Monday, October 14, 2013

Emotional Narratives and the Low Fidelity Landscape

Final landscape shot from the day.  Extreme front rise and front tilt.

"Words are the children of reason and, therefore, can't explain it. They really can't translate feeling because they're not part of it. That's why it bugs me when people try to analyze jazz as an intellectual theorem. It's not. It's feeling."

And so said Bill Evans, quoted during an interview from his Sunday at the Village Vanguard sessions.  He rather eloquently attempted to state how difficult it was to describe a feeling.  I find the same when people ask why I photograph a certain subject.  For me, I find the object in the photograph is often not the subject of the photograph.

When I compose a subject in the viewfinder, I often am looking at describing an emotion, feeling, or sense of something.  Recently, I have found myself moving away from the stale, sterile, and common place type of imagery I often see produced from digital cameras.  There can be a repetitive, unemotional sense of fakery from them.  It has became a rush to perfection that carried no emotion for me.

 Many get caught up in online discussions with long diatribes on per pixel sharpness, shadow noise, creamy this or that at 300% screen magnifications....and have lost all sense of what really matters.  They may as well spend their days photographing passports.  This isn't a put down of digital capture per se, as I use digital gear a fair bit.  That said, something more has caught my eyes as of late.

While I love using old film cameras, and I love the different look of film, a couple of years ago I started looking at some of the old, alternative processes.  One in particular that seemed to carry on a story of its own was the Wet Plate Collodion process.  How can a process carry its own story?

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago.  I joined a workshop put on by the Luz Studios.  Quinton Gordon and Paul Romaniuk hosted a workshop teaching five of us a photographic process that dates back to the 1850's.  Now I often process my photographs as best I can to try and describe the emotion or feeling I felt when I stood behind the camera.  I tend to think of the final, completed image as an Emotional Narrative.  That is how I feel about the imagery that can be produced using the old Wet Plate process.

Each image, because it is hand coated, is a one of a kind.  Because the plates are hand coated and hand processed in the field, you never know what you are going to get.  The final  photographs convey more feeling and emotion than any other process I've used.  These "Low Fidelity Landscapes" tend to be moody and dark....much like my personality sometimes!

After seeing the results, I'm hooked.  Seeing my first plate appear in the developer was like watching my first silver gelatin print appear in my darkroom at age 13.  These samples have all been scanned at 2400ppi on my Epson V700.  Scanned straight from the glass, prior to varnishing the plate.  The range of tones are incredible.  I'll be featuring these, along with upcoming photographs, at my new site.

And for those who really wish to take their photography and vision to another level, I highly recommend looking at some of the workshops held by the team at Luz Studios.  Sign up for their darkroom to produce your own work.  And Quinton, I think Turkish coffee should be mandatory for all photographic workshops!!!

Sometimes we need a push to prompt us to look beyond and step forward from what we have been doing to see a change in our work.  I've stepped back and decided the Wet Plate Collodion process is the best way to describe my photographic emotional narrative. What's yours?

Marks from allowing the Collodiun to dry prior to developing

My first Collodion coating and processing

Slightly overexposed, but still tonally beautiful.

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