Two of my submissions were selected for the upcoming  Alternative Processes exhibition at the SE Center for Photography in Greenville, SC.  The opening will be May 5th (6:00-8:00 p.m.).  The juror for this exhibition is Jill Enfield, an internationally known alternative process artist and educator, who teaches at Parsons The New School for Design in New York City.

Jill has written and lectured extensively on photography.  She recently published, Jill Enfield’s Guide to Photographic Alternative Processes:  Popular Historical and Contemporary Techniques.  She will attend the opening reception and is scheduled to give an albumen printing workshop at the SE Center for Photography on May 6-7.

For this exhibition, Jill selected “Tintype Portrait of Vanessa,” and “Tintype Abstraction #2.”

Tintype Portrait of Vanessa. 19th century wet plate collodion process.

 

Tintype Abstraction #2: archival pigment print from a tintype.

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As part of Alternative Processes:  A Group Photography Show, I gave a visiting artist talk, along with  photographers Kim Sholly and Blake Smith, in the Vandiver Gallery of the Thrift Library at Anderson University on February 2, 2017. We had great attendance for the opening event of the spring semester.  The gallery was packed with students from the Department of Art and Design at Anderson, as well as a large number of interested students other departments.

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Alternative Processes is concerned with non-digital photographic processes, and most of the work in the exhibition was made using the historic 19th century wet plate collodion process, along with traditional black and white darkroom processes.

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Got to meet Sally Mann at a book signing at Malaprop’s Bookstore in Asheville, NC

Yesterday, I was so pleased to meet Sally Mann, one of my favorite artists.  She was at Malaprop’s Bookstore in Asheville, NC to read from her recent memoir Hold Still, and she signed copies of it afterwards.  For over a decade, two of her beautiful photography books, Deep South and What Remains, have been in my collection as points of reference, and I got Hold Still as a gift last year.  It is superbly written.  Most people don’t know that Mann’s first love was writing.  She has an MFA in creative writing from Hollins University.

I have admired Mann’s photography since first seeing it in books, and then seeing it exhibited in New York City galleries.  In a time when most photographers have abandoned film and fully embraced digital image making, Mann remains staunchly analogue in her approach to the medium.  In fact, for much of the last 20 years, she has used the 19th century wet plate collodion process to create her images.  It is a labor-intensive, chemical process that is subject to accidents and contamination that Mann refers to as “serendiptious.”  Each emulsion on glass or metal must be hand-poured.  It is often the accidents of the process that, to use her words, “miraculously transform” an ordinary scene into something incredible.

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The line outside Malaprop’s to see Sally Mann.

Mann has a passionate following among artists and those interested in photography, and this was on full display yesterday.  Her reading at Malaprop’s was standing room only, and many people (myself included) had to wait outside for the book signing.  The line to see her was out the door, stretching down the block and around the corner.  It got longer as the evening progressed.  Driving up from Greenville, SC, my wife and I had been delayed by a traffic accident on I-26, not arriving in Asheville until twenty minutes before the event was to begin.  It was clear from the long line that we had little hope of gaining admission.  Through Malaprop’s window, I caught glimpses of Mann as she read, and could hear parts of what she was saying.

After an hour online, when the Q&A session ended, we were allowed to move inside and form behind those already in the store to have books signed.  I’d brought Hold Still, as well as What Remains and Deep South.  When my turn came to speak with Mann, I told her that I thought I’d overdone it with my enthusiasm.  Mann was gracious enough to sign all three books, and we talked a bit about the wet plate process.  We also talked about a few of the people we know in common  through this archaic process.  It was the sort of thing I wish could have been done over coffee with her for an afternoon!  But as long as the line was and with as many people as there were still behind me, I moved on.

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As an MFA student in photography at Parsons School of Design, I did my thesis work at Gettysburg.  I had been studying the images of the Civil War and was haunted by their tonal quality.  The optics of 19th century lenses, especially Petzval designs, and the time-based aspect of long exposures also interested me, the way a sudden movement would render someone ghostly, or the rush of wind would move tree limbs to change a scene entirely.  It was through seeing both the 19th century wet plate images as well as Mann’s exquisite and emotionally powerful contemporary work with that process that I became interested in learning to do it myself.  I took  a wet plate workshop with Eric Tubman through the Center for Alternative Photography (now called Penumbra Foundation), and later took a workshop with wet plate master John Coffer.

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Image by Sally Mann from Battlefields.  Wet Plate Collodion Glass Plate Negative.

The idea of working very close to home has always been important to Mann, as well as working with the land to which, being Southern, she has always had a very strong connection.  In What Remains, the 2005 documentary about her life and work, she says, “I’ve nothing be respect for people who travel the world to make art, who put exotic indians in front of linen backdrops.  But it’s always been my philosophy to try and make art out of the everyday and ordinary.”  It is no wonder that one of my other favorite artists, photographer William Eggleston, shares this view.  I also agree wholeheartedly with another of Sally Mann’s philosophical points:  that if you cannot photograph the things you love, then you cannot make good art.  This is something I’ve thought about a lot and put into practice in my own art since returning to South Carolina after a sixteen year sojourn in Brooklyn and the Bronx.

As I’ve worked in the wet plate collodion process, I’ve accumulated many images that show extreme effects of chemical reactions and accidents of the process.  Sometimes colder temperatures caused the developer not to flow properly.  In other instances, the collodion was too old and formed on the plate in a mottled way as it was poured.  Then there were also cases of silver nitrate flowing across the plate and leaving traces of movement while the plate was in the camera holder.  Finally, there were some plates that had contaminants on their surfaces — specks of dust, and such.  These are among my favorites.

I’m very pleased to have had a tintype, “Lady of the Wilderness,” accepted into the Wet Plate Collodion Juried Show at the University of Northern Colorado.  This show is juried by wet plate artist Quinn Jacobson, an educator in the wet plate process who has exhibited and taught workshops internationally.   The show opens on January 20th in the Mariani Gallery and will be on view through March 4th 2015.

Portrait of Vanessa - Tintype by Bryan Hiott

Lady of the Wilderness – Tintype by Bryan Hiott

Portrait of Isobelle

Whole plate tintype (6.5″ x 8.5″).  19th century wet plate collodion process.  7 sec. exposure under 12 6500K UV tubes.  I made this portrait in my studio at Taylors Mill.

Tintype Portrait - Bryan Hiott Studio

Tintype Portrait – Bryan Hiott Studio

Tintype Portrait of a Young Girl – one of the art lovers from the neighborhood near Taylors Mill, and a regular visitor to my studio. 19th century wet plate collodion process.  10 sec. exposure under 12 6500K UV tubes.  Image taken with an original 1872 brass barrel Ross portrait lens (f/4).