Contact 2003: Pinhole, Toy Cameras and Photograms
MAY 1-JUNE 1, 2003
AMEE KING, ROBERT MANN, MICHELLE MARIA, DAVID MILLER, MARGARET MULLIGAN, MABEL ODESSEY, INGRID PUNWANI, BLAINE SPEIGEL, RICK SZCZECHOWSKI, GARY WATERS, ILAN WOLFF AND OTHERS.
Contemporary artists experiment with historical processes. This showcased work is a direct reflection of the particular freedoms these inventive processes create. Perceived and suggested objects are captured through long exposures with pinhole cameras. Toy Cameras explore the layered, diminished details of multiple exposures, and photograms examine what escapes or exceeds representation. Also being featured are polymer photogravures. Responsible artist Szczechowski states this atypical technique symbolizes a new atmosphere and mood that beckons spontaneity from its subjects.
An impulsion – this is the place to go now. But the sky knows the reasons and the patterns behind all clouds, and you will know, too , when you lift yourself high enough to see beyond horizons.
From where I am situated the lines aren’t always clear. And each time I change position they lose their definition. Yet their ambiguity harbors certain beauty. One ends where another begins. They shift and flicker, undulate and overlap.
With every photograph I take I am becoming conscious of the echoing consistencies of blurred edges and diminished details. Somewhere in the back of my mind and behind the lens I am fixated on creating a challenge. A desire to look beyond the boundaries of first impressions and the borders of cursory conceptions.
These photographs were all made when I was moving in some sort of manner. And though there were on most occasions other people present, I found myself quite often being alone. Quietly drifting into tranquility lulled by the empty spaces and the fusion of hues. Every instance my eye was pulled in beyond the horizon line, repeatedly becoming distracted by the distance. This vista became the vehicle to transport me further than where I physically was, if only for a brief moment.
There is something about taking photographs while you’re in motion that becomes seductively therapeutic. You can never go back to the way things were when you first saw them. You will never find that same place or reproduce the same memory. The images inevitably exist as genuine brevity. Although memories are timeless, they cannot remain motionless. As with experiences, they move me forward, a progression towards where I am to where I am heading. It is here, admist the obscurities and impulses, that I find myself most complete, shifting past memories and moving through yesterdays.
I hope to share with the viewer of my photographs an experience rich in dreams and to enkindle a point from where one can explore the depth of the psyche. Several different lensless cameras are used to accomplish this. The pinhole camera has a way of suggesting objects rather than representing them because of the particular quality the pinhole image gives. This suggestive character carries with it a more profound mystery that is not found on the surface of the image but rather in the significance of the image. The pinhole camera helps to provide the illusion needed to express these things. When this technique is brought together with my choice of subjects, the photographs begin to breathe and become metaphoric environments.
A singular characteristic of pinhole photography is the fact that exposures are quite long, from seconds to several hours. This cumulative exposure produces effects that cannot be seen by the eye. Moving objects become translucent, having a vibrating quality, and perhaps some are completely transparent. There are objects in these photographs that were present at the time of exposure that cannot be seen in the print.
A photographic image can be printed in thousands of ways. The tactile quality of the print is very important, as is the choice of materials. The print is half the photograph. Conscious decisions are made for an unconscious effect. When I was young, I would spend endless hours discovering the magic of light and silver in my fatherís darkroom. It was all mystery, like looking down the throat of infinity. The world of the print is as vast as the world of images. There is an infinite set of parameters and variables in the making of a powerful photograph but they do come together from time to time to create great emotion and force.
The toy camera affords me the ability to venture into a type of photo making that a modern technically advanced camera could never do. By merging the low-tech capabilities of the Holga, with gut instinct and creative flow, it is possible to allow an image to evolve that could not be seen with the naked eye or be envisioned by the photographer before hand. Using simple techniques such as multiple exposure and the gradual advancement of the film to create overlapping and elongated negatives, I’m able to start bending, compressing and distorting the reality, which is presented in front of me. In this way some of my imagery takes one into dream-like states, and others touch on what it might be like if we could see as the cubists envisioned – from more than one vantage point and from more than one moment in time – layering one on top of one another to create the final multidimensional image. My goal is to record more than I can see with my eyes and find the image that my other senses are scanning for while maintaining an aesthetically pleasing and intriguing outcome.
A photograph I once made reproduced the sky’s deep blue colour I’d observed over the east coast of Nova Scotia. A simple image, I thought, in the sense that it presented a single hue. But instead of film exposed in a camera I used only light and light sensitive paper. The image, as only photographs can, recorded the action of light at a specific moment in time. I’d produced an abstraction, an approximation of the light effects I’d experienced in nature, a ‘sky’ yet not a sky. Blue from margin to margin, my print was indeed like the colour I’d seen but not, like other photographs of the sky itself. As straightforward as this project seemed to me then it raised questions about the nature of a photograph (and photography) that today, fifteen years later, continue to fascinate me. While my subjects have broadened and my relationship with them deepened, the questions that motivate me to make images, the questions I ask of and through them, remain largely unanswered.
A photograph has a special relationship with that which once existed. An intimate bond that always invokes for us an absence. Whether a familiar face or pool of experiences, the traces recorded by a photograph rekindle this former presence as memory. But what escapes or exceeds representation?
Based on material fact, presented as lyrical information, these photographs refer to and draw upon the natural world. Insects, birds and other small animals; seeds, flowers and countless life forms I’ve gathered along my way becoming (missing) figures destined not to oblivion but refigured as an image. A ‘life’, if you will, in representation.
I met a toy camera, and I fell in love. Everything I’ve been looking for is embodied in my cheap plastic Holga: simplicity, lightweight, unassuming, and a medium format. Best of all is the quality that it imparts on the image – I think the visual equivalent to a belt of good scotch, where the real world melts away and becomes beautiful and surreal.
Currently, I have been producing giclee prints on watercolour paper of my toy camera images.
Found materials lead to fresh surfaces. Chance likes the aspects of dematerialization and fracturing; it gives it something to do with all of those swollen moments while lingering within the frameworks of possibility. Adept in alchemical transmutation and awash in the flux of filmic stuff, these malleable coatings subtract and divide, open themselves to manipulations, and ultimately surge towards concretion and coagulation. The results of these essentially volatile processes, seemingly analogous to organic cycles of growth, disintegration and rebirth are revelatory. New forms emerge: vestiges of figures, semblances of heads and unusual landscapes all seem to arrive at my light table fully formed. Crystallized images expose aspects of a previously incomprehensible world. Itís a matter of forging these moments of discovery into a kind of sustained attack, leading to further experiments that help to deepen the mystery of unraveling and pointing the way to future sequencing and suggestion.
I have used the technique of the “camera obscura” since 1982, and have found it be an ideal tool for my creativity. By working with round, cylindrical cans, I manage to distort the perspective lines of buildings, landscapes and objects. The photographic image achieves a new organic expression – lines become curved, reminiscent of the earth and our bodies.
There is no limitation to the “camera obscura” technique, and that is exactly why I use it. Since 1992, I have used my studio and van as a “camera obscura”. This allows me to work on a large scale, sometimes several meters in size. I can also place objects or people against the photographic paper and create interior landscapes. This physical contact blends with the image of the outside, external world to create a new meaning and reality. The large size of the paper offers the possibility to develop the photograph using sponges and my hands.
The photographic image is a drawing made with light. By painting with chemicals I can create a new image filled with colour and texture. I call these images “Stenogrammes” – a combination of stenope, pinhole, and the photogramme that unites exterior and interior objects to create a new style of photography.