Judy F. Sherrod and S. Gayle Stevens: Nocturnes

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Judy F. Sherrod and S. Gayle Stevens, Nocturnes 2, wet plate collodion pinhole tintype, 20 in x 20 in., 2012

Our Nocturnes series began as an experiment, an adventure, a collaboration. A pinhole camera-maker and a wet-plate collodion artist collaborated to produce mammoth plate tintypes, echoing the work and process of the early survey photographers. Carleton Watkins, William Henry Jackson, and Timothy O’Sullivan, surveying the expansive landscape of the western US, found themselves at the mercy of nature.

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Judy F. Sherrod and S. Gayle Stevens, Nocturnes 1, wet plate collodion pinhole tintype, 20 in x 20 in., 2012

James McNeill Whistler, inspired by the visual melody he found in dark skies and seas, titled many of his paintings nocturnes. In turn, these paintings provided inspiration for the orchestral nocturnes written by Debussy, musical impressions which ebb and flow.

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Judy F. Sherrod and S. Gayle Stevens, Nocturnes 24, wet plate collodion pinhole tintype, 20 in x 20 in., 2012

Inspired by these artists and the waters of the gulf in Pass Christian Mississippi we too found ourselves at the mercy of the tides, our images determined by the capriciousness of the water before us. 

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Judy F. Sherrod and S. Gayle Stevens, Nocturnes 3, wet plate collodion pinhole tintype, 20 in x 20 in., 2012

Because of its infinite depth of field, the pinhole camera conveys the vast expanse of the sea while the collodion-silver emulsion flows across the plate like the waves across the sand. The plates delivered an unexpected serendipity – a daytime nighttime, a sunny moonscape.

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Judy F. Sherrod and S. Gayle Stevens, Nocturnes 11, wet plate collodion pinhole tintype, 20 in x 20 in., 2012

There is ebb and flow between night and day, dark and light, as silent sentinels watch waves writing verse in the sand. This push and pull of tides, this melody of the waves, this lyric creates a visual dialogue that is the inspiration for Nocturnes, a little night music.

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Judy F. Sherrod and S. Gayle Stevens, Nocturnes 21, wet plate collodion pinhole tintype, 20 in x 20 in., 2012

One year ago, Judy Sherrod and S. Gayle Stevens embarked on a new adventure, a collaboration entitled Nocturnes, born of the gulf in Pass Christian, Mississippi. Stevens, a wet plate collodion artist, and Sherrod, a pinhole camera maker, joined together to create something not done before: mammoth plate pinhole wet plate tintypes. They have been very successful at it. Their collaboration has resulted in such publications as South by Southeast magazine and Lenscratch, and will be included in the next edition of Christopher James, The Book of Alternative Photographic Processes. Exhibitions include: Alternative Processes at the Center for Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins, where they were awarded both the Director’s and the Juror’s Honorable Mention, Beheld at Homespace Gallery, Call and Response at New Orleans Photo Alliance Gallery, Center Forward, V at Homespace, Currents 2012 at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, and Sun to Moon Gallery, among others. Over the course of a year, the duet shot forty-nine twenty-by-twenty inch pinhole tintypes of the gulf.

www.sgaylestevens.com

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Rob McDonald: Native Ground

As between clear blue and cloud,
Between haystack and sunset sky,
Between oak and slated roof,

I had my existence. I was there.
Me in place and the place in me.

—Seamus Heaney, “A Herbal”

Rob McDonald, “Home of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Cross Creek, Florida,” 10 1/2 X 10 1/2 in.

For the past twenty years, I have made a career as a teacher of American literature. For the last thirteen, I have worked also, with equal seriousness and passion, as a photographer.

My new series, Native Ground (2008-present), unites these pursuits in an exploration of the role place plays in shaping the literary imagination: the notion that writers compose out of a peculiar understanding and depth of connection to physical space, remembered or immediate.

Rob McDonald, “Mothers Roses, Erskine Caldwell’s Birthplace,” 10 1/2 X 10 1/2 in.

Personal and professional interests have led me to focus on writers who have lived and worked in the Southern region of the United States. After all, if convention has it right, these are writers who bear something close to a genetic predisposition to produce a literature suffused with place. Any definition of what makes Southern literature Southern includes the phrase “sense of place.”

In her famous essay on the topic, “Place in Fiction,” here is what Eudora Welty says about the significance of place:

“It is by knowing where you stand that you grow able to judge where you are. Place absorbs our earliest notice and attention, it bestows on us our original awareness; and our critical powers spring up from the study of it and the growth of experience inside it. It perseveres in bringing us back to earth when we fly too high. It never really stops informing us, for it is forever astir, alive, changing, reflecting, like the mind of man itself. One place comprehended can make us understand other places better. Sense of place gives equilibrium; extended, it is sense of direction too. Carried off we might be in spirit, and should be, when we are reading or writing something good; but it is the sense of place going with us still that is the ball of golden thread to carry us there and back and in every sense of the word to bring us home.”

Rob McDonald, “Home of Eudora Welty, Jackson, Mississippi,” 10 1/2 X 10 1/2 in.

I don’t believe that Southern writers have a monopoly on an interest in place—in fact, Welty describes it as a universal of all good fiction, especially the novel (for reasons you should read the essay to discover). But in Southern writing, there is a discernible reliance on physical space, on landscape, on atmosphere, on customs, on language, all of which figure strongly in whatever meaning we are able to derive from the words on the page. That degree of interest is what inspired me to try to track the work back, in my own photographic musings, to the places where their creators lived and worked.

Rob McDonald, “Larry Brown’s Farm, Tula, Mississippi,” 10 1/2 X 10 1/2 in.

Using a primitive hand-held film camera and available light, for this series I am making images that depict points of origin—meditating on personal spaces and landscapes in light of my familiarity with and curiosity about selected writers’ works and biographies.   They are particularly intimate photographs that propose narratives of connection in the development of vision and voice.

Rob McDonald, “Home of Ernest Gaines, New Roads, Louisiana,” 10 1/2 X 10 1/2 in.

In this regard, the photographs in Native Ground are themselves a kind of supreme fiction: my imagination of how physical spaces, lives lived, and art converge.

Rob McDonald  lives in Lexington, Virginia, where he is a Professor of English and Fine Arts and Associate Dean of the Faculty at Virginia Military Institute. His most recent book is Cy’s Rollei (Nazraeli), published with Sally Mann and Even Rogers.

www.robmcdonaldphotography.com

Fabio Sgroi: Prolaz (Passage)

This project is about the continuous change experienced in the Balkans over the last few years. It’s about the complexity of the human condition during the region’s transition toward democracy. And it’s a personal view of the tension and the contradictions occurring there.

Fabio Sgroi, Thessaloniki, 2012

I began my journey from Istanbul in 2004. I decided to start from Turkey, to convey the influence of the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans. I continued in subsequent years in different cities and regions, from Albania to Bosnia, Bucharest, Croatia, Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Sofia, Serbia, Skopje, and Thessaloniki.

Fabio Sgroi, Belgrade, 2004

call the project Prolaz” (Passage) for several reasons: for my own, personal journey to know these places, for the history of these lands which lived under Turkish dominion, for the various conflicts of races and lands, for the entry or the hope of entry of these peoples into the European Community.

Fabio Sgroi, Thessaloniki, 2012

For many centuries, the Balkans have been a melting pot of different cultures, and often a focal point of poisonous hatred and devastating wars. Even today, their identity is rooted in a reminiscence of their difficult past.

Fabio Sgroi, Istanbul, 2003

This a land of unsure boundaries, where opposites both attract and repel each other. The last decade has violently changed the physical and psychological dimensions of these cities, against the background of a nationalist drama and an irreversible sense of having finally expressed their own essence. Nevertheless, there are vibrant feelings of hope and fear, stemming from the people’s conflicting sense of their cultural heritage.

Fabio Sgroi, Tirana, 2011

Born in Palermo in 1965, Fabio Sgroi began his photographic career in 1986 and since that time has exhibited his work in Europe, America, and international festivals. He has participated in various projects and artistic residencies and today works for Riso, the Museum of Contemporary Art at Palermo.

www.fabiosgroiphoto.com

Erin McGuire: Touching Memory

It’s often said that a photograph is a memory; one that we can go back to time and again as our memories fade. Photographs are our way of keeping a memory fresh in our minds, kind of like recharging a battery.

My memories are imperfect. I forget things, distort them in my mind and probably even add things that were never there to begin with. The imperfection created by Impossible Project film makes each photograph more real for me. These images touch my soul and move my spirit because when I look at them, my mind sees a memory.

I grew up in southern California and have spent much of my life visiting the beaches, deserts and mountains that make up a large part of the state. I have many fond memories of camping with friends and family in all of these places, though we spent the majority our time in the desert. It was those memories that inspired me to move to the desert and that continue to inspire my work to this day. I feel a deep, spiritual connection with this land and never seem to run out of subjects to photograph, from giant Joshua trees to long-dead cholla cactus branches.

Finding the right medium for my imagery has been a long process that’s included many types of cameras, both digital and film, as well as different alternative photographic processes. The journey to create the perfect image continues. I doubt it will ever end because my idea of the perfect image changes day by day, week by week, and subject by subject. But what will always remain constant in my imagery is the need for imperfection—soft, dreamy, distorted, speckled, light-leaked imperfection.

I like to isolate each subject in the camera if I can, and if I can’t, I do post-production work to further isolate the subject. Another aspect of Impossible Project film and, I’ve found, most instant film in general, is the softness of the images, which helps blur and hide extraneous details around the subject. This is also why I love alternative process prints, especially gum bichromate and oilprint processes. I can easily manipulate each print to obscure any detail I feel detracts from the main subject.

I am a prolific image maker. Rarely a week passes without my going on at least one photographic adventure. I have many irons in the fire where my photography projects are concerned, but the desert is my real love. I plan to continue shooting it until the day comes when I can no longer lift a camera and it is my sincere hope that the Impossible Project will be along for the entire ride.

Currently living in the Los Angeles area, Erin McGuire is a photographer specializing in film. She works extensively with antique cameras and has participated in numerous shows in Southern California.

erinmcguirephotography.com

Laurent Lafolie: To be in love with the face

Laurent, who are these people you photograph?

To be in love is to be in love with the face.” They are mainly people who evoke this feeling in me; people in my entourage or people I meet and who touch me by their singularity, for the light that they emanate, for the effort they put into living and behaving as human beings. For others, it can be also the expression of fragility, torment or distress.

You often speak about what will disappear. Is photography like a testimony for you?

Yes, it is at the moment. By their timelessness these photographs try to reveal the precious event which is life. If I relate this to the photographed person, there is somebody there in that face, who in spite of an apparent passivity says they are unique in the world; this face bears witness to such a difference that it cannot have come about by chance. When I make my request, the first thing I say is often “this is a presentation of your face”; without expression, just look into the camera without trying to convince, seduce or express any emotions. I try to photograph that intimate part of ourselves which escapes us and with which we must learn to live. The majority of the people I photograph discover themselves during the shoot but also when I give them their picture, they don’t always recognize themselves.

In your opinion, are these photographs about what differentiates one person from another or about what makes us all alike?

I have already answered this question in part; we all have something in common but we are not all the same. We hear too much about what divides us – I am thinking about current policies, for example the repatriation of foreigners – and little of what unites us. Divisions resulting from differences are obvious and as such rather difficult to accept; we are all strangers even within our own families. It is a fortunate separation for those who are no longer afraid of the unknown. Regarding this, the desire to fuse with or to kill the other can be powerful, but if we manage to recognize our loneliness and at least to try to assume it, then art becomes a vital necessity as well as a never-ending source of curiosity and wonder.

The significance of the sacred is lost in favor of other games; nowadays it is very difficult to escape seductive or tempting images that force or attract our attention in order to impose their message instead of just offering it up to us. The human being is divided due to this particular condition resulting from the cut caused by language; they emanate a dual feeling. I use naked skin, the gaze – photography’s only resort – the silent mouth and I see different features; wild, feminine, Other, animal, body, time, absence of meaning, incomplete… there are many words, all indicating that everything is escaping us and, in the background there are shouts, waves, howls, cries and laughs; the good side is that the beauty is there in this tragedy and is to be taken seriously, just after the caesura. The other side of these open and attentive faces is calm and soothing; by looking at us silently they present the infinite and offer the best themselves.

Full face shot, neutrality of expression, you are exactly within the documentary style. It is a conscious and asserted connection?

Yes, it is now, but the approach was long and unconscious – even if I’ve always taken this aspect into account. I have far too much imagination and to not get lost I must unceasingly bring my work back to what I feel is essential. Two years ago over the summer, I worked for three months on abstraction using the chemistry of alternative processes. I photographed houses, landscapes, then people at a certain distance. Nothing substantial came of all these experiments; gradually I moved closer to the face until I got there, to its outlines. In this sense, they are more “faces” than portraits; if I move away even just a little it changes and interests me less. I realize nevertheless that for certain people three-quarter faces or even profiles are more relevant; these are other doors that I had abandoned after having brushed against them and towards which I will undoubtedly return. This does however leave the problem regarding the gaze; full face it comes smoothly into the hollow of the lens, three-quarter, it becomes a little more willful or directed or loses itself in the void.

Extract from an interview on the French website Galerie-Photo, translated and published with their kind permission.

Born in France in 1963, Laurent Lafolie has been working in photography since 1980. He has exhibited extensively in France and the United States and is represented by School Gallery Paris and Sous les étoiles Gallery in New York City.

www.laurent-lafolie.fr

Peter Wiklund: Dreamland

These pictures belong to Dreamland I – an ongoing series. One of several Dreamland series, that is. The common feature is that they are landscapes in the grey area between reality and imagination. They are real to some extent, since they are obviously photographed in the real world. But they go beyond the reproduction of nature. The landscapes would appear instead in dreams, or nightmares perhaps.

Peter Wiklund, “Androgynous,” ink jet print, 25×60 cm, 2009

Many of the images are characterized by a combination of beauty and disaster – in a somewhat romantic tradition. The final holocaust, last man standing.

Peter Wiklund, “Heading North,” ink jet print, 25×60 cm, 2009

All of the images are self-portraits. Giving myself the double role of photographer and model gets me more deeply involved in the final result. At the same time, it adds an extra element of chance, since I cannot see the final setup during shooting.

Peter Wiklund, “Hiding,” ink jet print, 25×60 cm, 2009

The first images I took, when starting with the Dreamland series, were uninhabited. I had set out to capture the emotion I got wandering in a forest that had burnt down about ten years earlier. A feeling of having been there before, having seen the same surroundings – though it was the first time there. Like being confronted with reminiscences from dreams.

Peter Wiklund, “Silent Tree,” ink jet print, 25×60 cm, 2009

These images are taken with a special pinhole camera, an anamorphic camera made by Abelson Scope Works. The camera is loaded with film which runs inside a cylinder. On top of the cylinder there is a tiny hole – the pinhole – which lets the light come in. The anamorphic construction makes the landscape somehow “unfold” in the images, adding a sense of surrealism. As in dreams.

Peter Wiklund, “The Attack,” ink jet print, 25×60 cm, 2009

I often work with different pinhole cameras, for several reasons. Most important is the element of chance, giving me images that can be much better than ones I might pre-visualize. A pinhole camera can often be used for making images that are something else than mere reproductions of the subject in front of the camera.

Peter Wiklund, “Light Waves,” ink jet print, 25×60 cm, 2009

Born in 1967, Peter Wiklund lives in Stockholm, where he works as a journalist and photographer. His images are shown in group exhibitions on a regular basis, from the United States to Russia.

www.peterpinhole.com

Sandra Davis: On Collecting

I am a collector. I collect many different things: objects with texture, objects with history, images, and memories. I photograph what I collect and collect what I photograph.

As photographers, we generally begin with the whole world in front of us and our personal vision emerges as we edit that which lies before us. When the decision is made, the shutter is tripped and a little piece of the world, that moment, is recorded on film or sensor. Once it is collected, it can be visited again and again by its owner.

Ascending Malham, Yorkshire, gum bichomate print, 15 x 13 in., 2003

Usually photographers start with the capture and decide later how to present the image to others. It can be a straight print, manipulated image, black and white, color, or other. Upon viewing the collected images, the artist will let the image speak to how it wants to be seen.

For me, this body of work happened in quite the opposite manner. I find it fascinating that the process can inspire the image prior to its capture. I can “see” in gum bichromate. When I look through the lens, I imagine how that little piece of the world will appear as a gum bichromate print.

The images presented here are gum bichromate prints from my Mythical Garden Series. This series began in Italy when I decided to take a toy camera to Parco dei Mostri, a garden filled with 16th century grotesque sculptures, also known as Villa Barmarzo.

Dragon at Parco dei Mostri, gum bichomate print, 13 x 15 in., 2003

Let me back up a bit. When I took my second photography class in 1980, I was fortunate to go to New York City to see a show of Eugene Atget’s Gardens on exhibit at ICP (International Center for Photography). I fell in love with his images, and to this day they still inspire me. I spent most of my photography life photographing historic architecture, first with 35mm infrared film and then with a swing lens panoramic camera. Fifteen years ago, when I revisited a process that I had learned in 1980, gum bichromate printing, I realized that the process and the sharp lines of the architecture did not create a good fit.

After Atget, St.-Cloud, France, gum bichomate print, 13 x 15 in., 2009

The gum bichromate process is a 19th-century process that was a favorite of the Pictorialist group of photographers who worked between 1885 and 1915. Watercolor pigment is mixed with gum arabic and then photosensitized with dichromate (chromium salts). This emulsion is hand-coated onto the surface of paper under incandescent light. A negative is placed on top of the dried coating and exposed to ultraviolet light. After the exposure, the print is immersed in cool water. The areas of the image that are struck by light bond to the paper, while those that were blocked from light wash away, preserving the highlights. Several layers of translucent color are required to create a fully tonal image. Therefore the process of coating, drying, exposing, and washing is repeated up to five times.

Secret Garden, St.-Cloud, France, gum bichomate print, 13 x 15 in., 2005

If I haven’t lost you yet, registration of a negative containing sharp lines is difficult, since the repeated washings change the paper size. After struggling with this for several years, I discovered the Holga toy camera. The Holga image is sharp in the center and soft at the edges. To me, the camera is perfect for the gum bichromate process. Armed with several Holgas, I journeyed to the gardens Atget had photographed and to the lush Renaissance villas of Italy.

La Cerchiata Grande, Boboli Gardens, Florence, gum bichomate print, 15 x 13 in., 2009

I discovered when shooting with the Holga, I am drawn to shapes and figures that appear to emerge from the darkness. The wonderful vignetting created by the plastic lens enhances this quality within my images. This enables me to capture soft, dreamy images reminiscent of historic photographic methods, evoking the misty quality of memories.

Grotto God, Viscaya, FL, gum bichomate print, 13 x 13 in., 2003

Thus history and process inspire my image making process. I continue to collect things and images. And I am now beginning to photograph my collection of old and textured objects to revisit them in a new form of re-collected images.

Sandra C. Davis was born in 1960s near Philadelphia. In the 1980s she discovered photography as a way to express her vision. She teaches alternative processes at several universities in the Philadelphia area. Her award-winning images are exhibited nationwide and are in public, corporate and private collections.

www.SandraCDavis.com