Walking around Downtown Austin during a global pandemic is a chilling experience. I’m not even sure what else there is to say. One thing I noticed that I didn’t expect was the overwhelming amount of positivity coming from the people that are out.
I happened to walk by the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless and witnessed two very distinct moments happening at the same time: while EMTs loaded someone into an ambulance, The Hand of God Taxi by Donation van was just feet away serving free meals to a hungry line. With permission, I was able to capture this special moment, and even a surprisingly cheery smile.
For my upcoming collection tentatively titled “White Lies” I’ve been testing a series of different papers. At the risk of exposing myself as a novice, my experience in darkroom photography lies exclusively with resin coated papers. With my first round of prints on fiber based paper, I realized how differently this substrate dries. Typically I hang my prints to dry and they relax with time. This fiber based paper, however, has a mind of its own. I made the rookie mistake of not doing enough research, and decided to treat it like resin coated paper by hanging it to dry. In the photos above, you can see that the paper curled wildly once dry.
In an attempt to flatten this paper, I soaked it using an orchid watering can and sandwiched it between two pieces of foam board to dry. Once in the foam board, I loaded a wooden board and a small but heavy manual press on top to try to hasten the flattening process.
On first inspection after 48 hours under the weights, the paper seemed to have flattened! A wave of hubris came over me and I considered this issue resolved. I taped the foam board back together and set it aside for another day just to be sure that it would stay flat. That following day I opened the sandwich and left it open with the print face up for an hour while I cleaned my darkroom.
To my horror, when I came back to view the print it had almost completely reverted back to its wild and curly nature. Many mistakes were made along the way and I honestly should have seen this coming. My plan in the future is to dry them flat, not hanging, and to flatten them further using a heated press. I’ve purchased a relatively inexpensive one online and look forward to another experiment. Stay tuned for the next series of mistakes.
Now that I finally have a new body of work after 5 years of procrastination, I’m reminded of how much goes into finishing your prints. This week I’m practicing spotting and it’s proven to be a brutal lesson.
My tools weren’t expensive and the dye goes a long way, but the trouble is finding the right dilution for specific spots. The prints I’m working with are from a vintage batch of negatives and feature a constellation of scratches and damages. Patience is key when working on these tiny imperfections, especially for someone who hasn’t done this since “Dubya” was president.
Wishlist includes a magnifier lamp, a 30/0 brush, and Huck towels
Terrain by Esther Bramlett
Performed at: REVOLVE: A Movement Display
Working with a multi-disciplined artist like Esther Bramlett was a rewarding experience that involved months of planning and hard work. Terrain was a collective project about emotional intimacy, dependency, shame, and personal exploration. Experiencing these dancers interact with the set gave life to the performance and brought elements of the Texas landscape to a modern dance piece. With dancers Angela Benz, Kylie Phillips, Devon Adams, and Danielle Storey-Loredo, and music by Dan Block, Terrain simultaneously fought and embraced various colors of love to tell a narrative about finding your place within the cosmos of intimacy.
“Sometimes I wish we were given a map when we fell in love, to not only help us navigate a new person but also ourselves. A map that showed us all the other roads that our mainstream culture and society try to block us from experiencing. A map that avoided painful miscommunications, foggy roads, forgotten trails, and most of all, a map that could help us navigate the deep shame of “otherness” perpetuated by the mainstream normalized outline of “boy meets girl, boy marries girl, live happily ever after”. Love is much more complicated than we can imagine and it is important to remember that your map of love is not the same as mine. We should relish in the journey, and take as many detours as we see necessary. Relationships can feel familiar like the places where we grew up or unfamiliar like an uncovered route to a new place. Love is multi-layered and can change as suddenly as the weather. This piece is a snippet of my very personal internal journey across some new Terrain”
-Esther Bramlett - ebdance.com
Photography by Joe Lucky - joelucky.online