Jelly, jelly so fine

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Jon Harwood

I have been enjoying the new work of photographer Jon Harwood. Jon teaches digital photography locally and originally came out of the mental health and counseling field. A soft spoken man, Jon has helped me with my photographic pursuits over the years on occasion, and happens to be a really nice guy.

Jon has been exploring a forgotten side road of photography for the past year or two with very intriguing results. He has rediscovered the method of gum bichromate photography. Here is Jon is his own words:

I have become interested in working with an old method of making photographs, Gum Bichromate printing. This process involves applying a mixture of gum Arabic, sensitizer and watercolor paint to watercolor paper. The paper is then exposed under ultraviolet light. Prints are made in layers of color over a period of several days. The images tend to have much different look from modern photographs, ranging from incredibly soft to intense cartoon like colors as well as everything else in between.

The logical question here is: "Why would anyone want to do this?" Gum prints tend to be fuzzier than other types, they lack the long elegant contrast range of other photos. In addition, they are very difficult to make. The answer may be that gum printers are rebelling against the uniformity of modern photographs. Perhaps we are pushed to use the oddest form of photography to make images that reveal the unique hand of the image maker. In our small part of the photographic world, we try to make a soulful images instead of perfect ones.

We gum printers are looking for something. While I can't speak for all gum workers, I think that at least some of us are searching for a kind of photography that goes beyond a simple recording of the scene. Gum prints reveal the dialog between the photographer and the image making materials. Because a single photograph may be interpreted in many different ways as it is printed the final print can reveal something of the maker as well as the subject of the image.

I like the old Martin's Dyes feel of the work, they have a very soft painterly quality. Click on the picture to magnify and see the great texture of the print. Each work is like a hand crafted monotype. I eagerly look forward to seeing more work from Jon.

1 comment:

Sanoguy said...

Jon is a neat guy.... doing some neat things!! Thanks for featuring him, Robert!!!