LIGHT SENSITIVE 2017 – A JURIED EXHIBITION CELEBRATING IMAGES FROM THE DARKROOM
Juror Ann Jastrab
207 N Gilbert Rd # 201, Gilbert, AZ, 85234
March 7 – April 15
Light Sensitive, an exhibition dedicated to presenting art created using traditional darkroom and alternative photographic processes, has grown to become an internationally acknowledged signature exhibition for this art genre. In the current trend of imagery presented on computer screens and the overwhelming volume of digitally printed pictures, Light Sensitive reaffirms and
promotes the art of handcrafted prints that uniquely belong to the tradition of light sensitive creative processes.
Work this year comes from national and international artists and includes processes like cyanotype, gelatin silver, gum bichromate, wet plate collodion tintype, carbon printing, and more.
“In graduate school in 1993, I took my first and subsequently last Photoshop class. I realized the technology was going to change rapidly and dramatically and constantly and…need I mention the frustrations of Photoshop before layers? (I imagine more than one of you is heading to the kitchen to pour a drink right now just remembering those early days). Anyway, thanks to this experience, my concentration in graduate school quickly became historical processes. I put away my 35mm camera and picked up a wooden view camera and started making my own emulsions and studying all those beautiful techniques from the 1850s onward. I eventually settled on platinum/palladium printing as my medium.
Needless to say, I was thrilled when Alan Fitzgerald from the Art Intersection asked me to jury the 2017 Light Sensitive exhibition. Having a chance to revisit the traditional photographic processes that are near and dear to my heart has been so rewarding. And inspiring. I’m fairly certain that if I go to hell, I’ll be making 4 color gum bichromate prints for eternity and that every time I submerge the paper with the fourth layer perfectly registered, all the layers will float off and I’ll have to start over. And yet, in this coming exhibition, many artists proved that they were not just up for the task of making gum prints, but they made exquisite ones. I take my hat off to Diana Bloomfield, Michael Puff, Megan Smith, Jane Wiley, and the rest who not only had all their layers adhere to the paper, but created superb images.
And then there are the collodion artists….painstakingly poured plates, the pressure of time, of drying emulsion, of moving subjects, of so many variables that can either destroy the image or elevate it to an otherworldly plane where I marvel at how the imperfections make it all the more strange and wondrous. I’ve watched Jenny Sampson’s skateboarder series for years and was excited to put her work in this show along with Tabitha Soren’s baseball tintypes from her long-term project, “Fantasy Life.” And then there were wet plate artists I didn’t know or whose work I didn’t recognize, and the thrill of discovery was upon me, along with the tough decision about which plates to select from Katy Tuttle, Shari Trennert, Rebecca Ross, Kaden Kratzer and Nadezda Nikolova-Kratzer.
The sublime blues of the cyanotypes and the dynamic tonal range of all those platinum/palladium prints and the photogravures and what must be an orotype, the lumen prints, the chromogenic prints, and to see Mordançage prints again (another old nemesis from graduate school – we experimented with this in advance B&W craft, respirators strapped on, gloves snapped on, ventilation systems on high, and stood back and watched as the emulsion lifted off of our gelatin silver prints and, with varying degrees of success, were either transformed into shimmering veils of shadows and light, or more frequently, we witnessed the emulsion wash right off the print and flow into the sink and swirl down the drain. The reaction was usually tears, but sometimes laughter. Another reason I decided to become a platinum printer. There are masochists and there are artists that enjoy making prints… the Mordançage process separated us swiftly. Alex Krajkowski and Judyta Grudzien, you know who you are). And of course, all the gorgeous silver gelatin prints…the birth of my love of photography happened in my high school darkroom thousands of miles from here and decades ago.
The power of this year’s Light Sensitive exhibition lies not just in the fact that these artists are keeping traditional photography and historic techniques alive, but that they’ve also created images that speak to the processes and also speak to us, the viewers. Bravo!”