For one of my most recent collodion wet plate photography series, I experimented with the juxtaposition of simple, everyday objects with an elegant, vintage mannequin hand. My wife has a collection of vintage mannequin hands, and I have always wanted to produce a series ever since seeing them. Entitled, “The Illustrated Hand,” this series of tin positives, or tintypes/ferrotypes, shot using my 8 x 10 collodion wet-plate camera. The ferrotypes are one of a kind, and limited editions of the series are available upon request.
“The Illustrated Hand” was inspired by my admiration of Marcel Duchamp and Irving Penn, two creative icons of their time.
These two unique artists both had large appetites for detail and concept. Duchamp made people think more abstractly and was a progressive in the conceptual art movement. His work crossed many different boundaries from, Assemblage art to sculpture.
Irving Penn was more noted for the elegant still life work he produced for Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar in the commercial realm. His later work was comprised of odd objects he often found on the street. I will never forget when he had a show at the art school I attended, Art Center College of Design. He showed 4-foot-by-5-foot prints of cigarette butts he had found on the streets of New York. The prints were mounted on steel.
From that day on I realized the power of simplistic storytelling imagery — something that has inspired all my work, but especially “The Illustrated Hand.” Penn’s large format, simplistic use of one object often told an entire story, stripping it all down to the purest, simplest element.
With influence from these two artists’ schools of thought, I found myself taking a little sample "point of view" from both artists to create a blend of simple conceptual metaphors.
A simple Japanese painting brush illustrates the artist or “The Artisan.”
The butterfly is the purest form of beauty and elegance of flight. There is something special about the fragility and color of butterflies.
"The Obscurist" is one of my favorite images. It’s the raw definition of early photography. That's an early plastic Brownie camera. It’s ironic that I am employing an early 1800s process to create this image. It also harks back to the use of Camera Obscura, another genre of early image making.
“The Visionist” is a metaphor about a person who walks the earth and has vivid visions. I got the idea when I was watching a brilliant older movie, “The Illusionist,” starring Edward Norton. Somehow with the vintage glasses it has a feel of the older period movie.
Check back next month to see and read about the other half of "The Illustrated Hand" series, or go to my Facebook page to get a sneak peek of the images.