Ben Cauchi

Aotearoa New Zealand, b.1974

Hovering Object

  • Purchased, 2005
  • Ambrotype
  • 250 x 200mm
  • 2005/062
  • 2005

Ben Cauchi is a contemporary artist who uses the techniques of nineteenth-century photography to make works that resist being placed in time. There’s a feeling of magic in all photography – the capturing of a moment, the way an analogue print develops in the darkroom through exposure to light – but Cauchi is particularly interested in the trickeries of Victorian photographers, who faked apparitions for a gullible audience. Here a blurry object appears to be levitating in front of a sheet. The one-off photograph is an ambrotype, a “mucky and noxious” process invented in the 1850s, where a negative image on glass is made to appear as a positive by placing it against a black background. “It’s the detachment of the image from the present that I enjoy about these processes,” says Cauchi. “The ability to give the work its own point in time so it’s not instantly recognisable as being from the now.”

(Now, Then, Next: Time and the Contemporary, 15 June 2019 – 8 March 2020)

earlier labels about this work
  • Ben Cauchi plays on the mystique that surrounded early photographic techniques, in particular using camera ‘trickery’ to blur the boundary between truth and illusion. This ambrotype (positive on glass) shows an indistinct hovering object in front of a sheet. The stage-like effect recalls a 19th century conjurer’s trick or fake Victorian séance photograph. During the early years of photography many people believed the camera could capture apparitions of the spirit world invisible to the naked eye, and a variety of hoax photographs were produced that enthralled and terrified a gullible public. Clever and elegant, Hovering Object may no longer deceive a contemporary audience, but, as Cauchi is well aware, we are entranced nonetheless.

    Cauchi received an advanced diploma in photography from Massey University, Wellington, in 2000, where he worked as part-time lecturer in photography the following year. Since 2004 he has been a full-time artist based in the Wairarapa.