With an exhibit coming up, I’ve been running prints of images of my ephemeral installations, and here they hang from good old-fashioned wood clothes pins for the ink to dry.
Memories of the hours I spent in the KU art department’s photography studio came flooding back as I hung them. I was out of my comfort zone there — my zone was the clay studio. I found that my hands were not very dextrous in the pitch black as I attempted to roll the Tri-X Pan black and white film from the canister to the developing reel. Many rolls of film, and the images impressed on them, were ruined due to my inability to reliably complete this unforgiving step with perfection. Though I was attracted to the abstract patterns created by the film sticking to itself during development, my professor informed me those weren’t to be printed, EVER. (I’m very tempted to hunt for these, I probably have them somewhere, and print them just because I CAN.)
But the few deemed printable allowed me to experience the magic of watching a print come to life under the glow of the safety light. Swishing the paper lightly — back and forth, back and forth in the developer then in the stop-bath — and watching the image gradually emerge, gave me a sense of wonder.
After college, I used my Canon AE-1 (which I still have) primarily to take slides of my art work, taking advantage of the pro labs to develop my film, and I didn’t pursue photography as an art form.
Once digital cameras became affordable, I purchased a small one made by Hewlett-Packard and learned how to use a computer with a lens. Digital developing certainly doesn’t have the same risk as film, but the reward of watching the image come to life is lost. To me, processing raw images in Lightroom just doesn’t hold the wonder. But I’m very thankful I don’t have to perform any step in the process in the absence of light!
The prints of my ephemeral installations aren’t about the process of photography or the photograph as the object (read my full statement here), they are about the wonder of the installation experience, taking me back in time and place and giving viewers a glimpse of those moments.