In the early 1980s I produced Nudes, a collection of twenty 22 x 30.5 cm / 9 x 12 inch nude photographs and later reprinted ten of these images at a larger format (51 x 61 cm / 20 x 24 inch).
The photographs are made from paper negatives; a methodology developed in the 1830s similar to and predating conventional black and white photography, but instead of using film, a sheet of photographic printing paper is inserted into a camera and then exposed. Rather than employing the antiquated large format paper negatives, which would have caused very little image degradation, I chose medium format 10 x 12.5 cm / 4 x 5 inch paper negatives that were then blown up to 22 x 30.5 cm / 9 x 12 inch prints, from which the ten 51 x 61 cm / 20 x 24 inch prints are produced.
Enlarged, the fibre of the paper negative (which consists of hairs, pores, wrinkles,….) is notably magnified, yielding a print surface analogous to human skin. The paper negatives, being much less sensitive to light than conventional film, required long exposures, ranging from 30 seconds to 5 minutes, which usually revealed some movement (if only breathing) on the part of the subjects. The areas of the bodies which remained motionless (and, therefore, well defined) exhibited an aura of solidity and weight which contrasted with the incorporeal, ephemeral quality suggested by the blur of the subjects’ movement.
Nudes was an attempt to bring a Victorian technique of image-making into late 20th century photographic practice. While the surface quality of the print supports the sensuality of the nude, it also accentuates the flatness of the photograph, discouraging the viewer from gazing into the photograph and compelling the image to remain two dimensional. The truncated cropping of the bodies offsets the inherently romantic appearance of the paper negative print and situates it in a more contemporary context. The camera does not maintain the customary polite distance from the subjects and the buffer zone between spectator and subject is reduced. Finally, I photographed myself, altering my role at times from viewer to viewed.
Nudes: Exhibition history
Solo (or duo) shows:
1985 Latitude 53 Gallery, Edmonton
1988 Untitled, Galerie Dazibao, Montréal
Nudes: Images Published
2004 NAKED, ed. Lars Oscenda, Feierabend Verlag Publishers, Berlin, p. 228 & 229.
Nudes: Exhibition details
The twenty neutral, black and white silver gelatin prints, surrounded on all sides by at least 15 cm (6 inches) of plain white mat, are displayed in austere black wooden frames.
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