Friday, 8 February 2013

On Art & Science:

Artist Melanie K has a nice blog she calls Beyond The Violet where she makes a cyanotype everyday for a year. Seemingly banal items are given a strange hue and look really good in the frieze-like format she displays them on her blog.

It would appear that she is studying Science and Art which is an interesting combination. The history of photography is, of course, tightly wound up with 20th century science and we would not have many of the break-throgh's in science if it was not for photography. Many images of what could be termed science photography are barely perceptable to us as images though and this is why these blueprints are interesting in their beauty and relationship to early science photography, many examples of which were executed as cyanotypes, which is also where we get the architectural blueprint from.

Melanie K's main site is also very nicely done and there are a lot of very interesting photo-experiments on there:

Here are a few images that her work made me think of...

Edward E. Barnard, Nine selected areas of the Milky Way photographed on a small scale, plate 51, 1927, Albumen print.

Emil Zettnow, Microrganism Plate X, c.1902, silver gelatin.

Henri Becquerel, Isolation of gamma radiation in Radium, after Paul Villard, 1903, gelatin silver print.

Becquerel conducted experiments to determine whether photography could detect invisible and dangerous rays. He wrapped uranium and potassium, etc in photographic paper and left them in a box in the dark so that no light could affect them. The photographic emulsion simulated the rays transmitted by the radioactive items transferring them onto the paper and resulting in such highly abstract images as above. Images that are virtually impossible to read as images and so confound our conventional understanding of how we read a photograph. Many of these experiments in photography are still used in detecting radiation even today in the use of small badges with photographic paper inside which, when tested, or developed, can tell whether a person has been over-exposed to radiation. Not as romantic as Becquerel's  early experiments but they've probably saved a few lives.

Frederick H. Evans, Spine of Echinus (Spine of a sea urchin), album page comparing three prints of spines of sea urchins, negative and silver prints made before 1886.

All of these images are taken from: Photography and Science, Kelley Wilder, Exposures series, Reaktion Books, 2009.

Robyn Hasty - Homeland

I am in love with Robyn Kelsy - let me tell you why. She is taking the History of Photography and of antiquated photographic practices and, refusing to be mired in History with it, she has completely bent it to her needs and to me that is truly inspiring.  Kelsy tours the United States visiting the homes and communities of people and organisations who refuse to accept the dominant ideology of existence in the West - that of Consumption and Commerce, or as she explains it:
"a Wet-Plate Collodion photo essay focusing on grassroots efforts to rebuild and re-envision life after the collapse of the American economy." 
In order to do this - and, as I understand it, with little technical knowledge in either analogue or digital photography - she has taken on a technology that, by definition, operates outside of the dominant commercial activity of photography and the result are extremely beautiful.

"The range of projects documented will include urban farms, bicycle collectives, off-the grid homes, alternative fuel producers, art and theatre collectives, community dinners, free schools and after-school programs, squats, itinerants, tent cities and many other grassroots social practices."

As I have been discovering myself, learning how to use wet-collodian is a time-sucking and (initially at least) costly venture but once you have mastered it, your supplies are minimal and you can keep on making pictures as freely as you have japanned metal and/or glass and colodion mix. I applaud Kelsy for taking this on and giving it a modern spin. I worry that too often photographers who take this on (including myself) are either too often mired in the past or they have no specific plans to apply the process to. Kelsy has been an inspiration to me in my plans for wet-colodian - If I ever find the time and money, I hope to start blogging my trials and tribulations in the 'black-fingered art'.

Mad props to Vignette Magazine for doing an article on her a few months ago (and for doing an entire issue of their *free* magazine devoted to alternative proccesses!) and introducing myself and the rest of the UK to Kelsy's work.

She has lots of lovely pictures on her kickstarter blog where she is raising funds for her travel and where you can read updates and see new images as well as lots of interesting images of her process and her portable darkroom, pictured below. Also check out her video for her Kickstarter project where she explains her project in better English than me is able.

...and here are some of Robyn's beautiful Tintypes on display in homemade frames at Kesting/Ray Gallery in New York City. I love the entirely homemade/found aspect of displaying them here.