The birth of photography led to a radical change in the history of painting. Realistic painters were met with a more precise and perfect rival when mimetically reproducing reality. Painters changed their way of painting, leading to the emergence of movements such as impressionism, expressionism, etc. Photography replaced painting as the technique to mimetically reproduce the world around us; photography was considered an “eminently objective” medium and the new art of painting was then considered “eminently subjective”.

In 1842, Henry Fox Talbot invented the photographic negative. Unlike other pioneers in photography, Talbot saw great possibilities to create beauty in photography, compared to the mere objective reproduction of reality. He called his photographs Kalotypos (kalo = beauty, typo = form). The first Kalotypo Talbot made with the negative technique was the image of an oak tree in winter. Talbot presented the positive and negative images mounted in parallel, so as to demonstrate the process that he had just invented.

The series of photographs RHIZOMES plays with these concepts, combining paintings (gouache washes) and photographs of small trees called Lunaea Cervicornia, located on the north coast of the island of Menorca. In this case, the gouaches (subjective paintings) are presented in positive, while the photographs (objective x-ray style negatives) are mounted in negative, thus challenging the classical concepts and questioning the true relationship between painting and photography. The gouaches and the photographs are original works by José María de Orbe.