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PATIENCE ALCHEMY

With the the technological domination of the digital photograph now complete and the place of film photography relegated to a fringe activity we can begin to assess the value of the analog approach to picture making using light. That film photography (and cinematography) has not disappeared altogether is not surprising given the uniquely materialistic and pictorial properties of silver gelatin prints that together make up a phenomenon too beautiful, too rich and too enduring to recede into the black of obsolescence. By “materialistic” I mean to explore the way variables such as paper, light, and chemistry remain unsurpassed as picture-capturers when compared to their digital counterparts.

The best thing to ever happen to photography was for film-based work to be displaced to the fringe of picture-making where it now exists solely within the activity of art-making, however one defines it. No longer do photojournalists and documentarians walk around with their Nikon F5s carrying films and rushing to process and print.

MANIFEST, 2012, SILVER GELATIN PRINT

Only as a decidedly fine art or specialized practice devoted to the notion of a revelatory picture does black and white film photography become rare, and therefore potentially reaching a status one may call “aesthetic.” This is not to claim that digital images cannot present an aesthetic quality. however the proliferation of smartphone photos and images from DSLRs means their technological providence has become mundane and hence, almost always banal.

With the film-based photograph the materiality of the photo-chemical process manifesting in a printed image on paper makes for a work of art tied to time and patience in a way that the digital photo cannot approach. This combination of slowing down time to render the alchemical beauty of a photo on paper via all the steps and patience required make for a kind of reversal of efficiency and an aesthetic and philosophical act of subversion against the nefarious allure of easy pictures.

It is in its removal from the quotidian and the banal that the act of taking a photograph, processing it in chemicals and printing it manually on paper from an enlarged negative becomes sublime. It is ironic that it took the creation of a new immaterial technology, the digital photograph, for an old format to become special and new in this way.

 

WRITINGS

PICTURES IN THE LIGHT

HAPPY HOUR

HAPPY HOUR

HAPPY HOUR There is an hour in every day when the light of the sun is broken by the lamps of spirits and the bottles of wines. In this hour, in Miami, a girl drinks a cocktail as she is surrounded by speakers of Spanish and dreamers of dreams replete with refuge,...

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FIRE DRILLER

FIRE DRILLER

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SUBURBAN GIRL

SUBURBAN GIRL

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SHADOW PLAY

SHADOW PLAY

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THINKING SHOES

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