Het medium als expressiemiddel: Galina Kurlat

Boy with elaborately hand-tinted tartan clothing, c. 1860 Grand-son of Vice-Admiral Charles John Napier

Laten we even terugspringen naar het begin van de fotografie, 1850-60 met een fraai voorbeeld van een ambrotype hierboven, nog hand-ingekleurd. Hebben we het eerst over de werkwijze, de drager of het medium waarop het beeld verschijnt.

Horen foto’s in deze tijd thuis op een scherm(pje), de tijd van papieren exemplaren, al dan niet verzameld in schoendozen of albums, is nog dichtbij.
Of het beeld door de drager ervan beïnvloed wordt?
De helderheid van het scherm, de duidelijkheid van papier of karton bijvoorbeeld, maar terugkerend in de tijd was de drager (een nog natte chemisch bewerkte glazen plaat) wel duidelijk belangrijk en kan hij in de moderne fotografie ook dienen als vormgever, niet allleen technisch, maar ook artistiek.
Kijken we naar nog een fraaie ambrotype:

Sgt. Samuel Smith of the 119th USCT[1]) with his family, circa 1863–65.

During the early years of paper photography, a thin sheet of paper was used as the negative. The lack of transparency and fibrous texture of these negatives led to research for an alternative material. While glass had been suggested for many years, it was not until 1851 that an English sculptor, Frederick Scott Archer, devised the best method for applying a sensitized coating to the plate. Archer suggested the use of collodion, a thick, sticky liquid which had previously been used by military physicians as a sort of liquid bandage. The collodion, when mixed with sensitizing chemicals, clung tightly to the glass and formed a light—sensitive surface. The only drawback was that the sensitivity quickly dwindled as the collodion began to dry. The plate, therefore, had to be exposed as quickly as possible after coating, suggesting the name “wet process. (O. Henry Mace, Early Photography, Krause Pub.)

Boy wearing a top hat, c. 1858, J. Hickling, Science Museum Group collection

A number of photographers, including Archer, noticed that when a thin collodion negative was viewed with a black backing using reflected light, the image appeared positive. In ]uly of 1854, Bostonian James Cutting took out three U.S. patents based on this concept. In Cutting’s patented process, a thin negative was made by slightly underexposing the plate. Then a second sheet of clear glass was sealed to the image with balsagum (this seal was supposed to protect the image from dust and scratches, but, as we will see, this process did more harm than good). After a coat of black varnish was applied to the back of the plate or to the back of the case, the finished image was placed under a mat and preserver, and then cased or framed. During theearly years, daguerreotype cases were used. Then, as the ambrotype become more popular, cases were made deeper to allow for the double thickness of glass.The suggestion for the name ambro-type came from Cutting’s associate Marcus Root, who based the name on the Greek word ambrotos, meaning “immortal”. Since most existing ambrotypes are of people who passed away more than a century ago, the name now seems very appropriate. (ibidem)

Babbitt’s view of Niagra, c. 1860, Platt D. Babbitt, Science Museum Group collection

Kijken we met deze wetenschap in het achterhoofd naar het werk van fotografe Galina Kurlat, geboren in 1981 in Moskou en naar de USA geëmigreerd kort na de val van het communisme in 1989. Behaalde een Bachelor of Media Arts graad in het Brooklyn’s Pratt Instituut in 2005. Leeft en werkt nu in Houston, TX. Werk van haar is intussen in verchillende international collecties opgenomen.

werk uit ‘Temporal Forms’ 2019
werk uit temporal forms 2019

‘In my work I use two different processes; Polaroid Positive/Negative film and Wet Collodion. Polaroid Positive/Negative is a B&W large format film which has been discontinued since 2008. It is a fragile medium that has a tendency to react to changes in temperature, humidity, and other environmental factors. If uncared for, the film will continue to decompose and change. The organic decomposition of the film which can slowly change the image over time attracts me to this medium. The Wet Collodion process is an in-camera process which was invented in the 1850′s, this labor-intensive process involves coating a glass plate with collodion then sensitizing it by dipping it into a bath of silver nitrate, while still wet the plate is placed in the camera and exposed. Within a few minutes of exposure, the plate must be developed, fixed and dried in order to create the Ambrotype, a positive image on a sheet of glass.’(Onetwelve)

Lulu

The ritual of making a wet collodion photograph is in itself an important aspect to this body of work. Collodion is poured onto a plate which becomes sensitized using a bath of silver nitrate. The image is then developed on the spot to create a physical object and a likeness of the child, an ephemeral event only existing in that one moment.

Electra Tintype

Removed from the day-to-day experience of childhood and photographed in front of a stark, black background, these children express a distilled honesty and tender vulnerability. By reducing these variables, Kurlat creates an organic visual dialogue between sitter and camera photographing her subjects in a quiet setting devoid of distraction; a space that is conducive to the child being completely engaged in the process of making the photograph.

Werk uit Inherent Traits 2011

These photographs are made using the wet collodion process, which was introduced in the 1850’s, this involves coating a glass plate with collodion then sensitizing it by dipping it into a bath of silver nitrate, while still wet the plate is placed in the camera and the photograph is made. Within a few minutes of exposure the plate must be developed, fixed and dried in order to create the Ambrotype, a positive image on a sheet of glass.

Werk uit Inherent Traits 2011

Inherent Traits began as a yearlong project during which I set out to photograph myself a hundred times. Slight variations in gesture, expression and posture become significant once the photographs are compiled. This kind of long-term methodical reflection allows subjects and themes, which would otherwise be overlooked to come to the surface.

werk uit Reclamation 2009-2011

I moved to Houston three years ago, and was immediately intrigued by the abandoned architecture, empty lots and vastness of Houston’s East End. Like many photographers I am attracted to the implications and aesthetics of abandoned spaces. Houston is unique in its mass of buildings and structures left to the elements. Low real estate costs and no shortage of land have created whole neighborhoods left alone to decay.

Werk uit Reclamation 2009-2011

Although I choose the subjects based on an immediate instinctual connection, my familiarity with them varies. Some are close friends and lovers, others are strangers I have recently met. The slow, tenuous process of creating large format photographs, invite the sitter to orchestrate his or her own compositions. I do not direct the subjects, but allow them to move freely in the frame. Each gesture, conscious or not, informs the viewer. While the direction of the subjects’ gaze becomes their choice to reveal or hide.

One day, during my last year at Pratt I walked into my childhood bedroom and realized that the magazine photo’s I had plastered all over my room as a teenager were mostly images made using an antiquated photographic process. Magazine printouts from Joel Peter Witkin, Sally Mann, Minor White, Chuck Close, Michael Mazzeo and Sarah Moon hung all over my pink walls. At this time I had just begun studying wet plate with Jody Ake in NYC and was so grateful for the chance to learn a process I admired at such a young age.

Avril

https://www.galinakurlat.com/

While traveling I did something I rarely do these days… Rather than seeking out specific subjects for existing bodies of work, I took photographs for the simple pleasure of making images. This open way of shooting followed me home, I now find myself making images which interest me rather than trying to fit them into the context of existing work. I hope this way of shooting transcends my older habits and allows for a continuously creative approach to photography.

Grace uit ‘Temporal Forms’ 2019