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Photograph - Kitty with Mirror

Kitty with Mirror

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    London (photographed)

  • Date:

    2012 (photographed)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Learoyd, Richard (photographer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Dye destruction print

  • Credit Line:

    Purchase funded by the Photographs Acquisition Group

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Richard Learoyd (British, born 1966) graduated in Fine Art Photography from the Glasgow School of Art in 1990. From 1994 until 1999 he taught photography at Bournemouth and Poole College of Art. In 2000 he moved to London and worked as a highly successful commercial photographer. In 2003 he began making his personal work using a camera obscura. Since that time, his reputation has grown and he has become one of the best, most sought after and collected contemporary photographers. His work is in international museum collections including the Centre Pompidou, Paris; Getty Museum Los Angeles; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Nelson Atlins Museum of Art, Kansas City; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Tate, London, and Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven.

Learoyd’s photographs are unique images made with a specifically built camera. The camera is the size of a small room, in which the artist pins direct colour positive paper (known as dye destruction, Cibachrome or Ilfachrome) to the back wall and views the image, much as inside a camera obscura. An image cast by a lens fixed to the front wall is projected onto the paper and the resulting exposed sheet is fed directly into a print processing machine connected to the walk-in camera / dark room. The fact that this process is a direct positive on a large scale, with no print enlargement from a negative or transparency, results in an image of astounding clarity, detail and lack of film-grain. The effect is almost hyper real and only has its full impact when seen in the original.

Unlike in most conventional photography, objects and people are brought to the immovable camera and placed and arranged in front. In his approach to working with people in a studio, Learoyd has renegotiated the photographic relationship between artist and model. His images reference the traditional genre distinctions within painting: portraits, nudes and still life. The props, staged settings, regular sittings and held postures also bring to mind the approaches used by painters, and his methods can be compared to a theatre or film director or choreographer. Learoyd works outside the convention of a photographic sequence or series, but in a cohesive grouping of singular images. His seemingly simple or restrained compositional arrangements belie complex conceptual and philosophical ideas, many of which question nature of optics and the practice of photography itself. The chosen subject matter however does not overtly attempt to fulfil an externalised cultural or theoretical brief, but carries its message initially through sheer visual impact.

Physical description

A colour photograph of a nude woman standing with her back to the camera. She is leaning with her arm on a mirror that is placed in front of her.

Place of Origin

London (photographed)


2012 (photographed)


Learoyd, Richard (photographer)

Materials and Techniques

Dye destruction print


Height: 147.3 cm image, Width: 121.7 cm image, Height: 178.5 cm frame, Width: 152 cm frame

Object history note

The photograph was acquired directly from the artist.

Richard Learoyd (born 1966) makes photographs inside a room-sized camera obscura. Over the last ten years, he has perfected this unconventional process in which an image is exposed directly onto photographic paper inside the room. The results are one-off prints with astonishing detail and an impressive physical presence.

Descriptive line

One photograph by Richard Learoyd, 'Kitty with Mirror', 2012, unique dye destruction print

Labels and date

Richard Learoyd: Dark Mirror
Gallery 38A
Sat 24 October 2015 – Sun 14 February 2016

Kitty with Mirror

Dye destruction print
Purchased with funds from the V&A Photographs Acquisition Group
Museum no. E.618-2015 [24/10/2015-14/2/2016]


Photographic paper




Photographs; Portraits

Production Type



Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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