This is perhaps most acutely realised in photography. It began with the pictorialists of the late nineteenth century who almost slavishly looked to the vanitas still life and society portraiture from which to build their own reputation as artists. Since then photography has continued to reference painting, but over time, photographers have begun to understand the expressive qualities of their chosen medium and while continuing to respond, quote, reinterpret imagery from the past, the impulse today is less an aping or imitation and more a desire to understand photography's own place within the canon of art.
The work of Victoria Hall, so redolent of the Old Masters, is just such an exploration of how photography is not simply a photographic study of the original but a commentary on the conflicted dialogue photography has with painting; with photography often described as beneath the high art form of painting.
What motives Victoria and unifies her work is the combination of her deep interest in the use of the female form in western art, our contemporary obsession with period drama and heritage and the artist's desire to play the leading lady. The resulting artwork is as much a performance as it is a photographic print.
Many of the paintings Victoria chooses to work with she has related to event in her own life and become autobiographical quotations. The Raphael/Reynolds series follows the birth of Victoria's first child, from pregnancy, to baby to young child. "After Hockney" is the realisation of Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy and was made shortly after Victoria's own marriage, although not wanting to tempt fate, she left out the male figure as the Clark's own marriage collapsed shortly after Hockney had completed the painting. Victoria was raised in Suffolk and "After Gainsborough" is both an hommage to the landscape of her childhood and her teenage trips to the National Portrait Gallery where she first saw the painting.
The research and preparation for the restaging of each painting is done with meticulous detail, with careful attention paid to the different colour palettes from the muted renaissance oils to the vibrancy of Hockney's acrylics. It is rarely possible to make the photograph in its original setting so Victoria finds locations that reflect the period of each one and builds elaborate mini film sets.
The final stage of Victoria's performative process is to present the work in cultural environments that open up the debate about how we look at art. Photography, a modern art form sits comfortably on the white walls of the contemporary gallery, but when encased in baroque gold leaf frames and hung on flocked wallpaper, the audience is required to examine their own preconceptions about what photography is and where it sits within the cultural hierarchy.
After Raphael Part 1 
La Donna Gravida: Raphael [circa 1505-7]