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Loading Dock, West Twelfth Street“

Loading Dock, West Twelfth Street.

First printing.
Sold out edition of 1 with 1 artist proof.
Glossy, silver gelatin fiber-based paper. 8 by 10 inch image on 10½ by 12½ inch paper.

Here in Winston-Salem, the warehouses on West Twelfth Street provide a fantastic array of textures and rectangular shapes. I’ll probably make photographs there for years before I don’t have anything new to notice.

In real-world space, this photograph happened just a half block from Transformer and Cactus, West Twelfth Street. But in terms of how the image works, they couldn’t be farther apart. They both use the paper negative process I describe in this blog post.

Transformer and Cactus does it the “right way.” The print has a full range of tones from light to dark, and they appear nearly the same in the photograph as they do in real life. I enjoy the way the photographs collapses all the shapes down through my chosen viewpoint to a flat space composed of grey textures and how the original textures still come through perfectly in the collapsed space.

Then there’s Loading Dock, where I’ve done everything “wrong.” I chose a non-standard exposure and development for this one. This has collapsed the tones into just light and dark, and the tonality has only the faintest relation to reality. The combined texture of the paper and the emulsion is printed into the texture of the image. It has left me with something that’s more an x-ray of a photograph than what we usually think a photograph should be.

One of the reasons I make these darkroom-based photographs is to remind us that photographs can be more than a look through a window. Photographs can be objects themselves. Transformer and Cactus reminds us of its “objectness” quietly, through the collage of texture created by the collapsing of its shapes. It is a subtle reminder. But Loading Dock leaves no doubt at all. It presents itself as a puzzle to be solved, and we solve the puzzle by looking at the photograph, not through it.

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