Chris Dorley-Brown‘s project ‘The Corners’ was brought to my attention by fellow DI&C student Simon Chirgwin as he felt there was similarity between his project and my ‘street scene composites’ experiments. With ‘The Corners’, Dorley-Brown makes composite images of street corners in London’s East End, areas that he sees as “places of arrival, departure and coincidence.” The results are described on the Hoxton Mini Press website for the photobook that was the culmination of the series as both “hyperreal” and a “unique documentation of an ever-changing landscape.” Dreamlike narratives are created which lie somewhere between fiction and reality. Dorley-Brown describes being motivated to challenge Cartier-Bresson’s analysis of documentary photography by putting several decisive moments into a single photograph. Despite bringing the images together digitally, he argues that they remain valid documents of a particular space and time – they are not staged and he does not add anything that was not there or take anything away. (Bromwich, 2018)
Looking at the images there is a strange mix of the real and artificial that I recognise from my own experiments – something uncanny is instinctively present which makes you explore the scenes in detail, looking for clues to how they are made. The locations are areas that Dorley-Brown knows well, to the point he understood when the lighting would be best to photograph. He describes the aesthetic as creating a sense of detachment and that he deliberately seeks ambiguity in the work – not telling obvious stories being a considered aim. In his commercial work he specialise in architectural photography, and the photographs give equal weight to both the buildings and people in the frame. He believes interest in his photographs will develop over time as the world and the areas he has documented change:
“What’s really interesting to me [about photographs] is that they’re like a time machine…When I go out I’m actually looking for the past, the recent past, something that’s going to set off a trigger in me like, ‘That’s the last time anyone’s going to see that.’ Sometimes it’s obvious, you’ve got the dinosaur eating the building and then it’s gone.” (Smyth, 2018)
With this ongoing series, Dorley-Brown returns to East London locations that he has photographed previously. The archive spans more than 35 years, the precision and attention to detail in the diptychs is astonishing. Some images are completely changed, others are eerily similar. Clues to the time elapsed between each picture are present, and yet, are elusive – it is impossible to tell exactly when each was taken.
Bromwich, K. (2018) The big picture: Chris Dorley-Brown’s surreal street corner photography. The Observer, 20th May 2018. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2018/may/20/the-big-picture-chris-dorley-brown-street-cornerm [accessed 9th June 2019]
FotoRoom (N.D.) See Chris Dorley-Brown’s Multiple Exposures of London Street Corners. FotoRoom website. Available at: https://fotoroom.co/the-corners-chris-dorley-brown/ [accessed 9th June 2019]
Smyth, D. (2018) Chris Dorley-Brown’s singular vision of East End London. British Journal of Photography, 29th May 2018. Available at: https://www.bjp-online.com/2018/05/dorley-brown-corners/ [accessed 9th June 2019]
Waring, A. (2018) Chris Dorley-Brown mixes reportage and architectural photography for amazing montages of street scenes. Digital Camera World. Available at: https://www.digitalcameraworld.com/features/chris-dorley-brown-mixes-reportage-and-architectural-photography-for-amazing-montages-of-street-scenes [accessed 9th June 2019]