechanical, hands-on art of photography has been lost to the digital.

But people get nostalgic, and there’s a reason for that; because they’re yearning for what came before, a slower pace of artistic creation. So it’s exciting when contemporary photographers look to the history of photography for inspiration, whether that’s technique, process, style, subject matter - there’s really a lot of inspiration to be had, if you know where to look. Here, we’ll look at five photographers who are working in the present, but looking back to the past.

1. Process: it’s not always black and white

Artfinder photographer, Georgia Merton, uses the cyanotype technique to create unique prints that touch on Atkins’ botanical subject matter. She reframes the cyanotype technique, removing it from its technical origins and softening it with an artistic approach. In Triplets she focuses on the abstract; whereas in KYK she looks at the interplay of light and shadow on the female form. It’s a slower pace of photography, but no less magical.

Invented by the esteemed astronomer, Sir John Herschel, the most famous person to use cyanotypes was Anna Atkins, a 19th-century botanist and photographer. The cyanotype was originally used to reproduce highly detailed technical drawings (the precursor to the blueprint), and Atkins used it to illustrate her books on botany.

2. Natural light: playing with shadow

Photographers like Nicolas Laborie are using the Wet Plate Collodion process, a technique developed by Frederick Scott Archer back in 1841. Using collodion - a sticky substance originally used as a medical dressing on the battlefield - on a glass plate meant the light-sensitive salts adhered better. This allowed the photographer to capture a much more detailed negative, from which he could then create multiple prints.

What we like in Laborie’s exploration of the Wet Plate Collodion process is the romantic themes, like roses and lilies, provoking an exploration of the language of flowers. Then there’s the natural subject matter, including nudes and the attention to the interplay of light and shadow, which creates these touchable textures on the surface of the print.

3. Time and place: the art in photography

But it’s not just about 19th-century techniques; photographers are also finding inspiration in photographic movements. In Softly, Louise O’Gorman showcases the key tenets of Pictorialism, a photographic drive to promote photography’s role as art, not merely a scientific device. The soft focus, mellow tonality, and feminine subject matter all look back to this artistic shift in the photographic landscape of the 19th century.

And in Folium V, Francesco Mussida finds the same inspiration; soft focus, emphasising the artistic qualities of the photographic medium. Using archival paper, Mussida prints the works by hand in the darkroom from negatives out of an analogue Leica. He embraces the manual process of developing film and only uses vintage cameras. This slower pace of photography allows such a depth of creativity and contemplation, which you can feel.

4. Exposure times: seeing double

While lengthy exposures might sometimes look like a trick created in Photoshop, the practice originated in the 19th century with experiments by French photographer, Georges Demeny. So, thinking about the current trends in photography, we like the idea of a contemporary photographer looking back to simpler techniques for inspiration.

The umbrellas by Sergio Capuzzimati manages to capture an authentic sense of a rainy day in Hong Kong, surrounded by market stalls and infinite high-rises. Although Capuzzimati uses a double exposure rather than one longer exposure, the effect is striking. By refusing to rely on software to create a dramatic image, the photographer demonstrates his technical skill; his ability to identify a strong image, to frame it, capture it and with exposure experiments, to know when to stop.

What’s the future?

There’s an allure to being able to capture the exact image you want, whenever you want, and have the ability to edit it quite literally at your fingertips. But for a lot of photographers and photographic artists, that’s not enough anymore. In a fast-paced world where phones take photos, these photographers give us an opportunity to reconnect with the history of this magical medium, slowly and with appreciation.

Words by Richard Kalman, Artfinder’s photography curator and founder of Crane Kalman Brighton

Cover image via Francesco Mussida

Shop more curated photography

Related Posts

Richard Kalman, founder of Crane Kalman Brighton, is our new contemporary photography curator

There's a difference between fine art photography and amateur shots. Richard's here to help you see photographs from a different angle.

Trending Artists

Richard Kalman's tips on how to appreciate photography

It’s important to do your homework when you’re thinking of buying art, so think about what you like, read up about anything if you’re unclear and try not to rush. Ultimately, it’s about what will make you happy. So buy with your head, but listen to your heart.

Art Glossary