Once upon a time, photographers
stored their work in "shoebox" museums, tucked away under
a bed or wedged into the corner of a closet where they lay out of sight
and unrecognized. Then came the Internet and people like Howard Goldbaum
of the Peoria Art Guild and the Heuser Art Center Gallery at Bradley
University in Illinois, who put out the word that there was a new home
for photography. A place to show pictures to the world.
In 1994, after several years of curricular innovations to incorporate
digital imaging into a college photography course, Goldbaum became part
of a group that formed a national jury exhibit of images created within
the digital environment. A suggestion to give the exhibition a venue
on the World Wide Web prompted the first juried digital photography
exhibit on the Internet. Since then, the site has kept a steady pace
with the evolution of web site browsers.
Structured to appeal to both gallery visitors and photographers, the
Bradley site at: www.bradley.edu/exhibit
offers an opportunity to connect personally with each photographer,
either by e-mail or web site. An icon allows us to hear and read their
personal aesthetic with a technical explanation of the steps taken to
create each image. Using the multimedia and interactive components of
web design offers visitors a way to simulate the actual experience of
visiting a gallery and meeting the artist.
Goldbaum was kind enough to put Shutterbug in touch with several of
these artists from as far away as Anchorage, Alaska, and Melbourne,
Australia, and we asked each one to speak about their work on the site.
Thomas Hyatt of Baltimore, Mary-land, Anna Ullrich of Seattle, Washington,
Richard Van Hoesel of Melbourne, Australia, Dallas Walters of Peoria,
Illinois, and Hal Gage of Anchorage, Alaska, were among our selections
from the 1996 shows.
A student of painting and photography at the University of Alaska, Hal
Gage is a graphic designer and commercial photographer. His beautiful
image "Untitled" has a fresco-like quality. "Most
of my digital work is less abstract and more surreal," Gage says,
"but `Untitled' was a work of love--a visual poem
to a lovely lady in Boston. The basic premise for that study was to
create the illusion of a texture and the only scanned image is the somewhat
hidden face of the woman in sunglasses. The colors are simple shapes
drawn, filled, and distorted to make a pleasing composition while the
various overlapping selections were made with different amounts of embossing
applied to the background to create what looks like a stucco or concrete
wall. One important way this treatment is different from scanning in
a photo of a stucco wall," Gage says, "is that the surface
appears to have a sharp yet smooth rounded edge look, all at the same
time, a texture that does not exist in the real world. The face is from
a low quality fax, scanned in and adjusted to accentuate the high contrast
look, then layered over the background and giv-en a mode change to blend
it in. The resulting 35 meg. image was output to a dye sub printer as
a final print. ''
Tom Hyatt's ink jet print "Fragment," so rich in color
and texture, displays the artist's intense interest in surfaces.
Frustrated with the flatness of computer-based images Hyatt was still
fascinated with the way the computer enabled him to merge images based
on perceived textures, "the bumps and valleys represented by the
dark and light areas."
On a fishing trip to Cape Hatteras Hyatt found a chunk of stone and
recalls how it led him to think about where it may have come from. "Perhaps
a wall or a fragment of something larger where the paint was washed
away by years at sea. I scanned my daughter Molly's hand to create
some tension between it and the stone, to create perhaps something mysterious.
In Photoshop I applied the hand to the stone, then used the surface
of the stone to remove some of the hand and merge them together. The
result was a hand that looked painted on, scraped away here and there.
The rest of the image was created using a piece of cloth from India
combined with pieces of crumpled paper, a gold leaf, a flower, and a
fragment of a feather. Lastly I applied the image of a cloud as part
of the `painting.'"
Attempting to bridge the gap between the most basic images (photograms)
and state of the art digital work, Dallas Walters creates a world of
toys on a cyber level. "It makes cleaning up my room much easier
since I just shut off the computer," he says. His "Mr. Fixit"
series began when Walters took his erector set and made literal photographs
of individual pieces, then digitized them, scanning the prints into
the computer with a flat-bed scanner.
In the computer Walters constructed the actual image, placing the machine-like
pieces against a background of striped wallpaper and a tile floor. "I
tried to add a sense of believability by photographing actual environments,"
he explains, "then placing the constructed `toy sculpture'
in this reality. I must have been relatively successful because one
of my colleagues wanted to buy one of the `sculptures' for
the garden area of his house. I was excited at the prospect of selling
a print but when he said he wanted the actual work I had to tell him
it didn't really exist."
Richard Van Hoesel's work is complicated, with many levels to
explore. On the Bradley site he spoke of how the seemingly opposite
existence of the synthetic and the organic often meet in his digital
photographs. "Ribo Nucleic," he explains, "is a Photoshop
manipulation of about six separate images, half that were taken with
this specific image in mind. The rest were taken from my personal database
and therefore required more work in terms of lighting manipulation so
they would blend together. The work is intended as a reflection on biotechnological
evolution, which is at present in its infancy and seems to be appropriately
cast in the newly evolved medium of digital photography."
Anna Ullrich's themes are found in popular culture, she says,
and describe antagonistic relationships between the sexes. "The
Alarmist" came about when she saw an article in The New York Times
that read "Brain Study Examines Rare Woman--She Cannot Experience
Fear or Even Feel It." These words compose one wall of the house
in Ullrich's image. Intrigued by the idea of a woman who cannot
experience fear, "The Alarmist" became a meditation and
interpretation of the theme for Ullrich. She reached into her own photographs
for the male figure and appropriated other photography for the female
form. On a flat-bed scanner Ullrich constructed the composite of objects
and fabrics that create the house and, using Adobe Photoshop software,
edited the individual components. With Lucent Technology's RIO
software she laid out the composition. A link from the Bradley site
will take you to Ullrich's unique home page at: www.annau.com.
Lanny Webb was also a winner in the Bradley competition. His personal
vision and expertise have dovetailed beautifully and his site at: www.visart.uga.edu/lannywebb
is a showcase for much of his work. "My images," he says,
"seek to recreate more of the spirit of a place or occurrence
than the actual place or occurrence itself. To this end, I have found
the use of light to be my most valuable tool." Using Adobe Photoshop
to stitch together, manipulate, and color correct the original image,
Webb created "Ogeechee Camp" as shown on the Contents page.
Shot from a bridge in a drizzling rain, he combined three separate shots,
one of the left side containing the camp house, one looking directly
down the river and one of a canoe. The dark and deserted camp lacked
the essence of human presence that Webb likes in his work and he added
a light in the window with a myriad of reflections. The fine-tuning
of the image came in the final printing stage as an IRIS Giclee print.
Working with the Division of Forestry for Georgia and Florida, Webb
gained access to a number of fire towers that afforded him a higher
perspective that helped concentrate the viewer's attention on
an entire scene rather than the individual elements. "While the
vast majority of views afforded from these towers yields little more
than a rolling sea of green pine tops I occasionally find the alliance
of man and land that I'm after. `Thomson Moon' was
shot early one overcast morning with ISO 100 color print film. Once
digitized, the 35mm negatives were spliced together in Photoshop and
selective alteration began.
"Combining the elevated perspective with a panoramic view unfortunately
created major distortion with parallel lines such as the road and horizon
in this image," Webb says. "Generally I shoot for a straight
horizon and live with the curve in the road. Here, however, Photoshop
allowed me to stretch and twist selectively to straighten things out
between the two. Clouds and a large full moon were added to create the
desired ambiance and balance the house in the composition. A light in
the cottage window turned the house into a home."