As a fine art photographer, I work to create images that go beyond documentation of places and people frozen in a specific moment of time. My images contain an element of ambiguity, either in time or subject. This ambiguity provides the viewers the opportunity to create a storyline for the image derived from their own life experiences or imaginations. Like the illustration on the chapter page of a young reader’s novel, the print gives a hint about the story that follows. In my work the image is the starting point but the viewer writes the narrative.
A photograph that contains ambiguity of time stimulates the viewer’s imagination. Ambiguity of time can be achieved by the careful selections of subject matter, the camera used, and the printing process. I avoid contemporary automobiles, details of clothing or other familiar subjects that will fix the exposure to a narrow time frame. Landscapes and images of historical architecture are, therefore, common subject matter.
The photographic characteristics of a pinhole camera contribute to the uncertainty of time that the image produces. Pinhole cameras have a “soft focus”, enhancing ambiguity for the time of image capture, quite different from the super-sharp images produced by cameras with high quality lens. Placing the image in time also becomes more difficult because of the monochromatic printing processes used. I often use warm-toned photographic paper to produce black and white images with a slight brownish tint suggesting an aged appearance. Prints using historic hand-applied light sensitive solutions on art paper can also make recent prints seem older. I frequently choose brown-toned prints such as Vandyke and Kallitypes to enhance the aged look of the image.
“Ming Tombs” and “Temple of Heaven” utilize both the pinhole camera and the Vandyke printing process. The subject matter of these prints are centuries old, the characteristics of the pinhole image, and the print qualities of the Vandyke process contribute to the uncertainty of time that I strive to achieve in my images.
I have studied photography techniques and image composition for over twenty years at the Museum School of the Arkansas Arts Center and the Bemis School of the Colorado Springs Fine Art Center and have taught workshops on building pinhole cameras and photography techniques. Also, I have studied composition through years of viewing photography, drawings and paintings in galleries and museums where I’ve lived and traveled. Being married to a visual artist has made this course of study easier. Through this life-long course in composition and techniques I strive to produce images with tight composition and structure but with a degree of ambiguity and freedom for the viewer.