Although it’s been over a month since I printed these images and nearly that long since I updated my online portfolio of my Thesis Work, I’m finally getting around to talking about them now. Unlike last year’s winter intersession, where I found myself nearly hospital-bound with an extreme case of walking pneumonia, I did everything in my power to enjoy my time off this year and focused completely on the family. I’m quite refreshed after a month off and ready to spend the semester preparing for my Final Review while reshooting a bit and compiling everything that goes into my written Thesis. After a semester mentoring under Christina Z. Anderson, I feel that my project has the professional polish on it that I’ve been seeking for over two years.
Perhaps one of the most frustrating elements of this project is how many favored images I’ve had to leave behind because I couldn’t create a larger narrative with a diptych – finding a common thread between the apparition’s stories, the isolated and ramshackle environs and the slices of life left behind in artifact form. This massive “change” to my project came on the heels of two wonderfully inspiring and successful trips last March to Hatcher’s Pass and Juneau’s Gastineau and Treadwell Mines; all of my shots from both trips didn’t fit into the new schema and were subsequently abandoned. Since then, I’ve tried to find ways to eloquently fit these lost images back into my project without forcibly shoehorning them in because I simply couldn’t let go. Perhaps one of my most favorite image has always been my apparition shot at 3500 feet up in the middle of winter at Independence Mine – but there was no proper pair – that is, there wasn’t until I found myself rummaging through images shot in February of 2013 and came up with this gem:
In my mind, this fits perfectly – and creates that third effect between the wind-swept image of Independence buried in four feet of snow, the cobbled-together living environments and how these stood in stark contrast to traditional lower-48 “modern” living in the downtown districts of Anchorage, Juneau and Fairbanks during the 1940s and 1950s. The path less traveled had been chosen by these miners, even as Alaska matured from its rough-and-tumble territorial years to its entrance into statehood.
Again apparent in this version of the Independence Mine shot, this semester’s worth of work has taken my prints well beyond the 90th percentile; where details lacked in overexposed shadow areas and excessive contrast was uncontrolled before, this newest batch of reprints show the previsualized quality I’ve always wanted out of my work.
The consistency in tones apparent in all of my new prints still amazes me – something that was so elusive in the past is now routine. Images like this following one taken near Ester Dome paled in comparison to other prints due to its somewhat high-key quality – but now, consistent tones allow it to sing just like any other image in the series.
Although this semester seemed like a never-ending stream of test strips, excel spreadsheets and countless procedure and curve revisions, my visits to the darkroom are, once again, full of enjoyment. In fact, I’d be willing to say that they’re even more fun than they ever were – consistently good results will do that to you!
Although I’m always looking for a way to narratively connect my images, I’m also more keenly aware of the formal elements that dictate whether a diptych pairing is successful or not. Previsualization has become key to how I shoot these pairs – and putting the two elements together can, at times, be incredibly difficult. My models have to suffer as I turn every stone in search of artifacts and then spend an inordinate amount of time composing the artifact and scene separately – and then together – with incremental adjustments to ensure that I have the pair I need when I edit them together digitally. This next print, a diptych from a trip in September 2013, shows what crawling into every nook and laying on the ground in every position imaginable will give you:
The last two images are, once again, from that trip in September of last year t0 two local mines. I have to thank the models that helped me out on this particular trip (Sevak and Alice), as with their help, I was able to create some of my favorite images – and images that I’ve been wanting to create for some time.
I had originally shot a similar image to this one during the Spring of 2012, prior to my Midpoint Review, but I was never able to utilize the shots because I never shot an “empty” frame, sans models, to paint my apparitions back onto. I do wish, however, that what the foreground model was *doing* was a little more visible – the lunchbox and food items get lost in the overgrown patch of dead fireweed. What I do like, however, is the interaction between the three (yes, three – look closer!) models and the push-and-pull that the frame creates.
Seeking out representative textures to photograph the artifacts with (or in) is another element of what I focus on when shooting – this provides additional visual unity between the scene and the artifact while also providing variety to the diptych formula. Although I’m not completely convinced this last diptych is a perfect pairing, I do like a lot of individual elements within it.
As always, critique and comments are warmly welcomed.