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The Arctic Regions #36
CREDIT: Dunmore & Critcherson. Gift of Mary and Dan Solomon to National Gallery of Art Washington DC

Travel, documentary and fine art

Studying stuff in the work of others; then and now

Yesterday I felt privileged to listen to a talk by Chloe Dewe Mathews, a joint on line event between the Digital Imaging and Documentary Groups. Chloe is a fine art graduate and a fine photographer too. She presented some of her projects to us, particularly "Caspian the elements" and "Shot at Dawn". I was particularly taken by the way she presents her work.

Chloe shoots using a medium format camera which gives her multiple options for display. She has shown large format prints where "you can see every blade of grass" and also produced some fine looking photobooks. And from a professional perspective, I do like photobooks. As a tip for those seeking to follow Chloe's career path she left us with the idea that presenting book dummies is a useful way of demonstrating a concept.

When studying the work of others I always find it useful to compare and contrast with stuff I had studied in the past and ideas I have for the future. What can I learn from this comparison? Where could I take this for my work into the future?

Early in her career Chloe had hitch-hikes across Asia to her first encounter with the Caspian Sea. Doesn't sound the easiest of journeys and my mind was taken back to the work of Dunmore & Critcherson in 1869. They travelled to the Arctic to produce a body of work that was eventually published as a photo book consisting of 140 albumen photographic prints. Considering that they coated and exposed wet glass plate negatives in this extreme cold and had to transport large glass plates plus a portable darkroom this is no mean feat.

The image above is one of the prints. Like others of the era they show featureless skies but in this case this did not detract from the creative intent and illustrates a connection between photography and fine art that is equally applicable then and now. In the case of Dunmore & Critcherson this documentary project was undertaken to produce a body of work for the painter William Bradford to use as reference material for maritime paintings. The parallel for me is that I see travel, documentary and fine art in the works of Chloe Dewe Mathews and Dunmore & Critcherson.

Now to my work. I still have my father's roll film camera. I plan a little trip with this for what would have been his 90th birthday. He wanted to see Japan and he will probably do it in infra-red...

Look our for more of these on-line learning opportunities. See you there!