Northern Camellia Artist Statement
I remember the crisp sunny November day when I shouted “The camellias are out!!!” then made my friend stop the car so that I could explore the floral flora and see what I could forage off the sidewalk. I took this blossom home, arranged it on a piece of photographic paper, and placed it in the sun for development.
The technique we now know as the lumen print process has its origins in photography’s earliest experiments. One aspect of this process I truly love is that each print is a unique impression of natural elements, of light. The exposure becomes an educated guess relative to the conditions of the day, subject matter and paper, with the result illuminating a new way of seeing and looking at the world. Each print requires taking a risk, there is an understanding that the outcome isn’t always possible to control. Each print requires adaptation to the surroundings.
Lifting the glass and removing the camellia off of the paper revealed a perfect blend of the elements on that cloudless autumn day – the sun, the temperature, the time of year, paper emulsion and the exposure illuminating each petal, each pistil. I’ve often thought of this image as an “impossible” print with its level of detail among its contrasts. It’s the element of surprise that often yields the most satisfaction.
In a year that has seemed impossible at times, the New Orleans Photo Alliance rose to the occasion this spring with Quarantivity – a free webinar series offering educational workshops and activities online. I was happy to present a lumen print webinar for this series, sharing my work and luminescent thoughts on this process. Through these webinars that covered a broad range of photography from solar prints to digital prints, cell phone photography, how to make zines and more, and through weekly online happy hours, NOPA shined a light on these uncertain times, opening the door to that spirit of experimentation that the early photographic pioneers – Thomas Wedgewood, Fox Talbot, and Sir John Herschel among them – knew so well, making the impossible seem possible and illuminating the path of new perspectives as we navigate, and photograph, the days ahead.
In the spirit of ilLUMENation, I am honored that Northern Camellia was chosen as this year’s PhotoNOLA Collectors Club print.