Friday, December 13, 2019

Daguerrean Dream, Visual Symphony - Part I

Daguerrean Dream
Visual Symphony, Part I
Sonata in Natural Color

  While moving through the passages of life, each of us carries a unique melody, a certain rhythm, a distinct tune. This tune has its origin within physical world, but is given structure and final form by filters of our perception.  Each sight we see is akin to a musical note in a score, and our emotional responses are sounds, generated from that static symbolic mark, but given flavor by each performer.  Most times this melody goes entirely unnoticed, as if a current under a moored boat, gently swaying our experience to and fro. At times though, with or without intent, we are set adrift upon that ever-present current, and get a chance to merge with it in much more viscerally and raw ways.  When we focus our conscious attention on such unconscious forces as dreams and unadulterated imagination, the unseen can briefly be glimpsed, and it is those visions that we fix upon page or plate to communicate them to the world.  
  Dreams have always played an important role in my life.  Ever since I can recall, I was caught day-dreaming at all various places and occasions, and my imagination constantly ran wild given even the slightest opportunity.  Reality was a merely a playground for my mind.  When asleep, I dreamed in color, and sometimes those fleeting visions of the night left deep impressions upon me, affecting the day as if a color filter was placed over it.  These experiences led me to gravitate toward photography as a medium of choice for transcribing such ethereal notion as personal perception of reality into visual format.  Rooted in physical properties of interplay between light and substance, photography allows the maker for a screen of each individual’s dream-state to reveal intricate patterns of deeply personal nature.  Manipulation of photographic substances and equipment during the process of creation, is a transformation of visions of our dreams into form that can be experienced by others.
  Works presented here comprise an introductory piece, a sonata, part of a visual symphony.  This symphony uses nanoparticles of silver instead of musical notations,  and acts to stimulate the visual rather than auditory sense.  The sonata before you is meant to familiarize viewer’s eye with previously unexplored pallet of natural daguerreotype colors and textures, which lay dormant now for too long.   I wanted to rethink the original method by which faithful images from nature were obtained. In doing so, I felt unhindered by predisposition. While charting the course of my exploration almost entirely empirically, I melded and reformed with each new phase of discovery.   Colors, shades, tones, and offspring of their interactions dance upon the plate, reflecting the varied moods of dreams.  Accessing those dreams and seeing them solidified upon a silver plate is a joy like no other I’ve experienced.


Water Drop

Sun Splash

Mind Works



Dark Matter

City Bustle

Spheres of Influence

  On process:
  Why daguerreotype?  That’s simple, but it’s a two-part explanation. 
  First off, daguerreotypes images are entirely unique, with each plate being as precious and unrepeatable as a single dream.  Finesse of detail, variety of possible textures and colors, incredible stability and longevity those qualities attracted me from the start, Attentive investigation into these aspect revealed to me new horizons, just as dreams often do.  While creating a daguerreotype, one has to keep a constant focus in their mind.  Mindfulness is paramount to success, and, just like in dreams, one single seemingly insignificant detail can in fact be the main determining factor, the crux and cornerstone of a particular lesson.
  Secondly, aside from its nearly unlimited resolution and mesmerizingly holographic appearance, daguerreotype, with its unmatched historic significance, also happens to have the most untapped potential of any other I’ve encountered over the three decades of my photographic journey.  Since the first time I saw a high quality daguerreotype made in front of me over eight years ago, I felt a relentless pull to translate my vision into daguerreotype format.  It took a number of years to get started, and then as many years to get proficient in this demanding, and very physical process.  Once I was able to portray upon a silver plate that which I envisioned, I wanted to make this noble process truly my own.  I saw a multitude of potential treatments of it that went unnoticed or unutilized now for 180 years.  Daguerreotype brought forth to the world the art of photography, but since that momentous occasion, remained nearly completely stagnant.
  My journey into this visual symphony aimed to simultaneously develop new syntax for both my own artistic expression and for this wonderful process.  Surprises amid exploration of its hidden properties, felt in perfect unison with what it is like for me to experience moments of vivid dreaming, or when I let down all guards and let imagination carry me forth to form new imagery with nothing but firing of synapse groups.
 Nanoparticles composing daguerreotype image, each indistinguishable with naked eye, unite in a symphony of a structured semblance, sometimes arranging themselves to mirror a likeness of things material, at other times conveying something much more elusive.  Every time I look at a plate, prior to setting in motion choreographed steps of polishing, fuming, exposing, developing, and gilding parts of the daguerrean dance, I feel as if in a trance; waiting for the final reveal during final drying stage, is like waiting for the morning, when with first blinks of freshly opened eyes, I can still see the colors that danced before me in my slumber.

On Presentation:
  Daguerreotype’s intrinsic potential for wide variety of color through effects of refraction and opalescence were just of the many untapped potentials I saw in the process.  I hear modern makers refer to instances when a plate has strong opalescent effect as ‘a bit of good luck’, while I wanted to investigate all the potential it had to offer.  If you ever held an abalone shell in your hand, and watched the colors play upon its surface as you let sunlight strike it at different angles, then perhaps you can imagine holding a daguerreotype and seeing, as you tilt the plate, hues of color change from gold to purple, from sea-foam green to sky blue, from bronze to steel.  Unfortunately, here’s no way to capture any of it in a still image in order to present it online…  To make matters a bit more complicated, opalescence exhibits itself strongest while the plate is tilted at a particular angle, while light is allowed to strike it from one particular side only, and the angle of light matters as well.  Conventional copying methods, such as scanners and copy stands, fail to provide flexibility needed to accurately transcribe opalescence in any accurate manner.  Thus, images presented in this blog are those of plates being held in one of the more favorable angles, and taken with a phone camera.  On one hand, it would be nice to have a ‘straight’ file, and I am currently working on a specialized copying rig, which will provide high-resolution files needed for printing.  On the other hand though, daguerreotypes are always best experienced live, and not on a pedestal or wall, but while being held in hand, so these images have a potential to remind attentive viewers of that fact.
 First variants of themes above are currently not for sale.  However, a unique interpretation of any image you see can be made on commission.  Colors and placement will vary.  While your plate will strongly resemble the one you chose me to expand upon, it will be a completely one of a kind original creation. 


Friday, October 25, 2019

Chimacabres - Daguerreotype Series

Chi: the circulating life energy that in Chinese philosophy is thought to be inherent in all things
Macabre: dwelling on the gruesome, tending to produce horror in a beholder

Chimacabres come out at night.  They are around during the day too of course, but the night is when they really thrive.  In the dark it’s harder to tell if you’re face to face with a fellow person, or if it’s a chimacabre in front of you, and they don’t even have faces.  No, they are vicious, purely instinctual, unforgiving. They read you with the speed of a car commercial disclaimer, immediately sniff out the soft spot, and burrow in mercilessly.  Once under their spell, escape is a struggle, as they are as alluring as dangerous. They vary greatly in their ranks.  Some feed often, while others only need one hit to fulfill their life purpose.  Some may leave you in shambles just minutes upon encounter, while others plant pernicious seedlings, which will erode your foundation decades later.  It takes a while to build up immunity to chimacabres, and one is never fully safe, as they keep evolving and following trends.
            These gruesome creatures are actually our own off-shoot.  Through eons, their essence has been shaped by the foul sludgy runoff from the continuous spiritual distillation of humanity.  Our communal subliminal fears and basic desires, refined, enlarged, and reinforced by existential self-perpetuation, remain their favorite delicacies. 
Although chimacabres evolved alongside human species in such a way as to be visually indistinguishable with the naked eye, by pure chance, I discovered that spectral sensitivity of daguerreotype technique, when combined with special lighting, allows for photographic capture of their inner core.  Presented here, are five 4x5in plates of first clear specimens I was able to portray. I hope to find and succeed in capturing more in the future.

 Chimacabre #1

Chimacabre #2

Chimacabre #3

Chimacabre #4

Chimacabre #5

About the medium:
Daguerreotype technique was unveiled in 1839, and remained as main process of image making through 1850s. Each daguerreotype plate is a unique object, not unlike a Polaroid in that sense. They are however rather laborious when compared to other photographic processes. A daguerreotype plate is prepared and sensitized by hand, and the image is created upon a pure silver surface via development using mercury fumes. The final result is a microstructure of silver, mercury, and gold upon a mirror silver surface. The surface exhibits strong opalescence and an almost holographic dimensionality to it, the properties which are only apparent when one is holding these objects in front of them, and are impossible to capture in any form of mass reproduction.  Thus, daguerreotypes on the screen appear much like any other ‘photograph’, when in fact nothing can be further from the truth.
I strongly believe that these images represent the first time ever that daguerreotype technique has been combined with light painting.


Monday, July 8, 2019

Kaleidoscope – New Daguerreotype Work

  Daguerreotype, the first truly successful and, in the eyes of many through history, the most beautiful photographic technique, was introduced to the world in summer of 1839, so this year marks 180th anniversary of Photography.  Congratulations.

  After two major technical improvements were added to the original process as announced by Daguerre, improvements aimed at reducing exposure times and strengthening the adherence of image to plate, the following basic procedure of making each image was set henceforth. A plate of copper coated with pure silver is buffed to an absolute mirror surface, sensitized with fumes of elemental iodine and bromine, exposed in camera, developed in fumes of mercury, fixed with hypo, and then coated with gold by gilding.  The elegant simplicity of chemistry involved should not however be mistaken for ease of overall procedure, pitfalls are a plenty and too much can depend on the smallest seemingly unimportant and thus overlooked stop.   Some of the chemistry is also highly toxic, and should be treated with extreme respect and caution.  However, it’s all worth it, as when properly made and examined, a truly fine daguerreotype plate has never failed to bring a sense of awe to viewers of today as in early middle of 19th century.

  I have been working with Daguerreotype medium for about 4 years now.  After having worked with other analog photographic methods for about quarter of a century prior, I fell in love with this technique for its incredible physical presence and appearance, and the possibilities I saw in taking that further.  In the fall of last year that I spent some length of time in the darkroom making 4-10 images per day.  Erasing, buffing, fuming, developing, erasing, repeating…  A few ideas were tested and tested again, a few new ones emerged, merged with others, opened possibilities.  As things got more and more complex, I decided to slow down a bit, and to produce a few small bodies of work, which would be built upon single variations of Daguerreotype process I’m planning to combine and utilize as part of my work with in the future.
  Below is the first such illustrative body of work, completed in early April.  First an introductory ‘straight’ plate, made with all traditional methods as have been practiced since 1840s, and appearing as representational as any semi-abstract daguerreotype can be. The other 5 are variations of same subject, which explore possibilities of color within this traditionally monochromatic medium.  The aim was to control placement of cool and warm tones and keep them interspersed within the same plate, and to be able to switch around their placement like in Variants #2 and #3.   In addition to color, I wanted to explore the possibility of creatively using the inherently reflective quality of the daguerreotype plates in areas void of image particles.

  There’s no way to accurately and fully convey via a screen how these 4x5 plates appear when one is holding them, letting the light reflect from different angles, paying attention to the color and pattern changes.  Daguerreotype colors shift their hue and saturation with angle of view and lighting.  There can also be observed a pattern of double mirror effect between plate and bottom of cover glass, which moves around behind the image like a holograph.  Viewers are asked to rely on their experience with handling and viewing daguerreotypes live.

 Variant 1 - 4x5in daguerreotype

 Variant 2 - 4x5in daguerreotype

 Variant 3 - 4x5in daguerreotype

 Variant 4 - 4x5in daguerreotype

 Variant 5 - 4x5in daguerreotype

 Variant 6 - 4x5in daguerreotype