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Detail From Tide Pool 31. Susan Derges V2
CREDIT: Susan Derges HonFRPS

Squaring the Circles of Confusion

RPS Gallery | 9 September - 6 November 2022

Squaring the Circles of Confusion: Neo-Pictorialism in the 21st Century is curated by Zelda Cheatle, RPS Honorary Fellow, and features work from Takashi Arai, Susan Derges, David George, Joy Gregory, Tom Hunter, Ian Phillips McLaren, Céline Bodin, and Spencer Rowell. The exhibition will be on display at RPS Gallery, Bristol from 9 September to 6 November 2022

CREDIT: Takashi Arai

Squaring the Circles of Confusion: Neo-Pictorialism in the 21st Century

Squaring the Circles of Confusion: Neo-Pictorialism in the 21st Century curated by Zelda Cheatle HonFRPS, celebrates the work of eight contemporary artists. Each adopts a pictorialist approach through their aesthetic or process to their work. They address contemporary issues and at the same time demonstrate the beauty of the photographic image.

The exhibition features new and previously unseen work in the UK, taking its inspiration from Pictorialism, the artform that ­dominated the mid-nineteenth century to the early twentieth century. During this time, photography became recognised as an artform in its own right, superseding its role as a scientific, documentary, and technical medium.

The works on show demonstrate radical and experimental investigations into the process of making photographs. From cyanotypes and daguerreotypes to pinhole and cameraless imagery, the exhibition blurs the boundaries between art and photography, resulting in an expressive, otherworldly, and inspiring display.

Exhibiting photographers include Takashi Arai, Susan Derges HonFRPS, David George, Joy Gregory HonFRPS, Tom Hunter HonFRPS, Ian Phillips McLaren, Céline Bodin, and Spencer Rowell.

Burgess Park in Plastic Film
CREDIT: Joy Gregory
Plan your exhibition visit
9 September – 6 November 2022

RPS Gallery is situated in the photography hub of Bristol alongside the Martin Parr Foundation. 

Opening hours: Wednesday to Sunday, 10am - 5pm, free admission

We welcome school and group visits, to arrange your group visits contact

To ensure that everyone shares a safe and enjoyable experience while visiting RPS Gallery, we kindly encourage you to continue to observe our safety measures. Before visiting, please read our Visitor Guide.

RPS Bristol has been accredited with Visit England's We're Good to Go 

RPS House Day
CREDIT: Evan Dawson
Squaring the Circles of Confusion: Collective event
Saturday 5 November

Artist talks and in conversations with exhibition curator Zelda Cheatle :

The RPS is delighted to host a series of talks from artists featured in Squaring the Circles of Confusion at RPS House Bristol, 10am - 5pm Saturday 5 November 2022. Listen to exhibitor talks and view the exhibition in the gallery. Each artist will share the stories behind their featured work, and talk about their wider photographic practice.

In view of the UK rail strike taking place on 5 November, this event will now be held via Zoom. The RPS Gallery will be open and each talk can also be viewed on screen in the RPS auditorium.

Find out more and book
Zelda Cheatle
Zelda Cheatle HonFRPS

Zelda Cheatle graduated in photography from Brighton and Goldsmiths and worked at The Photographers Gallery throughout the 1980s. She is an independent curator, editor, consultant, and lecturer in photography. 

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Discover more

Dahlia (cropped)
CREDIT: Ian Phillips McLaren
Photographic process
Discover some of the process used by the artist

Calotype. A process patented by William Henry Fox Talbot in 1841 and popular from then to the early 1850s. The calotype produced an image using silver chloride on paper which was developed out using gallic acid. Depending on the photographer’s chemistry prints ranged from brown, yellow to purple or black tones.

Cyanotype. A printing process invented by Sir John Herschel in 1842 which produced blue images on paper from two chemicals: ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide. Joy Gregory uses this process.

Daguerreotype. Announced by Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre in January 1839. Light-sensitive salts were deposited on the surface of a silvered-copper plate, giving a sharply defined image. Takashi Arai uses the daguerreotype as a reliable device to store memory.

Pinhole camera. A box or object, for example, a drinks can, apple or room, containing a light-sensitive piece of film or paper, or digital sensor, opposite a pinhole, instead of a lens. Exposure times are generally long, frequently measured in minutes or hours. Tom Hunter uses a homemade pinhole camera to produce his series Prayer Places


These are just some of the processes featured in the exhibition.

CREDIT: Takashi Arai

Exhibition Catalogue

A book accompanying the exhibition Squaring the Circles of Confusion: Neo-Pictorialism in the 21st century is available to purchase during your visit to RPS House and will be available online soon

The Black Shuck. Plate 7
CREDIT: Spencer Rowell
Learning resources
What is Pictorialism?

Discover the world of pictorialism using this online resource designed in partnership with Photopedagogy. The resources are designed with students in mind however they can be enjoyed by all.

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