It dawned on me, on the eve of my 53rd birthday, that I’ve been shooting professionally for 16 years and that the most fulfilling times for me artistically were 16 years ago, and again 5 weeks ago.
Sixteen years ago, the experience was fulfilling because I didn’t know what I was doing. All I knew was that I had to learn something different so that I wouldn’t have to go back to the life that I had left.
I would learn f-stops, apertures, and ASAs if it killed me. Focal lengths and depths of field would haunt me until I woke up from a blurred nightmare. And during that time of shooting like a mad man, I felt like a kid. I was trying everything: shooting at night, during the day, fast shutters, slow shutters, standing on my head, holding my breath. As a result of my ignorance, I created the 3 most important photographs in my life.
All where shot in Guatemala with available light. All include my kids (none of which will ever be deemed to be kid photos) and all were shot in black and white. No confusing elements like colour to confound what I was feeling. The best part? I walked out of the lab of Ange Buorda (a friend and mentor) with a paper print in my hand. Not a CD.
Fast-forward 16 years, and I am a commercial shooter in Victoria surrounded by digital cameras, computers and monitors. Yes it’s still photography, but something is missing. It’s not that I miss the smell of developer and fix, but the nature of the workflow has changed. For commercial work, digital photography is brilliant but I noticed earlier this year that I actually was missing going to the lab every day. I was starting to feel that my role as a photographer was becoming that of a technician, not an artist.
Back in July, I took the Stinking Fish Studio Tour in Metchosin, and met an artist named Chiarina Loggia: an intriguing woman, with an intriguing story, and an intriguing way of turning a photograph into an original piece of art. I love her work. She explained that by taking a digital file and printing to a black and white transparency, she could transfer the image to a light sensitive plate that she would ink and press into a fine art print. Not rocket science apparently to some, but it was news to me. What really inspired me was that her work was captured electronically but manipulated using traditional techniques into something that expressed so much emotion. Until then the only means by which I was aware of to come even close (not even close) to what she was creating was with a computer. To me, that didn’t count.
And so I took her course. I felt as elated as I had 16 years ago. To witness the reveal from underneath her press felt exactly like watching my first black and white image appear in a tray of developer. The results killed me. The image originally was, in its own right, a laboriously created photograph; one that I would have been satisfied with had the process ended there. What made it a nostalgic experience was taking that image and transforming it, (getting my hands dirty in the process) and creating an original, unique, piece of art.
The black and white etching at the top of this page is what I created, with Chiarina’s help, from my color photograph above it.
By the way…
The Stinking Fish fall studio tour happens November 27th to 29th. You don’t want to miss it.
For workshop dates, contact Chiarina.