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photo-eye Gallery Fluid Documents– An Interview with Diana Bloomfield
photo-eye Gallery welcomes Diana Bloomfield to the Photographer's Showcase with The Old Garden, a portfolio of labor-intense tricolor gum bichromate prints featuring delicate images of floral specimens.

Diana Bloomfield, Autumn Clematis, 2018, Tri-Color Gum Bichromate Print,
 12 x 9 inches, Edition of 5, $1,200

Diana Bloomfield's photography looks and feels different than the majority of camera-based work today. Her labor-intensive tricolor gum bichromate technique, which requires precise registration and multiple layers of exposure to create each individual image, imbues her prints with a feeling of tactile object-hood. Her color palates range from muted earth tones, to bright flashes of yellows, greens, and blues, to delicate pastels and sepia tints. Documentary in spirit, and fluid in expression, the work feels like a gentle nod to the past in both process and subject matter.

Diana Bloomfield in her studio, developing an image
in her signature tri-color gum bichromate technique

Bloomfield’s series The Old Garden, featuring delicate images of various floral specimens from her own yard, is the newest addition to photo-eye Gallery’s online Artist Showcase. photo-eye Gallery Director Anne Kelly met Bloomfield at the PhotoNOLA portfolio review earlier this year, and felt drawn to her work and mastery of uncommon analogue practices. photo-eye recently had the opportunity to speak with Bloomfield about her work and process:

photo-eye:     In your artist statement you talk about the photograph’s relationship to time, and how each image that you document, regardless of subject, is preserved in the past. Can you speak more about what draws you to these acts of documenting, remembering, and looking to the past?

Diana Bloomfield:     While I do try to live in the present, I’m consistently aware that whatever I’m doing, wherever I am at any given moment, whatever conversation I’m having— all of that is also passing me by, almost simultaneously. As soon as the moment is here, it’s gone. For me, the past and present are always colliding. So I make these visual documents in an attempt to preserve those moments that, for me, jog some memory or visually make a connection to my past. It’s never preserved exactly as I saw it, of course, because the memory of the scene itself is fluid and may never jibe with the actual experience, or even in the way the image is ultimately printed. I try to preserve what I saw in my mind’s eye, though, much like keeping a visual diary. Whatever I photograph is of value to me in some way, so I document and preserve that moment in time. The entire process seems elusive, but a visual document works to honor and acknowledge both my past and my present. And if the images ultimately resonate with others in some meaningful way, then that’s a bonus.

Diana Bloomfield, Quince, Tricolor bichromate over cyanotype, 12 x 19 inches, edition of 5, $1,300

p-e:     Even your process evokes the past in method. There is meticulous, physical labor that goes into creating each image. Can you explain your method in a bit more detail?

DB:     Although I do work in several printing processes, my process of choice is tricolor gum bichromate. It’s the only process I’ve ever used that hasn’t bored me after a while, and that’s because the creative possibilities appear truly endless. This is a 19th-century process that involves an emulsion of watercolor pigment, gum arabic, and potassium (or ammonium) dichromate. I use watercolor paper as my substrate. Gum dichromate is a short tonal range process, so the first goal— before ever printing— is to manipulate the image on-screen so that a long tonal range can be achieved in the final print. I do that by uploading my onscreen color image to the computer, and applying a curve that offers a flat, low contrast image. After applying the curve, I separate the image, onscreen, into CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black) negatives. I then print those CMYK separation negatives, using digital transparencies.

My first layer is often the C (cyan) layer, since that’s the darkest of the pigments and creates a good strong base on which to re-register the subsequent layers. I often cross-process and substitute cyanotype as a base— a totally different 19th c stand-alone process— that meshes well with gum bichromate, because the two processes use the same curve. If using gum bichromate for that first layer, I mix a specific emulsion of watercolor pigment, gum arabic and potassium dichromate, pour it on the paper, and brush-coat it to the size of my image. That dries in the dark, and once dry, I lay down the C (cyan) negative on top, and expose to UV light. Although the sun is a free source of UV light, it’s inconsistent, so I use a UV vacuum print frame. That layer I’ve just exposed, typically for about 5 minutes, requires washing in a water bath for about an hour. That allows the dichromate to leach out of the paper, the whites to clear, and everything that is blue in the image remains, while the rest washes out. Once that layer is removed and dried, I then coat that very same print with a black pigment and perform the same routine, this time registering the black negative over top of that black pigment and the cyan layer I’ve already printed. Again, that requires washing, and everything that isn’t black (mostly deep shadow detail) washes out. Some people use registration pins or some other method to ensure perfect registration, but I simply register by eye. I find it easier. I go through yellow and magenta in the same way.

Generally, my prints are anywhere from 5 to 11 layers. Applying so many layers, I do alter the ratio of gum to dichromate to pigment, every few layers, to avoid any muddiness. In the end, what remains is basically an archival print that is watercolor pigment encased in hardened gum arabic. Each print can certainly take several days to a week to make.

That’s the short version of this process, but it does require a sense of knowing how colors work, and how they work together, and an awareness of what ratios and pigment mixes can do to achieve what you want, and also just knowing when to stop.

Diana Bloomfield, Rose Hips, 2018,
Tricolor gum bichromate over cyanotype,
12 x 9 inches, Edition of 5, $1,300
p-e:    Can you talk more about why you use this method, or how you feel that it conveys your concepts and interests better than other processes?

DB:     The gum bichromate process is often unpredictable and certainly rife with variables and surprises, frustration and heartache. But when it works, there’s nothing quite like it. And, for me, those surprises and unpredictability make it all the more fascinating.

The repeated layerings are meant to add a tonality and a saturated richness, yet each layer added also serves to remove all the hard, clearly defined edges and sharp clarity. I like that in my images. Softness and ambiguity results-- even in the colors—much the way we see and remember. In that way, this process meshes with my images, which are almost always first seen in my mind’s eye— and that’s never a clear sharp vision. The process itself, where total control is elusive, yet filled with possibilities, also seems a lot like life.

p-e:     Your statement also mentions the act of opening and closing the shutter to create an image as making a statement... and indeed, to choose to capture something in camera is to confer importance on that thing.

DB:     I do consider the act of photographing as a way to preserve both the present moment, and certainly when looking at the photographs later, the past. For me, those images are akin to a visual diary, but one that is less about what happened during my day, and more about what I might have had in my mind at any given time.

p-e:     How do you choose your subject matter for the images you make?

DB:     I tend to work in series, rather than singular photographs. So I have various bodies of ongoing work, some that began decades ago, that still hold my interest and that I continue to grow. Others, like The Old Garden series, began more recently. Something about the subject matter that I see or that I’ve been thinking about, evokes a memory and connection for me. And I try to put that to paper. I also have a continuing figurative series that I began of my daughter, Annalee, twenty years ago. That’s very much a collaborative effort, where she seems to intuit what I’m looking for in an image— and this work is an ongoing narrative.

p-e:     How does narrative or storytelling play a role in your work?

DB:     I do have a running story in my head about each of these different bodies of work. I like to think that each image can exist as a stand-alone narrative. That is, viewers could see an image, and it might evoke certain memories of their own and easily enable them to weave their own unique story around that one image. However, the images are generally meant to work together as a larger and, for the viewer, a wholly interpretive narrative.

Diana Bloomfield, Lambs Ears, 2019, Tricolor gum bichromate over cyanotype, 12 x 9 inches, Edition of 5, $1,300

p-e:     Do events from your own past ever make their way into your subject matter?

DB:     The Old Garden series certainly overlaps the past with the present in a visual intertwining of my grandmother’s urban Southern garden with my own. Mostly, though, that overlapping of past and present is less overt. But certainly, I don’t think any of us can create without the past intruding into our work. My past totally shaped me and informs how I see and experience the world, so to have my past somehow not make its way into my subject matter seems unavoidable.

p-e:     It seems like playing with pinhole cameras, long exposures, and other more experimental formats and processes are also important to your photography practice.

DB:     Yes; the one problem I’ve always found with still photography is that it is, in fact, so still. I love the fluidity of moving films, and short of going into film-making, I find pinhole cameras, with their long exposures and skewed perspectives, offer a similar type of fluidity and movement. In a slightly different way, toy cameras also offer that softness and fluidity. This is true for the tricolor gum process, too. So I use those tools to exploit that softness, ambiguity, and sense of movement and nuance. And I prefer the unpredictability inherent in each.

p-e:      Can you talk more about how unpredictable outcomes or relinquishing control over the final look of an image-making play a part in the work?

Diana Bloomfield, Hydrangea, 2018,
Tricolor gum bichromate over cyanotype,
12 x 9 inches, Edition of 5, $1,200
DB:     I always feel I’m at my creative best when total control is just out of reach, and a certain unpredictability is a constant. I love the surprises, the promise of discovery, and, most especially, the challenge. I work and print in an intuitive way, and all the tools I use easily play into that. I have an idea about how I want a print to look, but I also want to remain open to the possibilities. Those possibilities can often lead to something new and exciting that I had never even contemplated.

p-e:     Color is used in a wide variety of ways in your work. How do you approach handling color when you make a photograph?

DB:     I’ve always loved the fugitive and dynamic nature of color, which never remains constant, but shifts and transforms with the light, and the quality of that light. Consequently, I’ve never really cared that a scene or figure was perfectly aligned with what I saw, because what I actually saw shifted in front of me, and, once in my mind, also remains fluid. So I try to exploit color in the way I saw and remembered it— often two different experiences— while also maintaining the luminous nature of it on paper, which is not easy and not always successful. To do that, I use thin layers so that all the colors might interact with and shine through the previous layers.The goal, for me, is to create depth, while maintaining a translucence. My combination of watercolor pigments and their repeated layerings work to offer a suggestion of color and hues, rather than something specific and identifiable. I’m also aware that color is extremely seductive, so while color may be the thing that initially draws in the viewer, the image itself is what I want people to experience. So I try to create images that could just as easily stand on their own in black and white. I think about that a lot, even when I look at other photographs. I try to ensure the color works in tandem with the image, rather than being the center, or what holds it all together. Also, in my experience, watercolors often seem a bit too happy, so I also tend to print relatively dark— while still maintaining detail — so that a particular mood is created.

p-e:     photo-eye's Gallery Director, Anne Kelly, met you at PhotoNOLA, and recalls that you were well prepared and did an excellent job presenting your work. Tell us about your experience at PhotoNOLA, and what advice you might have for other photographers who are thinking about attending a portfolio review?

DB:     Thank you, and I so enjoyed meeting Anne and talking with her there. PhotoNOLA was the first big portfolio review I had ever participated in, and it was a great experience. I actually got to see all of my top choice reviewers, including two additional reviewers that were assigned. And all of them were interesting and interested, and just fun to talk to. The best piece of advice might be preparation. I do think reviews can be stressful, but if your portfolio is prepared and presented in such a way that you have no regrets about it, then that eliminates one area of stress from the get-go. You can walk in confident. And, really, just be yourself. That sounds simplistic, but being entirely comfortable with who you are, and where you are (in your artistic life) puts everyone at ease. Do not walk in with a slew of expectations. As with anything, just enjoy the experience and the process itself. You have 20 minutes each with some pretty amazing, knowledgeable people who are willing to take the time to look at and talk with you about your artwork. Ask questions, and relish the conversations— with both reviewers and fellow reviewees. Finally, I thought the Portfolio Walk was a real highlight, so always participate in one. There was such great and positive energy at the one in PhotoNOLA. You never know who you’ll meet, or who might see your work and want to talk with you about what you do, and why.


»Read more about Diana Bloomfield Here

All prices listed were current at the time this post was published.

For more information, and to purchase artworks, please contact photo-eye Gallery Staff at:
(505) 988-5152 x 202 or gallery@photoeye.com

Current Exhibition:
Aeroglyphs & Other Nocturnes

Catalogue Available for Preorder
(Shipping Late October)

Aeroglyphs & Other Nocturnes: Photographs by Reuben Wu
Kris Graves Projects, Queens, New York, United States, 2019. In English. 30 pp., 16 color plates, 8½x9" 


                                                                                 »Order the Catalogue





photo-eye Gallery Gallery Favorites from
Reuben Wu: Areoglyphs and Other Nocturnes

This week, photo-eye Gallery’s staff has the pleasure of picking a favorite work from Reuben Wu's solo exhibition Aeroglyphs & Other Nocturnes on view at photo-eye Gallery through November 16,2019.
Installation view of Aeroglyphs & Other Nocturnes at photo-eye Gallery

While all of Wu’s photographs in Aeroglyphs & Other Nocturnes technically feature enigmatic shapes drawn in the air with light above monumental landscapes, each piece feels unique.  From the vivid, yawning halos encircling towering mountain peaks, to subtle shapes that blend seamlessly into ethereal atmospheres, these works manage to feel cohesive, and yet simultaneously stand as stark individuals. This week, photo-eye Gallery’s staff has yet again been charged with the difficult pleasure of picking a favorite work from the current exhibition.


Anne Kelly Selects: LN 0377


Reuben Wu, LN 0377Archival Pigment Print, 15x20" Image, Edition of 10, $950


Anne Kelly
Gallery Director
anne@photoeye.com
(505) 988-5152 x121
It has been a busy year for Wu. Just through photo-eye he has exhibited work at photo LA, AIPAD in New York, and now, here in Santa Fe, for his solo show Aeroglyphs & Other Nocturnes. All the while Wu has continued to produce fresh new images, like those from the recently released Fields of Infinity, which is truly impressive based on the lengths that he goes through to create each piece. I look forward to seeing what comes next. In the meantime, though all of Wu’s images are remarkable, the first image that I connected to, remains my favorite. There is just something particularly haunting about LN 0377 (Time present and time past Are both perhaps present in future III). I believe that my kinship with this image relates to having spent the last 20 years living in the Southwest. Though I have never been to this particular location, and it is not in New Mexico, the expansive geographic formation with the perfect harmony or dark rekindles memories of camping in the desert (in Diablo & Chaco Canyon) when I first relocated from Colorado to Santa Fe. A reminder of the sense of awe that I experienced exploring my new home state — and other places that I plan to explore in the future. 


Alexandra Jo Selects: XT1768


Reuben Wu, XT1768, Archival Pigment Print, 15 x 20 inches, Edition of 10, $950

Alexandra Jo
Gallery Assistant
alexandra@photoeye.com
(505) 988-5152 x116
I’ve always been drawn to the way that Reuben Wu’s photography is able to compress and overlay a sense of time– past and future legible in the present. His clean, futuristic aesthetics combined with references to ancient symbols and the concepts of the land art movement make his work feel tangible, present, and fantastical all at once. My favorite work in the exhibition is XT1768, one of two works in Aeroglyphs from Wu’s most recent body of work, Field of Infinity, which was created this year in Bolivia.  For me, the most successful aspect of this particular work is the tension between movement and stillness, between passing time and a frozen instant, which Wu is able to achieve. The single line of light down the center of the composition evokes images of a portal opening, an origin expanding, or a heavenly body’s trajectory. And yet the stars in the sky around Wu’s illuminated drone are frozen in place, little points of white light flung out into rich blue. The flooded salt flat below reflects the lighted drone path crisply in a field of bleached whites and pastel lavender-blues. The composition contains a symmetry that draws the viewer directly into the horizon and the un-earthy colors contained there. The viewer sees stillness, yet understands that everything in the visual field is truly in motion, from the drone in flight, to the planet spinning amongst the starts. For me, this heightened awareness of and relationship between scales-- micro and macro, man and nature, earth and universe-- is important to realize, and a comfort to imagine.


Lucas Shaffer Selects AE 1144


Reuben Wu, AE 1144, Archival Pigment Print, 15x20" Image, Edition of 10, $950
Lucas Shaffer
Special Projects & Client Relations
lucas@photoeye.com
(505) 988-5152 x114
If you’re familiar with any of the advertising for Aeroglyphs and Other Nocturnes, than it may come as no surprise that AE 1144 is one of my favorite images from the exhibition. As the individual in charge of designing promotional materials for photo-eye Gallery, I’ve put AE1144 everywhere I could – it’s on the banner outside the gallery, our Facebook cover image, our blog ad, and it’s posted on our homepage. If the word obsession comes to mind, I think that’s a fair assessment.

AE1144 resonates with me because of its striking design and curious emotional impact. Unlike many of the works in Aeroglyphs and Other Nocturnes, AE 1144 gives the viewer more environmental context, there is literally more space and information in the image than Wu usually provides. Using a powerful single-point perspective, Wu illustrates a vibrant green river surrounded by a sloping silhouetted embankment. The composition points toward a trio of precisely-spaced glowing lines hovering at the horizon, and this all is set against the pastel backdrop of the sky at sunset. It’s a high-contrast scene dominated by sumptuous colors, deep black voids, and Wu’s impeccable sense of composition. AE 1144 marries comforting familiar elements with those that seem both otherworldly and unexpected. The effect is both serene and unsettling.

In an interview with Anne Kelly earlier this year, Wu mentioned 19th-Century sublime landscape painting as an inspiration for his work and I feel like that connection is very present in AE 1144. In Romantic period paintings featuring sublime landscapes, artists focused on depicting nature, like craggy mountain cliffs, dark chasms, and roiled seas, to create the feeling of a “pleasurable terror.” While that phrase is a little dramatic, I do think there is something thrilling about trying to comprehend the unknown strength of Nature’s awesome power, even from the safety of the gallery's interior. I think Wu’s work, and AE 1144 in particular, taps into the thrill of the unknown: a complex combination of excitement, curiosity, and anxiety, as it’s related to the future, new technology, and our interaction with the environment. This complexity is one of the reasons I love Wu’s images. The stunning visual design draws you in, but you are also asked to consider deeper questions about the responsible use of technology and the responsible treatment of the natural world, not to mention connections to historical mark-making, and performance. AE 1144 is gorgeous, delightful, and maybe a little dangerous – certainly an image and experience I have enjoyed reviewing on a daily basis.  

Aeroglyphs & Other Nocturnes is on view at photo-eye Gallery through November 16, 2019. If you live in Santa Fe, or happen to be visiting we'd love to have you stop by.





»Read more about Reuben Wu's Process

All prices listed were current at the time this post was published.

For more information, and to purchase artworks, please contact photo-eye Gallery Staff at:
(505) 988-5152 x 202 or gallery@photoeye.com

Exhibition Catalogue Available for Preorder
(Shipping Late October)

*Limited copies available

Aeroglyphs & Other Nocturnes: Photographs by Reuben Wu
Kris Graves Projects, Queens, New York, United States, 2019. In English. 30 pp., 16 color plates, 8½x9" 





Book Review Of Infinite Space Photographs by David Loughridge Reviewed by Sarah Bradley David Loughridge, an early Meow Wolf member, passed away at age 33, leaving behind a large archive of stunning unpublished photographs. Curated to match his portfolio and printing style, Of Infinite Space brings together snapshots of daily life with family and friends, conceptual portraits, and a reproduction of “Hall of Fools,” his 2009 solo show at Meow Wolf.

https://www.photoeye.com/bookstore/citation.cfm?catalog=zj038
Of Infinite Space. By David Loughridge.
https://www.photoeye.com/bookstore/citation.cfm?catalog=zj038
Of Infinite Space  
Photographs by David Loughridge

Meow Wolf, Santa Fe, 2019. 
Unpaged, 11x10x1¼".

David Loughridge was a born documentarian. His photographic practice began as an irreverent record of adventures with friends at boarding school and grew into a deep fascination with portraiture and street photography.

Upon moving to Santa Fe, New Mexico, David’s camera was in constant use: creating thoughtful portraits of his friends and artful behind-the-scenes photographs of the early Meow Wolf collective, of which David was an integral member.

David passed away at 33, leaving behind a large archive of stunning unpublished photographs. Curated to match his portfolio assemblages and printing style, Of Infinite Space brings together snapshots of daily life with family and friends, conceptual portraits, and a reproduction of Hall of Fools, his 2009 solo show at Meow Wolf.

Meow Wolf will be co-hosting an event at photo-eye Project Space to honor David Loughridge and his posthumous monograph, Of Infinite Space.

The opening reception will take place from 5:00pm to 7:00pm on Saturday, October 12th at 1300 Rufina Cir Suite A3. The show is on view through November 30th, 2019.

In anticipation of the opening, photo-eye contributor Sarah Bradley has written some words on Of Infinite Space and her memories of David.



Of Infinite Space. By David Loughridge.

Of Infinite Space is a collection of photographs spanning about 15 years of David Loughridge’s life. He started making photographs as a teenager in boarding school in Maine, and continued to use photography as a way to document, describe and understand life up until his death. He was 33 when he passed away. I knew him during his last five years, a time which included working together on a few massive projects with the then DIY art collective Meow Wolf.

Of Infinite Space. By David Loughridge.
I feel like a terrible choice in writing about David’s book, even though it makes perfect sense for me to do so. No amount of looking at or writing about photobooks has prepared me to see this book without personal distortion. It’s a book where I appear in pictures full of people whose names I can rattle off like classmates in a yearbook. The first time I met David was purely by accident. I found a set of keys lying in the dirt near a bike locked up outside of photo-eye Bookstore, back when it was in the little house at the edge of the Downtown Subscription parking lot. Sitting inside a few minutes before, I had noticed my friend Kirstiann from the window walking bikes with someone I didn’t know, so I picked up the keys and went into the coffee shop looking for them.

I have such a clear image of the look on David’s face when I returned the keys to him. The level of gratitude that greeted me would have been memorable even if he hadn’t become a friend a few months later. He was the type of guy you’d call if your car broke down in the middle of the night. I actually did this once, and without any hesitation, he was there.

I feel David’s intensity again in his photographs. He preferred to draw his photographic world in black and white. It’s a world of long exposures and shadow play, of high contrast. I see so much of him in these images. They are both dark and playful, catching himself mid-back flip or radiant eyes peeking through a circle and glowing like a winking moon. Thinking back on those days, many of his images seem oddly still. He captured quiet moments between exuberances with an eye for interior spaces within the frenetic scene. He found us in moments when we may as well have been invisible, individuals tangled in thought. But I remember enough to know that in some of those isolated scenes 50 people are just out of frame.

Of Infinite Space. By David Loughridge.

David had a disarming frankness when discussing his bipolar disorder. It was part of him, part of knowing him. Mental illness itself can be a kind of distortion and photography was frequently a coping method for him, perhaps a way to trick the brain back into clearer sight. David would photograph at night when he couldn’t sleep, capturing the glow of city lights and self-portraits, fuzzy long exposures in which he’d sometimes depict himself twice. His first collaboration with Meow Wolf, a solo photography show titled Hall of Fools, included an explicit description of his time in a behavioral and mental health hospital. The text began with “Hello and welcome. My name is David. I have a mental illness called bipolar disorder.” Over the course of the three days the show was open, David invited viewers to draw and write on his photographs, which they eagerly did. A number of adorned images from the show, as well as documentation of its install, are featured in the book. His line introducing his bipolar disorder prompted a note saying, “Me too.”

Of Infinite Space. By David Loughridge.

Seeing us through his lens, I recognize layers of David on top of each image. It’s not that he didn’t capture who we were, but his lens distorted us too, and sometimes allowed us distortions of our own designs. Another portfolio briefly featured in the book is a series of nudes that became earnest shared expressions of his friends and their inner selves. Scattered through these pages are projects and candid moments, tender portraits and documentation of shared lives, be they Meow Wolf or with his family. David had a knack for seeing the scenes within scenes, and consistently these images stay with me the most – Nick and Sean gazing at each other while Kirstiann chomps food in the foreground; a nephew learning to stand in a busy kitchen. We are like a Renaissance painting in one of my favorites, sitting around a maquette on the floor at a Meow Wolf meeting, each of us in separate worlds, like our own tiny The School of Athens.

I am too colored with my memories of David to see these photographs without seeing him, but ultimately, I hope others can see him too. Photography was an expression of love for David; it was an act of care, and I hope that his humanity, struggle and kindness will always remain visible.

Order your copy of Of Infinite Space 

RSVP for the Opening

Of Infinite Space. By David Loughridge.

Sarah Bradley is a multidisciplinary artist whose practice spans writing, audio, sculpture, installation, and costume. Her writing on photobooks has appeared in photo-eye, IMA, Phroom and Southwest Contemporary. Bradley is a co-founder of the Santa Fe art space Etiquette, a Creative Director at Meow Wolf and a co-host of the Too Sick podcast.
sebradley.com

Book Store Interview Christmas Day, Bucks Pond Road Photographs by Tim Carpenter Interview by Carlo Brady Carlo Brady sits down with Tim Carpenter to discuss his upcoming book, Christmas Day, Bucks Pond Road. Here Carpenter takes the viewer on a two-hour walk from point A to point B. Nothing much happens along this brief narrative arc, yet Carpenter explores the stillness of this outdoor space with a palpable, almost erotic anticipation, revealing intimate subtleties as the journey unfolds.
https://www.photoeye.com/bookstore/citation.cfm?catalog=ZJ012
Christmas Day, Bucks Pond Road. By Tim Carpenter.
https://www.photoeye.com/bookstore/citation.cfm?catalog=ZH871
Christmas Day, Bucks Pond Road
Photographs by Tim Carpenter

The Ice Plant, USA, 2019. Unpaged, 9½x11¾x½".

In Christmas Day, Bucks Pond Road, his second book with The Ice Plant, Brooklyn-based photographer Tim Carpenter revisits the Central Illinois topography of his first monograph, Local Objects, with a sequence of 56 black-and-white medium-format photographs, all made on a single winter morning.

In Local Objects he meandered this semi-rural Midwestern landscape through changing seasons in an abstract sequence, but here Carpenter follows a straightforward path, literally taking the viewer on a two-hour walk from point A to point B. Nothing much happens along this brief narrative arc—there are fallow fields, standing water, dormant trees, the occasional tire track on worn pavement—yet Carpenter explores the stillness of this outdoor space with a palpable, almost erotic anticipation, revealing intimate subtleties as the journey unfolds.

The following interview took place during a phone conversation between Tim Carpenter and Carlo Brady. It has been edited for clarity and brevity.



Christmas Day, Bucks Pond Road. By Tim Carpenter.

Carlo Brady
Hi Tim, I wanted to start with the text written by Mike Slack, that functions as something as a description for the work, though that is more to do with you’re approach to photography.

“…the photographs in Christmas Day, Bucks Pond Road are less about the confines of this specific time and place than about a poetic strategy for narrowing the distance between human desire and the factual content of the everyday world.”

Tim Carpenter
Yeah, specific time and place is much less important to me than how, as a maker, you place yourself in relation to the world. There’s a constant flux occurring inside each and every person. This flux varies moment to moment: over time our moods change, we gain and lose things and people, we learn, and we forget. Coupled with how the world is also constantly changing around us, and you’ve got these two forces that you’re just trying to wrangle together for moments of understanding or meaning.

One of the great gifts of the camera is that it equips us with lots of different tools for that placement. An obvious one is our feet: we place ourselves physically within relation to the subject matter. Lenses are another. Some bring us in and out, they flatten or deepen the subject, the characteristics of the lens, and how they are used determine how things get shown, or, how they flatten. Through these tools, relationships are created that have never existed before. That’s what I’m really fascinated by, the way a maker says, “Here is how I feel in relation to this world. Am I happy? Am I sad? Do I love this? Do I hate it?” For me, subject matter is somewhat secondary, although it can reinforce and support the work.

Christmas Day, Bucks Pond Road. By Tim Carpenter.

CB
I’m hesitant to ask, but I wonder, how much does the pursuit of a feeling come into play? How do you approach the generation of meaning from that place? Both while photographing, as well as while editing?

TC
It’s funny that you say you’re hesitate to ask that… I wouldn’t hesitate. When I talk to students, I tell them to hone in on what’s in your head. I think that the best pictures are about getting at that ineffable thing, the incredibly strange, idiosyncratic thing going on inside each of us. All of the pictures from the 6 or 7 months I was shooting this book were made in a specific mood that was not necessarily good, but I found it useful. Rather than wallow in it I wanted to see what I could do with it.

However, I’m less interested in a reading of the work in a factual or biographic way. I want a consistent and coherent feeling in a book that gives me something to go on. Of course you’re under the sway of certain emotions whenever you’re making pictures. Christmas Day, Bucks Pond Road is particular, since was all made in one day. It became hyper specific about where I was.

As to the second part of your question, distinguishing between the moment of making and then editing and sequencing… Ideally, one’s shaping intelligence picks up where the inspiration leaves off. When it comes to sequencing this is the sustained effort in photography. You can make something in a mood, but in the sequencing, the work is drawn out from the initial inspiration. Flannery O’Connor describes it by saying: “The work must be both canny and uncanny.”

Christmas Day, Bucks Pond Road. By Tim Carpenter.

CB
Could you speak about the strategies you have for determining the parameters of a project, or a book, in this case?

Christmas Day, Bucks Pond Road. By Tim Carpenter.
TC
My strategy is different from most people I know. I’ve always both admired and been perplexed by people who do research about a place they’ve never been to, or about a profession, or something like that. They say, “I want to learn about that and go shoot it.” I say good on you, because I could never do that. I wouldn’t even know how to start.

I live in Brooklyn, but my parents live in Central Illinois, and that’s where I’m from. I do freelance work here to keep my schedule flexible, and go to Illinois 5 or 6 times a year for a minimum of two weeks. When I go I’m just making pictures. Then I come back and go through all the negatives while I’m also working to make money. Another two months goes by, and I go again.

Things just start to come out after a while. Obviously with this book, for example, I didn’t get up that morning thinking I’d go out and make a book. That just happened. I’m glad for it, but it was just a fortuitous sort of event. Usually it’s over a matter of months or years, where I’ve made a lot of stuff before I see where the strains come about.

I’m also really interested in the idea that the forms of the environment or the picture teach you. Marylyn Robinson says “beauty disciplines,” which I think is another way of saying ‘form disciplines’. She talks about how once she understands a character, limitations arise. Those limitations, however, grant a fuller expression of the chosen subject. In that way, identification of the form and understanding it is not limiting, but rather freeing.

CB
Right, there's a need to meet things as they are, somehow.

TC
Yeah, once you get under the hood, you see what this is. Maybe you see it's almost done, or, maybe that you need a couple more years, or your shooting handheld and you realize you need the movement afforded by a 4x5. You find a way to attend to what you're interested in.

Christmas Day, Bucks Pond Road. By Tim Carpenter.

CB
So, I've read the book a few times, and I'm quite taken by the movement of the images. There's not a whole lot of friction. Enough to keep it interesting, but it hardly draws attention to itself. In the latest reading I got the feeling that I'm walking backwards.

Christmas Day, Bucks Pond Road. By Tim Carpenter.
TC
The book is basically laid out as shot. Occasionally I moved a picture forward or back, mostly in the double page spreads just to make them read properly. So that part of the sequencing was easy, it is what it is. The past couple years I've been reading a lot of poetry theory, and I’m really interested in photographs trying to get further away from the description of an experience and closer to evoking the experience itself. To do that is basically what I think what a true poem is. It short circuits the language, so it's not telling you about something but is making the thing happen within you. The picture is the thing. It's not the description of the thing. The poem is the thing.

We make connections, we break them, we look for things, we say there's hope in that, and we second guess. We third guess. This is something I also get from David Foster Wallace's writing, seeing how that guy's brain worked. How he would write it all out. Here's an idea, here's a sub-note to the idea, here's a footnote to that, but wait, let's go back.

I love the idea of walking backwards. That’s why I structured it in this way. Where there's motifs that appear for two, three, or four pictures before disappearing, only to come back again. If there's a protagonist in this book, its a very unsure protagonist. They’re always looking for something to hold on to and continually rejecting those decisions; looking over his or her shoulder and saying no, trying to make meaning of the very barest things.

Before publishing, I showed the pdf of the book to a notable photographic bookmaker. I don't want to put them on the hook, but they said “I don’t like pictures on the left hand with a blank on the right. Cause I feel like you're looking backwards.” I didn't tell him at the time, but I was really glad because that's what I wanted.

Christmas Day, Bucks Pond Road. By Tim Carpenter.

CB
You've mentioned a number of authors and reading, what other sort of work to do you do as a mean of cultivating... should I say presence, or voice, relating to your image making?

TC
It's something that I'm very interested in, and I like that you used the word cultivating. Mark Steinmetz says that a lot. When I talk with students or younger people, and tell them to to hone in on that strange, idiosyncratic thing that is you, that is cultivation.

There’s a little restaurant in my dad's hometown that has the most sensational cheeseburger with bacon and onions that I've ever had. I draw as much inspiration from that place and that burger as anything. Every piece of music you listen to, every novel, as well as the things you don’t like, the things you reject. I try and really bring all that in.

So, this is very topical. I was talking with a friend the other day, and I was being a little hyperbolic, but was saying Ric Ocasic probably meant as much to me as Robert Frank. He got me as a teenager with a handful of songs that I love unabashedly. In some ways they're more a part of me than when I grew up a little and got a copy of The Americans. That's not to down play Frank, but even a band like The Cars, that's definitely not the most important band of all time, can become a part of you. Just grab all those little bits that you love.

I think a lot about music. Van Morrison's song structures, for example, can be very long. He repeats phrases and teases things out. He makes that song a moment, rather than an artifact of a different moment. His 10 and 11 minute long songs underlay this book, in particular.

Christmas Day, Bucks Pond Road. By Tim Carpenter.

CB
One of the things that I find really heartening looking at your images is the attention I see paid to an internal state, which doesn't feel at all indulgent, but finds recourse in the landscape and invites meaning into it.

TC
Sometimes people ask, “When are you going to go to somewhere else?” Now it has been eight or 10 years that I've been shooting only there. The cameras and film are only there. I don't do anything else anywhere else. These few counties are inexhaustible so far as I can tell.

More importantly, when I was telling you about the flux inside and outside, I feel like there is at least one way for me to control one variable. In that I'm still changing, but at least it's the same place. The seasons change, the light changes, but I'm not going to the mountains or the ocean, London or Chicago. Returning to the same place helps me really see the differences. It may sound semantic, but it lets me see how I'm seeing them. There's a tree up against a house that I put in Local Objects four times and once in Township, the book I did with Ray Meeks. Since then, its owner has cut it down, and I was just like, sad. It was a shitty tree and it didn't matter to anything, but I just really love noticing these things and being really in tune with them. I can't imagine going anywhere else because I'm still so in love with this place.

Purchase the Book



Tim Carpenter is a photographer and writer who works in Brooklyn and central Illinois. He is the author of Christmas Day, Bucks Pond Road, Local objects, and Township, among other books, as well as a co-founder of TIS books.

Carlo Brady works at photo-eye Bookstore as a photobook specialist. He holds a BA in photography and studio arts from Hampshire College. You can reach him at carlo.m.brady@gmail.com


photo-eye Gallery New Work
Three New Series by Bob Cornelis

photo-eye Gallery is proud to debut three new series of palladium prints by Bob Cornelis, Above the Fold, Geometria, and Secret Universe , on the Photographer's Showcase.

Bob Cornelis, Geometria 5, 2019, Palladium Print, 9 x 9" Image, 15.5 x 15" Mat, Edition of 10, $950


Since his debut on the Photographer's Showcase in 2015, it's clear Bob Cornelis is captivated by abstraction's expressive effects, obsessed with materials, and produces sumptuous palladium prints. In his three new bodies of work, Cornelis expands his practice by examining the "clean and classic" beauty of geometrically folded paper in Above the Fold, demonstrating the relationship art and mathematics have in abstraction in Geometria, and building perspective through attempting to visualise the vastness of space in Secret Universe. Below, Cornelis was generous enough to share a short statement detailing his thought process and inspirations surrounding each project.

We are proud to debut Above the Fold, Geometria, and Secret Universe today on the Photographer's Showcase, 9 x 9-inch prints in each project are available in an edition of 10 for $950 each.


Bob Cornelis — Above the Fold



"The project Above the Fold was inspired by the work of an obscure 19th-century Indian mathematician, T. Sundara Row, in his book Geometric Exercises in Paper Folding. Row showed how geometric proofs could be made easier to visualize and understand by using simple sheets of paper and folding them to create many of the linear shapes required in depicting rectangles, triangles, etc.

I have been working with paper as a subject for many years - I love its simplicity and malleability. Paper has a unique and almost endless potential to assume many appearances. In Row's hands, folded paper was made to exhibit both highly functional and surprisingly artistic aspects.

Above the Fold takes that as a starting point to present geometrically folded paper as a subject of clean and classic beauty."
– Bob Cornelis



• • • • •

Bob Cornelis — Geometria



"Art and mathematics share an essential characteristic - both use symbols to pictorially represent abstract concepts. I have always been fascinated by abstraction in my work, so a project exploring this connection made sense and Geometria was born.

In the art world, the practice of abstraction gained momentum in the 19th century when form began to be thought of separately from color and abstract art focused increasingly on structure rather than imitation or interpretation. In the world of mathematics, geometry is perhaps the most visual field of study. And it was also in the 19th century that geometry went through a revolution in which Euclidean geometry, the only recognized form, was joined by non-Euclidian geometries as co-equal ways of depicting the world.

Geometria uses a number of the elements and tools of geometry to represent abstract shapes and patterns that are often found in the art world as well. I created 2-dimensional shapes such as circles and triangles, 3-dimensional platonic solids such as cubes and octahedrons, geometric constructions using a compass and straight edge, coordinate systems with grids, etc to allow me to create multi-layered combinations of these symbols.

My goal with Geometria is to demonstrate the relationship of art to mathematics and to show how beauty is inherent in both."
 – Bob Cornelis



• • • • •

Bob Cornelis — Secret Universe



"Supernovas, black holes, red dwarfs, dark nebulae, stellar streams…

Our vast universe is filled with fantastical objects, some observed, many only the subject of speculation - there are undoubtedly many more of which we have not yet conceived. Supposition about new celestial phenomena has been a favorite pastime of human beings for a long time, from early astrological divination to more modern science fiction. We’ve always wanted to understand our place in the grand scheme of things, an endeavor only recently moving solely from the realm of imagination to that of scientific understanding.

Secret Universe invites you to join me for a moment in my own contemplation of the wonders and curiosities of a universe that might share qualities with our own. It is an imaginary place filled with spheres, vortexes, planes and clouds moving in lockstep with or in opposition to each other or sitting in silent stillness against the black void of the infinite. Here you will find juxtaposed the overwhelming dynamism and the unsettling tranquility of deep space.

Secret Universe is entirely a creation of my mind. Much of my work relies on abstraction - I’m less interested in the realistic depiction of our world than on ways in which our minds make sense of it by extracting and repurposing what we take as real. As I explored the play of these simple shapes and the way they interacted with each other in the small space of my studio, I began to conceive of them as being vastly larger in an incalculably vaster space.

They’ve transformed into a secret universe, born of my imagination, that enables me to consider my place in the scheme of things."
– Bob Cornelis



• • • • •


Bob Cornelis – New Work

All prices listed were current at the time this post was published.

For more information, and to purchase artworks, please contact
photo-eye Gallery Staff at:
(505) 988-5152 x 202 or gallery@photoeye.com

» View All Works by Bob Cornelis

» Read More about Cornelis' Prints

photo-eye Gallery 
541 S. Guadalupe Street
Santa Fe, NM 87501