Widely celebrated for his hugely influential films, Frampton’s work in photography – as well as that in other media, including sculpture and collage – is relatively unknown. However, his engagement with photography preceded his work in film and continued intermittently over 25 years of artistic practice: beginning in 1958, when Frampton first moved to New York City and worked as a still photographer, he continued to make occasional photographic pieces until his death in 1984.
Frampton began to experiment with photography at a time when it was undervalued and critically dismissed. He initially focussed on street photography and portraiture, especially that of New York-based artists, and most significantly his close friend and contemporary Frank Stella. These early photographic series often engaged with particular traditions or paradoxes in photography; they were also starting points for some of his best-known films. Furthermore, his later theoretical writing would attempt to forge, as Bruce Jenkins comments, ‘an engaged, intellectually resonant, and distinctly modernist form of critical discourse for the fields of photography, film, and video’.
Throughout his photography, Frampton largely worked in sequences or series, which allowed him to create sustained investigations of particular ideas or problems. The works on display in this exhibition point inwards to Frampton’s films and theoretical writing, while also pointing out towards a much broader set of reflections on time, narrative and the history of photography. They are also replete with idiosyncratic humour.
In Goldsmiths CCA’s basement galleries, this exhibition presents works from a selection of different series, including The Temptation of St. Anthony (1962), Word Pictures (1962 – 1963) and ADSVMVS ABSVMVS (1982). Displayed alongside these works are two collaborative series made with the artist Marion Faller, Sixteen Studies from VEGETABLE LOCOMOTION (1975) and Rites of Passage (1983-1984). The exhibition is complemented by an archival presentation of textual materials and production notes related to Frampton’s unrealised projects, as well as contact sheets of portraits of artists – including Larry Poons, Robert Morris and Lee Lozano – which Frampton took in the late 1950s and early 1960s.