Jean-Claude Lemagny, of the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris,  which owns some of the photographs in this series, wrote:

       “A refined and visionary photographer, Paul Kilsby transcends the confines of different epochs in his exploration of our common cultural past. Graced by the magic of his perfect technique, these highly original photographs fuse their sources to yield new hybrid images which sustain our fascination by their visual logic.” 

The following text is by Alex Martin, novelist and critic




'An image,' wrote Ezra Pound, 'is that 

which presents an intellectual and 

emotional complex in an instant of time.' 

Pound's famous definition, coined for the 

manifesto of the Imagist poets in 1915, 

refers to verbal images- metaphors, 

similes, symbols, even whole poems- but 

his words seem to me to describe 

perfectly what happens when one looks 

at certain visual images too. A postcard, a 

painting, a shop window, a face; these set 

up chain reactions inside our heads. 

'Seeing' is not a simple physical fact. It 

involves interpretation, emotion and 


'Taking photographs' is a poor phrase for 

what Paul Kilsby does. A glance through 

the images on the following pages will 

reveal a bizarre and very internal world, 

full of strange couplings and echoes - 

where 'real' objects such as fruit, fur, 

clothing, human hands, are placed next 

to 'represented' objects - details of 

paintings, classical sculptures and 

reliefs, anatomical drawings. By some 

strange and subtle magic these objects 

appear to converse: they exchange 

information, ask questions, make jokes, 

tell each other their secrets and their 

pain. The aesthetic effect is vertiginous 

and thrilling. The images within his 

photographs reveal each other's forms 

and structures; they reflect ironically and 

teasingly on each other's way of picturing 

the world. The caryatid in 'After Cortona 

lll' is set against an anatomical engraving 

by Pietro da Cortona, with ears of corn 

and poppies in between. Time and space 

are weirdly collapsed. We are invited by 

this photograph to compare not just two 

ways of seeing a woman's body, but three 

ways of picturing fertility and at least five 

ways of conceiving one of the great 

themes of western art: the contrast 

between the timeless and the 

momentary, the immortal and the living, 

between a Greek marble statue and the 

petals of an English flower picked one 

summer's day in the 1990s. 

The ideas and suggestions in the picture 

don't stop there. There is something 

almost unbearably fragile and beautiful 

about Cortona's woman opening up her 

womb for the anatomist to view. This sets 

up echoes with the delicate tissue paper 

slit in 'The Tear', the surprised naked 

intimacy of Diane de Poiters, and the 

surreal half- visionary half anatomical 

ectasy of the saint in 'The Visible 

Woman'. The word 'photograph' just 

doesn't prepare you for these 

extraordinary experiences. 

How are these images made? The 

moment of pressing the shutter release 

on the camera is just one brief stage in a 

long and meticulous (but surprisingly 

playful) process. 

Paul Kilsby spends hours, days even, 

arranging these objects and images to 

his satisfaction, toying with them, 

'treating' or interfering with them in 

various ways [burning, tearing, breaking, 

retouching] experimenting with light 

reflections, angles and shadows. In his 

tiny studio he creates a stage setting for 

a miniature theatre of the mind, in which 

every effect is carefully and delicately 

shaped. Afterwards there is the process 

of printing, the search for a perfect range 

of tones, for the ultimate black, for a 

balance of light and shade. And before he 

even begins to assemble the objects 

there is, of course, the crucial stage of 

mental preparation, when books, ideas, 

things seen, sensed or imagined, start to 

ferment in his mind, creating fantastic 

new forms and encounters. 

In a lecture given at The Royal College of 

Art in London in 1994, he said, "My 

photographs are very much about the act of 

looking- not the habitual casual glance 

which fails to take in so much but the 

slow, sustained gaze like that of a 

seventeenth century painter of still life; 

which becomes a kind of meditation." 

This, it seems to me, is the way in to his 

world. The ideas are practically endless, 

yet they are generated in us as we look at 

the images. But this really does mean 

looking, stepping back for a few moments 

from hectic, data bombarded lives, 

slowing down our mental metabolism, 

and creating a stillness inside ourselves 

that allows the resonances in the picture 

to be heard. 

It is extremely difficult to put into words 

what is going on in a photograph by Paul 

Kilsby. There is so much mystery, so 

many allusions to the artistic, 

philosophical and material culture of the 

past, such concentrated symbolism, and 

at the same time so open and rich an 

invitation to respond personally to his 

images. Moreover this whole explosion of 

meaning detonates continuously at 

several layers in the viewer's brain like a 

series of simultaneous firework displays 

at different points on the horizon- with 

the result that ordinary discursive 

language simply cannot keep up. But 

perhaps it doesn't have to. Understanding 

these pictures isn't necessarily an 

intellectual process. Memory, feeling, and 

imagination- these are, in my view, more 

important. Like language itself, these 

pictures contain meanings, codes and 

messages that are inside us all. 

Alex Martin 

Silvershotz                                                                                                       Volume 4 Edition 5