Trav­el­ling arts ex­hi­bi­tion fea­tures 59 Al­berta artists

Medicine Hat News - - ENTERTAINMENT - Xan­the Is­bis­ter

Pho­tog­ra­phy has dras­ti­cally changed since the evo­lu­tion of the smart phone. Years ago peo­ple would wit­ness some­thing and say, ‘I wish I had a cam­era.’ To see and ex­pe­ri­ence the world, we don’t only look at im­ages; we take them, and of­ten. In 2011, it was re­ported that Face­book’s 750 mil­lion users up­loaded and shared 100 mil­lion pho­tos ev­ery day. Ev­ery­one has a cam­era, and it seems as though ev­ery­thing is doc­u­mented: break­fast sand­wiches to dou­ble rain­bows to cats do­ing funny things. Rarely do these pic­tures ac­tu­ally leave the de­vice they were cap­tured on, un­like by­gone times when film cam­eras were the sta­tus quo.

So what have we lost and what have we gained by pho­tog­ra­phy’s tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ments? Is the qual­ity of dig­i­tal prints com­pa­ra­ble to sil­ver gelatin pho­tographs? The first pho­to­graphic pa­per us­ing a gelatin emul­sion was in­vented in 1873, 145 years ago. The works in this ex­hi­bi­tion were taken over four decades, cap­tured on 35-mil­lime­tre film cam­eras. The artists de­vel­oped their im­ages in a dark room, us­ing the sil­ver gelatin process. Gelatin, an an­i­mal protein, is used as an emul­sion, to bind light sen­si­tive sil­ver salts to a pa­per or other sup­port. Af­ter a brief ex­po­sure to a neg­a­tive (un­der an en­larger), the print is im­mersed in chem­i­cals to al­low the im­age to de­velop, or emerge fully.

When this process is suc­cess­fully achieved it pro­duces a true black and white tone. Un­like dig­i­tal prints, sil­ver gelatin prints have a phys­i­cal pres­ence. The black and white im­agery is evoca­tive; sub­jects within the im­age are cap­ti­vat­ing, draw­ing the viewer into a time and space.

Pho­tographs en­gage us op­ti­cally, neu­ro­log­i­cally, in­tel­lec­tu­ally, emo­tion­ally, vis­cer­ally and phys­i­cally. The peo­ple doc­u­mented in these works were cap­tured in a mo­ment: The two young women in Tim Van Horn’s Ruthie or the woman read­ing the pa­per in Jean­nie – Silk Hat Restau­rant by Ran­dall Adams. They re­mind us of our own mo­ments, to take time to rem­i­nisce, and cel­e­brate the hu­man spirit.

Xan­the Is­bis­ter is cu­ra­tor of trav­el­ling ex­hi­bi­tions at the Es­planade.


Tim Van Horn: RUTHIE; 1992 Sil­ver gelatin on pa­per; 8 7/8 x 13 3/16 in.; Col­lec­tion of the Al­berta Foun­da­tion for the Arts.

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