Web Wandering
Pixels, Pixels, Pixels

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."