Sunday, June 01, 2008

Alternative Focus at Silver Eye

Readers in the Pittsburgh area might want to go and check out the Alternative Focus exhibition at Silver Eye Center for Photography. The show, up until June 14, features pinhole photography by Jesseca Ferguson and Tom Persinger.
The two photographers use the same basic technique of lensless photography to achieve very different effects with disparate subjects.
Jesseca Ferguson assembles still lifes using objects she has collected, prints the result using various older photographic techniques, and then incorporates them into assemblages in which old papers and book covers become background to the photograph. I liked the general effect, but was a little disturbed that in some of the works she had used old handwritten documents (letters?), all of which seemed to be in Polish. As a historically minded person, I wanted to know what these documents said (I can read a little Polish and recognized a lot of words, but not enough of the documents were visible) and to feel sure that these weren't anything anyone would ever want. I had the feeling that somebody's interesting account of immigrant life was probably irretrievably cut up and glued up, and this bothered me. As a collage artist myself, I'm always torn between enchantment at the effects people achieve with old materials, and anxiety that they could be ignorantly tearing up valuable books, documents, and photos that simply happened to be available cheap. One man's junk is another man's treasure, but it could be treasure in one way to one person and treasure in quite another way to someone else.
Tom Persinger's photographs, which were what I had come to see, are scenes of forests and swamps. The pinhole process requires longish exposures, so the images are not crisp (leaves move a little, water refuses to be still), but have a rich, almost velvety look. I'm not sure how much of this is the result of the pinhole technique and how much is his printing process (I think they were all silver gelatin prints). There was a time when I was fairly serious about photography, but I only got as far as learning the basics of doing my own prints, so I'm ignorant about the benefits of different printing processes.
One Tree, 2006, copyright Tom Persinger
You can see more examples of the photographs here.

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1 Comments:

Blogger Alex said...

Thanks for introducing us to these artists! Their work is quite intriguing and beautiful. And all the more so because the pinhole technique is risky, time-consuming and unpredictable.

June 01, 2008 6:13 PM  

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