Thursday, November 26, 2015

Wood glass salt


Open any photography magazine and you’re bombarded by ads for the most modern technology to help you get a great shot. Editing programs, lenses, GPS and astronomy to help you find the exact location Ansel Adams stood in to shoot his famous mountain views. When it comes to art, sometimes technology has it’s limits. Cameras don’t take pictures, photographers do. The right equipment makes your work easier and results come in less time, but it won't guarantee a powerful shot.

Take for example local photographer Francesco Mastalia and his recent exhibit Organic. Mastalia’s almost forgotten method of photography is called wet plate collodion. Also known as “The Black Art,” it dates back to 1851 and involves a large wooden camera, an 1870s brass lens, and portable darkroom. Glass plates are coated with light-sensitive salts and after a complex process, produce specacular and striking images. The method is time consuming and done without the gadgets and light meters many of today’s photographers can’t live without. I saw the exhibit at SUNY Orange in Middletown and it was also featured at BAU Gallery in Beacon, the Moviehouse Studio Gallery in Millerton, and Westchester Community College.

Mastalia’s Organic showcases Hudson Valley farmers and chefs whose common mission is healthy food and responsible stewardship to preserve land for future generations. The project includes quotes from Mastalia’s subjects on their view of the country’s obsession with all things “organic,” a word that supposedly simpllifies our modern lives, but turns out to be multi-layered. Our food, like Mastalia’s work in this old medium, need not be easy, fast or convenient.   

Francesco Mastalia:

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