Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Chris McCaw - Sunburn

I came across Chris McCaw's work last year sometime, and then again a week or two ago. And I must say, I still like them - isn't always the case when I come back to work I initially liked.

The concept in a way is very simple and like all the best ideas was stumbled across by accident:

"I have always been interested in the process of photography- light sensitive materials, chemical reactions, the unexpected. In my case, during camping trip in 2003, I mixed an all night time exposure of the sky, friends, a campfire, and a bottle of whiskey. What I ended up with was a new way of thinking about the process of photography, and a new body of work.

I woke up the next morning, around 10am, far after the sun had risen. I had pointed my camera due east, right into the sun. Assuming the shot was a complete loss, I stumbled out of my sleeping bag and closed the shutter. Later that day while downloading that day’s exposed film, I could feel one of the sheets had a tear in it. Completely confused, I was tempted to throw the sheet away. Luckily I kept it and discovered what had happened a week later in the darkroom.

The camera, with it’s lens focused at infinity with the aperture wide open to capture the movement of the nights stars became something like a magnifying glass. Much like my early experiments with small scale pyromania using mom’s magnifying glass focusing the sun on dry dead leafs, the camera’s lens was burning the film inside the camera.

But this is just part of it. Another physical aspect that occurs to light sensitive emulsions when subjected to intense exposure to light is something called true solariztion-image reversal through extreme over-exposure. Not to be mistaken with the darkroom printing technique called the sebbatie effect, of re-exposing paper to light while the print is developing, also commonly called solarized prints." (from View Camera magazine).

Part of what I like about them is the unpredictability of the end result. Also the simplicity of it - basically a lens and a paper negative. And then there is the physicality - it's not just the alchemic, hidden reaction of light and silver, but the burnt imprint - the physical trace of the sun on the image.

And then there is the fact that I find them simply quite beautiful

Of course there is also the impression that they can be quite fun to make:

"Not only is the resulting image a representation of the subject photographed, but part of the subject (the sun) is an active participant in the printmaking. This is just the beginning of this new body of work. I plan to continue to investigate the possibilities of this method of printmaking. My favorite part is watching smoke come out of the camera during the exposure. Thank you for looking."

Finally, I thought I saw something the other day about this work winning a prize, but I couldn't track it down?


Timothy Briner said...

It's one of those things that you wish you though of. They are so beautiful -- the process, The physical scar from the sun, the final product. It blew my mind when I first saw them.

Charity Vargas said...

I think it was Hans-Christian-Schink who won the prize. His work is very similar and beautiful too. Posted over at Mrs. Deane

George LeChat said...

For anyone in the Bay Area, McCaw's work is up for a couple more days at Togonon Gallery in SF.