While photographers engage with new technologies and new means of presentation, many artists working today still incorporate historical techniques in their work. Our current show Today is History brings together three artists who work with 19th / 20th c. processes to talk about present day concerns.
Kate Breakey (B. 1957 Adelaide, South Australia) is best known for her large-scale photographic work with birds and flowers that she painstakingly brings back to life with colored pencils. These pieces can be seen in two monographs, Small Deaths (2001) and Flowers/Birds (2003).
A few years ago, she became interested in the science of gold, especially astrophysics and this was the beginning her new series, Golden Stardust. Kate creates Orotones (prints made on glass and backed with 23k gold leaf) of small objects that command our attention, using an early technique to comment on the beauty, fragility and simplicity of her daily surroundings.
Here is a glimpse into her studio and working process:
Most photographers have seen Orotones – first made in the early 20th century by, amongst others, Arthur Pillsbury and Edward Curtis. Curtis developed this technique because he wanted his photographs to have more depth and they certainly do, they glow. I was struck by the beauty, brightness and the depth created by the light bouncing off the gold. So a few years ago I decided to do a modern version of the Orotone. I had an image printed digitally on UV ‘Art glass’ and I applied gold-leaf to the back of it. I’ve since make over 200 pieces.”
The images I select are from many places, times and even images from past bodies of work. I shoot all the time, wherever I go, often without anything in mind except to document my life and my observations. Because I get so busy with my large and often labor intensive hand-colored work, I have had to ‘file’ most of my negatives and so I had forgotten about many of these images that I’m just now rediscovering. It’s been very satisfying to give older images a new life. This work is quite eclectic because the selection includes, classical still life, landscapes, nudes, as well as all my various biological series (animals and flowers), but combined they make for a visual diary of a lifetime of ‘looking’. The gold leaf, unifies it all, makes each image ’precious’ and preserves the memory of the occasion of making the original image. Memories that now glow and shine after being for so long forgotten.” Kate Breakey
Kate Breakey’s Golden Stardust photographs are currently on view in the gallery through December 31. You can see more of Kate Breakey’s work on our website.
Today is History features three contemporary artists who are working with 19th century photographic processes to talk about present day concerns. The show consists of tintypes by Dan Estabrook, orotones by Kate Breakey and daguerreotypes by Jerry Spagnoli.
Over the next few weeks, we will share behind the scenes photos, videos and explanations about how each photographer uses these historical processes. We will start by defining and learning how to make a daguerreotype.
“Louis J.M. Daguerre introduced the Daguerreotype process to the public in 1839. The Daguerreotype was the first and only successful photographic process until the 1850s. During the 1840s and 1850s, Daguerreotype plates were commercially produced and easily available. The plates were replaced in the 1860s by the Calotype, which were much cheaper and easier to produce.
Daguerreotypes are created by polishing a silver plate, then exposing it to the vapors of iodine and bromine, which produces silver salts on the surface. The coated plate then goes directly into the camera, where it is exposed to light. After the plate is exposed to light, it is developed by being exposed to heated mercury fumes, and fixed by pouring sodium thiosulfate over the plate.” [Source: Alternative Processes: Daguerreotype with Jerry Spagnoli]
In this video Jerry Spagnoli explains the process of making a daguerreotype.
Jerry Spagnoli (b. 1956 New York City, NY) is credited as today’s preeminent photographer working with the daguerreotype, a polished copper plate treated with mercury vapor. Using this material, Spagnoli has photographed significant historical events, including the horrors of the World Trade Center and the beauty of Times Square on the eve of the Millennium. In his 2012 series, Glasses, Spagnoli tackles the reflective quality of everyday water glasses. As he states, “Ultimately my use of various materials and methods is centered in my desire to make complicated stories out of the everyday world, which is my apparent subject matter. Photography allows me to engage viewers with images and ideas which are filtered through the abstracting apparatus of the camera and woven into the matrix of its rich history.
You can see all of Jerry’s work includeding Today is History on our website. They are also on view at the gallery until December 31!
We’ve received a lot of questions recently about where and how Clarissa Bonet makes the photographs included in her first solo show, City Space + Stray Light. She describes her process in her Artist Talk and in several interviews recently published (Lensculture, Chicago Magazine, Lenscratch, Aint Bad, Dodho). We decided to show you Clarissa’s process using behind the scene photos. We follow her from photographing a new image to making a final print in her studio.
Clarissa begins each photograph for her City Space series by walking around Chicago for hours. She records her experiences with an iPhone and takes notes about the buildings, light and pedestrians. She then uses her notes to recreate dramatic moments and experiences with hired models. The final photographs are carefully staged memories that appear to be snapshots of every day life in the city.
In her Stray Light series, Clarissa shoots in several different cities at night (Chicago, NY and LA). Each image contains an array of glowing windows.
The work continues next in her studio. Clarissa scans her negatives for City Space and begins creating test prints.
And now that she is back in the studio, the Stray Light images are ready to be created! Each image contains many windows and lights that are the source materials for new photographs. Clarissa isolates and saves each window or light separately, creating a large archive of images from one city. She then spends many hours layering these images together to create her own constellation of windows. Once completed, she begins the process of printing each image.
No matter how much time Clarissa spends with an image on the computer, she still prints it several times before she considers it complete.
You can see all of Clarissa’s work on our website, and they are even better in person! Her show is on view at the gallery until October 29!
Have you watched Inside the Actor’s Studio with James Lipton? In this popular TV show, James Lipton interviews legendary guests. He ends his interviews with his list of Top 10 Questions. Over the years, CEG has asked our artists these same 10 questions to gain insight into their personalities and work!
This week we feature Guillaume Martial, his video and photographs are included in our Still Moving show.
1. What is your favorite word? Optimism!
2. What is your least favorite word? Violence
3. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? When I find myself in a new context… like a school, a psychiatric hospital or a construction site. I try to make the poetry of the space emerge. But I like the sea too!
4. What turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally? Daily news in the media!
5. What sound or noise do you love? The rain on the roof or a window.
6. What sound or noise do you hate? The flat tire of my bicycle.
7. What is your favorite curse word? Flute!
8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? A postman on bicycle or a chimney sweeper so I can dance on the roof like in Mary Poppins.
9. What profession would you not like to do? Taxidermist
10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? Sorry Sir, we’re completely booked. Come back tomorrow!
You can see more photos and video of Guillaume Martial’s work on our website or stop by the gallery to check it out! Still Moving runs through September 2.
When Daniel Beltrá is not traveling for an assignment or personal project, he spends his time researching, working on images, and looking at prints in his studio in Seattle, WA. Here is a look inside his studio, our favorite part is how he uses the ping pong table!