After spending 14 months minimally interacting with the outside world prior to Covid vaccination, my project “Deep Breath” is driven by my desire to regain comfort and trust with others through portraiture and dialogue. My sitters and I engaged in conversations about how the pandemic has influenced their perceptions of people, our society, our country, while I photograph them with lengthened camera exposures to document the passage of time physically spent in the same room together. As I take in the “new new normal” of being able to be in close physical contact with people again, I aim to attain some level of understanding in how others have learned to cope with what the pandemic has dealt and revealed to them. The outcome of the portraits are chemigrams – an experimental photographic process which frees my work from the presumptions of portraiture, and also abstracts imagery in a way that touches on my varied feelings about being present, breathing in the same room unmasked with my subjects. I represent our conversations, unexpectedly intense and private with many strangers, as abstracted letterform-based compositions that reference the difficulty of communication in our present societal moment.
In my constant efforts to push technical boundaries of the photographic medium, I create chemigrams, but rather than employing their typical lensless visuals, here I introduce serigraphy. After burning halftone screens, I pull a resist through the screen onto the silver gelatin paper, and process the prints in developer and fixer as is common for the creation of chemigrams. I seek a balance among being able to identify a portrait of an individual, portraying the sitters’ motion as the result of slow shutter speed, and allowing the unexpected serendipity of both the silkscreen and chemigram techniques to influence visual outcomes.
Watch an interview to learn more about my concept and process for “Deep Breath”.