The images, known as ‘Multigraphs’, capture five simultaneous views of the subject in a single exposure. It’s an illusion produced entirely in-camera. The portraits complicate our visual perception, using the camera and mirror not just as objects to be ‘seen through’. The process subverts the idea of a photograph capturing one moment in time. Instead, we’re presented with a multiverse of possible moments.
This exhibition marks 25 years of Forsyth & Pollard’s collaboration. They say: “The first time we saw a Multigraph, we assumed it was a séance. But then you realise something’s not quite right. There’s some sort of trick, you’re looking at an impossible meeting of the divided-self. It’s a sub-conscious piece of self-conscious theatre. We loved them and immediately wanted to make our own”.
Mirror reflections have long haunted Western art. But here, the absence of a visible frame disrupts our perception. The subject isn’t in full control. The unstable relationship between the five figures lends the group an uncanny, off-kilter agency. We sense a gang, a secret pact, the hint of ritual. But also something unreal, almost synthetic, post-human. When a reflection holds your gaze, it reads like a dissenter in the ranks. The conspiratorial undertone is shattered by this perceived non-conformist — the rebel.
With a longstanding interest in reflection and refraction, Forsyth & Pollard’s practice has been a form of portraiture from the very start. From their first video self-portrait to early live projects, including A Rock ’N’ Roll Suicide (ICA, London 1998). More recently, they’ve expanded on these ideas in their feature-documentary 20,000 Days on Earth (Film4/BFI, 2014), an intimate portrayal of the artistic process, made with the musician Nick Cave.
Forsyth & Pollard created these portraits at Somerset House Studios, with their regular collaborator, photographer Paul Heartfield. The subjects are all people they have worked with across their practice.