From its beginnings, photography has been shaped by the desire to understand and explore the essence of the medium. Light, Paper, Process features the work of seven artists—Alison Rossiter, Marco Breuer, James Welling, Lisa Oppenheim, Chris McCaw, John Chiara, and Matthew Brandt—who investigate the possibilities of analog photography by finding innovative, surprising, and sometimes controversial ways to push light-sensitive photographic papers and chemical processing beyond their limits.
A panoply of practices emerges in the work of these artists. Some customize cameras with special lenses or produce images on paper without a camera or film. Others load paper, rather than film, in the camera or create contact-printing with sources of light other than the enlarger, while still others use expired photographic papers and extraneous materials, such as dust and sweat, selected to match the particular subject of the photograph. All of the artists share a willingness to embrace accident and chance. Trial and error contribute to an understanding of the materials and their potential, as do the attitudes of underlying curiosity and inventive interrogation. The act of making each image is like a performance, with only the photographer present. The results are stunning.
This lavish publication accompanies an eponymous exhibition on view at the J. Paul Getty Museum from April 14 to September 6, 2015.
Virginia Heckert is photography curator and head of the Department of Photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum. She is the author of Ed Ruscha and Some Los Angeles Apartments (Getty Publications, 2013) and coauthor of Irving Penn: Small Trades (Getty Publications, 2009).
“[This book] is a bold, challenging, and ultimately unique examination of the uses of old processes and materials in the hands of modern artists.”