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.


Larry Davis: A Better Past

The idea of returning to emotionally significant places from my past felt overwhelming, but challenging.

There was a desire to know if being back in these places as an adult felt the same way it did as a child. Would my memories become clearer? Would other memories surface? Would old feelings return? Would new feelings emerge? Would the past now be a better place than I remembered?

It was a difficult journey made lighter only by the joy I felt in finding some places no longer existing or existing in a decrepit state of disrepair. There was the initial satisfaction of rediscovery, which was then replaced by familiar memories and sadness.

Yes, memories became clearer. Yes, other memories surfaced. Yes, old feelings returned. Yes, new feelings emerged. No, the past did not become a better place.

Larry Davis envisions and prints his images very small (3″x3″), providing an intimacy between the viewer and the image that could not otherwise be created with larger prints. His award-winning photographs have been exhibited in galleries and are in collections worldwide.

Gayle Stevens: Metaphorical Meanderings

On walking

I walk everyday.

As a child I used to walk with my father. We would take long walks and often end up at the Plush Horse, an old-fashioned ice cream parlor, or the White Shingle, a local tavern. At the White Shingle, I would get dimes to play the bowling game and a kiddie cocktail while my dad had something stronger. At the Plush Horse, I got a single scoop of butter cream and daddy always had strawberry. My father was a fisherman and we spent vacations camping and fishing. This is how I developed my love of walks and nature.

I walk now and look and find.

When I started working on my series, pass, in Pass Christian, Mississippi, I walked the area that had been devastated by Katrina. I would see little shrines of objects on stairs that led to nowhere. I walked the beach everyday collecting shells, watching the stingrays frolic in the waves and the pelicans diving for fish.

The sounds of the waves, the smell of the gulf, the calls of the birds were all meditative for me. I found the remains of a bird; parts of the wings were all that remained. As an object it was strangely beautiful and repugnant at the same time. I put them in my bag. I had no idea what they would become but knew they needed another life, another form that would once again reveal their lost beauty.

On Process

I like handwork.

I garden, I make bread, and I pour plates. I like the way the dirt feels as I plant a seed, the connection to the earth. I like the texture of the dough as I knead it, as it changes from sticky to a soft, satiny mass. I like the way the plate goes cold when I pour on the collodion and the dark pool beckons me into her depths. Through all this handwork comes satisfaction as I watch my labor become a plant spreading its leaves towards the sun, the aroma of bread freshly baked and an image revealed.
I collect things.

Before I start a new project, there is a period of time when I become strangely attracted to a certain object or objects. I start collecting, archiving, hoarding. I walk and collect and look and stare and think, till the pieces fall in place. It is in this same way that I create my collaged images in allegory. I look, I collect, and I create plates of individual images. I make a rough drawing of an idea. I piece it together, like lines of poetry, notes of music, a quilt. The images create the framework of an idea and from that framework I paint a supportive background for my chimeric vision.

It starts with a walk.

S. Gayle Stevens has worked in antiquarian processes for over fifteen years. Her chosen medium is wet plate collodion for its fluidity and individuality. A member of the When Pigs Fly photo collective, she divides her time shooting in Pass Christian, Mississippi and Downers Grove, Illinois, where she resides. Stevens is represented by Tilt Gallery.