What do Chris McCaw and Marco Breuer (links to work here and here) have in common (other than their work sometimes bordering on combustion)? Both artists are very interested in the photograph as an object and the process involved in creating that object. In the current climate of rapid digitization, where the process of photography becoming more removed, this is a refreshing notion.

Chris McCaw Sunburn
from the Sunburns series, Chris McCaw

At Friday night’s Photo Alliance lecture McCaw talked about the long daylight exposures, large format (in some cases self built) cameras and paper negatives of his Sunburns series and how he has become more attuned to the seasons and the movement of the sun. This series of work has also made him more aware of his materials as only certain older stocks of paper will give him the results he is looking for. Beyond the aesthetic appeal of the images, the draw of McCaw’s images is the combination of two types of interaction that light has with the paper. The first being the recording of the landscape in the traditional photographic sense and the second being the burning of the paper as if with a magnifying glass.

It’s interesting that McCaw and Breuer have ended up where photography began, creating unique objects rather than multiples. In Breuer’s case a lot of his earlier work was with photograms because, for him, printing photographs in the darkroom felt like working with old ideas, ideas he that had occurred to him days or weeks earlier. His whole output since has been exploring ways to keep immediacy in his work and do away with any mediating process. This in itself is an interesting choice considering photography itself is mediation, a removal from the actual.

PAN(C-289), 2003, Marco Breuer

Breuer’s more recent work, which appears in a recently published book by Aperture, is done by working (sanding, scraping,incising) the surface of exposed color photo paper to reveal different colors. In an interesting side note, Breuer wasn’t terribly happy with the outcome of the book so he began reworking a handful of the actual books in the same way he produced the original work. He sanded, removed text, and otherwise worked the books until they had reached an acceptable level of authenticity. That is what I appreciate about Breuer, his dedication to the ideas that he has set forth for himself and his continuous exploration of those ideas.

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