Photography Exhibition | Spencer Murphy


WEDNESDAY 9 SEPTEMBER, 18.30 – 21.00

The Abyss Gazes Into You by Spencer Murphy is a series of enigmatic images selected by the photographer through a process of reflecting on his practice and how his internal relationship to themes such as nature and mortality, desolation and beauty, hope and despair, have been represented through the medium of photography since he was given his first camera at the age of eleven.

The project title is taken from the quote, “And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you” by Friedrich Nietzsche. Collectively, these images present a poignant statement about the relationship we have to time and, particularly for Murphy, the influence of his upbringing in an isolated corner of the Kentish countryside with only his imagination and surrounding woodland for company.

Photography Exhibition | Spencer Murphy

Andy, Abandoned Airfield © Spencer Murphy, from the series ‘The Abyss Gazes Into You’

While looking through his work to date, Murphy says: “I never completely let go of my childhood belief in a world behind this one, hidden by a veil that every now and again slipped to reveal the infinite to those willing to look. And occasionally I would find myself looking at the pictures – some of them landscapes, some of them portraits – and feel that same sensation I’d known as a child exploring the woods.”

The pictures chosen for this project each capture something of what the Swiss art historian Beat Wyss, in his discussion on Caspar David Friedrich’s The Monk By The Sea, called “the defenceless, top-speed collision between the ego and the cosmos.” Friedrich’s painting of a lone figure placed in a brutal landscape resonated powerfully with Murphy. Largely rooted in the principles of Romanticism, the images he presents in The Abyss Gazes Into You speak of the photographer’s own response when confronted with the magnitude of nature and man’s attempt to relate or control it.

© Spencer Murphy, from the series 'The Abyss Gazes Into You'

Shark, Florida © Spencer Murphy, from the series ‘The Abyss Gazes Into You’

The exhibition features 17 colour photographs, taken on film – Murphy’s preferred medium due to its process of time, alchemy and the element of the unknown involved in the craft of analogue photography.

While this project includes both portraits and landscapes specific to the theme of the exhibition, Murphy is widely known for his award-winning portraits including the 2013 Taylor Wessing Prize image of female jump jockey, Katie Walsh alongside a substantial portfolio of editorial commissions for magazines including The Guardian Weekend, The Telegraph Magazine, Time, Monocle and Wallpaper. His portraits have also appeared in the Rolling Stone Magazine, GQ and Dazed & Confused. Exhibitions of Murphy’s work have been presented in Europe, North America and China and his work is held in the NPG’s Permanent Collection.

Spencer Murphy (b. 1978) lives and works in London.

© Spencer Murphy, from the series 'The Abyss Gazes Into You'

The Contents Of Arthur Boyt’s Freezer © Spencer Murphy, from the series ‘The Abyss Gazes Into You’

© Spencer Murphy, from the series 'The Abyss Gazes Into You'

Laurie © Spencer Murphy, from the series ‘The Abyss Gazes Into You’


Exhibition Event: Portfolio Reviews

To accompany this exhibition we have an evening of portfolio reviews with Spencer Murphy, Christiane Monarchi (Photomonitor Founder and Editor in Chief) and Anthony Luvera (Australian artist, writer and educator, and the Course Director of the BA (Hons) Photography programme at Coventry University).

Tuesday 29 September, 18.00 – 21.00
Price: £60

This is a great opportunity to get feedback on your latest project or work in progress by industry professionals. Taking place during one-hour sessions, you get a 20min slot with each reviewer.

To book please call us on 020 7738 5774