D Contemporary, 23 Grafton Street, Mayfair, London, W1S 4EY

The artist Alexander James disagrees. He has been producing underwater photographs of flowers and people for the last three decades, always wrapped up in Romanticism: the melancholia of everything being temporary and already gone; the exquisite beauty; the fated end; the sublime. Today, James’ practice is as crisp as ever. His imagery is a constant return to the 19th Century still life genre enclosed in a contemporary setting. His works have the power to magnetise the audience while time stays still. The water effect, the choice of old variety flowers and the black background references the Dutch Golden Age and Caravaggio. Photography intertwines with Painting.

The current Mayfair show, titled All Icons are False, will continue until the 30th of May in aid of the Gynaecological Cancer Fund. Its current campaign, #SilentNoMore, has attracted support from high profile backers including Cara Delevingne, her sister Chloe, and Millie Mackintosh. Chloe comments:

We felt that Alexander James’s work mirrored our work at the Gynaecological Cancer Fund -often feminine while maintaining great power – so the collaboration was a no-brainer. We are incredibly grateful to D Contemporary for giving us this opportunity of a private view during Chelsea Flower Show – a perfect setting for the Lady Garden Campaign.

Grace. C-type print, dry mounted to a polished 3mm aluminium plate, by Alexander James

James responds to the following questions:

LB – Why do you have a special interest to support the Gynaecological Cancer Fund?

AJ – Research of the type that oncologist Dr Susana Banerjee’s research at The Royal Marsden into cancer research is a worthy calling. Cancer affects us all and the silent no more campaign in particular is important as open dialogue of difficult subjects allows for early diagnosis which saves lives; it’s as simple as that.

LB – Where does the obsession with the liquid mechanics of water as a primary medium come from?

The combined mediums of analogue photography and water are as fascinating to me today as they were 30 years ago. The only strange thing about my practice is that I only want to produce these kind of pictures, and only this way. It can be done in other ways, but it would not be the same; not at all: through darkroom or digital manipulation of some kind, but this does not appeal to me. I have no desire to manipulate anything other than these liquid mechanics; if I used these other methods, tricks would occur to me and I would be able to repeat them endlessly, to me that would be horrific and the pictures no good.

The scene is there, created underwater; now I want to see the places it will go, new and unrepeatable. It appeals to me to be able to handle the work like this; not knowing what is coming. I started my practice making underwater sculptures on endangered coral reefs, but it seemed these were difficult to take home, photography allows me to fix and extend the work; like a measurement of time as it were. Now that water begins takes centre stage in global politics the importance of the work grows stronger for me, a drive I simply cannot ignore.

LB – Why do you think people should come to see the show?

AJ – You will never have seen photography or more precisely, analogue film plates like this before. I think that in itself is very exciting. To be able to present them in a new and exciting way no matter how familiar the subject may be, even with something as common place as a rose.

All Icons are False is a show for the true romantic that prevails in us and a willingness to support a better world.

For more information, please visit D Contemporary website

Featured image: Chanel, C-type print mounted to polished aluminium ‘snug’ framed in American walnut, by Alexander James