Written by Collier Brown // The Od Review
Matt Slater’s series, “Autumnal Glimpses,” abjures all commercial, Hallmark falls. No red maples or perse sweetgum. Nothing picturesque. Obscured, discolored, soiled, torn and fragmented, stitched and reframed, Slater’s trees belong to that doleful impermanence meted out by Rilke’s deity.
Originally from a small town on the Eastern Cape of South Africa called East London, Slater studied at the Cape Town School of Photography, where his experiments in the darkroom turned into a signature curation of “mistakes.” Like Sally Mann, whose mastery of collodion is as much about perfecting the technique of imperfection as it is about the mastery of photochemistry, Slater exposes his photographs to corrosive agents—dyes, heat, bleaches, etc.—to unfix what the camera has made and to let the print recompose, then reinterpret, itself.
In his series “Efflorescent Cherry” and “Arboretum,” for instance, images of kudzu and saguaro, sometimes a human face or torso, dim beneath a tonal erosion not original to the subject being photographed. Taking advantage of the image’s vulnerability in the darkroom, Slater nudges each one toward a precarious balance between here and nowhere, introducing an Eastern asymmetry and an appreciation of time’s entropic rust.
“Autumnal Glimpses” takes the experiment a step further by tearing and cutting the photographs to pieces, then stitching, sewing, or re-adhering the scraps. No attempt is made to hide the damage. In fact, the photograph pronounces its scarred terrain as if it were a line of stressed words in a poem: loss, time, gone.