"Throughout the 1970s and 80s, Charlie Waite (b. 1949) was establishing himself as a landscape photographer within the world of illustrated books, which as an industry was flourishing. Waite was commissioned to work all over Europe and published prolifically: to date 30 titles and counting. Works were selected by book editors specifically to illustrate beautifully bound travel books, and not exhibited publicly as the gallery scene was still in its infancy. In 2019 Bosham Gallery was privileged to be given full access to Waite's vast archive and found that works weren't always chosen on artistic strength; as a result some of Waite's strongest work has remained hidden for decades, a hugely exciting discovery.
During the 1980s Waite became a master of the big view with deeply personal interpretations of European landscapes in the spirit of Ansel Adams' 'straight' photography, gaining a reputation for painterly, serene studies that captured 'nature suspended in one of its great performances' in the landscape. But Waite always pursued his art privately alongside the demands of the book publishers for the simple joy of beautiful photographs for their own sake. He developed a passion for making silver gelatin prints in the darkroom, and this exhibition will showcase some of these hidden works for the very first time.
Waite would go on to develop highly intimate studies of the landscape, still in a classic aesthetic, all the while faithful to the concept of beauty even during the years when it went out of fashion in the art world. His later years would see him pare back his landscape studies with more minimalist compositions cleverly capturing geometric relationships and patterns in the environment. This exhibition traces Charlie Waite from 1970 to the present day, showcasing his Hidden Works and a passion for black and white silver gelatin printing, which until today has never been shared.
It is hard to believe when you look through Waite's archive of nearly 20,000 transparencies that such gems have never been published. I think by the 1990s art photographers conceded to the literal demands of the book publishing industry, and arguably some of their most artistic works remained unpublished.
Today, Waite is celebrated worldwide as a colour photographer, but few will know of his love affair with black and white photography. I expect collectors will be delighted to meet the Cuban cyclist of Cienfuegos Study 1, Cuba in black and white, which Waite has personally chosen to publish as the lead image for this exhibition.
In a career spanning nearly 50 years, the reason for Waite's success is clear. He has always stayed faithful to beauty as a concept and had a tireless commitment to photography as an art medium - when beauty went out of fashion in mainstream art circles Waite refused to join the bandwagon of modern conceptual art photography. As we enter a new era and the art world grapples with how to reclaim beauty as a concept, Waite's work takes on much more significance. In these environmentally uncertain times he reminds us to cherish the precious and ephemeral beauty of our world while we still can."
© Luke Whitaker 2020 All Rights Reserved