A couple of weeks ago, I attended Filter Photo Festival in Chicago. This was my second year reviewing portfolios at Filter and my first time teaching “Finding the Words,” a one-day workshop on writing for press. I was very impressed with both the quality of writing that my students were sharing by the end of the class, as well as with the overall quality of portfolios that I reviewed. In addition, I was able to view Prime, the first annual Filter members exhibition that I juried earlier this fall. Here are a few of the portfolios that I had the pleasure to view and discuss.
SAL TAYLOR KYDD — AVOWAL
In my work I try to understand what defines our connection to the past, what ties us to a place and tethers us to what has come before. It is a reflection on time, and the fleeting moments where we behold change within ourselves and the world around us. It is also an exploration of memory and how we preserve memories; how the discoveries we make when exploring the natural world, rekindle our sense of wonder.
The presentation of these moments, whether in print or book form, preserves them, unique in their detail, universal in their underlying themes. The photograph itself, the photographic object, is a keepsake of experience, a way of recording discoveries that serves as a reminder of what we have lost and what we are attempting to preserve.
I work in alternative processes of photography to produce platinum/palladium prints and I am also very interested in the book form and the art of bookmaking. With alternative processes, the element of time is not inconsequential, it takes time to make a print, a process that gives opportunity for discovery and serendipity. In each of the steps, there is a tangible connection with nature and the natural elements that are brought into the print, which mirrors the content of the work. The artistry of “making” a photograph becomes itself an act of becoming and invention.
MICHELLE ZASSENHAUS — CITY MEETS SEA
At this very moment, as you read these lines, the surf is striking the sand at the city’s edge, over and over. This waterfront was there before this city was built, and it will be there long after it.
My journeys there are an effort to discover, and tune into, the foundation of New York, a city that we’ve come to associate with just about everything but natural beauty. And yet there it is: 11 miles of pristine waterfront beach right here within the city limits.
Light and time are the mediums of photography. I shoot with a large-format pinhole camera, which requires a lot of time to let in the very little light available to create an exposure. Anything not in one position long enough doesn’t get recorded. Conversely, the things that remain constitute a sort of foundation; this is what I capture.
Creating these images is a process of reduction. I distinctly feel that I’m making paintings – or even sculptures – not photographs. Once captured, I slowly carve out the scene that exists among the muck of color shifts, aberrations, and distortions. I take the record of place and time and give it a voice. What’s left is a sort of fossil of that moment. I polish and honor it, and reproduce it person-sized to be relived.
These images are portraits. They are an homage to the natural environment that increasingly requires our love and stewardship. They are a reminder of what we can access despite seemingly unlimited distractions. They are odes to the ocean and the land it laps that are the real, original New York City – the one beneath it all – where it meets the sea.
BRIAN JAMES CULBERTSON — ADVERSE
My photographs question the use of prescription medications as a primary means of treating mental illness without considering the physical and chemical makeup of the individual being treated. I create portraits that exist as a secondhand account of what mental instability and adverse reactions to prescription medication feels like. Since its infancy the photographic image has been used as a means of portraying those living with mental illness as scared, weak, or out of control. My photographs question the role of the photographic image in the conversation of mental illness, and a history of perpetuating stigma. The use of multiple exposures, image layering, and the incorporation of prescription medications into the salted paper print process result in images that are uncomfortable and, in some cases, unstable.
My tintype plates depict small details of natural forms; the fractal patterns associated with an event that is almost mathematical but born of nature. However, each full art piece looks like a topographical view of a distant landscape or a captured celestial episode or a biological, yet mechanical, contraption.