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.

 

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Ambrotype by Bryan Hiott.  Photo:  Madge McKeithen

A few years ago, New School writing professor Madge McKeithen gave a workshop for my wife’s Blueridge Writer’s Workshop at Lake Summit, NC.  She posted about her experience there on her blog  New York + Points South.  These are some of my favorite excerpts from that post.

Who expects surprise when a creative couple leaves New York for up-country South Carolina? Debbie Rice and Bryan Hiott made the leap in 2012, friends’ admonitions trailing them — “when you move to a rural place, your mind slows down.” A year later, Debbie has produced two successful rounds of the Blue Ridge Writers Workshop, one at Lake Lure, NC, and this year’s at Lake Summit, near Saluda, NC; she is volunteering at Hub City Press and Bookshop, is writing poetry, and has a treasured routine visiting her 90-year-old father’s nearby home every evening. Bryan Hiott is up to his elbows in the ambrotype photography he loves in a spacious studio north of Greenville, SC, and is teaching photography and art history at three area colleges this fall (two more than last year).

The week-long workshop emphasized interdisciplinary work in the arts and combined writing with music and the visual arts.  As part of the workshop, I made ambrotype portraits of the participants as well as landscape images.

Wonderfully meshed with the week’s creative experience was Bryan Hiott’s photography. To watch him work, to hear him speak about it is to take in a history lesson, an artistic passion, a skilled craftsman’s meticulous attention to detail, and a content practitioner’s deep pleasure. Friday and Saturday, he set up his camera and developer’s materials, made ambrotypes of landscapes and then turned more directly to his current fascination with portraits and photographed each of us at the lake house. To sit for Bryan’s photography is an experience like none I’ve had. First there is the photographer — in this case an engagingly intelligent, serious, and yet very funny man. Then there is the process which he calmly, ably narrates, all the while attending to his materials — the box of a camera with its heavy drape, the plastic pans of chemicals — discussing exposure time, the nature of the chemical baths, the “development” of the final product over the course of multiple steps.  As the onsite developer (another box and drape under the carport, not moving), Bryan interacts with the image appearing; there is a sense of creating alongside the mechanism that is different from a typical photo shoot today.  Holding the pose for the time requested (mine for 19 seconds, best I remember) and following the instruction not to smile (smiles held for the time required can look odd, rarely good, he told us) and experiencing something not of this but of a bygone era, something of Matthew Brady, Queen Victoria, the American Civil War, the sense of being seen and not heard was a memorable experience for a group of the wordy sort.

Our very talented friend, cellist Sharon Mulfinger Gerber, gave a wonderful solo performance on the dock as twilight fell and the stars began to come out.

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Sharon Mulfinger Gerber.  Photo:  Madge McKeithen

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Portrait of Sharon – Wet Plate Collodion Ambrotype (6.5″ x 8.5″)

My latest tintype portrait work is featured with the work of three other artists in “New Faces 2016” at the Upstairs Artspace Gallery in Tryon, NC.  The exhibition opened on March 12, 2016 and runs through April 22nd.

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At the Opening of New Faces 2016.  Photo Credit:  Anthony Milian

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At the Opening of New Faces 2016.  Photo Credit:  Anthony Milian

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I will be giving a visiting artist talk at Furman University on June 2nd. The Olli Program for retired professionals has invited me to discuss 19th century photography and to present my wet plate collodion work to a class called “Reflections on Photography.” The class is held in the Herring Center for Continuing Education.  If the weather is nice, I’d like to do a demonstration of the process at the historic Cherrydale house on campus.

Cherrrydale House, Furman University

Cherrydale Alumni House (c. 1857-1860), Furman University

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

Tintype of Robert L. Rice by Bryan Hiott

This is my father-in-law, Robert L. Rice.  He is 96 years old and was at the studio this week, along one of his sisters and his bother to have tintypes made.  It was such a joy to make images of them together, but I especially liked this individual portrait of him. He is old school.  He never wears anything but long pants and a long sleeve button down shirt with suspenders, regardless of how hot the weather is, and he will not leave the house without his trademark hat.   To put things in perspective, when my father-in-law was born in February 1918, World War I had not ended, and the Wright brothers had only pioneered flight 15 years before.  Mr. Rice has seen a lot of change in the world.

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).

Whole Plate Tintype (2014) by Bryan Hiott

Whole Plate Tintype (2014) by Bryan Hiott

This is a tintype portrait of three brothers and their sister, who live in the neighborhood near my studio at Taylors Mill in South Carolina.  Since opening my studio there in 2012, I’ve gotten to know these great kids, who are very interested in my wet plate collodion process. They’re regular visitors on the First Friday art crawl and also stop by to talk whenever they see me working.  I’d wanted to make a portrait of them for some time, and I got my chance this week.  This image also appears in the 2014  World Wet Plate Collodion Day gallery – hosted by Quinn Jacobson.  That gallery honors  Frederick Scott Archer, who invented the collodion process in 1851.  Every year on his birthday, collodion photographers around the world make images to celebrate.

Portrait of Caren Lasseter

Tintype of Caren Lasseter made last weekend outside my studio in Taylors, SC.  This is a whole plate (6.5″ x 8.5″) shot with an 1872 Ross portrait lens.  Exposure 7 sec. during late afternoon.   19th Century wet plate collodion process.

Tintype Photogram

Tintype Photogram

Tintype photogram: half-plate image of a leaf found outside the studio. Contact printed in the darkroom. This was an improv exercise. I had taken my camera down, and then realized I still had a plate in the silver nitrate bath. So this is how I solved the camera issue.  It took less time to prepare and print the photogram that it would have taken to reassemble the camera for a still life shot.

 

 

 

Portrait of cellist Sharon Mulfinger Gerber

This is a new tintype of my friend and cellist Sharon Mulfinger Gerber of Greenville, SC.  She and her daughters visited the studio last Saturday and sat for portraits.  I also made ambrotypes of them during that session.  Image details:  whole plate (6.5″ x 8.5″), 19th century wet plate collodion process.  Shot with a reproduction E. & H. T. Anothony tailboard camera, made by Ray Morganweck of Star camera Company, using an original 1872 brass barrel Ross portrait lens (f/4).  I used two stands of 6500K UV tubes (12 tubes total, 2 of which were black lights).  Exposure time 10 seconds — could have been done in 8 seconds, though.

Tintype Image:  Wet Plate Collodion Process.  Plate Size:  2 7/16" x 3.5"

Tintype Image by Bryan Hiott.  Plate Size:  2 7/8″ x 3.5″ (Wet Plate Collodion Process).

This is a tintype image of the crossing at Reedy River behind the Peace Center for the Performing arts in downtown Greenville, SC.   The crossing is part of Greenville’s vibrant downtown life, connecting two walking paths along the Reedy River near Main Street in an area that features artist galleries, restaurants, shopping and hotels as well as outdoor performance spaces.

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This image is from Tintype Abstractions, a new series of digital prints I have been working on during the fall.  The patterns are from chemical reactions  that are part of the wet plate collodion photographic process.

Image:  Bryan Hiott & Alexander Gardner

Image: Bryan Hiott & Alexander Gardner


Above:  My Dundee, NY landscape (August 2009) combined in Photoshop with an Alexander Gardner image of a dead Federal soldier at the McPherson farm in Gettysburg, PA (July 1863).  Whole plate image on aluminum.


Image manipulation has been with us from the beginning of  photography – whether staging photos or enhancing them in the darkroom or (as we do now) in Photoshop. Alexander Gardner himself staged a shot at Gettysburg, moving a dead Confederate soldier about 40 yards to make his famous Rebel Sharpshooter image in the Devil’s Den. He even arranged the rifle and cartridge box.  Moving a soldier he photographed through time and pixels to 2009 was something of the same staging.

In my Civil War Smash Up, I was following an instinct I’ve had with wet plate to weave in and out of historical period and create a sense of displacement. Combining an actual Gardner image from Gettysburg with one of my landscape tintypes was one step in that direction. I think we’ve become so accustomed to seeing carnage in Civil War images that the tragedy doesn’t register. Transposing a dead Federal soldier to a modern scene asks questions about the sacrifices of that war and what our culture has become.

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Portrait of Debbie Rice.  Whole plate alumitype by Bryan Hiott.  I made this image last weekend during John Coffer’s Jamboree, an annual gathering of wet plate photographers from around the United States.  Actual size of the plate is 6.5 x 8.5 inches.  Exposure time was five seconds with an f8 Dallmeyer Rapid Rectilinear lens.

1/4 Plate Alumitype (3.25" x 4.25).

1/4 Plate Alumitype (3.25" x 4.25").

 

I made this 1/4 plate image of a metronome in motion @ adagio under 5500K compact fluorescent bulbs in a cardboard box.  Process used was wet plate collodion.  Lens:  f8 Dallmeyer Rapid Rectilinear (c. 1891).  Exposure time was 1 min. 45 sec.