Tag Archives: Printmaking

Blake Odgen: Summer Re Runs

Looking at a post that originally ran in 2009…..

I received my SHOTS magazine in the mail the other day, and after flipping through a few of the pages, came across an image by Blake Ogden. It struck a chord and made me want to see more.

Second Husband by Blake Ogden

Blake received a BA from Bennington College and majored in Painting and Printmaking. While enrolled in the graduate program at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, he began serious work in photography.

In My Grandmother’s House is about capturing family history and explores the passage of time. “The idea for this ambitious project began nine years ago when Ogden had a common humanistic impulse to document his grandmother, Jacqueline Vaughan. Soon after the start of his photographic journey, Ogden was struck by the pressing fact that his grandmother was aging, giving him the motivation to capture all that he could on camera.”

The Darkroom: Nostalgia for a Dying Craft

The thought that most photographers working today will no longer, or will never, step foot in a traditional analog darkroom is remarkable for me. So much of the public imagination historically (and cinematically) with “photography” has been tied to the image of a man or woman hunched over trays of liquid watching an image appear on paper while enshrouded by the warm, amber glow of a safelight. Will that collective image ever be replaced with one of someone sliding a cursor along a histogram while bathed in the cool glow of a Macintosh monitor? Adam Bartos’s new book from Steidl Darkroom sheds some white light on the dying craft of analog printmaking and the environments that have produced most of the medium’s greatest images.

©Steidl—Adam Bartos

The cover of Adam Bartos’s new book from Darkroom.

Bartos is a photographer of the generation where working in a darkroom was a natural extension of the artist’s process and although I suspected this book to be a kind of lament to their near extinction, Bartos himself has been making digital prints of his work for over a decade.

“I’ve never thought that spending time in a darkroom makes for a better (or worse) photographer. That’s a matter of choice and process…The difference might be that I make distinctions about prints because I have a feeling for them as objects with history. Those of us who have spent time in darkrooms may be more likely to share that experience, but I hope that photographers who haven’t will be interested in what the possibilities of printmaking are before thoughtlessly accepting the standard product. It’s quite easy to make a digital print that looks alright, but it’s still very difficult to make one that is beautiful and expressive.”

Bartos’s still-lifes describe how darkrooms are part laboratory and part personal spaces – lived in and decorated with talismans; a ball compass hangs from a safelight fixture, old test prints and penciled notations are left pinned to walls, layers of dust coat unused equipment. (I recall reading a story about the American photographer Garry Winogrand and his darkroom enlarger upon which hung several items including an old bow-tie and a string of rosary beads. When asked about these things he simply replied, “They can’t hurt.”)

I have spent most of my life as a printer in such environs so the first few images bring a flood of memories from the last twenty-five years: Printing in Helen Buttfield’s ancient darkroom above the old Irving Klaw Studio where Betty Page was often photographed at 212 East 14th street; Trying to print on GAF photo-paper that had expired in 1968 – the same year I was born; My printing teacher Sid Kaplan pouring his hot coffee into the developer tray because the chemistry was “too cold”; Coming home to find a pigeon sitting on my film drying lines in my improvised darkroom in my 35th street tenement apartment. Discovering my cat Bun-Bun had once again used one of my 16X20 developing trays as a litter box. Having my exhaust fan tumble out of my window and somehow shatter my downstairs neighbor’s window. The shrill beep of my Gra-lab enlarger timer as it counted down: 5, 4, 3, 2…

Adam Bartos’s Darkroom is available from Steidl this now.

Jeffrey Ladd is a photographer, writer, editor and founder of Errata Editions.

Tealia Ellis Ritter, Alicia

Tealia Ellis Ritter, Alicia

Tealia Ellis Ritter

Alicia,
Barrington, Illinois, 2011
From the Look At me series
Website – EllisRitter.com

Tealia Ellis Ritter was born in Illinois in 1978. She was given her first camera, at the age of six by her father. After attending Columbia College Chicago, where she completed her BA in Fine Art Photography, she earned her MFA at the University of Iowa with a major in Fine Art Photography and a minor in Printmaking. Her interests lie in exploring, in both a physical and emotional sense, the ways in which people present themselves and their environment when they know they are on display. Her work focuses on the nature of longing, vulnerability, self-consciousness and image as a construction. She has exhibited internationally, most recently by The New Yorker, at PRC: Exposure 2011, on Women in Photography, at Catherine Edelman Gallery, by Taschen NYC and in Humble Arts' 31 Under 31 exhibition.

Color Constructions From a Rocket Engineer Turned Photographer

Though somewhat of a complex craft, the art of photographic printing isn’t exactly rocket science—that is, until an artist like Boris Savelev approaches the process, and decides to push it further.

Savelev, who spent his working life in the former Soviet Union as a rocket engineer, brings the same methodical eye to his photography and printing process. He has experimented with color photography since the 1980s, but those early attempts left Savelev unsatisfied with the resulting colors. That dissatisfaction has become a theme for his artistic trajectory; since then he has tried various printing techniques for his photographs. Color Constructions, a new exhibition of his work, represents the apex of his experimentation in printmaking.

“I am writing my biography with them,” Savelev says of his images and the reasoning behind the one-of-a-kind process he prepares himself. “With each new image prepared for printing, my impressions are sharpened and the final print takes on a bright expression, a personal character.”

Savelev got his first major photographic opportunity in 1986. At the start of perestroika in the Soviet Union, Thomas Neurath of London’s Thames and Hudson book publishers visited Moscow in search of “unofficial” artists, and selected Savelev’s work. A selection of those images would eventually be published in 1988 as The Secret City, the artist’s first monograph. Though a success that would gain him international attention, the color quality of the images still left Savelev wanting more from his prints.

The materials used in the process for Color Constructions are surprisingly industrial; for this particular series, the images appear printed on sheets of aluminum, which Savelev prefers for its archival quality and says ensures the “colorful saturation of the hues” in each image. But the process, which does give the appearance of a broader tonal range of color, requires unique preparation for each image. Each panel is coated in gesso, an artistic primer usually used for painting, in order to receive the pigment from each photograph, and is waxed after the image has been printed. Because of the large size and uncommon materials, the image is made with a multi-layer, flatbed printer, custom-made in conjunction with Factum Arte, a Madrid-based studio. According to Factum Arte’s Adam Lowe, in designing the process the studio became filled with 3D scanners and disassembled digital printers.

Courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery

Savelev’s Color Constructions on display in London.

The journey, physical as well as artistic, was a necessary one: “In Moscow no one knows or imagines what a multi-layered print on aluminum is,” Savelev says. “The culture of printing is lost, the tradition of master printers is forgotten, the studios are closed.”

The result is anything but synthetic. Many of Savelev’s images are from his hometown of Czernowitz, where he lived until 1966 when he moved to Moscow. A photograph of a vacant barber shop, dramatically cast in shadows, is an homage to a photographer friend of Savelev’s. The artist, also from Czernowitz, snapped a frame of the same barber shop in black and white that inspired Savelev with its beauty, and he dedicates his own uniquely moody color image to his late friend’s memory. The sum of Color Constructions is a nostalgic view of a Russia no longer in existence; the intent of the printing process is not as a technical exercise, but rather as a means to express the quiet, lonely scenes of former Soviet cities as faithfully as possible. The soft, dreamy colors that Savelev’s process renders are true to his film and his eye, which appear timeless—indeed, the series remains cohesive while including images shot in the past year as well as in the mid 1980s—and show the Russian landscape in an extraordinarily contemplative manner.

Savelev’s images belie the story of an artist seeking to overcome the gap between the image’s original emotive quality, and its representation on the printed surface. Through a process he’s honed slowly since beginning his career in photography decades ago, the complete control over the images is worth the effort, both for the viewer and the artist.

“I do not regret the time spent in search of new technology, or studying early methods and solutions, opening up for myself something personal,” Savelev says. “For me, the final goal is the print.”

Color Constructions is on display at the Michael Hoppen Gallery in London through Jan. 21.

barbara astman: wonderland

wonderland 2008
there are endless possibilities for narratives within found objects. astman is fascinated with postcards acting as syntheses between personal memories and a constructed reality. in on photography, susan sontag speaks of motives of collecting images from which stories flourish: “to collect photographs is to collect the world. movie and television programs light up walls, flicker, and go out; but with still photographs the image is also an object, lightweight, cheap to produce, easy to carry about, accumulate, store”. postcards represent a quintessential moment where photography becomes object.

using digital techniques to position the postcards within negative space, astman captures the feeling of flipping through stacks; harnessing a tension between motion and stillness. the body of work is about the relationship between the real and the artificial, and how experience can occur through artificial representation of the real.

the idea of collecting is significant, as a collection is a form of record in one’s life. as a child, postcards and encyclopedias made astman realize there was a larger world outside of her neighborhood. she would stare at the postcard long enough to imagine herself being there, preferring the postcard version of reality. astman is most interested in the postcards that represent a naive world void of worldly problems.

pre-digital postcards present an intersection of photography, printmaking, drawing and painting with their heavily re-worked and refined imagery. photographing these postcards re-enforces the multitude of reproductions that make up popular culture, and the complex and involved relationship contemporary culture has with the past.

(from notes at ccca.ca)

all content copyright © barbara astman all rights reserved
via centre for contemporary canadian art database

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