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Images that see further

An image from the What's Wrong? series by Sean Hillen.

History so loves to repeat itself. The Victorians photographed everything in sight, undeterred by the fact that capturing an image was a complicated and lengthy process. In 1888, when Kodak invented the handheld camera with the slogan "You press the button, we do the rest", sales went through the roof.

An exhibition currently showing in Washington DC, Snapshot: Painters and Photography, Bonnard to Vuillard, is the first to focus on how the new technology energised the artists' working methods and creative vision.

The 200 images, presented alongside 70 paintings and drawings, are the work of seven post-Impressionists who documented public spheres and private lives, producing surprising and inventive results. When viewed alongside the paintings, the snapshots reveal fascinating parallels in radical foreshortening, cropping, lighting, silhouettes and vantage points.

To see how 21st-century technology has energised a modern master, I'd recommend a visit to the Copper House Gallery, which is currently showing ReViewed, an exhibition by Sean Hillen. Radical new scanning technology and skills deployed at the Copper House magnify each surreal detail of Hillen's collages, giving the viewer an insight to his finely crafted microscopic world.

As a ten year-old growing up in Newry, Hillen recalls "trying to imagine living somewhere where there wasn't a constant war, and finding it unimaginable, but knowing that it must exist". Having studied at Belfast College of Art and the Slade in London, he put his experiences to good use with a series of critically acclaimed photomontages based on his own documentary photographs of the Troubles.

His take on the Celtic Tiger, a series entitled Irelantis, was described by Guardian critic Mic Moroney as "hilarious and destabilising . . . souped-up Catholic kitsch colliding with a vivid, comic-book aesthetic".

The exhibition comprises works from his four series: The Troubles, Irelantis, What's Wrong? (collages which combine the 9/11 atrocities, major Irish literary figures and scantily-clad beauties to add up to a devastating indictment of our times) and Searching for Evidence, which includes the prescient 2007 collage No Evidence Of A 757 Near The Ha'Penny Bridge, Dublin?

Progress has given us a new point-and-shoot generation. Recent TV coverage of the discovery of the Mona Lisa copy featured footage of the real thing in the Louvre.

What it showed was a jam-packed crowd so busy capturing Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece on their mobile phones that it's doubtful whether many people got a real look at the painting.

The eye needs education, and there's no substitute for looking. David Bailey revolutionised fashion photography with his 1960s cutting-edge images, but he learned about light through studying Old Masters in London's National Gallery.

A good image, whether a painting or a photograph, will stop you in your tracks. A great one will burn itself onto your memory.

Snapshot: Painters and Photography, Bonnard to Vuillard; The Phillips Collection, Washington DC, www.phillipscollection.org

ReViewed, at the Copper House Gallery, Synge Street, Dublin 8, www.thecopper housegallery.com