About This Project

Andy Mattern




Permanence has always been a priority in photography, from the inception of the medium when latent images were fleeting, all the way up to now when digital images are bouncing around and disappearing in virtual space. Commenting on these essential attributes of the photographic medium, this project questions notions of longevity and authorship by centering on accidental images that have been produced by the photographs themselves.

The platinotype is a late 19th-century photographic process considered the most permanent of all. However, platinotypes have a little-known side effect: their key ingredient, the noble metal platinum, reacts with other papers if left in direct contact for many years. The unintended result of this prolonged contact is a faint mirror image on a nearby paper, often the reverse side of another mounted photograph left in a stack for decades. I see this byproduct as a fascinating artifact of photography’s knack for reproducibility in general while highlighting its Achilles’ heel of archival fragility.

In this project, I collect and rephotograph these “ghost” images on the 2022 backs of other pictures that have been forgotten long enough to reproduce themselves.
I then enhance and enlarge the images into digital negatives to make modern platinum prints. My intention in this circular process is to harness the mysterious visual qualities of the source images and point to a surprising wrinkle in the fabric of photographic representation. Platinum prints have this peculiar ability to replicate themselves, extending their permanence, while disappearing at the same time.



5th edition