All posts filed under “Box Brownie

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artist Talk, Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery

This is a hard copy of the artist talk that I gave as a part of the p a n o r a m a exhibition at the Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery last week.

P a n o r a m a
Exhibition Artist Talk, Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery
Alice Blanch
9thMay 2014
I originally wanted to be an actress. I took theatre classes all through high school and I loved taking on different characters and performing on stage. In year 12 I had to pick a science subject so I found a darkroom photography course I could take externally from my high school. This was the first time I had used film and photographic chemistry…and I loved it!
So, instead of following theatre I went on to study Visual Arts at the University of South Australia. I majored in photography, but it wasn’t until my final year –in 2010- that a friend handed me a Box Brownie camera and I started to become deeply interested in photography, antique cameras and alternative photographic processes. Mucking around with the Box Brownie camera started me on a path of exploration into the history of photography and basically leading me into finding my own way to express my inner visions of the world.
The Box Brownie is simple and common, almost nothing special. No bells and whistles; it’s just a box with a lens and two view finders. Looking back on history, it is a very revolutionary camera because it allowed the everyday person and family to document their own life in their own way, something that wasn’t possible before the brownie. I think that the impact the brownie had can be compared to the change that has come about from the introduction of smart phones. The smart phone allows everyone to have a decent camera in their pockets, ready to record and document anything and everything in their lives, and share it instantly. The Box Brownie camera had a massive impact on the everyday person’s relationship to photography and to documenting their personal lives; the smart phone has come in and taken this to a new level. Value wise, a Box Brownie is worth no more then $20.
I am not sure how I came to the idea of creating panoramas in the Brownie. I just remember going to a park one day and doing a panoramic exposure- I then developed the film, liked what I saw and have been building on this ever since. The process is all done in-camera. What you see in the photographs has not been put together in Photoshop or by any other means. The film was exposed in the camera this way and has then been scanned into the computer and printed at this size.
The camera is so basic that when you take an exposure you have to manually wind the film along to the next exposure. Instead of doing this I only wind the film on slightly and at random, then I take another exposure, wind the film on slight and then take another exposure and so on. I do this about 6 times. I also move the camera ever so slightly after each exposure to capture the whole panoramic scene in front of me. In working this way I leave a lot up to chance- there are as many god results as there are not so good ones. But I like to keep the process quite undefined and random because it makes the panoramic images that do work out, all the more special and unique.
I use medium format/120 film in the Brownie. I shoot with both colour and black and white film depending on the result that I am after. The panoramic negatives can end up being around 30cm or longer.
It has taken me a while to understand what it is I am drawn to when photographing and to question why this is so…in fact, I am still trying to figure this out, but I have a better idea about it now at least.
For me, it all started with the sky, more specifically, with clouds. I find them quite magical in the way that they form and change constantly. I grew up and spent my whole life in the city, so the sky was my only connection to the natural world. Now, I try to spend a lot of my time out of the city, traveling around Australia, camping, and hiking in the landscape whenever I can…but clouds are essentially always what I am looking for.
So why do I use photography? I find it is the most effective way for me to express the experiences that I have, capturing both the physical and the non-physical elements of these experiences. By this I mean the physical mountains, clouds and landscape that I am seeing but also capturing the moods and atmosphere that are present within the landscape.
I like using analogue processes, mixing things from the past with modern technologies, creating things that are low-resolutions and high grain, out of focus and slightly blurry…overall the more ambiguous the better. I do this because I want to create emotiveartworks. Artworks that hint at and suggest things but they don’t reveal it all.
Firstly, my photographs are for myself. They are an important part of me experiencing the landscape, understanding the phenomena’s of nature and basically understanding our larger existence in this universe. Secondly, over the past few years I have realised that a number of other people respond to the way that I see the world through my artworks. Sharing these personal images is just as important as making them. When I come across someone who sees what I see and feels what I feel through my photographs there is a wonderful human connection there and it makes everything worth it.
I am influenced by a lot of artists, many painters, especially from the Romantic Period, as well as many photographs. I love reading about how these artists put into words what they were doing with their artwork and what meaning their artistic practice had to their lives. Here are a few quotes that resonate with my art practice and work:
“A feeling arises that something else has imprinted itself on the film, something exceeding description of the physical facts, something unseen that animates and warps the surface of the known world.” Sally Mann
My photographs are ever born from an inner need…an experience of spirit…I have a vision of life and I try to find equivalents for it sometimes in the form of photographs.” Alfred Stieglitz
“I do feel I have some slight corner on something about the quality of things. I mean it’s very subtle and a little embarrassing to me, but I really believe there are things that nobody would see unless I photographed them.” Diane Arbus
I can relate to all of these artists as they try to describe their ways of expressing their inner worlds through photography.
Finally, I am a strong believer in magic. I find analogue photography to be a very magical process. By opening the camera’s shutter an image is created by capturing the visible energy reflected off of the object or scene in front of it. A chemical reaction takes places within this fraction of a second. I know there are scientific explanations for why the sky is blue, how the clouds form in the sky and how photographic film records light but I prefer to just embrace the simple beauty and magical nature of it all.
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‘box brownie adventures in port adelaide’

Over the past few months I have been working on this series ‘Box Brownie Adventures in Port Adelaide’ for the Port Adelaide Festival that was on the weekend just past (the 19th & 20th of October). I was asked to be involved in the festival and create some new work that was taken in and around the post code of Port Adelaide, 5015.

My first experience with using a Box Brownie camera was placing photographic paper in the back of the camera and creating a paper negative, then contact printing it in the darkroom. The images I created when I was mucking around at this time (early 2010) are some of my favourite images Ive ever captured.

I decided to dabble back into this way of image capturing for this series of work. So I spent a few days walking around the Port with my dark bag and brownie camera-looking a bit like a creep as every time I took a photograph I had to place the camera in the dark bag and change the paper in the back of the camera. It is a very slow way of image making, that really makes you question, ‘is this image worth all the trouble?’ but I really enjoyed the whole process.

I was really happy with the negatives that I captured over my few days and headed into my home darkroom to contact print them all. In the end I had nine photographs up in the exhibition and think I really managed to capture the historic atmosphere of the place thanks largely to the paper negative process.

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BETA publication


Some of my images from the Box Brownie Colour Panorama series have been featured in the BETA online photography publication.

Check out the publication here.

“BETA developments in photography, is a new online journal featuring the very best in contemporary photography. It is the latest exciting venture from the team that brings you Australia’s most invigorating and progressive photography festival, the Ballarat International Foto Biennale.”
(from BETA website)