Monday, 24 May 2010

Review: 'Subject to Change'

By Nigel Yates

Fourteen 'photograms' by Jacob Feenstra featured in the May exhibition
'Subject to Change' at Gallery on Blueskin (7-30 May).
The photogram is a very early form of photographic printing that can only be
accomplished in a traditional 'wet' darkroom, an increasingly rare place
with the advent of digital photography. The technician places an object
straight onto photographic paper and exposes it to light for a
pre-determined amount of time, and then processes the paper in developer and
fixer. The result is a silhouette.

Jacob's prints are of common and unusual objects found on local beaches,
such as a glove in one print, and a seahorse in another.The prints are
monochrome (black and white), although several have small patches of colour
added and one has had selective sepia toning.

The photogram process naturally delivers rich, deep blacks and bright
whites, with few middle tones. Jacob used fibre-based photographic paper
throughout which, when properly processed, will be of archival quality. He
then immersed the washed prints in selenium toning solution (except for No.
7, which is gold-toned). This simple process replaces the silver halides in
the print with selenium, which is more stable, and will not fade when
exposed to sunlight. These prints could last for hundreds of years if stored

Silhouettes such as these can draw the eye yet have an unobtrusive,
understated effect. The odd shapes of the often unidentified objects provide
a mysterious element which arouses curiosity. There is a quality in the best
of these photograms which is at once pleasing and hard to define.

Attached photo: No. 14 'Rondo' $485

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Warrington, Evansdale, Waitati, Doctors Point), Dunedin, New Zealand.
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