Unlike many disciplines that have been revolutionized by the digital age, photography is still deeply engaged in the processes and materials that pioneered its development. In a new group show at Gallery 270, “The 21st Century Handmade Photograph,” this fact is celebrated through the lens of six contemporary photographers—John Dugdale, Jefferson Hayman, Richard Kagan, Peter Liepke, Michael Massaia, and George Tice—who advance the various methods of producing analog photography. Works on view are alluring specimens that draw from techniques including toned silver gelatin, platinum/palladium, gum bichromate, and cyanotype. They remind us of the merits of these labor-intensive processes and their boundless potential for image-making, free from the digital world of Photoshop. Tom Gramegna, the gallery’s director explains, “Our goal here is to call out and distinguish this special genre of photographic alchemists, who are both modern artists and 21st century ‘old world craftsmen’.”
Silvery visions of Central Park at dusk are among the works on view created by New Jersey-born artist Massaia. Each work, conspicuously void of people, is a striking balance between black shadow and white illumination, tempered by infinite shades of grey. “Capturing the park between the hours of 2am and 6am was my attempt to capture the city in its most haunting, desolate, and inviting moments,” the artist explains. Massaia succeeds, with stunning results, between the glittering architecture of the New York skyline, incandescent clouds of fog, and crisp reflections in glassy lakes. The works lend viewers an element of surprise, ironically, in the same way a great photorealistic painting might.
Similarly superb, and set in the same city, are the works of Peter Liepke. A master of platinum/palladium and gum bichromate techniques, Liepke wields a 100-year-old Graflex camera—described by the gallery as “the antithesis of today’s modern electronic camera that only requires aiming.” On view are works from his latest series “Above & Beyond,” an homage to the urban metropolis he chose over his native Minnesota. “For this series I wanted to go back and attempt to remember my feelings or first impressions upon arriving in New York City as an outsider for the first time, well over twenty years ago,” Liepke explains. But rather than the traditional love letter to the city, “the series is much more about breaking away and chasing a dream.” Each work, a misty scene of everyday life framed by iconic architecture, pulsates with nostalgia, and like the processes through which they are borne, radiates with timelessness.
“The 21st Century Handmade Photograph” is on view at Gallery 270, Englewood, New Jersey, May 8th–July 3rd, 2014.