new photo, new style

yesterday, i got to work with fred fraser, who used an incredibly old-fashioned photo-style: wet plate negative, in which the photo negative is a plate of glass, not a piece of film as we are used to.  the result is completely unlike anything i’ve ever done before!

we managed to get the shot we were looking for on the first take.  we did a second shot but it’s not nearly as strong as the first.   we were going for somewhat of a tough look–my inspiration was photos of tattooed women in sideshows, but maybe one who was done with being looked at. this might be the toughest photo of me yet!

[edit to add some background to the inspiration: although i love being a tattooed person, i don’t always welcome the stares & comments that sometimes go along with it.  i hate when strangers touch me, twist my arm, pull away my clothing to better see the art, or when people standing one or two feet away from me start talking about how ugly and ridiculous tattooing is (in those cases, i or a friend have confronted them, because it’s just plain rude).  i double-hate when people use it as an opportunity to show me their shitty tattoo or share their ridiculous tattoo ideas with me.  it’s tiresome to explain the background of certain pieces that often get questions.  i accept that my tattoos push me into that visual public space, and it’s understandable that some people want to talk to me about them.  some folks say sweet, polite things, like ‘your tattoos are really beautiful, and i don’t even like tattoos!’, but mostly i don’t like being on public display.  i don’t regret being tattooed, and i won’t stop getting more, but it’s just another way that, as a woman, my body becomes a thing to discuss and touch without my consent. ]

the process to take one wet plate photo is quite interesting: first, we worked out the posing, then fred retired to his darkroom to prepare the plate, which takes nearly ten minutes.  then he comes back and takes the photo; the exposure took eight or nine seconds.  after that, he has to take the plate back to the darkroom and develop it immediately.    he let me watch the plates develop–it was kind of like watching a polaroid!

when i was younger, i used to be kind of scared by black & white images of people with light eyes–sometimes it looks like their irises have no colour.  i’m really excited to now have a ghost-eyes photo of myself!

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5 thoughts on “new photo, new style

  1. this is amazing! i was totally thinking of sideshow/circus — haunting and haunted, but tough. 🙂 i love wet plate negatives. there’s an exhibit right now of old plate photography (wet and dry) right now at the aberdeen uni library. some amazing portraits, and also the waves/ocean.

    1. yeah, you got where i was coming from! I went back and edited it to explain my inspiration a little bit more. wet plates are sooo cool! they are almost 3-d, it’s quite strange! the plates capture images that are so moody.anyway, sounds like a great exhibit

  2. i re-read your explanation — very eloquently put. like you say, as people presenting as women, we are already under so much of that scrutiny. that is really terrifying though — how people think they have the right to touch you, interfere with you, because you make your body (through tattooing) so visible.

    something i read recently in an article by leslie kinzel in bitch magazine, that i think you might like:

    ‘our bodies are signal towers; the transmissions they send out are laden with information. they speak for us, and depending on the context–depending on the viewer’s assumptions–they may tell folks things that aren’t true, things we then must correct. our bodies are often mistaken for public property, but they are a mode of public discourse […] your body will draw attention. how you use it is up to you.’

    i was thinking about this sort of thing a lot lately — how (for better or for worse), since whether we like it or not, our bodies are politicized; people are going to interpret them and impress meanings upon them no matter what we do. so the best thing is to embrace it, perhaps. & be true to yourself (& your own transforming external expressions, in whatever contradictions), and enjoy playing with other people’s expectations along the way. 🙂

    1. yeah, it’s really frustrating that our bodies are so public, and without our consent, and there is very little we can do to correct it. how our bodies , like you said, are politicized. all we can do is just be absolutely ourselves, because bowing to external pressures will never be satisfying.

      one thing i’ve enjoyed is the contrast (many pin-up models do this) of the “masculine” or “non-feminine” look of tattoos, played against a very feminine wardrobe.

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