Alternative Process Artist and Project Statements

December 9, 2009

Artist Statement

When the meditation of process within the physical act of creation “sinks in,” personal meaning is born within the creation of image.  Birth, death, creation- all have founded themselves as major themes within the realm of human condition.  From art, the creation of image begins to lend itself to spiritual awakening and the understanding of life becomes poetic.  This poetry of spirit and synthesis of material from nothing (useless matter or material) into something of worth (art, poetic image) is the alchemical process of old.  The alchemical artist does not seek gold or wealth but awakening in image- wealth of divinity in spirit.  The use of precious metals in alternative process photography can be misleading in this sense.  It is not the precious or rare nature of the metal that makes it part of the alchemical process, it is the wealth in the physical qualities of image that can be created.  The physical act of photographing (synaptic reflex and momentary acceptance of image) is the dialogue between the artist and the image.  It is the asking of the divine (“angels in the light” as Minor White put it) for awakening.  The act of developing film (rhythmic in its own right), the mixing of chemicals, and the exposure of the print are tools that allow the photographer to recreate the asking of the divine and form the spirit of the finished piece.

Project Statement: The Sunflower Sutra

Siddhartha Guatama sat on a hill above his congregation and held aloft a full lotus plant.  Struck by the pure image of the spotless flower down to the muck encrusted roots, Mahakasyapa smiled from the congregation and was enlightened.  The purity of poetic and symbolic image moves us to a heightened sense of understanding the spirit.  Visual syntax can recreate the human condition in completeness.

Initially I set out to illustrate Allen Ginsberg’s poetic interpretation of Mahakasyapa’s enlightenment, seeking to portray image as the catalyst for enlightenment.  As I moved through the photographic process the scene of the train yard layered itself into my interpretation.  The importance of the scene eventually took priority over the outcome because it was truly the grit and grime that inspired both Ginsberg and Mahakasyapa.  My scrolls should not be viewed in any chronological sense in relation to the poem.  Rather, they should be seen as one image for one scene on one day in the life of one person who is about to be spiritually awakened by the utter reality of the world for which the train yard is only a microcosm.

“We are not out skin of grime…” -Allen Ginsberg

A Semester in Alternative Process

December 8, 2009

I’m posting several of my works from the semester which I thought to be quite productive and illuminating.

Liquid light drove everybody mad.  I only got two pieces on wood that I was “happy” with.

The print on the left was my first success- just an attempt with a negative I knew to be good- while the print on the right was meant to be part of my final which did not come together as well as I planned.  (Note the fogging of the right side).

Palladium and Kallitype prints relieved a bit of the headache that liquid light brought on.

Four negative evolution of smoke rings

Stacked negatives showing progression of smoke rings

Palladium and Kallitype printing has a sharpness that other alternative processes don’t seem to quite capture.  I was attempting to correlate the use of precious metals, like palladium and silver, into a sense of the spiritual nature of alchemy and relating the spirit directly to photographic image.  This was quite a successful project for me.

Gum Bichroment

While waiting for my chemicals to do the final project I experimented with gum bichroment printing in CMYK- not a complete success but certainly a fun new process that I hope to improve upon in the future.

Over all the semester went well and has reinvigorated me in the photographic arts.  I will certainly be doing more alternative processes in the future and hope to do Palladium and Kallitype prints for the rest of my life.

Atget: Poetic Documentation

December 6, 2009

A failed painter and actor, Eugene Atget was known anonymously only by his photography during his life.  When his albumen process prints finally had his name attached to them the photographer had already passed away.  This is not to say that Atget was entirely unknown during his life.  Painters such as Henri Matisse and photographers such as Man Ray had known him and supported his work as part of their inspiration.

Part of Atget’s anonymity can be found in his photographs where the viewer sees only the slightest reflection of the camera in a shop window with the artist hidden by the camera’s black cloth.

I will be so bold as to suggest that part of Atget’s angle of composition in his storefront photographs was to eliminate his own reflection except when his vision required a full frontal view like the print above.  In the same vain, I have not been able to find any self portraits or photographs of Atget himself.

Atget’s work is thorough and analytical in nature, documenting sites in Paris with accuracy of detail but without losing the artistic appeal.

Atget’s representation of Paris creates a lyrical world that is descriptive of everyday life but pulls most of its strength from his thoughtful eye and picturesque sense of the created image.

“Peace Wins Out,” said the Valley News Dispatch

October 2, 2009

Driving back from Pittsburgh last Saturday it was good to see that at least one newspaper printed an article about the peaceful protest the day before, rather than focusing on the violence of the anarchist regime.

Late on Friday morning we gathered on the lawn on the Carnegie-Mellon Campus to join forces with environmentalists, woman’s rights activists, etc.

Drummers rally the activists on Carnegie-Mellon Campus

Drummers rally the activists on Carnegie-Mellon Campus

Environmental activists spoke out against the corporate enslavement of natural resources

Environmental activists spoke out against the corporate enslavement of natural resources

One of the AU resistance group's banners that we handed out to protestors

One of the AU resistance group's banners that we handed out to protestors

With a loud drumroll and barking megaphones the procession began

Environmentalists lead the procession

Environmentalists lead the procession

The march lead us past the decrepit buildings of old Pittsburgh.  With the industry gone, the city was dying.

The march lead us past the decrepit buildings of old Pittsburgh. With the industry gone, the city was dying.

"People before Profit"- a common slogan among protestors

"People before Profit"- a common slogan among protestors

Various Woman's Rights organizations involved themselves in the protest

Various Woman's Rights organizations involved themselves in the protest

The procession increased as we reached the downtown rally.

The procession increased as we reached the downtown rally.

Costumes and statements about the world situation resounded in the streets

Costumes and statements about the world situation resounded in the streets

There should have been more children in the march, but there were still many to be found

There should have been more children in the march, but there were still many to be found

Outnumbered in Pittsburgh: The Anarchist March from Arsenal Park Sept. 24

September 28, 2009

I’ve returned from the Pittsburgh G-20 protests a little shellshocked but still whole.  Memories of police in riot gear keep waking me up in the middle of the night; I’ve never seen such a thing before.

Meetings in Friendship Park before the afternoon march

Culinary Arts student from WV and a Sociology/Environmental Studies student from Binghamton

Culinary Arts student from WV and a Sociology/Environmental Studies student from Binghamton (p.s.- I think the culinary student was really an undercover cop)

Saint Paul for Peace group from FL.

Saint Paul for Peace group from FL.

A Communications Studies and an International Relations students from West Chester University

Communications Studies and International Relations students from West Chester University protesting for peace

A French reporter (left), culinary arts student (center, back) and students from Binghamton and Cincinnati

A French reporter (left), culinary arts student (center, back) and students from Binghamton and Cincinnati

The walk to Arsenal Park was about a mile.  On the way it was pretty easy to spot some of the protestors as opposed to the locals.  Most of the locals declined to comment on the G-20 or the rally, but later that day many were seen cheering on the march as we were chased down side-streets and alleys by the police.

A protestor on his way to Arsenal Park bearing the American Flag above the ancient military's "Don't Tread on Me" flag

A protestor on his way to Arsenal Park bearing the American Flag above the ancient military's "Don't Tread on Me" flag

Upon entering Arsenal Park, protestors were dancing, chanting, drumming, and blowing whistles and kazoos.

Dancing, Drumming, and Chanting in Arsenal Park

Dancing, Drumming, and Chanting in Arsenal Park

A Drum Jam in Arsenal Park

A Drum Jam in Arsenal Park

Tides of protestors gather

Tides of protestors gather

About 100 protestors had red crosses taped to shoulders, chests and packs declaring themselves as impromptu field medics, ready with water, bandages, and eye drops for pepper spray relief

About 100 protestors had red crosses taped to shoulders, chests and packs declaring themselves as impromptu field medics, ready with water, bandages, and eye drops for pepper spray relief

After a few brief words by crowd rousers the march began.  We were cut off relatively quickly by the riot police and I was not able to capture images of the tear gas and violence used against protestors because I was too busy running away.

Anarchists dressed in black lead the procession out of Arsenal Park

Anarchists dressed in black lead the procession out of Arsenal Park

A protestor wearing war paint whom I later saw being arrested

A protestor wearing war paint whom I later saw being arrested

"Whose streets?!"

"Whose streets?!"

"Our streets!"

"Our streets!"

Gathering in the streets, the first turn on our route in our attempt to get downtown

Gathering in the streets, the first turn on our route in our attempt to get downtown

This is all I have from the initial march on Pittsburgh organized without a permit.  The police caught up to us and cut us off demanding that we disperse or the use of “riot control agents” and “less lethal munitions” would be used.  Then they used them anyway; sound cannons, tear gas/pepper spray gas (it felt great to have democracy clear my sinuses for me), rubber bullets, and bean bags fired from guns.  I think it necessary to report  that the police used their gas and “less than lethal munitions” on an unarmed, dispersing crowd.  It wasn’t until after their move that the protestors began smashing windows and I left the scene.

A tear gas canister similar to those used on protestors

A tear gas canister similar to those used on protestors

"Super Sock"- a gun propelled beanbag fired at rioters

"Super Sock"- a gun propelled beanbag fired at rioters

Rubber bullet like those fired at the crowd

Rubber bullet like those fired at the crowd

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Later that night at the “Bash Back” (a gay pride march protesting the G20) police surrounded protestors and U of Pitt students then told them to disperse.  I did not attend but here are some clips shot partly by AU students who attended.

Protestors and students alike could not disperse and due to the absence of ACLU observers police responded with all force.

Cyanotypes in the Sun and Under the UVs

September 21, 2009

I decided when we first started this process that I was going to love it, and I do.  I had some problems with exaggerated contrast and the evenness of my coating but I think I can conquer those things as the semester goes on.

More to come!  I printed a positive transparency on two flat stones and a regular negative on a piece of wooden board.

Michael Chernoff Does What He Wants.

September 14, 2009

In photographing Michael I discovered one thing in particular: Michael Chernoff does what he wants.

Michael Falls

Michael Falls

Michael Falls

Michael Falls

Its not entirely possible to ask questions of Michael Chernoff.  He seems to do what he wants, regardless.

I Wish I Was Scarface.

I Wish I Was Scarface.

After a time, I threw aside the “questions,” sick of who Michael thinks he is, and decided to simply photograph as I saw him.

Michael is obviously ashamed of his face, so for a brief period I focused on different ways of portraying his presence.

Michael is obviously ashamed of his face, so for a brief period I focused on different ways of portraying his presence.

Michael is shy and does not engage the camera, most of the time.

Michael is shy and does not engage the camera, most of the time.

Michael wears Nikes because he thinks they make him run faster.

Michael wears Nikes because he thinks they make him run faster.

The majority of our photo shoots ended in Michael’s vicious temper rearing like the bear he wishes he was and your Humble Photographer was assaulted by swears and sneers.  But Michael’s soft side did come through eventually.  This is the only known photograph of Michael “smiling.”

A Rare Smile for the Camera

A Rare Smile for the Camera

John Wood: Types of Alternative Cyano-Prints

September 6, 2009

While researching the cyanotype, invented by Sir John Herschel in 1842, I came across Alfred University’s very own John Wood- a prolific photographer and printmaker.

The earliest use of the cyanotype- a non-silver based print which photosensitizes ferric chloride, ferric ammonium citrate, and potassium ferricyanide- held its presence in the scientific and experimental realm by Anna Atkins and her contact prints of algae in 1843. Atkins created the first ever photography book, Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions.

"Dictyota dichotoma," Anna Atkins, 1843

"Dictyota dichotoma," Anna Atkins, 1843

After serving the United States Air Force in World War II, John Wood attended the Chicago Institute of Design and later taught photography and printmaking at Alfred University (thus the John Wood Print Studio).

John Wood is not a simple photographer or printmaker. He utilizes both processes in the most of his work, bringing together a dichotomy of chemical alchemy and hand drawn or painted prints.

"Beaver Dam," John Wood 1986

"Beaver Dam," John Wood 1990

"Hands, Beaver Dam, Windmill, and Yellow," John Wood 1990

"Hands, Beaver Dam, Windmill, and Yellow," John Wood 1990

Wood thematically uses dead birds though out his works which I see as personally symbolic for the artist, given his stint in the Air Force.

"Loon Drawer and Bomb," John Wood 1987

"Loon Drawer and Bomb," John Wood 1987

Wood also uses text within his photomontages, demonstrating some of his darkroom technique and continuing imagery.

"Blackbird Some Have Hunger" John Wood 1986

"Blackbird Some Have Hunger" John Wood 1986

Mark Osterman

September 1, 2009

Camera Obscured

Mark Osterman utilizes salt printing process with collodion negatives. Due to the exposure time, Osterman often depicts people in motion, surrounded by the old-age instruments of photography and science.

"Blowing Smoke", Mark Osterman

His use of “ancient” photographic processes and subject matter pertaining to that time period give a nostalgic feeling Brian referred to in our first class.

"Rhodes Incident," Mark Osterman

The sense of blurred motion combined with the nostalgia of the turn of the century technology, used in a contemporary sense truly expresses the agelessness of science and advancement of art (especially in photography).

Synapse Mirror

August 29, 2009

First Entry: No idea what I’m doing.

So…. here are some of my favorite artists, poets, and places…