This show presents original, recent work by three photographers who were inspired by the theme of “Isolation”. Their pieces highlight subject matters devoid of people. Empty spaces, architectural shots, nature and urban scapes unoccupied by the masses. Three different visual perspectives on a timely motif.
For me, isolation is a compelling subject, something that we can all relate to, especially now. In this collection, I have taken photographs of urban places, completely devoid of any type of living presence. Of course, cities can be a lonely place for a person anyway, with their cold, hard, weathered surfaces, yet through the lens they can be transformed into a type of industrial beauty. For example, this beauty can be seen in my work as the repetitive pattern of a housing development taken from high above, the light and shadow beneath the intricate structure of a bridge, or the rusted imperfection of a warehouse door set along the pier. I believe that art and isolation can find some common ground, even in today’s difficult situation--it just takes one person to recognize it.
Leave the path
Enter the brush
Continue through the archways
Reach for the door
and set in stone
Observe the boughs
Laden with fragrance
Come out alone
*This body of work (both digital and analogue images) was created in the last two months while on walks on the Swarthmore College Campus.
A few years ago I revisited some alternative photographic processes out of a desire to make handmade prints within the space and practical restrictions of my tiny Media apartment. Cyanotypes, especially, appeal to me because they allow me to combine the convenience of digital photography with a 19th century printing process. Cyanotypes are simple in that they require a minimum of equipment—I apply iron-salt emulsion by hand to virtually any absorbent material, expose to sunlight and develop in trays of water in the bathtub. Cyanotypes are also flexible, with seemingly endless potential for experimentation.
This body of work represents the culmination of my latest explorations with the cyanotype process while adhering to stay-at-home restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The process is slow and timely: an afternoon of printmaking begins several days prior, with the transformation of digital images into large format negatives, the collection of natural materials, the mixing of chemicals and the tearing and coating of paper. Printing itself can be slow and haphazard as it depends largely on the weather. If clouds roll in, the day’s printing session is cut short. If the sun suddenly reemerges, it’s game on. The process of making cyanotypes is well-suited to the slower pace this pandemic has forced me to adopt. I am propelled to new solutions by the failures, pleasantly surprised and just as often frustrated by the serendipity of the process.
I’ve collected snippets of natural elements in addition to photographic images from my infrequent outings—hikes on state park trails and walks along now eerily quiet streets, or borrowed from family gardens and a small-scale flower farm during socially distant masked visits. I press them directly against the emulsion and expose, resulting in ghostly, silhouetted imagery. Historically, the cyanotype process was used to document botanical findings and then later, for making blue-prints. Utilitarian in purpose, but lent an ephemeral beauty by the Prussian blue tone and gestural brushstrokes.
Isolation is a frequent theme in my work, but feels all the more poignant now that I have found myself with more solitude and social disconnection than ever.