Hidden in plain sight – backdrops and drapery in photography

National Media Museum blog

I love the way Chris Harrison used backdrops and drapery to dramatic effect in Copper Horses. He used a sheet of canvas to hide parts of the machine he was photographing which he didn’t want us to see. That way he broke the machine down to fragments.

From Copper Horses, National Media Museum, Bradford © Chris Harrison From Copper Horses, National Media Museum, Bradford © Chris Harrison

The result is a complex visual metaphor for his thoughts and feelings about his relationship with his father and the many people who work hard to make ends meet in British industry.

From Copper Horses, National Media Museum, Bradford © Chris Harrison From Copper Horses, National Media Museum, Bradford © Chris Harrison

As devices, backdrops and drapery have been used for as long as photographers have been taking photographs, as a fine bit of drapery gives an artistic air to the image.

19th century studio portrait photographers used painted canvas backdrops to mimic parlour settings in two dimensions, while a…

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