Juror’s Choice winner for The Alternative Approach, Danielle Ezzo speaks about her evolution into alternative process photography.
What first drew you to alternative process photography?
The beginning of photography is inextricably tied to the evolution of drawing and the desire to harness representation better. In it's advent some of the first photographs were displayed at magic shows because the idea that we could render something with such accuracy took on a mythical quality. Now that feeling is kind of lost, at least for me, with contemporary photographic practices. So I enjoy working firstly with something that I can affect with my hands, but also that there is this inherent alchemy to creating work with historical processes. It brings me back in time and taps into other histories. I want to tap into the magic that what I'm creating hasn't been seen before, that it may even evoke a sense of confusion in them. "How is that photography?" is the response that I strive for. Sometimes I find that with these processes.
Juror's Choice image: Two Women
Walk us through a typical shoot from conception to execution. How much planning is involved and what is your creative thought process?
My photographs have become quite contrived at every stage of the process. There is a lot of planning, thinking, and testing that goes into a single image. Often times I have a scene in my head already with a specific person and set of objects. I'll shoot the image and adjust and tweak things on the fly if the image doesn't seem to convey what I was originally hoping. Then, I will print out a digital negative and draw directly onto it to create the networks of lines and nodes, then printed out in whichever process I'm working with. In the case of Two Women, salt printing. In my newest works I'm playing around with printing out digital prints, overpainting, rescanning, and printing out as a digital negative. There are many different steps and technologies along the photo continuum, as I tend to use the medium more holistically. I like the idea of being an anti-chronologist when it comes to photography and not getting too caught up in a specific time period.
Why did you choose salt prints as the medium for this series?
In the series Kindred Systems and Invisible Cities, I wanted the work to have an antique feel and reference the very beginnings of photo history. The cross over between the camera lucida era of drawing to the Fox Talbot's era of salt was fascinated to me as a paradigm shift of looking at how we reproduce what we see differently. I also wanted to connect these outdated methods with the outdated methods of how we define kin.
How do the superimposed geometric lines and shapes add to the piece? What is their significance?
The constellation-like aspects of the images are my interpretations of social networks; lines connecting people and forming families and community bodies.
Tell us more about this series. What was its evolution? How did it begin and how did you move into cameraless work?
Invisible Cities is my way of trying to visualize this process that I've been going through of redefining what the terms 'family' and 'love' mean. We build social circles of people dear to us that know our adult selves, which over time may actually understand us better than our blood family. How those people become friends, and in turn, new families, and expand. I'm endlessly fascinated with the development of these circles and how they continue to weave together and morph over time.
I began taking portraits of the people most directly in my life and felt that generating the cameraless "constellations" was a better way of visualizing this interconnectivity. I also enjoy when photography does something unexpected, and I try to push the bounds of what is considered acceptable in the medium. It's breaking point is what I find interesting. The most successful works to me are those that incorporate the social connections as well as the representational attributes.
Your subjects exude a sense of vulnerability. How does this tie into the theme of the work?
Invisible Cities is my way of attempting to visualize the interpersonal interconnectivity in my life. How this also ties into my slow, systematic approach of trying to redefine the constructs of love and kin. All the people that I photograph are people who are close to me, have a special place in my life, or affected me in an emotional sense. Most of them are not "models", but friends and lovers. It takes a great amount of vulnerability to be photographed by someone, especially nude. There is an inherent vulnerability to the work not only because they are baring their bodies, but because somehow I'm trying to expose what it means for me to love these people in the nuanced ways that I do.
Finally, we ask this of all of our artists, what does success in art mean to you?
The term 'success' is very slippery for me. It holds different values even when I think about art. What I consider successful within my art? What is success within my career? What is success within my own contentment of making things? I have different answers for all of those things. To try and answer this simply: I want the majority of my time to revolve around making these images. If I can get to a place where this is feasible I will feel pretty successful. I'm pretty close.
The Alternative Approach is on view at The Kiernan Gallery through March 1.