Just about 3 years ago, the Metropolitan Museum of Art deaccessioned Edward Steichen‘s 1904 photograph “The Pond-Moonlight” because it had more than one copy. The record price of 2.9 million did not surprise me because the photo is one of the best. But what perplexes me is that how museums are going to support photographers and buy their works when knowing that there is possibility of duplicate copies?
David Sokosh, the director and photograph artist of Underbridge Pictures Gallery has his own answer. He perceives the value of the art to be associated with its personal touch & handling and its uniqueness. Thus a simple series of clicks from a Nikon D70 camera and picking the best one to print out from online stores like shutterfly, at its best, leads to just beautiful pictures. Pictures are mass produced, thus can only be consumed; while artworks are toiled, thus set forth to be preserved.
Thus he chooses wet-plate collodion technique for his works. Each picture, either on metal plate or glass, has to be hand-made on-site. It can be cumbersome when you have to carry not only a wood blackbox and a piece of black cloth but also a portable darkroom because the process must be done within 5 minutes after the wet plate is exposed on the camera.
He says:” I’m a 21st Century person, living in a self-created 19th Century world full of period objects of all kinds. This authentic process lets me explore the mindset of the early photographer/scientist/collector. I’m drawn to the quality of photograph-as-object that Wet-Plate yields, and excited by the hands-on aspect of the process.“
The results are fascinating. In his portfolio of “Navy Yard“, the somber tone of the varnished aluminum enhances the emptiness of structures within which once 70,000 workers came everyday during WWII. The harmonized low-key tone has an overall softness that photoshopping with vintage effect won’t do. It is as if a faded memory that half recedes and half surface, recalling some extraordinary moments when reality and past mingle together to reinterpret what is seen.
His another portfolio of “Christmas” demonstrates the flexibility of wet-plate collodion with respect to subject matters. The overall warmth and the glossy metallic highlights insert a humane touch to each Chrismas ornamental object. Sure they look 19th century, but isn’t Christmas about family gathering together, babbling and chattering about the past?
David participates the Winter Antiques Market in DUMBO, Brooklyn every weekend through March 29th. The location is 76 Front Street, Brooklyn, NY.
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