I have long viewed my relationship with photography as a collaboration. I don’t see myself as a master of the medium, rather a collaborator with the medium. I take my ideas and vision so far, then the photographic medium steps in for the realisation, and often makes itself present in the result.
This montage is from a series recently begun, using a process I’ve been thinking about for years. It was composed from multiple enlargements from individual negatives onto a single sheet of photographic paper. The sheet spent a day going in and out of a dark bag while each negative was set up in the enlarger. The composition took a full day to complete, and is a one off. I see it as something like a painting, composed with light.
My approach channels a spontaneity of Hilma af Klint’s magnificent “10 largest” canvases painted in 1907, that she limited to a period of 4 days to complete. If you’re not familiar with this Swedish painter, definitely look her up. While many of her paintings look to me like they could have been produced yesterday, her work pre-dates Kandinsky and Mondrian and are now the earliest known abstract paintings. (Kandinsky may have been inspired by her). The recent ‘discovery’ of her work is a fascinating story, and it is truly remarkable that this work survived a full 100 years (cared for in a barn) before the genius of this female artist was recognised.
For my series, I consider a negative as a starting point; in this case the two negatives of a soldier dressed in two uniforms. Then piece the remaining composition together with negatives I have on hand, thinking as much about form and light as content. Content within the negatives I use, span a period from about 1880 to the 1980s. Just as our daily exposure to visual media is an uncontrolled kaleidoscope that spans time, this composition organically collapses moments in time to a singular view.
The full composition requires a certain darkroom pre-visualisation, as each exposure remains invisible until the photo paper is developed. The end result is very much a collaboration with the medium, as it is never fully as anticipated. The exact result could of course be mocked up in Photoshop with a little effort, likely in a fraction of the time. But, this would be a simulation of the result produced in the #darkroom. If one were provided with the same visual elements to compose within a digital editor like Photoshop, I can assure you that the result would not end up anything close to this. This is the point.
20 x 24”, silver gelatin print. Sadly, like a painting, a small screen does not do justice to the detail and subtleties in the print. Hope you can see it in person some day.
More to come. What do you think?