Artist Blog

Every week an artist whose single image was published by Der Greif is given a platform in which to blog about contemporary photography.

Nic Rue – Phototaxis / Resurrection of the Dead

May 21, 2016 - Alan Knox

Nic Rue is an Edinburgh based photographer whom I was honoured to exhibit with as part of the Jill Todd Photo Award exhibition at Stills Gallery Edinburgh in November 2015. Established in honour of Jill Todd, a then recent graduate of Napier University who passed away suddenly in 2010, the award aims to promote early careers in photography by providing photography graduates of Scottish and Irish universities a platform in the form of a competition, mentoring opportunities and an exhibition. So much of the attraction of analogue processes for me is in their ability to slow down nature to the point that universal truths not normally visible may be revealed. In Nic Rue's series Phototaxis and Resurrection of the Dead, the artist employs the cyanotype process to convey the environmental challenges faced by moth populations, currently in steady decline in Britain due to a range of factors including light pollution. Where both series required that the moths make direct contact with the cyanotype print, in Resurrection of the Dead Rue chose to leave the cyanotypes unfixed, allowing the traces of the moths to slowly fade over time once exposed to light and thus highlighting their plight. Traditionally a symbol of resurrection and rebirth, Rue's process employs the finality inherent in analogue techniques to highlight the preciousness of species which cannot be reborn once extinct, as the artist states, "You cannot resurrect the dead". During the course of the exhibition, Rue replaced the prints with new work as the trace of the moths faded, allowing the discarded prints to gather on the floor over the three month run in a fascinating transformation of the gallery space which underlined the urgency of the subject matter. From the artist: "I have used the traditional photographic technique, cyanotype, to highlight the absence of moths in our night skies, being keen to examine how elements of a photographic process can become integral to the meaning of the work and act as metaphor. The cyanotype process refers back to the work of Anna Atkins who was taught the process by its inventor Sir John Herschel. She made a scientific study of British seaweed and plants, which she published in a series of beautiful blue books, releasing the first in 1843. In many cultures, including our own, the colour blue is rich in representational meaning: the forbidden, things confined to the dark night, heaven, death and the infinite. Moths can see further into the blue end of the spectrum than humans and are particularly attracted to white/blue light."