Judy F. Sherrod and S. Gayle Stevens: Nocturnes


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.


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.


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. 


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.


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.


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.



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.