29 april 2016
John Chiara at the Nextlevel gallery
JOHN CHIARA, PHOTOGRAPHER
In Camera : American Landscapes
Based in San Francisco, John Chiara builds his oversized cameras and transports them with a flatbed trailer to produce unique images of large formats. Both aura of mystery and lyricism, each image is in itself a photographic event.
His work is exhibited at the Nextlevel gallery . This is his first solo exhibition in Europe.
If the photographer usually maintains a close relationship with his camera, then John Chiara is an unconventional case. The photographer goes inside the darkroom that he himself has made, as in a matrix, made his adjustments and then extracted from the cockpit by a narrow passage that does not let light enter. From there the picture will be printed, after a long pause. Back in his studio, he develops the image in a huge tube containing the developer bath.
He builds a camera almost on every site where he decides to work. Thus he has devices in Mississippi, San Francisco, New York … only the United States, at least for now. This is an incredible logistics that brings us back in the time of early photography when artists faced a heavy and cumbersome equipment, and asking for long exposure and development. His photographic technique is also close to the daguerreotype, invented by Louis Daguerre in 1835, which printed the image directly on a glass plate without using negative.
Through his practice, John Chiara gives time to time, in the heart of the digital age. The adventure began in the 90’s. « I was photographying with an average chamber of size 4×5 Linhof Tecnica, which belonged to my grandfather. I was doing my black and white contacts; I loved the setting, the incredible amount of information in this small package. I wanted to keep this “sharpness”, this quality in large format prints. He had to skip the stage of expansion, ie the transfer of the image from the negative onto the photographic paper. So I decided that whatever the desired format, I had to build my equipment and find the right lens for this format and shoot directly on paper. “After years of stalking in the classifieds ads at the end of photo magazines, the arrival of internet allowed him to acquire the ideal lens, a model from the 70s looking like a barrel, a” copy-camera « or ” process-camera “manufactured for industry and advertising.
“I wanted to make something that looks like me … that bears the mark of my hand. And that shows the entire process as a photographic event. My work is a form of meditation on the landscape but also a meditation on photography. “ His inspiration, he says, comes from the first color photographs by Edward Steichen. But also in the approach, of Lewis Baltz for his outlook on depression and residues of American industrial society. The color treatment can make us think of the work of William Eggleston, especially in his Mississippi series.
“When you photograph the south (of the US), which is the region where Eggleston is from, it is difficult to make images that do not refer to his work … It’s hard to escape as he is dancing around you ( “he’s dancing around in the landscape”). He also used a very commercial process of color photography and made it something special. It is one of the first “color fine art photographers” and somehow his pictures because he was the first to use these red, are an absolute event: you can not not refer to it while back there. Similarly, in my process, the paper is not a collection paper. It is a commercial paper for industrial use and I use it for artistic purposes because of its conservation quality, and its high saturation, … So there is a similarity to that level … it’s a little bit the same approach as it has a research of color saturation, of commercial paper used for artistic purposes. “
John Chiara researchs by another technical trick to reveal subliminal information on landscape, past events that a normal photographic process would fail to bring to the surface. Landscapes for him, contain “memories,” memories aimed to be reduced to a materiality. To revive this memory, he prints on a paper for obtaining a negative image. This is the case in front of a landscape that contains vestiges of modernism or of American power, something monumental, as in FOOTHILL AT BALBOA, LOS ANGELES, 2012. “I also changed the filter to obtain green here where we think there would be green in the grass, while in reality, it is a desert. This brings to the sight of things that existed. I like this subliminal process that enables the silver photography. “