In this exhibition Mark Adams returns to Polynesia, to engage with locations visited in previous centuries. His large-scale colour photographs acknowledge these historic sites and the events caused by either natural phenomena or voyagers from other places, some of whom precipitated crises and death, and began the process of observing and regret.
Polynesia is largely volcanic. There is lava visible in some of these photographs and in others it is the invisible bedrock. The seminal work in the exhibition shows the London Missionary Society church in Savaii, Samoa, which in 1905 was engulfed by a lava flow, that first encircled it, then burst in through the doors and flooded the nave.
Other works show a view at Hikiau Heiau across Kealakekua Bay to Ka’awaloa on the island of Hawaii. This now peaceful panorama, bathed in sunset, contrasts with the fateful and violent incident in 1777 when James Cook was murdered on the shore at Ka’awaloa. Mark Adams also gives us his view of Moorea from Point Venus at Matavai Bay in Tahiti Nui, an observatory site from Cook’s first voyage in 1769.
Since the late 1970’s Mark Adams has been using a large format camera with 10 x 8 inch film to produce hand printed silver based black and white photographs. He uses a similar analogue process to create colour prints of various sizes sometimes up to mural scale. This practice both descends from and refers to the nineteenth century photographic tradition. The images made in this way possess unprecedented levels of resolution and detail.
The experience of viewing these prints cannot be compared to any other form of photographic print, as their transparency is the closest thing there is to a well-focused naked eye. Even the advent of digital capture has not changed this. It is a technique that is the absolute pinnacle of the photographic medium and through this Mark Adams recreates, with mesmerising clarity, the sheer presence of these historic sites.