The idea for this exhibition came from wanting to show a different side of photography. More than an exhibition showing photos of places, people, and things (those are included, of course) but also a show about how these photographic images are physically made. By hand.
Having a background as a painter, graphic designer, and art educator before coming to Main Street Arts means that my connection to photography is not as a photographer. I use cameras regularly, have developed my own film, and have experienced the magic of the darkroom, both in high school and in college. I know the thrill of making a photograph by hand, if only on a small level. I was also an assistant to my father when he was a wedding photographer (I once dropped a roll of medium format film in the back of the church and instantly lost the images of the bride getting ready to get married—this is the horror of losing a photograph by hand). So, my connection to photography comes from a place of appreciation and of wonder. How do people capture such life and feeling in an image? Especially when you can’t review the shot you just took on a digital screen on the back of the camera.
This exhibition is an exploration of handmade photography. The various kinds of images featured fall under the “Alternative Process” heading (hence the very utilitarian title of this show!) and most harken back to a day before digital technology. The five artists featured in this exhibition represent various directions that can be taken when delving into an antique or vintage process.
Even though this show is not meant to be a comprehensive overview of alternative process photography, each of the five artists brings something different to the exhibition. Some are staying as true to history as possible, like John Coffer with his “real-deal-ferrotype-tintypes”. At times, you could see one of John’s images and believe that you were looking at something that was made in the late 19th century. Others are going as far from history as possible, like Pat Bacon and her agricultural photogravure images. They were shot on her iPhone, printed using photopolymer plates, and buried in layers of encaustic wax.
In an exhibition that is looking toward the historic with its feet planted in the contemporary, it is interesting to think about the work of both Jenn Libby and Romy Hosford. They both use memory and history as a vehicle to explore their own interests. In Romy’s salt prints and cyanotypes, she explores notions of metaphor, femininity, identity, and anxiety. While Jenn takes on the role of a documentarian, capturing bits of cultural ephemera and abstracting them through a wet plate collodion process. Asking us to reconsider the objects we are looking at in her work.
Going back to the planning stages of this exhibition… I was visiting the annual Made in New York exhibition in April, 2016 at the Schweinfurth in Auburn and was struck by an abstract-leaning image of the sun and clouds, taken by a pinhole camera by Ian Sherlock. This image stuck with me for a while and was the inspiration for wanting to do a show on alternative processes. From there, it was figuring out how far down the rabbit hole I wanted to venture and it has truly been an educational experience for me.
Lastly, speaking of educational experiences, we have a tintype demo scheduled with John Coffer at the gallery on April 1st (no foolin’!). You can learn more, here. I hope that you can find the time to come and explore the work in this exhibition, it runs through the end of March.