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)


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.



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

Robert Polidori: de directe nabijheid van het voorbije

Señora Faxas Residence, Miramar, Havana, No. 1, 1997

De wereld was nooit alleen van het heden. Je kunt het verleden camoufleren, inlijsten of tot studie-object herleiden, maar de confrontatie drukt telkens een verhouding met de wereld uit: wat wij ervan gemaakt hebben of wat ervan geworden is. Dat kan met een zekere traagheid of met ongelofelijke snelheid hebben plaats gevonden. Het ritme van de geschiedenis houdt zich niet aan regelmaat. De chaos is een duidelijk resultaat van menselijk of natuurkundig ingrijpen. Fotograaf Robert Polidori (1951) brengt dat in beeld. Tot in het detail.

Robert Polidori is one of the world’s most acclaimed photographers of human habitats and environments. Creating meticulously detailed, large-format color film photographs, Polidori’s images record a visual citation of both past history and the present times within the confines of a single frame.

Born in Montreal, Polidori moved to the United States as a child. Polidori began his career in avant-garde film, assisting Jonas Mekas at the Anthology Film Archives in New York, an experience that critically shaped his approach to photography. While living in Paris in the early 1980s, he began documenting the restoration of Versailles, and has continued over a 30 year period to photograph the ongoing changes.

Polidori’s additional projects include Havana, Chernobyl, and the aftermath of the flooding post Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. His current work deals with population and urban growth through photographing “dendritic” cities around the world, including Mumbai, Rio de Janeiro and Amman.

Since 2015, Robert Polidori and his family live and work in Ojai, California.

Teatro Capitolo La Havana 1997

All artists, as best they can, make sense of a world that is often senseless. Mr. Polidori’s work, from Chernobyl to Havana — in sometimes dangerous, topsy-turvy, out-of-time places — generally bears witness to profound neglect. A photojournalist’s compulsion and problem is always to contrive beauty from misery, and it is only human to feel uneasy about admiring pictures like these from New Orleans, whose sumptuousness can be disorienting. But the works also express an archaeologist’s aspiration to document plain-spoken truth, and they are without most of the tricks of the trade that photographers exploit to turn victims into objects and pictures of pain into tributes to themselves.(Michael Kimmelman, NY Times sept 22 2006)

Klaslokaal Chernobyl

I certainly didn’t feel any shame while photographing these sites. I simply attempted to portray things as they appeared to me. I never once attempted to execute any embellishments. For this reason I felt surprised and puzzled when criticisms arose. How could I answer the challenges? If I had made these images intentionally ugly would my critics have looked at them more carefully or generously? Likely not. And besides, since when was pathos morally inadmissible in the photographic arts?
I feel nothing when I make these types of photographs. I feel before and after, but while executing them it is my belief that there is only time to accurately act and react. In the few short moments of pause when self-reflection becomes possible, I think of myself as performing some sort of photographic rite of Extreme Unction by commemorating the life trajectories of habitats that were permanently interrupted by cataclysm.

DLes Derniers Jours de Napoleon, Versailles, 2005

Polidori has captured several facets of human experience, from the excesses of Versailles to the turmoil and tragedy of post-Katrina New Orleans. With each image, he eschews nostalgia and judgment, allowing the sharply focused details of the photograph to communicate particular elements of the subject’s psychology and history. Explaining his interest in interiors and architecture, Polidori has said, “Besides the obvious sheltering from the extremes of the elements, people make rooms to live in as if they are animated by an unconscious desire to return to a prenatal life, or even before that, to a soul life. This is what they exteriorize in rooms, their internal soul life, or less magically put, their personal values, if you will.” (Artsy )

Salle de bain de Marie-Antoinette, (33 B) CCE.01.038, Corps Central – R.d.C, Versailles, 2005
Chronophagia ‘La Guarida restaurant entrance, Havana, Cuba 1997’

Maar ook het verre verleden zoals de fresco’s van Fra Angelico geschilderd tussen 1439 en 1444 kun je als fotograaf in hun ruimtelijke aanwezigheid benaderen net zoals de restauraties in Versailles.

The invitation to photograph the frescoes within the Convento di San Marco, as well as the building itself (renovated at the time of Fra Angelico by the patron of the Dominican order, Cosimo de Medici) was a fitting project for Polidori, who believes that rooms act as vessels of memory. Since the 1980s, he has been involved in an ongoing study of the decades-long restoration of the Chateau de Versailles and had previously turned his eye on war-torn Beirut, the devastated landscape of New Orleans and the faded splendor of Havana. By capturing scenes of wreckage, restoration and grandeur uninhabited by human figures, Polidori brings us into communication with the echoes of history that resonate in architecture. These works evoke the inexorable forward thrust of time and its power to reduce people, buildings and civilizations to dust and ruin.

Het beeld van een beeld plaatst het kunstwerk of de architecturale ruimte in de historische omgeving zoals wij die nu ervaren, soms gelijkend op de oorspronkelijke ruimte, soms met sporen van de hedendaagse aanwezigheid. De atmosfeer waarin fresco of ruimte ervaren worden, brengt ons dichterbij hun oorspronkelijkheid of de intentie waarmee ze ontstaan zijn..

Salle les campagnes militaires et le décor des résidences
royale, Aile du Nord–1er etage, Versailles, France
(Room of military
campaigns and decor of royal residences, North Wing–1st floor, Versailles,
France), 1985

Polidori documented the ongoing restoration of the 17th-century Palace of Versailles. His photographs from this series have the scale and architectural sweep of history paintings, he uses light and color to underscore the images’ painterly aura. But instead of providing narrative dramas, his photographs are peopled by a disconcerting mix of construction materials, upended royal portrait paintings, security cameras and discolored walls. In place of the clarity we expect from a museum presentation, historical distances are collapsed and jumbled. Taking us behind the scenes, Polidori offers a case study of the way that historical consciousness is constructed. (Mark Dean)

Enfilade 3 / Aile de Nord, Premier Etage, Salles du XVIIème, Versailles, 2018
Fujicolor crystal archive print mounted to dibond

We moved to the United States from Canada in 1961, when the US was celebrating its American Civil War Centennial. I was 10 years old, and was much impressed by the pictures in Mathew B. Brady’s books that were passed around at school as historical documents of the war. That was when I was touched by the phenomenological power of photography. Ever since I have always been attracted by pioneers and practitioners of the principles of the view camera. The control of perspective given by 35-millimeter cameras is all but nil compared to the large-format camera, and to me this is a fundamental differentiating factor.

Humorously speaking, I imagine I should consider myself a modern 19th-century photographer, intent on documenting the end of the industrial era. Photography came about at the advent of the industrialization process. I wonder how it will fare in the future, although references to the use of the camera obscura go as far back as 500BC in China.

Chernobyl, gymzaal in school

Metaphorically speaking, photography does to time what a wall in a room does to time. It’s a kind of slice of time that is transfixed and only very slowly degrades its semblance. Curiously akin to the quantum of time it takes to forget something. I would say that the emblematic photographic image is a picture from inside a room looking out. I think this defines photography. It’s the metaphor for the notion of first sight. What one saw first.

When I realized the psychological importance of rooms and my commitment to them, I wandered away from cinema. There were other books too, Gaston Bachelard’s Poetics of Space talks about rooms and beehives and a set of drawers, all these receptacle kinds of images, and their metaphorical and psychological undertones.

Samir Geagea headquarters, Beirut, Lebanon, 1994
Hotel Petra #6, Beirut, Lebanon (2010)

La Poétique de l’espace explore, à travers les images littéraires, la dimension imaginaire de notre relation à l’espace, en se focalisant sur les espaces du bonheur intime. Le « philosophe-poète » que fût Gaston Bachelard entend ainsi aider ses lecteurs à mieux habiter le monde, grâce aux puissances de l’imagination et, plus précisément, de la rêverie. Aussi l’ouvrage propose-t-il tout d’abord une suite de variations poético-philosophiques sur le thème fondamental de la Maison, de celle de l’être humain aux « maisons animales » comme la coquille ou le nid, en passant par ces « maisons des choses » que sont les tiroirs, les armoires et les coffres. Il ouvre de la sorte une ample réflexion sur l’art d’habiter le monde, impliquant une dialectique de la miniature et de l’immensité, puis du dedans et du dehors, qui s’achève par une méditation des images de la plénitude heureuse, condensant les enjeux anthropologiques, métaphysiques et éthiques de cette oeuvre sans précédent.

Robert Polidori, Sala Alejo Carpentier, Gran Teatro de la Habana, Habana Viejo, Havana, 2000. Fujicolour crystal archive print
Robert Polidori 6328 North Miro Street, New Orleans, March 2006

Dan Hall: different beauties but similar feelings, ‘Eternal Youth’.

Hij kiest voor ‘nabijheid’, de intimiteit die met allerlei nuances ook het kwetsbare toont. Hij kent zijn modellen, en zij kennen hem. Er is al een verbinding tussen beiden.
Merkwaardig is dat de twee polen van het bestaan, ‘op de rand’ zou je kunnen zeggen, onder de term ‘Eternal Youth’ zijn samengebracht. Zij die de eerste ervaringen van wat gemeenzaam ‘het volle leven’ heet, ervaren, en zij die aan de andere kant de laatste periode meemaken. Dat eeuwig jeugdige wil je duidelijk maken dat niet alleen de uiterlijke schijn hem interesseert maar hij de nabijheid van beiden gebruikt om de kijker zelf te laten ontdekken wat ons verbindt.

Er is natuurlijk ook de spiegeling: je beseft dat het jeugdige de weg opgaat naar uiteindelijk die laatste fase, maar omgekeerd vind je bij de ouderen dezelfde glans die je aantrof bij diegenen die er net mee begonnen zijn. ‘Eternal Youth’ is dus een prachtige titel van zijn eerste solo-tentoonstelling in West-Londen, net voor Corona ons allen het hok in dreef.
En hij is de 17-18 jarige Dan Hall die met de opbrengsten van deze collectie zowel een project voor de geestelijke gezondheid van jongeren als eentje voor ouderen wil helpen financieren.

In many ways, the series explores forms of intimacy and vulnerability, from the delicacy of two young lovers bathing to the poignancy of an older woman looking at herself in the mirror. Joy and beauty radiate alongside a sense of sadness, caught in the full-hearted smile of an older woman gazing out her window or the complicit stare of two teens smoking a cigarette. Younger and older subjects alike share hints of youthful rebelliousness and changing self-awareness.
Dan Hall comments, “I discovered that they have different beauties but share similar feelings of isolation and loneliness.”

Each frame tells a life story. Photographs of everyday domestic life are rich in detail and colour, from modish chequered tiles to vintage china patterns. Cropped frames and original angles show a particular focus on hands, suggestive of a desire for human connection.
Often, windows and mirrored reflections create a multiplicity of frames within each shot, enacting a shared sense of disconnect. Inviting viewers to look beyond the readily available, the series expresses the desire to search for common ground even in seemingly unlikely places.

The images are all shot on an analogue camera. As someone who’s grown up in a predominantly digital age, why do you think so many young photographers today are drawn to film?
For me, the more tactile experience of shooting film took me away from digital. I can slow down and focus more on the composition of an image, connect with the subject more fully. The outcome isn’t instantaneous and each frame counts.

My favourite is ‘Grandma’s Hands’, because it shows the evidence of a long and varied life — the lines and details in her delicate hands show her age and there’s beauty in that.

“I discovered that they have different beauties but share similar feelings of isolation and loneliness.”

How do you define eternal youth?
It suggests that, whatever age a person is, they always have a sense of youthfulness. The young want to be old and the old want to be young. Even though the people in the series are at opposite ends of adulthood, they all share youthful spirits.

Natuurlijk wordt ‘de spiegeling’ ook letterlijk gebruikt in verschillende werken: de werkelijkheid bevragen is haar aan zichzelf spiegelen, net zoals de benadering via een kader van raam of aanwezigheid van een tweede onderwerp: je bepaalt makkelijker je onderwerp door het in zijn/haar omgeving te tonen en die omgeving tegelijkertijd als beeld-opbouw te gebruiken.

Dan’s foto’s willen niet opvallen door een bijzonder perspectief of een modische uitdrukkelijkheid: deze jonge fotograaf bezit nu al de gave om het vanzelfsprekende van de innigheid te tonen: de personages durven je aankijken en verbinden daardoor onderwerp en beschouwer zonder in te breken in het intieme van het moment. Je hoort erbij. Je wordt een lotgenoot.


I’m 18 and I like taking photos.
Born in 2002, British photographer Dan Hall is a student currently living in London. He kickstarted his career with a solo exhibition and photobook aged 17 titled ‘Eternal Youth’ which depicted the contrasts and similarities between his teenage friends and grandparents. Eternal Youth was on display at JM Gallery, London in March 2020.

Bewegende beelden: het verleden dichterbij

Cinema Paradiso

Toen ik tien, elf jaar was, kreeg ik van de heilige man een heus film-projectie-apparaat cadeau waarmee ik 35mm-filmpellicule kon afdraaien -letterlijk te nemen- waardoor een fragment van een oude oorlogsfilm in technicolor met behulp van een grote 100 Watt-lamp op een witte muur of laken verscheen: in de cockpit van een Amerikaanse bommenwerper volgde ik even een kort (geluidloos) gesprekje dat plotseling afbrak en overging in een zwart-wit fragment van een cyclo-cross ergens te lande waar hijgende mannen, fiets op de schouder, een slijkerige heuvel oprenden en toeschouwers lachend in de lens keken.
Het beeld vastzetten om het dashboard van de bommenwerper te bekijken lukte niet want dan kon de pellicule in brand vliegen. Je kon wel even de wielrenner van dienst bevriezen net voor hij onderuit zou gaan maar dan mochten er geen ouders in de buurt zijn om ‘verder draaien of hij schiet in brand’ te roepen.

Via via kregen mijn ouders fragmenten van een weekjournaal en stukken uit de toenmalige trailers om mijn collectie aan te vullen zodat ik met eigen ogen het ontstaan van een beweging kon nagaan, een ervaring die we zelf wel eens toepasten door een ventje onderaan een schriftpagina te tekenen en op de volgende pagina-hoek een armpje steeds hoger de lucht instak. Tussen duim en wijsvinger-cinema.
Beweging in beeld brengen vroeg tijd, zeker voor een ongeduldig kind. Vierentwintig tot dertig prentjes om één seconde beweging te zien.

“We live in an environment where there are moving images constantly around us. But in 1897, this was startling and new and completely revolutionary. It was a different way of looking at the world.”
“The IMAX of the 1890s HOW TO SEE the first movies.”
In 1939, MoMA acquired a treasure of thirty-six reels of 68mm nitrate prints and negatives made in cinema’s first years. Everything that survived of the Biograph film company lives on those reels, including a rare bit of moving image footage of Queen Victoria.

MOMA, The museum of modern art in NY heeft altijd veel belangstelling in film als te bewaren kunstvorm gehad. Zij begonnen al in de jaren dertig met hun archivering en behandeling van oud materiaal.
Daarom enkele van de mooie filmen uit hun collectie waarin de beweging en het zelf film-maken centraal staan. Zalig om te zien! Je moet bij enkelen het nummer (index) van de playlist instellen. We geven het duidelijk weer onder de video. Hier kun je dadelijk mee beginnen: (je kunt ondertiteling instellen indien nodig)

Zoals je kon zien werd door kundige restauratie het verleden op een heel andere manier zichtbaar, dichter bij het heden gebracht. We hebben een verkeerd beeld van dat verleden gekregen. Het verleden is zwart-wit, de personen lopen houterig voorbij, hun gezichten zijn nauwelijks te herkennen. Ik begrijp de verbazing van ingekleurde pellicule waarmee getuigenissen uit bv. de tweede WO een heel actueel karakter krijgen. Dank zij allerlei technieken kan snelheid, beeld en montage voor een verloop zorgen dat gisteren en eergisteren wel heel erg met vandaag verwant maakt! Kijk naar dit prachtige portret van het New York van 1911. Honderd en negen jaar geleden en toch dichtbij. Stel in op index 15. (15/57)

Stel in op nr 15 van de afspeellijst

This documentary travelogue of New York City in 1911 was made by a team of cameramen with the Swedish company Svenska Biografteatern, who were sent around the world to make pictures of well-known places.

Opening and closing with shots of the Statue of Liberty, the film also includes New York Harbor; Battery Park and the John Ericsson statue; the elevated railways at Bowery and Worth Streets; Broadway sights like Grace Church and Mark Cross; the Flatiron Building on Fifth Avenue; and Madison Avenue. Produced only three years before the outbreak of World War I, the everyday life of the city recorded here—street traffic, people going about their business—has a casual, almost pastoral quality that differs from the modernist perspective of later city-symphony films like Paul Strand and Charles Sheeler’s “Manhatta” (1921). Take note of the surprising and remarkably timeless expression of boredom exhibited by a young girl filmed as she was chauffeured along Broadway in the front seat of a convertible limousine.

Het duurde niet lang of de bewegende beelden kwamen in het bereik van een breed publiek. Een mooie collectie van die zelf gemaakte beweging vind je in het leuke filmpje van de Moma Collectie hieronder: je kunt dadelijk starten.

Je kunt nu zelf filmpjes kijken van 1-57 te kiezen in de afspeellijst, een dag of nacht intense kennismaking met verschillende aspecten van het bewegende beeld op een aangename manier door het Moma geserveerd. Onze voorouders hadden van een dergelijke mogelijkheid alleen maar kunnen dromen. Om af te sluiten een filmpje over ‘selfies’, want onze nakomelingen zullen ons niet vergeten als ze ons op elke fotootje naar de camera zien kijken. De vraag blijft: waar zullen ze de beelden die wij dagelijks maken terugvinden? Schilder Tai Schierenberg: