"Conversations with the Past"
“Conversations with the Past” has brought me back to the reason I’m drawn to photography. Not only creating portraits that are intimate and sometimes uncomfortable, but reflecting my impressions of early historic processes. My works aesthetics have changes since I gave up working with film and 19th century processes such as cyanotypes, gum dichromate, and Van Dyke prints and starting using digital. Last year as I was organizing my collection of 19th century images I was drawn to the flaws that are lost with the digital age. The tintypes with cut corners, nail holes, crazed and cracked emulsions, copper-green stains to the ambrotypes with scratched surfaces and backings, and cabinet cards with rusty looking spots. There is a deliberate stillness to the old images as well with the long exposures and slow processes, rather than capturing a single action.
So the conversation was not only between the historic images that have informed the project by the processes that I’ve not used for 15 years. I wanted to be able to create images that had the same feel as the hand applied photo emulsions gave to my early work. I began painting brush strokes, splatters, stains, cracked paint, pseudo emulsion markings, and other patterns that would look like distressed images. After working with each model I would find a pattern and color that I felt enhanced the portrait. After making approximately 80 digital prints as a "Proof of Concept", I felt I could not get the quality that I wanted and went back to printing cyanotypes. I did not want to recreate an exact backdrop or image style based on the old images. I also feel they reference early 19th century nudes but allow a contemporary interpretation.
Most of the men photographed are gay men from the Bay area and Capital Region of New York that I have met though an on-line modeling website, through friends, or social media apps. The project places them in a historic context where they had no past representations. Although I started the project shooting digital, I transitioned to large format cameras from 5x7 to 16x20 and used traditional film with long exposures. The portfolio has 50 imgages from approximately 45 shoots.
"If these pictures have anything important to say to future generations, it's this: I was here. I existed... and someone cared enough about me in this world to take my picture." -- S. Parrish
16"x20" Cyanotype prints on 100% Cotton paper, $600 each unframed