Letting go of control can reveal unseen truths and allows for art to be better than intended. There are the analogue shooting techniques we know and love, but there are also ways of working a digital print that can evoke similar thrills and amazement.
“Surprise me.” That was where the fun was when I started photography, back in high school. My friends and I would venture into dark places and shoot 35mm with a flash and be stunned at how things turned out when we got the photos back. It was comical and exciting and sometimes randomly revealed some cosmic truth, like finding out buildings have souls.
I currently have 2 digital cameras and 4 analogue cameras, one of which is a Diana F+. Whenever I drop the Diana, or mistakenly do a double exposure, or my children trip the shutter when I’m not looking, or the film doesn’t wind tight enough to avoid light leaking on the edges, it made the images better than intended. Because my town of Phoenix is so sunny and bright, inevitably the frame numbers end up stamped on my images. A recent image had “666,” or maybe it was “999,” inextricably placed square in the image. I’ve learned to be so accepting of these happy accidents that my film scans usually don’t involve any cleanup of dust or scratches.
Love of analogue need not be restricted to shooting film. Post work can be considered analogue, even of a digital image, if the mindset is that they are simply raw material. Digital negatives can be made for analogue contact print processes like cyanotypes and van dykes — all it takes is a transparency run through a printer or xerox machine. Collage and photomontage can be done with the traditional pair of scissors and rubber cement as much as they can be done in photoshop layers.
I recently took a cue from an actress friend who taught me if you want to have people believe you are screaming, you have to actually scream. Simple enough concept. I had a concept where people interact with unseen forces — the invisible hands that manipulate us, things we call “luck” or “fate” or “destiny” or whatever. Perhaps if we recognize these forces exist, we can take control of them and not let them control us?
One way of creating pieces for this series was to take a print of a digital image and do physical embroidery on top of it— strings pulling at a model, mental waves emanating from their skulls, sounds visualized and energy connecting everything like ley lines. Along the similar lines, I took some prints and froze them in a thin layer of water, with some dirt and debris floating in the water. When suitably iced, I made judicious cracks in the surface and rephotographed the whole thing for an effect that I’m not sure I could convincingly portray through photoshop layers. It’s also a surprise, a revelation of how things turn out by virtue of incorporating handwork and physical manipulation to the final image.
I sincerely believe some level of analogue aesthetic is necessary in our lives. It’s the flawed, organic works that age gracefully, create conversations amongst fans and viewers, and excite and surprise the creators.