Gallery NAGA’s 40th year begins with an exhibition of photographers using 19th century processes to express ideas of the passage of time.
Jaclyn Kain: Cyanotypes and David Prifti: Tintypes both run from January 6 through 28 at Gallery NAGA. A public reception will be held at the gallery on Friday, January 6 from 6 to 8 pm. Gallery NAGA has teamed up with Bar Mezzana to host a round-table discussion and dinner with Jaclyn Kain, Colin Lynch (Chef/Partner of Bar Mezzana), and Heather Lynch (General Manager/Partner of Bar Mezzana) on Thursday, January 5 at 6pm. Reservations for this intimate event may be made by calling 617.530.1770.
Having just finished her Master’s degree from the New Hampshire Institute of Art, Jaclyn Kain is producing more than ever. Her latest body of work was shaped by the discovery, in the summer of 2015 on a beach in Boston, of a deceased child’s body. During this time Kain was printing portraits of her children inside sea shells and leaving them on beaches to be discovered. The incident, coming at the same time as her abandoned shell portraits, prompted a departure in Kain’s subject matter, away from her children and to the water and beaches in and around Boston, as a means of understanding, grieving, and acknowledging a loss of this magnitude, especially as a mother.
Jaclyn Kain photographs the water in the Boston Harbor, capturing the ever-changing and abstract reflections that play on the surface. Negatives are made from the digital files and contact-printed using the cyanotype process, first discovered in 1842 and producing a cyan-blue print. The paper is then coated with a light-sensitive emulsion. At this point, all that is needed is light and water to create the print. The subject matter and the methodology of the work are intertwined, light and water being both the content of the work and the ingredients required to process the prints. The rich blue hues transform the surface and depths of the water into formal patterns of light, shadow, and tonality.
“There was no recipe for this process,” Kain remarks. “The reaction of the chemistry with the paper varies in every print and I embrace the beautiful inconsistencies that emerge.”
David Prifti once wrote that is was his desire to explore his life through the things that shaped it. These formative elements were his relationships, his memories, his sense of family, rites of passage, aging and death. The creative process that led to all of his photographs was indirectly a very personal journey for him.
In 2011, David Prifti died at age fifty of pancreatic cancer. This marked the end of a renowned photographic career and 25 years of teaching at Concord-Carlisle Regional High School. In 2005 he adopted a process new to him, albeit one popular in the 19th century. Shooting with large-format wet-plate collodion emulsions on glass, Prifti made tintype portraits of students, friends, and acquaintances as well as natural still-lifes. Imperfections that occurred on the edges of the plates only add to their precious quality and mediate the intensity of the images.
Prifti would often photograph portraits in nature and in particular the area around the Assabet River in Concord. Those portraits were accompanied by still-lifes of decaying logs, vegetation, insects and birds. Eastern Kingbird (death) portrays a bird, its body resting on a piece of wood with its feet hovering over its white belly, quietly tender in its pose. In Polyphemus a moth’s wings are spread open against a tree while a hand, presumably David Prifti’s, reaches in as if to startle the insect. The still-lifes are unified by the questions they ask us. Has Prifti captured the final image of these creatures’ existence or are we looking at post-mortem photographs? This ambiguity forces us to question the very idea of mortality.
David Prifti’s photographs have been exhibited at such venues as the Museum of Modern Art, New York and the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Lincoln MA. His work is represented in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX, the Boston Public Library, Danforth Art, and the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum.