“I never want to see another picture of ________.” Industry veterans share their pet peeves on themes in contemporary photography. In this series they present their “rule” along with five photographs that break the rule in an effort to show that great work is the exception to the rule.
I never need to see another wet plate collodion photogram.
When I think back to my youth spent visiting museums with my parents, I think about discussions (both ours and those I overheard) about the merits of modern art. I assumed that if an artwork was in a museum, then it must carry some sort of weight or it never would be in such a place. Yet many visitors seemed to think modern art inane, boring, thoughtless, and often without any merit whatsoever. ”Hell, even I could do THAT!” was a common phrase. All I knew was that I simply liked the visceral qualities—the color, shape, and composition. I didn’t need to know why anyone would put effort into making these objects, because they seemed to fill a space in me that was satisfying for these reasons alone. I reacted to them, and that’s all I wanted. Fast forward decades later, I still respond to art with these qualities, and photography (the ultimate “hell, even I could do that” medium), has become my focus. But now, I am also interested in the artist’s intention.
As someone who often looks for images created by analog means, I am regularly introduced to photographers’ latest explosion of collodion-who-knows-what on an aluminum sheet. When a standout like Nadezda Nikolova-Kratzer shows up, I take notice. Her collodion photograms create landscapes from raw materials and light. The word photography quite literally means “drawing with light,” and that is exactly what is going on in the creation of her works. Her series Elemental Forms is a successful vehicle for forging memories, real and imagined, from torn paper and silver nitrate. The images are made with thought, intention, and pure refined skill with the materials used. They may be imagined or reconstructed, but they present the opportunity to journey to intriguing lands. Viewing “Elemental Forms, Landscape no. 39” is like taking a twilight walk along the banks of a slow-moving river in the middle of Nowhere, U.S.A. It is scenes like this that bring back memories of moving through distant lands, alone, but not lonely, as the quiet atmospheric landscape guides reflection. Her images are the road map to lands I wish to travel in. Her worlds are quiet, dark, and flawed, and I want nothing more than to visit them myself, searching through the shadows.
— Michael Kirchoff