In the 1950s, Kodak’s “Shirley card”, showing a light-skinned woman, was used as a reference for determining the “optimal” representation of colour. The chemical composition of the relationship between colour and light was thus based on Caucasian, white skin types considered “ideal”, whereas only little attention was paid to the depiction of darker skin in the production of colour film at the time.
To Photograph the Details of a Dark Horse in Low Light by the artist duo Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin addresses the problematic relationship between the history of photography and sociopolitical, ethnographic injustices. In the series they made in Central Africa, the objectivity that the medium of photography has been said to embody is unmasked as a myth as they deconstruct the racial biases inscribed into the technical apparatus. The supposedly “natural image” is exposed as a social construct – itself in turn contributing to the reproduction of discriminatory perception of the world. The “Strip Tests” invert the photographic reproduction process and declare the test strip as the work of art itself: The development process turns into a dramatic presentation of various shades of grey – and an emblem of thinking beyond black and white.
More by Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin: broombergchanarin.com