Juror’s Choice winner Michelle Rogers Pritzl found a burgeoning love of art in painting and drawing at young age. But it was when she took photography classes in high school that she “fell in love with the magic of watching latent images appear in a developer tray under the safelights.” Perhaps because of her background in painting, Pritzl has always been more interested in a hands-on approach to photography than in the digital environment that is common today. While attending the Corcoran College of Art and Design, Pritzl began her first experiments in hand-applied emulsions with cyanotypes and Van Dyke Brown. After completing a wet plate collodion workshop in 2010, she moved into the tintype process used in her most recent series, Soma.
Juror's Choice: With Shamefacedness
The images in Soma are metaphoric self-portraits that reference specific memories of Pritzl’s past. “For me, the photographs speak of our common human experience of trying to heal from painful experiences and the processes we put ourselves through.” To fully realize the autobiographical nature of the work, Pritzl delved into a new way of working by using herself as the model. Her natural discomfort in front of the camera emphasizes both the difficult situations she alludes to and the physical discomfort depicted by images of wounds, self-harm, and vulnerability. While tip-toeing around specific experiences in her past, Soma explores, “the inner workings of trying to walk away from our pasts. The healing process can be brutal, our wounds leave scars—the imagery is a physical representation of that process.”
Citing artistic influences as varied as Joel Peter Witkin, Edvard Munch, and Frida Kahlo, Pritzl leans heavily on her background in drawing and painting. Fittingly, a typical shoot for her begins with pen on paper. Before she even picks up a camera, time is spent with her sketchbook. In this space Pritzl works through her jotted-down ideas, journal entries, and sketches until finding the right visual metaphor to illustrate her concept. She then makes a digital exposure and composites in Photoshop before printing tintypes in the darkroom. This multi-step process results in surreal and dreamlike work that transports the viewer into a landscape of someone else’s memories.
Now in the last year of her MFA program, Pritzl has had great success exhibiting her work alongside other artists whom she admires. While balancing a heavy class and exhibition schedule is challenging, she has succeeded in finding opportunities to present her work to a larger audience. Mostly, Prizl considers herself fortunate to be able to follow her artistic passion. “Success for me means that I am continuing to make work that interests me and that I can share and exhibit with my audience.”
The Alternative Approach is on view at The Kiernan Gallery through March 1, 2014.