Monday, August 3, 2015

New or Old Approaches

In the beginning, photography was  captive to available techniques for developing. Daguerreotype, then ambrotype, tintype and albumen all reproduced portraits and still life's with a classic and beautiful sepia  tint that finally gave way to gelatin silver printing of fine art black and white photography in the twentieth century.

Painters in the Renaissance  and Baroque periods intentionally used low key techniques to intensify contrast and define mood. This "chiaroscuro" style, used so effectively by Caravaggio and others, often featured deep shadows from which shapes and figures emerged to heighten drama and realism. This style gave way to more colorful works like the impressionists.

Early pictoralists used an assortment of techniques to emphasize the "artistic qualities" of their photographs. Even today platinum/palladium printers such as Taskeshi Shikama and experimental artists like Adam Katseff present dramatic images that beg viewers to interact with their images to form personal  thoughts and emotions.

So in my new projects, I have used the camera and computer to create images that hark back to the sepia prints of old. With some, I try to enhance mid tones. In others, I go to the extreme with a dark and foreboding look. It's as though subtle light is allowed to escape from darkness to reveal low contrast detail and enlightenment. This forced engagement between photographer and viewer makes these techniques both challenging and exhilarating.

It reminds me of a quote from Norman Maclean's A River Runs Through It:
"All there is to thinking... is seeing something noticeable which makes you see something you weren't noticing which makes you see something that isn't even visible."

These images explore the bounds of computer processing and the "dry dark room", reflecting on the beauty and grace of earlier styles.

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