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Matinee: 'Through The Ground Glass' Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

25 October 2014

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the fifty-sixth in our series of Saturday matinees today: Through The Ground Glass.

This five-minute video of impeccable production values features the work of large format photographer Joseph Allen Freeman. It was shot by Taylor Hawkins and produced by Nick Bolton.

Freeman carries his large, wooden tripod over his shoulder into the world wondering about the execution of a shot that must be captured with no immediate feedback.

He likens composing the upside down image in the ground glass of his large format field camera to a musical composition, tuning the image's lines as melody and its texture as tone. Only after a while spent making adjustments to camera position and framing is he ready to make an exposure.

The physical demands make you part of the image, he observes. Your state of mind becomes blank, "sort of like sleeping," as you consider the landscape before you.

Back at the darkroom, we see him making contact prints, which he describes as having a three-dimensional quality. It's like looking at a hologram, he says. And yet contact printing is one of the oldest processes in the photography.

On Freeman's Etsy site, you can order one of his contact prints. Cave, Eastern Washington 2014, for example, is a $50 a selenium and tea toned 8x10-inch archival silver gelatin contact print. Others range up to $400.

He explains his approach to toning this way:

Selenium toner has two functions in my work; it adds to the archival properties of silver prints by coating certain regions of silver molecules with a layer of selenium molecules. I also use it because of its ability to change the hue of the print and to deepen the feeling of depth in the darker tones.

I tone many of my prints in tea (yes, the beverage). Tea works differently than selenium in that it doesn't alter the molecular structure of the silver. I use it to stain the paper which the silver gelatin is coated onto in order to give a degree of warmth to the image.

Each print is slightly different from the others, giving them a primacy as individual works that is lost in the digital age where replication is consistent.

But it's fun to extract from his approach to the medium what can be applied to digital landscape photography. An exercise we leave to the reader.

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