John Kopp Artist



Chapter I:
Personal Journey
toward Digital Photography

Chapter II:
of Photography Traditions
to New Dimensions

Chapter III:
Ways of Seeing

Artist's Statement

Philosophy. Our life influences our way of seeing and way of seeing influences our lives. I enjoy focusing on one image and exploring it from many different perspectives. This process helps me to explain my way of seeing and somehow helps me to make out all of the unknowns.

I always thought my photographs were a record of my life. Of course, people around me reflect what I see, but I also want to share my personal understanding of the internal and external world. Our perceptions are constantly configured and reconfigured by our past and present experiences and expectations for our future.

I want to help people to slow down and honor the world given to us by God – light, rocks, trees, water, plants and all other organic things. My work celebrates things created by humans through God’s gift of creativity and human will.

Style. Abstract organic images.

Technique. Utilize multiple techniques, always respectful of subject matters that are being photographed. The combination of resolution, color quality/accuracy, and archival longevity ensure the very highest level of quality for collectors.

Background. Art found me while I was in high school. I did painting, drawing, sculptures, etc., and built my foundation at the Maryland Institute of Art and Brooks Institute of Art in Santa Barbra, California. My photographic passion started in the Army. I spent the last thirty plus years traveling and photographing life around me. I taught photography to young artists and art teachers for twenty-five years. One of the greatest influences on my art came from my students.

Prices. $200 to $3000. Signed one of kind and limited editions are available.


Chapter I: Personal Journey Toward Digital Photography

A New Personal Reality

Being a commercial and fine art photographer and a teacher has been my core identity during the last twenty-five years. I have been fairly successful in my own way. I participated in solo exhibitions, won competitions, and sold my artwork for a living. I organized local artisans and supporters to found the Mattawoman Arts Center. I served on the Maryland State Arts Council and coordinated several juried art shows and judged many juried shows.

I developed a photography curriculum for a two-year college and made that program a vibrant part of that school. I operated a photography studio while organizing local artists for future exhibits, demonstrations, and other activities. I have always been an active fine art photographer. However, I was beginning to feel I had reached that classic “dead end” in my career development for sometimes, especially in teaching. Around this time, I also had to face severe health problems, which almost destroyed my core identity as a fine art photographer and a teacher.

It began several years ago, I started having “cold and flu like symptoms” that never fully cleared up. The frequency and severity of these symptoms got continually worse. My doctor would say I had walking pneumonia and sometimes he said I had developed common allergies. However, numerous medicines and different treatments did not work. New medications seemed to work for a week or so, then my symptoms would get worse. My doctor finally conceded that he really did not know what was making me sick and recommended comprehensive testing. The comprehensive testing did not identify anything. I began talking to people about my health problems and seeing other doctors. After many tests and referrals, I met a physician who specializes in respiratory illnesses and allergies. She finally diagnosed that I had developed an occupational allergy — chronic bronchitis activated by photo chemicals from twenty plus years of exposures to photo chemicals.

I could not believe this diagnosis at all. How could I? I am a photographer. I need to work with chemicals to create and translate my mental images into concrete final prints. If I could not go into a dark room, I was finished as a photographer and an artist. I tried many different tactics to dispute the diagnose, but failed each time. I finally had to accept the fact that I can not handle or even get near to photo chemicals.

This acceptance did not lead me to an answer, but took me to a larger question. After all, I am nothing without my art. How will I make living? How can I re-invent myself at this age? If I could re-invent myself... To what? Who am I?

While I was facing tremendous internal turmoil, a friend suggested enrolling in a two-year bible study class. While half-heartedly engaged in bible study, I began to accept my problems, and began to process my reality in a more rational way. I really wanted to continue as an active artist. I decided I must find new way to continue my art without chemicals. Although God closed the path I had been on for the last twenty-five years, God must have created another path for travel. It became my obligation to find the new path and be a productive, creative artist.

Around this time I remembered a workshop I had attended a few years earlier on Iris Printing. I enjoyed the process and had been impressed by the “new” technology. I began to visualize a way to combine traditional photography and the emerging field of digital imaging. Modern computer technology makes possible to use computer software to manipulate all or part of a picture. At first, my visualizations were limited to replicating the darkroom techniques and processes with digital output. Soon, however, my visualization stretched further into using the digital technology as an artistic medium to bring a fresher approach to my aesthetic expressions and thinking. Digital imaging opened a door to new level of creative freedom that was not known in traditional photography. I finally understood my new journey.

Current Trends in Commercial Photography

I began reading a lot about digital imaging and different digital mediums as I was exploring this new way of doing my artwork. It became very evident that digital processing had developed incredibly fast during the last ten years. I discovered the technology had advanced enough to convert many traditional professionals to digital photographers.

Stephen Johnson, a landscape photographer is an example. He tinkered with the combination of photography and computers back in the late 1980s, and became a total convert in 1994. His photos of the United States national parks are made totally with a digital-camera insert (a high-end digital capture device that takes the place of a conventional film holder) on a 4x5 view camera. Johnson runs his digital insert with a tethered Apple PowerBook G3 laptop computer. This allows him to instantly view images on-screen and evaluate photographic properties such as sharpness, depth of field and exposure, which allows him to make on-the-spot reshoot decision (Seiler, 1999). This is not possible with film based photography.

Digital imaging is also making significant changes in retouching negatives and how restoration of photos is accomplished. Traditional methods are extremely tedious, laborious, and expensive. Digital technology has changed all that. Now, negatives and pictures are simply scanned on to a computer and worked on pixel by pixel on-screen. Again, allowing immediate results and decision making, and saving time and money associated with restoration and retouching, especially in the area of the archival restoration of images.

Currently, most catalog images are produced with a digital camera in a studio environment. Photographers and graphic artists can view the images on the spot, and make an immediate decision on each image. Traditionally, multiple images were made, multiple rolls of films processed and the best image was selected. Digital imaging eliminated the multiplicity and processing time. Digital imaging saves money, developing time, and photo-chemicals. Most importantly, it creates an environmentally safe, chemical-free photography studio.

Photojournalism is another area that is enjoying the benefits of digital imaging technology. During the Dessert Storm War, most of the photos were taken by digital cameras. These images were viewed and manipulated on the spot for photo quality, then transmitted as image files via modem to news editors in the United States for looming deadlines (Hogan, 1996). Digital imaging now allows photojournalists freedom that was never possible with film based photography. During World War II, photojournalists had to develop their films during the night on completely dark beaches using seawater, so that images could be quickly transported to their editors in the United States. The romance of the darkroom is gone for some, but convenience enjoyed now by the professionals was almost unthinkable in the past.

Large corporations, such as Kodak, Apple, Adobe, and Leaf are mass-producing reliable software and other digital products for professionals as well as the weekend photographers. Photo District News, a conservative international publication for the professional photographer, devoted an entire issue on technological trends and techniques in the photo industry. One of the articles asks, “Photographic Prints: The Horse and Buggy of the New Millennium?” and “Silver Halide and E-6: The Mercury Vapor of the New Age?” (Madlin, 1999). Although prints and traditional snapshots are still the universal standard and will be around for a long time, digital photography has arrived and it is the wave of the future. A developer at Leaf Digital Camera says “In the professional market, there’s only one reason to stay with traditional chemistry-inertia. In the pro segment of the market, there will be 100 percent transition to digital.” This article further points to the current thinking of the overall professional photo market. In 1999, the market equates “digital” as ordinary and “traditional” as exception (Madlin, 1999).

Teaching for Today’s and Tomorrow’s Market Place

I have been teaching photography for the last twenty-years. I designed and implemented a photography curriculum at two-year college where I still teach. I also designed and ran numerous photography workshops. Although teaching activities have changed (I even ventured into one-hour photo processing) during these years, the basic principles and processes did not change much. Throughout the years, I taught technical information on lenses, components of film, lighting, printing and developing as well as visual observation skills - emphasizing producing quality black-and-white prints and finding self-expression.

During the last five years or so, many of my students began asking about different software, scanning photos, and in general demonstrated heightened interest in computer technology. I began to sense that I needed to incorporate digital technology into my photography curriculum to reflect my students’ new interests. This coincided perfectly with my journey toward digital photography. I started by adding a few demonstrations of different photo-related software into my teaching, and seriously learning and experimenting with digital imaging for my personal artwork.

Most of my younger students are seriously into developing web sites and a handful of them want to become commercial photographers. The World Wide Web is heavily dependent on digital imaging, and even wedding photography has gone digital! Students need to know how to transfer traditional images into digital format. Not just in the technical sense, but also the aesthetic value of the two different mediums. I am a firm believer that in photography, developing depth of knowledge in techniques and processes is an essential step toward successful exploration of images.

While I was slowly incorporating digital processes into my photography classes, the college conducted a focus group study with local artists, graphics designers and printers to explore new art-related career program. These working artists confirmed the trends I had been observing and reading about. The field of design, especially graphics design, has changed. The field has transitioned into virtually all digital — from the concept development to the final image production. These professionals strongly urged that students’ educational training must combine fine art and computer technology. This further crystallized in my mind that any future commercial artists must be competent in digital processes, even though the darkroom has more romance. This gave me one more affirmation that my journey toward digital photography was the right path for me.

I finally began to show my experimental pieces to my colleagues and students, and started to talk openly about my occupational allergy. Until this time my health problems were sort of a shameful badge for me. Surprisingly, my students were very excited about my experimental images and wanted know if I could teach them how to do it. My colleagues encouraged me to experiment further and were glad I didn’t give up my artwork. When I enrolled at Goddard College, it was very clear to me that I wanted to go deeper into digital photography and journey into digital art. While finishing my senior year at Goddard, I am also developing a new course in digital photography to teach in the next spring semester.

Discovering a New Aesthetic Medium and Expression

Over the years I have been interested in creating abstract images and have always liked black-and-white images because of the visual abstracting viewers must do. Since we do not see our worlds in black-and-white when presented with a black-and-white image a viewer must transform his/her cognitive images into black-and-white in order to perceive. Thus, I could control what is presented for viewing. I also enjoyed focusing on one image and exploring it from many different perspectives — helping me to expand my ways of seeing. Polaroid Transfer manipulation and Chemigram (see Figure 1) matched my aesthetic thinking and the expressions I wanted to accomplish. These processes enabled me to explore an image and create impressionistic effects.

Figure 1. V Woman from Outland, Chemigram

These two processes are essentially controlled experimentation with photo chemicals and the texture of surface paper — creating visual energy and movement on a static surface. When I saw some Iris prints and other digital prints on watercolor paper, I saw the same transformations I used to create with Polaroid Transfers and Chemigrams.

In the digital environment I could use different tools, such as filters and layers, to conduct experiments in controlling the unexpected completely free from photo chemicals.

I also enjoyed creating photogravure (etching) images. The end product projects warmth that pulls together the image, ink and texture of paper all into one entity. Digital printing with etching paper emulates photogravure images. Every new aspect I learn and discover in my digital labs fit extremely well with my aesthetic expressions. It has definitely expanded my way of seeing and it allows me to do my art in a chemical free environment.

I am most grateful to God for pushing me to take this mew journey that is filled with discoveries, new challenges, and that is somehow helping me make sense out of all the unknowns.

Chapter II: The Transformation of Photography Traditions to New Dimensions

Continuous Invention for New Visual Expressions

Building your own darkroom is not essential in film processing. Films can be sent to a processing lab or you can hire someone to develop your negatives and make your prints. But, for many artists, developing and printing processes are an integral part of the creative expressions, and they can not afford to give up that creative freedom.

Any darkroom requires several basic elements. These are: (1) dedicated space and storage space; (2) enlarger; (3) paper cutter; (4) counter; (5) room lights and other electricity; (6) ventilation; (7) water supply and drainage; and (8) thermostatic control. Depending on whether you are doing color or black-and-white printing, the darkroom would need different processing tools. Before building any darkroom, one should check the local building regulations and codes (Hughes, 1999).

Most processing in the darkroom requires water. Having running water makes the process a lot easier; however, it is not essential as long as enough water is available for washing. A good, safe way to dispose of processing chemicals is almost essential. You need a way to get that water down a drain, with sufficient diluting water, after each session. A sink must be large enough to hold developer, stop, fixers and rinses.

Electricity is necessary to control the darkness, safelights, water temperature, ventilation and thermostat, and to operate the enlarger. Darkroom processes function better between about 65F and 90F. The room should be warm enough to work without gloves on in the winter, and cool enough to not sweat on the paper in summer.

Another seldom thought about requirement is storage and a large enough counter or table top space for spreading out tools and papers. Bottles of chemicals must be stored safely away from other tools. Paper, film, timer and other tools all require proper storage.

Darkroom chemicals, especially color processing chemicals, can be dangerous to your health if you breathe them too long. Good ventilation is necessary for continuously circulating outside air. Also, the right kind of ventilation can reduce dust in the darkrooms rather than increase it. Unfortunately, many professionals ignore darkroom ventilation due to the cost. Adding good ventilation can easily increase the building cost by $2,000 to $3,000. Creating that “perfect picture” is a long, tedious, and potentially hazardous process, especially in color processing. A short videotape titled Health Hazards in Art Series: Heath Hazards of Photographers, produced by the International Film Bureau (1986) is an excellent reference for artists who are doing chemical-based work.

Digital imaging processes are easily compared with the traditional silver-based photographic processes. With film-based photography an image is exposed in the camera, processed, then printed. Incredibly, a similar chain can be seen in digital imaging — the camera captures an image, the image is processed or “stored”, and then the image is outputted. However, digital imaging has multiple imaging inputs (such as scanner, video, & digital camera), and multiple imaging outputs, such as laser and thermal prints, litho plate, transmission, and multimedia, which are not available to traditional photography.

A digital imaging lab requires very little equipment. Basic equipment is divided into four components: (1) input/capture device; (2) manipulation device; (3) storage device; and (4) output device.

Currently, several types of filmless electronic cameras are available. A digital camera records an image directly in digital form. A conventional camera and a scanner are effective and inexpensive input/capture devices. A scanner can convert conventional negatives, slides, or prints into the digital form that a computer (manipulation device) can use.

A computer is the core of a digital imaging lab. It drives the monitor, printer, modem, and the other devices that are attached to it. The computer displays the current version of digitized image on a computer monitor. You can then conduct electronic editing using image-editing software. This phase is much like what goes on in the darkroom with chemicals, temperature control, and light manipulations. In the digital environment these changes are often faster, easier, and chemical-free. The digital medium makes it much simpler to combine two or more images or to perform other complex manipulations that are difficult and tedious to do by conventional means. The quality of digital imaging is significantly impacted by the quality of a computer system you have. Many images with dense pixels require a computer with large memory. At this point, the changed image can be stored, transmitted and/or printed electronically. Once an image is created it can be distributed to millions of people around the world via the Internet; in some cases faster than one can carry a print to the office next door.

Printers serve as output devices. Two basic printers are currently available. Printers that can output to paper, and another type of printer, a film recorder, that produces a positive transparency or a negative that you can view or use to print as you would conventional film. Even though special papers and inks are rapidly being developed to satisfy the demands of professionals, this is one area that has not yet fully matured.

Computer technology offers several storage options. One is to use a hard disk in the computer itself This method is convenient when enough storage space is available on the disk. Another is to store on removable external storage, such as floppy disks, optical disks, cartridge disks (Zip Drive and SyQuest), and digital tape. Films and prints eventually deteriorate, but electronic image files can be duplicated without loss of quality and stored indefinitely (London, B. & Upton, J. 1994; Davies, A. & Fennessy, P., 1998).

It is easy to see why digital imaging has provoked the same level of excitement created by William Fox Talbot with his invention of photogravure technology in 1852. But, there are many downsides to digital imaging. For one, CD players as we know it presently will soon be out of use. CD-ROMs could become like beta videotapes, so the images on CD-ROMs might not always be accessible. Quality digital cameras and imaging outputs are still somewhat costly compared to building a basic darkroom. Digital imaging system have their own particular flaws due to the use of Charge Coupled Devices (CCD) such as the light-sensing device. It can create “staircasing” or “jaggies,” pixel level distortions, color fringing causing a moire effect, and random, incorrectly read pixel data (Davies & Fennessy, 1998).

Still, as the technology becomes less expensive the start up cost for a darkroom and a digital imaging lab are becoming very comparable. A darkroom with a ventilation system would cost $3,000-$S,000. This does not include the cost of processing chemicals and other supplies. On the other hand, a decent professional digital imaging lab with a Mac-G3 and Epson Stylus Color 3000 printer would cost around $S,000-$6,000. This lab does not require a specially designed room. Special paper and inks for digital imaging are more costly than conventional paper at this time, but the prices are expected to drop as more photographers are converting over to digital imaging.

The darkroom is no longer the “cheaper” option, but it still is a very familiar and comfortable space for many artists. Digital imaging system, on the other hand, require a steep learning curve and it is still an unfamiliar process for most artists. Environment and health costs of darkrooms are well documented, but many artists either ignore or are not aware of allergies, skin irritations and the chronic bronchial asthma one can develop with long exposures to processing chemicals. Curiously, professionals and the photography industry do not talk about the environmental costs of chemical-based art forms. Digital imaging gives photographers and other artists alternative medium for their creative language. It provides the same creative freedom that attracted many artists to the darkroom.

The traditional photographic skills — lighting, composition, and dealing with human and animal subjects, are all still essential in digital imaging. Because of this reason, I prefer to use digital photography rather than digital imaging. A word, “digital imaging” seems to create a mental picture of photocopy and reproduction rather than a creative photography. Manipulations of images were always possible photographically, but it is now much easier, quicker, and chemical-free.

Linking the First Visual Language for Masses with the Twentieth Century

Photogravure technique was invented and patented by William Fox Talbot in 1852 and announced by him in 1853 (Crawford, 1979). This new technique revolutionized the photography and printing industry. For the first time in the history the mass reproduction of photography images was possible through the photogravure. Only the privileged classes enjoyed fine art paintings, but with the invention of this new technique paintings could be cheaply reproduced in books, magazines, and newsprints. A newspaper article proclaimed that this new invention allows “our poorer brethren who lack our advantages” to enjoy and experience the paintings (Crawford, 1979, p.246). Karl Klic, a Viennese printer, later refined the original process in 1879.

The photogravure process is essentially a chemical reactions between gelatin, potassium dichromate, and ferric chloride baths. The end result is a softened image with delicate tonal quality. Many early photographers like Peter Emerson, Alvin Langdon Coburn, and Paul Strand popularized photogravure.

Within the last five years digital imaging, sometimes called electronic imaging, has become an important and affordable tool for professionals and weekend photographers. Digital imaging, especially digital cameras have had a long and somewhat difficult developmental period. The field has advanced extremely rapidly and has seen dramatic improvement in imaging output. I could not afford to produce my limited edition prints without digital image output because the traditional method is extremely costly.

Photographic technology has remained virtually unchanged for more than fifty years. Digital imaging is rapidly changing the traditional technology. This creates exciting challenges, but also creates tremendous stresses and many debates. Whether one accepts the new imaging medium or not it is here to stay — digital imaging will become a more integral part of photography. It will be the norm rather than the exception (Davies & Fennessy, 1998; Madline, 1999). Although my discovery and acceptance of the new medium only came after a personal trauma and after going through a steep learning curve, it has opened up a whole new world of visual explorations.

Digital imaging offers different things to different people. To a photographer it could mean filmless cameras and an end to the processing and printing of film in darkrooms. To a photo archivist it might mean storing photo collections digitally. To a darkroom technician it might mean image enhancement on a computer monitor; and to a printer it might mean scanning images into desktop publishing software and outputting directly to printing plates without the need for producing expensive separations (Davies & Fennessy, 1998). None of this means that the old vocabulary of produced images is obsolete, instead it is potentially enriched as my explorations in the simulation of traditional techniques demonstrates.

Exploring Old Languages in a New World

I explored photo silk screen, platinum and palladium, and cyanotype a lot in my artwork. These are extremely tedious, messy and chemical-based processes. In digital environment, effects of silk screen, platinum and palladium, and cyanotype are accomplished in a fraction of the time these techniques use to take and in a completely chemical free environment. An artist can also decide, while the image is transforming whether he/she likes the image and make necessary changes rather than waiting until the process is completed. Let me describe these techniques in turn:

I. Photo Silk Screening

The silk screen process is evolved from the principle of the stencil. It is sometimes called serigraph — seri (silk) and graph (to draw). Although stencil printing was done by the ancients, the modern silk screen principle was secretly employed in Europe around the late 1700. It was not until 1907 that Samuel Simon received a British patent for a tieless stencil that defined the modern silk screen principle. Silk screen printing was the widely adopted to commercial printing, since the process allowed printing on diverse print mediums. Among them were metal signs, felt pennants, textiles, glass bottles, ceramics, rigid sheets, and short-run jobs. Little attention was given to this process by fine art printers until the 1930s, when the need arose to do quantity printing on surfaces other than paper. Advertising and theatre poster artists began to employ the method for printing unique jobs that did not fit into the picture of other available methods (Mertle & Monsen, 1957).

Four basic steps are used in photo silk screen process, or serigraph. First, litho films of an original image are made. This breaks down the image into black-and-white high contrast or half-tone image. Second, a plate is made for each color in the image. Third, each plate is attached to the silk screen to render them ready for use. Fourth, ink is passed through the screens for reproduction. Different manipulations are applied in the last step to create different visual effects. For example, colors can be registered for its sharpness or not registered for muted effects. Andy Warhol popularized the silk screen again in 1960s and 1970s. Warhol’s art forced us to rethink the meaning of photographic images and the uses of photography as a form of language in our society (Hall-Duncan, 1985).

Even though the silk screen process is the simplest and technically most straightforward, as well as the cheapest printing technology, it is an extremely toxic process. Inks are oil and turpentine based. Gelatin solutions are made of gelatin emulsions. Sodium carbonate, potassium bichromate and glycerin are used for screen sensitization. Acetone solvents are used to thin inks and clean up.

In the digital environment, instead of litho films and silk screen plates, sections of an image are electronically cut and pasted into new layers, these layers are then merged and different colors are registered and/or de-selected. The screen process is accomplished completely without chemicals and no messy residues to clean up after the process. Figure 2 is a digital serigraph image.

Figure 2. Chesapeake Work Boat, 1999. Digital Serigraph

Figure 2. Chesapeake Work Boat, 1999. Digital Serigraph

II. Platinum and Palladium

Platinum and palladium processing are other photo processing techniques that can not be accomplished without the harmonious interplay of many chemicals. Many of the master photographers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century used the platinum process to create images of exceptional beauty The platinum process registers a long, rich and subtle range of tones from quiet blacks to delicate middle grays and soft highlights with great details (Hafey & Shillea, 1979). The surface of the paper becomes part of the image and the process produces a one-of-kind original archival print.

In the platinum process, paper is sensitized with ferric oxalate and potassium chloroplatinite. On exposure to light the ferric salts are reduced to the ferrous state. When the paper is placed in a potassium oxalate developer, the new ferrous salts are dissolved and in turn reduce the platinum in contact with them to the metallic state. The print is then cleared in hydrochloric acid to eliminate the ferric salts remaining in the paper. The image that is left consists of metallic platinum in a finely divided state. Platinum and palladium are also called ferric processes. The color of platinum images can range from a cool, slightly purple black to split tones of brown and warm black to very warm brown. Adding mercuric chloride to the developer also gives brown tones. By toning with uranium, the image can even be changed to red, green, or blue (Crawford, 1979).

One drawback to this process is the cost of the platinum. And, the size of the final image is limited to the size of the negative used. Currently, only one company makes platinum photo paper so many photographers must make their own handmade platinum photo papers. Since the chemistry of the paper stock can have a considerable effect on the color and tonal scale of the final image, paper sensitizing is critical to the success of the final image. This is a highly toxic and dangerous process, but it provides opportunities for further image exploration.

The sensitizing and printing procedures for palladium are virtually identical to the platinum process. Palladium is a slightly less expensive metal which gives permanent brown-tone prints in a plain oxalate developer. Many photographers mix platinum and palladium solutions together to stretch the platinum supply.

Digital mediums offer two options to emulate the platinum process. One option is to scan the negative and enlarge the image for printing on sensitized paper, overcoming one of the draw backs of the traditional platinum process. However, this option still requires the traditional printing process. A second option is to scan the negative and make a straight print on watercolor paper via digital output. However, I have not been successful in fully emulating platinotype images with digital output. In the near future, with further technology developments in digital papers and inks, I am confident I will be able to emulate the aesthetic feel of the traditional platinum photographs. Recently, Epson announced that they have developed Lysonic Archival Inks with a 60 year archival factor. An art paper supplier, Dygraphics, is selling a digital art paper called concord rag. It is advertised as “a paper that gives exceptionally good results to the demanding task of those who wish to emulate Platinum photographic printing” (Dygraphics, 1999).

Ill. Cyanotype

Cyanotype is one on the first widely used photographic processing technologies. Cyanotype is a ferric process but unlike the platinum process, it is extremely inexpensive. Hence, cyanotype is economical for large areas. The process develops blue image on a white ground.

In the cyanotype process, paper is sensitized with two chemicals, ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide. Cyanotype works well on natural fibers like cotton, silk, and canvas. Exposure to light reduces a portion of the ferricyanide to ferrocyanide, resulting in the formation of a pale, blue-white image consisting of ferrous ferrocyanide. After exposure, the cyanotype is washed in water. Washing removes the soluble, unreduced salts, leaving insoluble ferrous ferrocyanide behind. On drying, the ferrous ferrocyanide slowly oxidizes to a deep blue tone consisting of a mixture of compounds, probably ferric ferrocyanide and ferric ferricyanide. The print can be changed to this deep tone immediately by treating it in a hydrogen peroxide or potassium dichromate oxiding bath. Except for a tendency toward slight fading, and a vulnerability to alkalinity, cyanotype images are permanent (Nettles, 1977; Crawford, 1979). Like the platinum process, cyanotype is a furric process. Like other platinotype, the negative must be in the same size as the final print. Cyanotype is also very slow process.

Digital processing eliminates the shortcomings of the traditional cyanotype. In digital processing, a negative is scanned and then the color is changed to blue tone, and tonality is adjusted. The image can be outputted on paper or fabric. The digital process is quick (literally, just several clicks), chemical-free and the image’s quality is determined immediately.

Chapter III: Ways of Seeing

“If I could tell the story with words, I wouldn’t need to lug a camera.” — Lewis Hine (Sontag, 1990)

I see pictures rather than words. I have used photography as a primary language of self-expression and a communication tool since my teens. Photography also provided me with a sense of self-worth in the sea of black-and-white written words.

Creating Personal and Social Communication Icons

Photography is a way of communicating our lives and our experiences, like writing or painting, but it is through a photographer’s eyes. Paul Strand, a noted photographer, said “Your photography is a record of your living, for anyone who really sees” (Sontag, 1990). I always thought my photographs were a record of my life. Of course, people around me effected what I saw, but I also wanted to show them what I saw — my personal understanding of an internal and external world. Our perceptions are constantly configured and re-configured by our past and present experiences and expectations for our future. In my teaching, I am helping students to see what they did not see before. At the same time, my students’ works are helping me to see their way of seeing the world.

Our life influences the way of seeing and the way of seeing influences our lives. I have been using Wynn Bullock’s photographs regularly in my teaching to demonstrate how a photographer’s values and philosophy are strongly projected in his/her work. Human figures take up very little space in his photographs. The central focus is on the power of nature. Bullock, in an interview said, “I believe that man is not the center of all things. He’s not quite the important person people think he is in spite of his mental capacities. I believe he is a part of nature, distinctive and special in his own way, as are all forms of life” (Hill & Cooper, 1979, p.3 19). Paul Strand understood this also. He stated that what you may see is affected by other people’s ways of seeing, but one must eventually find his or her own way of seeing (Hill & Cooper, 1979). He emphasized developing a personal style — eventually knowing and defining one’s own reality.

As soon as a latent image is produced, it becomes a memory — the moment becomes the past. John Berger (1995) stated this concept very clearly. He writes, “photographs are relics of the past, traces of what has happened.” Like human memories, photographs are selective. It does not simply record, but interprets the event. Photography is not only an image, but also an interpretation of what is “real.” Also, memory implies a certain act of redemption. “What is remembered has been saved from nothingness. What is forgotten has been abandoned” (Berger, 1995, p.58). Photographs alter and enlarge our notions of what is worth looking at and ignores the rest.

Photographs really are experience captured, and the camera is the ideal arm of consciousness in its acquisitive mood (Sontag, 1990). Photographs preserve memory for its communicators — not only the latent image, but light, noise, smell, temperature, wind, people, trees — everything about before, during and immediately after the moment. In my most recent exhibit I incorporated showing found objects like dried wood, sand, small stones, bird feathers, and dried plant seeds to bring back the whole context in which I took those photographs. I was trying to recapture the “real” experience and somehow share that experience with my audiences. Ansel Adams eloquently expressed this many years ago — “these people live again in print as intensely as when their images were captured on the old dry plates of sixty years ago . . . I am walking in their alleys, standing in their rooms and sheds and workshops, looking in and out of their windows. And they in turn seem to be aware of me (Sontag, 1990, p1 17).”

Although a camera fixes on an event, and an image is always just a partial fixture of reality (only records limited essence of what you see), the image offers a starting point for discussing what an event meant to others. My photographs are my way of sharing what I see with other individuals. It is like interviewing those around me — “What did you see?” I rarely photograph a subject just to photograph something.

Photographs by Diane Arbus (renowned for photographs of freaks — “forgotten” people are her personal way of asking us, “What do you see?” She used photographs to create a deeper understanding of our world — pretty and ugly, and all of life traumas. “I used to have a theory about photographing. It was a sense of getting in between two actions, or in between action and response. I don’t mean to make a big deal of it. It was just like an expression I didn’t see or wouldn’t have seen. Lately, I’ve been struck with how I really love what you can’t see in photograph. An actual physical darkness. And it’s very thrilling for me to see darkness again (Arbus, 1972).” As she articulated here, photographs are as much as about what we don’t see rather than what we can see. This point is often overlooked and forgotten.

Arbus also wrote that photography was a license to go wherever she wanted and to do what she wanted to do. “The camera is a kind of passport that breakdown social inhibitions, freeing the photographer from any responsibility toward the people photographed” (Arbus, 1972 & Sontag, 1990). This statement captures my experience exceptionally well. I go in and out of many different places and events with a camera in my hands. Often people initiate conversations with me when they see a camera. This momentary contact becomes a beginning of something I didn’t plan for. Recently, I was visiting Seattle, Washington. An old man saw me photographing a public market place one afternoon, and he interrupted me to ask what and why I was photographing. He started to tell me all about the market’s history and interesting personalities in that market place. He then asked me if I wanted to see the town, not from a tourist view but through locals’ eyes. He took me around the town in his car and showed me the city from many different angles and gave me different perspectives on the city. We, eventually ended up talking about him and I made a portrait of him to capture the experience and memory. I am not always open to unplanned events, but try to listen to my intuition and take chances. Like Diane Arbus, I am very intrigued by what I don’t know and what I haven’t seen and what I couldn’t see. The camera has been my passport for many years.

Like our conventional communication, no photograph can be utterly objective and truthful. The photographer selects the subject, like a writer selects a topic and a plot, the time at which to photograph it, and the composition (Barnet, 1985). Photographs give people an imaginary possession of a past that is unreal, and photographs are always just partial recordings. Are we knowingly creating “unreal” truth? Max Kozloff (1994) wrote about portrait photographs are invested with a routine deception. He further defines photographs as “the images that give you more than you expected to see and less than you need to know.” Eugene Smith stated that photographs of the same subject by different photographers are greatly different. Simply because each person’s approach and seeing are vastly different from one another, and not because photographers are intentionally trying to deceive (Hill & Cooper, 1979). Edward Weston (Sontag, 1990, p.186) defended the medium — “only with effort can the camera be forced to lie. It is basically an honest medium, so a photographer is much more likely to approach nature in a spirit of inquiry.” Weston’s view is more closely aligned with my view than Kozloff’s view. I wonder what Weston would say now about the convergence of traditional photographs and digital technology.

As I transition my primary language from film-based photographs to digital photographs, I am often faced with what is real and what is not real. How can I truthfully communicate what I see and what I don’t see? What are the symbiotic links between this new medium, my environment, and myself? I am also overwhelmed with the realization that digital photographs are making what was once “old” and extremely cumbersome “new” again with unimaginable choices and control. In the early nineteenth century, many pictorial photographers tried to duplicate the look of beaux-arts painting and touvailles by inventing solarized photographs, the Rayographs of Man Ray, photograms, and photomontages (Sontag, 1990). Like these early pictorial photographers, I am painting a canvas with photographs and computer technology. Thanks to the new technology, I am a pioneer photographer.

Photography is also a way of organizing and simplifying what a photographer sees and perceives — unconsciously classifying and grouping human perceptions. Gestalt theory stresses that by classifying and grouping visual inputs, our visual perception system constantly strives to simplify our surroundings so that we can more easily orient ourselves in them (Gruyter & Weber, 1980). When I see a scene or subject, often, I see forms, lines, light, colors, sometimes even in black-and-white. I try to place these into some kind of order and project feelings. Light, shapes, lines and colors are my unconscious way of organizing and simplifying my confusing world. I mastered the camera and techniques of photographing to ensure that I could be a proficient communicator. I always believed that a photographer could not truly communicate if he/she is restricted by the camera or “techniques” of showing what he/she sees. Ironically, a Minolta camera advertisement eloquently expressed what I have been stressing in my work and teaching about the camera and techniques — “When you are the camera and the camera is you. It is hard to tell where you leave off and the camera begins... Everything works so smoothly that the camera becomes a part of you. You never have to take your eye from the viewfinder to make adjustments. So you can concentrate on creating the picture... And you are free to probe the limits of your imagination” (1979 Minolta advertisement, in Sontag. 1990, p. 185-186).

My art has been, in many ways, the only effective communication I have learned. My art allowed me to communicate in very personal way while at the same time, in the public forum. My art helped me to learn many different things in many different ways. Many artists who came before me helped me to see the fragility of the human race and the environment, and symbiotic link between the past, present and future.

Observation of My Spiritual Awakening into Visual Medium

Through my senior show I want to help people to slow down and honor the things created and given to us by God — light, rocks, trees, water, plants, humans and other organic things. And, to help people to honor the things created by humans through God’s gift of creativity and human will. I also want to convey a message that things that we take for granted like light, rocks, water, and etc., could be very different in the future.

The essence of my senior show can be found in a quote by Ed Freeman.— “Sometimes I think art is like a prayer, a way to thank God for our being human and having the life and the senses that we do. Then, too, I think it is a way to express thoughts and feelings for which there are not words (Ed Freeman, in Cyberscape Nudes, Howard, 1999, p. 42).

My journey at Goddard gave me time to look back my past with a new perspective. While sorting and editing through my work, I saw many of my images focused on sunlight, water, rocks, and other organic things; things that are natural. I have always been attracted to these things, but really couldn’t articulate the reason. I was not aware of my attractions to things that were created by God. I began to see a deep sense of spiritual connection reflected in my images. Along the way, I have collected natural artifacts like small pieces of stones, drift wood, a handful of sand, and dried leaves from different places I photographed. I used to attribute this as an eccentricity, the poor artist who could not buy expensive souvenirs. In retrospect, I was connecting to God by holding on to the things that reminded of his/her creation. It was my own way of saying “God, I want to be connected to you.” I will incorporate a few of my artifact collections into this show. It is not to literally translate the environment of the original image, but to just provide small clues to the original context of the image.

Figure 3, Valley of Fire, is in the first part of my senior show. This image was taken at the Valley of Fire, outside of Las Vegas, Nevada. It was photographed with 2 1/4 by 2 1/4 camera using Ektachrome film. Transparency stock was commercially scanned on to a CD. The image was digitally printed in platinum type on archival etching paper. The day I took this image was a day of hiking with my sister’s family. I was coming down a mountain toward the end of the day and saw the sun streaming over these rocks as the sun was starting to set. Originally, I was drawn to the dark blue sky against reddish brown rocks with ample textures. While selecting this image for my senior show, I saw another story. The low angle looking up toward the light forced me to see that, as a viewer, I was very small and insignificant in this vast landscape. The image is also very barren. I think the earth was very barren when God first created it.

Figure 3. Valley of Fire, 1999. Digital Platinum

Figure 4 is another image in my senior show. An image titled Crossing, was taken in Cathedral Canyon, outside of Las Vegas, Nevada A former Clark County district attorney developed the canyon in the 1970s. This particular cross was created for a memory of a dead child. I was drawn to this image because it seems very curious that people are expressing their grief and love through art. The cross is also a man-made icon for expressing our faith and connection to God. The fine details that came through in this image — pastel blues in Christ, pink flowers and a yellow rose, and little splashes of red in the American flag, against a rough earth color backdrop, reminds me of the roughness of the life, yet the images (Christ, flowers, and the cross) convey tremendous peacefulness. The cross looks likeit is coming out of the earth rather than seated on the top of earth’s surface. The flag brings me back to the existential reality.

Figure 4. Crossing, 1998. Digital print on watercolor paper

The second part of my senior show deals with my present journey. I decided to focus on brief, yet important encounters I made while attending Goddard College. My journey at Goddard forced me to translate my visual language. To use written language and to make experiences understood. More importantly, my journey at Goddard emphasized telling a complete story with images rather than only focusing on different moments. The experience also gave me a strong confidence, the confidence that I never had before. Communicating my thoughts and seeing that they were perfectly relevant. I believed that God has steered me into this new journey.

Images from Goddard captured events, discussions, internal struggles, and things I learned and thoughts I had. These images are my travel log. While some people capture their observations in writing, I take pictures to record my observations. The study group meetings were extremely intensive, it was only after some period of meditation and reflection that I arrived to momentary cognitive equilibrium and a level of understanding that made me feel euphoric and peaceful.

Gathering Place is a triptych image in the second part of my senior show. The first image in the triptych was taken at Goddard campus during fall 1999 residency. This was the designated meeting place for my study group. The image was made after several intense meetings at this spot — discussions were intense; people shared their dreams and how they wanted to achieve them. I tried to get there early and stay late well after other students were gone. I wanted to capture the quietness and peacefulness I felt and translate it into an image. All the communications and interactions that took place there had led me to the moment captured. Three images in the triptych as a whole captured the fast speed in which we moved in and out of different study groups and meetings during the residency. The shapes and movements in these images also represent time of reflections I experienced in the midst of hyper movements and interactions. The triptych captured my residencies at Goddard. The peacefulness I felt during these moments were very similar to the peace I feel while I am praying.

The third part of the senior show is my assumptions about our future. Ultimately, everything returns to what God has created in the beginning of human time and birthing of a New “Being” or a New World. Something we can not possibly conceive with our modem convention of thinking. This section is an attempt in trying to translate my imaginary journey on what the future might looks like. Brown and earth tone colors, fluid lines, and primitive looks in the images could be either prehistoric cave paintings or some type of modem day graffiti. The images reflect the cycle of coming to life through birth, growing and reaching our potentials, coming to closure through death, and re-birth. Thus, starting the cycle of being.

Figure 5. Awakening, 1999. Digital print on watercolor paper

Awakening (Figure 5) was created by mixing three negatives. Two images were made during a field trip to Washington, D.C., and the third image was taken in New York City. I was amazed at seeing a giant human statue coming out of the ground in East Potomac Park in Washington, D.C. To me, the statue represented human beings’ constant struggles — struggles to be understood and understand; struggles to stay alive and grow; struggles to obtain happiness and success. The sight was so amazing, I just had to record it. Right after that image was taken I saw incredible light reflecting off the Potomac River. I thought about how our lives are depending on water. The fact that human bodies are 98 percent water. We are from water and water sustains our lives. Light is another element that is essential to our continuous survival. By placing an image of the globe above the water and surrounding it with light, I want to represent that God’s grace is holding up the world, and another new beginning.

The third part of my senior show also reflects my hope for the future. I want to continue on my journey of observing, recording and seeing new things. I want to see how technology could change our lives, our ways of seeing, and our expressions. This journey toward digital art/photography has given me a new enthusiasm for my art, at the same time, I discovered a healthier and more dynamic way of working. It truly has been a transformation of my way of seeing.