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Photographer's Showcase: Ken Rosenthal


photo-eye Gallery Photographer's Showcase: Ken Rosenthal photo-eye Gallery is pleased to announce That Was the River, This Is The Sea, a body of work by Ken Rosenthal, new to the Photographer’s Showcase. Ken Rosenthal’s dreamy, surreal photographs weave universal themes into personal narratives.

Glow by Ken Rosenthal
9"x9" image, 16"x16" mat, Edition of 10, Toned Silver-Gelatin Print, $1,000

photo-eye Gallery is pleased to announce That Was the River, This Is The Sea, a body of work by Ken Rosenthal, new to the Photographer’s Showcase. Ken Rosenthal’s dreamy, surreal photographs weave universal themes into personal narratives. His work explores the many rigorous cycles of life and death, love and loss and the ephemeral and sensual nature of one’s own experience of these cycles. We sat down with Ken when he was in Santa Fe to discuss the work, the evolution of his style, and his love of making silver-gelatin prints.

Erin Azouz:     How did this body of work evolve?

Terra Firma9"x9" image, Edition of 10
Toned Silver-Gelatin Print, $1,000
Ken Rosenthal:     For several years prior to beginning to work on this series, I had been yearning for a change in direction. I started to consider what things might look like if I stopped printing with the accentuated blur that people associate my work with. When one works in a highly stylized manner for a long time, it can be hard to break away from that for any number of reasons, not the least of which is the expectations of one’s audience. The prospect of leaving my comfort zone was, while exciting, a bit nerve wracking. As an artist, you have to keep moving forward and taking chances or your work will stagnate. There were a number of images that I had wanted to use for some time, and had tried to incorporate into other series, but did not print well with diffusion. Some images blocked up too much, became unreadable in areas. I began printing a few of these images in a relatively straight-forward manner shortly after I completed the series Days Between. This body of work investigates a series of personal transitions, and the ephemeral nature of our experiences, relationships, and lives. The imagery examines, in part, looking at death not with a sense of fear but with an understanding that it is but one of life’s cycles. There is still a very recognizable connection to my earlier work, both in terms of subject matter and conceptual concerns. The series is still highly autobiographical in nature, as is the new series I worked on for three years and am in the final phases of editing, The Forest.

Left: The Great Divide; Right: Trinity
Each image is 9"x9", Editions of 10, Toned Silver-Gelatin Prints, $1,000 each

EA:     Tell us why you still make silver gelatin prints.

KR:     What's not to like about making silver gelatin prints! The darkroom is still a place of magic for me. I love everything about it: the dark amber light, the sound of water running, watching the image emerge in the developer, and how time evaporates. I even love the smells of the darkroom. A well-crafted silver print has such a special quality to it. They can be absolutely luminous and have a near three-dimensional quality. I completely subscribe to Ansel's notion of likening the negative to a musical composition, and the print to the performance. There is so much hands-on work that goes into nearly every one of my prints, especially the "blurry" works from 2001-2009: a lot of burning, several different toning baths, and a lot of brushwork is also involved for both selective bleaching and selective toning. Working on the prints for That Was The River, This Is The Sea was such a joy. I'd forgotten how lovely it is to work in a much more straight-forward manner in the darkroom. I still employed a lot of the same toning and bleaching techniques, and brushwork, but more subtly. The Forest series has been shot and printed digitally, and for any number of reasons that was the way to go. I don't think silver prints would have yielded the look that I was trying achieve in the prints. And I am thrilled with the prints. I fully embrace both traditional analog and digital photography. That said, the actual production of digital prints is nowhere near as enjoyable as the darkroom work that goes into silver printing. There's not a whole lot of soul in hitting Command+P.

Left: Cosmos; Right: Illuminated
Each image is 9"x9", Editions of 10, Toned Silver-Gelatin Prints, $1,000 each

EA:     It seems all of the five senses are engaged for you when you’re in the darkroom, and your sensory perception comes together in a sort of symphonic, ephemeral experience. Is this where all the magic happens for you?

Maquillage, 9"x9" image, Edition of 10
Toned Silver-Gelatin Print, $1,000
KR:     The darkroom is where at least half of the magic has historically happened for me, yes. The darkroom and the making of an image are relatively equal parts magic, as those are the stages where the majority of discoveries occur. Both involve investigative journeys. There are often some illuminating moments when editing and sequencing, but they usually aren't quite as intense. The Forest series is very different, in that the prints are being output digitally. The process of printing hasn't really been stimulating, though I am thrilled with the prints. Working on the files has its moments, but the magic in this series has almost entirely come from the nightly experiences in the forest over the past three years of shooting. It was very exhilarating hiking into the woods each evening. The Selkirk Mountain range, where I've been shooting, has a really strange energy to it. I often feel a bit uneasy, even on the few occasions when I've gone out to shoot during daylight hours. The only other place I've photographed that has such a funky juju is the Badlands in South Dakota. And all senses were truly working overtime in this series. It is incredibly dark and quiet at night, as I'm shooting about 100 miles from the nearest city. Touch, smell and hearing all factored in, particularly in 2012 when I went up to shoot for a month before I had a series of eye surgeries. My eyesight was horrible at that point: I'd lost my night vision, my overall vision was very similar to the look of my diffused prints, and I could only see light and shape in my dominant eye. So when I was shooting at night I had to rely on instinct, my knowledge of the region, and my non-visual senses. And an insanely bright flashlight! If my family knew just how impaired my vision was they would have never let me go out. But I didn't fully realize how bad it was myself until after all the surgeries had been completed. It's fascinating how the brain adjusts to visual degradation, and how one adapts to those changes.

Clearing, 9"x9" image, 16"x16" mat, Edition of 10, Toned Silver-Gelatin Print, $1,000

View Ken Rosenthal's new portfolio

For more information about Ken Rosenthal's work or to purchase a print, please contact Erin Azouz at erin@photoeye.com or call 505-988-5152 ext. 202.

1 comment:

  1. I really appreciate and love Ken's work - I have one of his books and am totally inspired by it. I have worked with film/darkroom for about sixty years, and still do. However I think a comment like "...There's not a whole lot of soul in hitting Command+P..." is total nonsense, for me anyhow. I get every bit as much soul out of one of my digital prints, if not more, than I do out of a darkroom print.

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