Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Diana H. Bloomfield

This month we are exhibiting the work of Diana H. Bloomfield in conjunction with Open Water. We were first introduced to Bloomfield's work when she showed in our Illusion and Chemistry exhibition in February 2011. We fell in love with her work and curated Vignettes, a solo exhibition of her work. Bloomfield has granted us an interview about her work and process.

What originally drew you to work in alternative processes?

I was never a fan of traditional darkroom work.  I printed well enough, but I just didn’t enjoy the darkroom.  That never held any fascination for me. I never had a good darkroom space, where I could work easily and freely, so printing became nothing more than a dreaded chore.  I also grew weary of the constant discontinuation, seemingly without warning, of some truly outstanding commercial photo papers. 

Twenty plus years ago, I was in a gallery where someone was exhibiting some gorgeous platinum prints.  I was just blown away by the luminescent quality, the almost unimaginable tonal range, and the quiet softness of those prints.  I then discovered that platinum prints could be made in ambient light-- no darkroom needed!  I also liked that watercolor papers could be used, instead of commercial photo papers. I could find no one in my area to teach it, so I taught myself.  As long as you have perfect negatives, it seems, you’re good to go.  But I did struggle along for a while, mainly in search of that ever-elusive perfect negative.  While living in Manhattan for a short couple of years, I had a chance to take a weekend course at ICP, with James Luciana, and it was like turning on a light switch.  James is a great instructor, and I learned everything I was doing wrong and was encouraged by what I was doing right. That particular printing process seemed to mesh well with my images, too.  And the process of printing itself, of creating those hand-applied prints, just suited me so much better than traditional darkroom work.  I certainly felt I was more in control of how I wanted my final image to appear.

Listening Vessel, cyanotype over platinum

Describe your planning and photographic process. What inspires you to use one form
of printing versus another, for instance?

I still print in platinum, but more often than not, I print in gum bichromate.  I also mix processes, using gum over platinum, cyanotype over platinum, or platinum over pigment.  So I feel like I have an array of printing processes that I could choose from-- and, of course, so many more out there that I would love to learn.  Typically, though, I tend to look at an image-- even when I’m in the process of taking the photograph-- and I can tell which process would fit the image better than another.  Of course, I’m sometimes surprised.  And since the negative (or digital scan) for platinum needs to be different than for gum-- all of which can be manipulated to a degree-- I often think that the (rare) perfect negative I might have is just screaming out for platinum. 

Often, though, I’ll choose one image and print it in various processes.  I’m intrigued and surprised by how those choices translate.  I find myself mostly printing in gum, though, simply because I find that process so much fun to do and so open to interpretation.  Creatively, the possibilities in gum printing seem infinite to me.  The painterly quality of gum also seems to mesh well with my images. 

 Gaia, cyanotype over platinum

You have said that for you, photographs are all about the past, and your work is very
dream-like at times. How does this influence your subject matter, especially when
making a statement about the present or the future?

What was it that Faulkner said?  “The past is never dead.  It’s not even past.”  Maybe this obsession with the past is an inherently Southern one.  But I really don’t believe you can make images that are meant to be statements on the present, or future, without the past intruding.  It’s there, hovering-- all around us, all the time.  That intrusion (of all things past) gives meaning to everything else.  A statement about the future means nothing if not measured by the past. 

And the sense of the past remains timeless to me.  So-- in an image, for instance-- I might be making a statement about the present or the future, but I strive for that sense of timelessness that really seems dependent on the past, in whatever form-- even if that form translates as fractured memories or dreams.  I’m also very conscious, when making an image, of a sense of time-- of time gone by, of time lost, of time moving on-- and the sense of loss that goes along with that.

The past-- our memories of it-- is often highly subjective, and certainly subject to some revisionist history.  And, of course, the act of photographing and of how we make that final image, is all open to revision and manipulation, too-- just like how we remember.  Choosing to print in gum bichromate, for example, is a way to interpret an image in a wholly different way from what was initially seen. 

So while this might sound convoluted, I feel that the past is completely entangled and interwoven in everything we do-- so much so, that to untangle or separate that from the present and future would be an impossibility.

Dancer, cyanotype over platinum

You have taught many workshops over the years. How does teaching others inspire your work and vice versa?

Being a photographer can be a loner business.  I photograph alone and print alone.  Unless we join some like-minded photo group that meets periodically-- whether online or in real life-- we tend to work in a vacuum.  I know I do.  So teaching allows me to get out of my own head for a while.  To teach someone who is both interesting and interested is enormously fun for me.  I love to see their imagery and hear them talk about what motivates them-- to see what they’re doing, and learn why they’re doing it. I find that fascinating.  To have enough expertise to be able to teach someone what you know, to be generous with that information, is of enormous value.  I find it uplifting.  And to see a student make a successful print-- or to simply watch them learn about the process-- is inspiring in itself. 

We all learn from each other, and I always feel energized, especially when teaching a pinhole workshop, or a printing technique.  I often discover new ways of looking at certain images because of the fresh perspective of students.  Those, in particular, who choose to take an alt process, pinhole, or toy camera course tend to be creative types, and that’s both inspiring and energizing. 

Girl on Beach, cyanotype over platinum

Finally, we ask this of all our artists, what does success mean to you? 

I was in this conversation recently with a small group of people, and someone asked the question, “If you won the Powerball lottery tomorrow, would you continue to do what you’re doing now?”  Without hesitation, my immediate answer was yes. I later gave that question a lot more thought, and my answer was still yes.

About two years ago, we renovated what was an old (circa 1927), nearly crumbling, detached garage and potting shed in our back yard and transformed it into a 600 square foot working studio.  I was able to keep much of the original structure, including those wonderful exposed rafters, laden with character-- which I love-- and some small amount of the original heart-pine flooring which I had made into a sliding barn door.  I put in a big sink and a wide work surface, great lights, and a wood-burning stove-- all the right stuff that just works and makes you feel good about your creative environment-- something I never had up until a couple of years ago.  So it’s just a perfect space for me, in every way-- a dream come true, really.  And every morning, I get to walk out to my back yard, coffee in hand, beloved border collie in tow, and go to work at a “job” I love to do. 

I’m continually inspired by my working environment, by what I constantly see around me, by students, and by those artists I know whose work is so unique, and those artists I’ve not yet met, but whose work I know and also greatly admire.

So I basically get to make art all day long, and through the night if I want. Most importantly, I still have ideas. How amazing is that?  More amazing still, is that people want to see my artwork, and sometimes they actually buy it to put on their walls.  And people will ask me questions, just like these, and put it on their blog.  I’m bowled over by every piece of that, really.

I could go on and on.  I have a great supportive husband, for instance-- and an incredible daughter-- and a brilliant border collie.  I’m not really all that young, and yet I’m still out there running every (other) day. So, you know, all of this feels a lot like success to me. It was a bit of a journey to get here, but I love my life, and I love what I do.  

Middle Island, cyanotype over platinum

Diana H. Bloomfield's work Vignettes is on view at The Kiernan Gallery through June 1.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Open Water Winners: Rahshia Linendoll-Sawyer

Eschewing seamless and other traditional non-spaces, Juror’s Choice winner Rahshia Linendoll-Sawyer chose to shoot in the liquid environment of a pool. “I wanted a figure detached from the ground; adrift in its surroundings.” After scouting and experimenting with locations for a year, Linendoll-Sawyer finally found the effect she was looking for. “My initial experiments failed as the figure looked too contrived […] or worse, the photograph looked digitally manipulated. All of the work is done in lens, no digital manipulation.”

We Are Not Made of Wood 023

Linendoll-Sawyer’s winning image, We Are Not Made of Wood No. 23, is part of a larger series of similarly titled underwater self-portraits. The titles come from a letter Vincent Van Gogh wrote to the owner of a café expressing sympathy for the man’s ill wife: “Diseases exist to remind us that we are not made of wood, and it seems to me this is the bright side of it all. And after that one dreams of taking up one's daily work again, being less afraid of obstacles, with a new stock of serenity…” Linendoll-Sawyer appreciated the sentiment in Van Gogh’s words, and saw a parallel between it and the themes of fragility and confidence in her own work. “[The line] summed up, for me, the strength it takes to be helpless and out of control is often overshadowed by the disease.”

We Are Not Made of Wood 113

Linendoll-Sawyer describes this series as “a narrative on losing control and grappling to regain control. I want to push the viewer to take on a role in the paradox of control – being in control or control-less.” Though a departure from her previous work with miniature environments, it maintains her fascination with water, continuing her journey “from miniature vessels filled with glycerin and objects, to water filled filters, and now myself being underwater in the environment.”

Untitled Electric 03

Recognizing that presentation was critical to how her work would be understood, Linendoll-Sawyer took the unusual step of mounting her images on aluminum and displaying them without a frame.

I wanted to keep as much as much of the glossy, wet feel as I could. I tried many different techniques and settled with the aluminum because not only did it retain the wet feel, it also added a subtle metallic shimmer and a 3D quality to the final piece. The float mount was a natural choice as the framed piece needed to retain the feeling of endless expansion.
Untitled Electric 01

Paradox is a recurring theme in Linendoll-Sawyer’s work, and sees success as a paradox as well. “On one side, what do I want success to provide? For me, it is simply being successful enough to continue making and evolving my work, and on the other side, as the artist, I must be an agent for my own success.”

Out There 02

Open Water is on view through June 1, 2013.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Vicki Goldberg

The Kiernan Gallery is thrilled to have renowned photography critic Vicki Goldberg as juror for our second annual Portfolio Showcase. In addition to having written about photography for the New York Times for 13 years, she has published several books and the texts for more than 25 photographic monographs. We have asked her a few questions about her work as a critic.

Your role in the photography world is often thought of as an interpreter of art, curating, discussion panels, and writing are all manifestations of this role. Do you or have you ever seen yourself as a maker of art?

No, I don't consider myself a maker of art. What I do when I write I hope I do well, but it's not what I think of as art. Nor do I think I could do two things equally well, and I do love to write most of all. (And during the brief time that I was taking pictures, I realized I had quite a good eye but probably wouldn't be a "great" photographer, and besides, every time I went out with a camera I was late to wherever I was going because there were so many things I wanted to record).

How do you approach a critique? What do you think makes for the best critique experience for both the photographer and reviewer?

The reader of a review mostly wants to know if the show is worth seeing, which a critic can approach in a variety of ways, but 'good' or 'bad' isn't necessarily the critic's major message… I'm very interested in context, relation to culture, history, etc., which can't always be put into the mix. See The Power of Photography: How Photographs Changed Our Lives, or The White House: The President's Home in Photographs and History for my interest in photography's influence on and involvement in history and society.

Putting together a body of work is complex. In your opinion, what are the most common mistakes photographers make in their edits or presentation?

Photographers, like other artists, often include too much rather than editing rigorously. It's particularly hard for them to give up favorite pictures, or pictures that were hard to get, and to acknowledge that effort (or even fondness) doesn't necessarily mean good, and more doesn't necessarily mean better. Generally speaking it helps to have an independent eye, since it's difficult to see what is too close to the self.

As photographers, we often find ourselves being lumped into categories and trends. As a photography critic, how do you respond to “trendy” work?

If the work is really good, that has to be noted, even though its derivative status must also be made clear. Generally what I think you refer to as trendy tends to be boring because you've seen so much of it. Then too, it may be a suspect attempt to jump on a bandwagon. Cultural "trends," however, might be something less obvious that work fits into or reflects, and that can be worth deciphering.

The deadline to submit work for Portfolio Showcase 2013 is May 23


Monday, May 6, 2013

Announcement: New Call for Entry!

Eye on the Street
Deadline: July 25
Exhibition: September 4 – 28
Opening Reception: September 6

Street photographers are guerrilla documentarians. They capture the world as they see it, using small and forgotten moments to present a larger narrative. Themes of class, age, occupation, or background are brought to life by small stories that evoke our shared humanity. The keen eyes of street photographers see what others take for granted, and depict the richness and variety of our public lives. For Eye on the Street, The Kiernan Gallery seeks street photography in all its forms.
For this exhibition, juror John N. Wall will select up to 25 images for display in the main gallery, and up to an additional 35 to be included in the online gallery. All images will be reproduced in an exhibition catalogue available for purchase. A Juror’s Choice and Director’s Choice will also be announced.

All photographic media are encouraged.

The Reflection of Desire © John N. Wall 

About the Juror
John N Wall is a photographer and educator from Raleigh, NC. A native of North Carolina, he is a member of the faculty at NC State University. He has exhibited his work in solo and group shows across North Carolina and the South, and has won numerous awards in regional and national competitions. His work has been supported by grants from the United Arts Council of Wake County. He holds a Certificate in Documentary Photography from the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. Wall maintains Southern Photography: The Blog about Fine Art Photography in the American South, named one of the 100 Best Sites for Photographers in 2013 by the folks at PhotographyDegrees.org

For more information and to see submission guidelines visit: www.kiernangallery.com