Archive for the ‘Alternative Processes’ Category

sean_mcfarlandSF photographer Sean McFarland‘s Polaroid landscapes are streaked with movement, traced with the remnants of a human or a natural footprint — whether it’s a twister touching down, a small biplane scuttling above the earth or a sentimental starburst of light in an ocean sunset. His night scenes have the otherworldy dislocation of a day-for-night shot. McFarland just won the 2009 Baum Award for Emerging American Photographers.


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chiara.jpgSan Francisco-based photographer, John Chiara, works with a lumbering camera he built himself that he carts around with him on the back of a flatbed truck. He creates unique prints by exposing directly onto photographic paper placed on the inside back wall of the camera, using his hand over the lens as a dodge and burn tool. Maneuvering his way in and out of the camera through a long black baffle tube made from heavy plastic tarp, he looks like he’s being consumed by the camera.

With his outsize equipment the process is much less science than it is poetic approximation—the lack of exactitude, the larger-than-life apparatus are what make Chiara’s work so singular and theatrical. Picture taking as performance.

Chiara develops his prints in a large tube created specifically for this purpose that he fills with chemistry and rolls across his studio floor. His photos have the hazy, otherworldly look of early landscape photography. Chiara calls his images “visual memories,” objects that “reference apparition and memory.”

KQED television’s art program, “Spark,” did a great interview with Chiara that walks through the shooting and developing process with him. His work is on display at Von Lintel Gallery in New York.

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kimberlyaustin.jpgKimberly Austin‘s images waver and blur on silk and muslin banners. Her technique involves developing the same image on two different swaths of textile, using two distinct alternative processes. She prints one sheet of fabric using cyanotype and the other using Van Dyke then hangs both layers of material over a metal rod so that the Prussian blue of cyanotype and the rusty brown of Van Dyke line up, creating an inky image.

This piece, “Contra Natura,” organizes images of people and things like numbers on a bingo card or reels on a slot machine, insinuating a sense of blind luck, of random and multiple arrangements. A boy ends up between an antique brush and a gun, a child seated on a chair is flanked by a baby doll and a toy car. Domestic beauty on the left, force and speed on the right and in between a person.

Austin’s choice of images and groupings, forces us into stereotypical assumptions about gender, but the grid-like structure also allows the viewer to imagine rearranging these objects to come up with a different pattern.

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maizie_gilbert.jpgMaizie Gilbert compares looking at her photos to “watching a movie in a foreign language without subtitles.” Forget about the words just follow the pictures and try to extract fleeting threads of a storyline. Gilbert shoots color and b&w with a 1970s Polaroid land camera, using the lo-tech device to snap dreamy film frames. A box of Krispy Kremes. An empty double bed, neatly made. The blur of people passing in a hallway. Her work has a fuzzy, out-of-focus quality reminiscent of cast-off, throwaway snapshots, the ones where someone moves, or the light is too low—the ones that most people don’t want to keep. Gilbert’s images come to life not in the “decisive moment,” but in the vague, fluid instant just before or just after.

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vandor.jpgI went to the preview for SF Camerawork’s annual benefit auction last night. Lots of good contemporary work along with a smattering of older pieces.

One of the vintage images that jumped out at me was Geza Vandor‘s “Scissors and Lace” (c. 1930) which shows a photogram jumble of sewing notions.

Born in Hungary in the late 19th century, Vandor started as a filmmaker in Budapest, then moved to Paris in 1921. He took up still photography a few years later and began showing with the likes of Kertesz, Man Ray, Brassai, Florence Henri. His images reflect his background: the intense shadow and angle of Soviet Constructivism and the odd and mysterious juxtapositions of Surrealism.

I particularly like his images of a solarized Christmas tree, a photogram of a man stubbing out a cigarette and this haunting image of a car driving down a tree-lined road at night.

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lutter.jpgArtkrush decorated their last newsletter with German photographer Vera Lutter‘s camera obscura image of San Marco. The picture has all the inverted elegance of a film negative with its shadows that gleam and bright sunlight that turns black. But Lutter’s images are about more than just light and dark. Standard photographs are instantaneous; Lutter‘s are taken over days, even months, which introduces time and space as new elements.

There are no passersby in Lutter’s photos, just buildings, ghost towns. Architecture and landscape persist, sit long and hard, burn shadows, while people pass through without a trace—although she admits in a great interview with BOMB Magazine that a tenacious sunbather made an imprint in one of her shorter exposures.

Lutter’s prints are large, often wall size.  One of her cameras was actually a shipping container. She talks about sitting in the camera at one point, watching the image projected on the wall: “The fast movements don’t stay in the photograph, but I see the cars driving through the image, I see trains, boats going by, birds and airplanes flying through. It’s like watching a film, but the image is reversed, upside down, and very crisp.” In some ways, her images resemble the theater photographs of Sugimoto where an entire movie over the period of a few hours leaves nothing but a glowing white screen.

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coffer.jpgThe New York Times profiled tintype photographer John Coffer in an article illustrated with Coffer’s own tintype self-portraits and accompanied by a multimedia piece in which Coffer speaks about his life and work. As a boy, Coffer became fascinated with a tintype of his great great grandfather and later decided he wanted to learn the technique. He began photographing civil war reenactments and has since moved on to become a respected teacher of the craft.

What makes Coffer’s story so interesting, at least for me, is the fact that his craft is deeply tied up in his lifestyle—the romance with an antique process led him to experiment with an antique lifestyle in which he lives much like people did in the mid 1800s. He lives off the grid with no running water and a minimal supply of solar electricity. He uses a horse and buggy rather than a car, built his own house and raises much of his food. Some small concessions to the 21st century come in the form of a computer (with no Internet connection) and a small radio to listen to NPR. The intimate details of how he has become completely self-sufficient bring out the voyeur in me, but I don’t think most of us would want to go to his extremes. He is an anachronism separated from the contemporary world in many ways, a curious specimen in a bell jar.

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