Archive | January, 2016

Black-and-White Photorama with Robin Dreyer

Robin Dreyer, "Wave Runner," silver gelatin print, 11 x 14 inches.

Robin Dreyer, “Wave Runner,” silver gelatin print, 11 x 14 inches.

 

Photography is alive and well at Penland—all kinds of photography. Photography dates back to 1839 and, in the years since then, it has undergone repeated technical evolution, beginning with daguerreotypes and early paper processes and ending up with today’s digital technologies. Along the way, many fascinating and beautiful methods of image-making have come and not quite gone. Not quite, because artists and craftspeople are in the habit of taking an out-of-date technology (like the potter’s wheel or the letterpress) and adopting it for purely creative purposes.

This is exactly what’s happened in photography, and Penland’s photo workshops cover almost every kind of photography that has ever been practiced: salt printing, cyanotype, platinum, color processes, digital processes, and, of course, gelatin silver photography. What is gelatin silver, you might ask? That’s the technical name for black-and-white darkroom photography, which dominated both art and commercial photography during much of the twentieth century. It’s the kind of photography people used to do in their basements using their dad’s camera. It’s the kind of photography that used to be part of high school and college art programs. The profession of photojournalism and the photography collection of the Museum of Modern Art were built on gelatin silver photography.

If you’ve always wanted to explore the potential of these materials or you are nostalgic for that little darkroom you used to have in your bathroom, or if you are a photographer interested in trying out some different ways of working, we have a one-week workshop this spring that may just be for you: Black-and-White Photorama with Robin Dreyer March 27 – April 2.

 

black and white image of oak tree hung with prayer flags

Robin Dreyer, “Prayer Flags,” silver gelatin print, 10 x 10 inches.

 

Robin has been Penland’s communications manager for twenty years, and for much of that time he’s been the school’s main photographer. Although today he makes pictures for the school using digital cameras and a computer, he shot a lot of Penland’s earlier promotional photographs on black-and-white film and printed them in his darkroom. Black and white was his first photographic love, and he’s never lost that interest. His silver gelatin photographs have been shown in galleries in Asheville, Durham, Greensboro, Raleigh, Atlanta, and New York City. One of his prints won Best in Show at The Art of the Auction, a juried show/auction at the North Carolina Museum of Art. He’s taught two previous Penland workshops and is looking forward to sharing his enthusiasm for this still-great method of making pictures.

“It’s kind of cliché,” Robin says, “but darkroom photography can be magical. You imagine something as you take the picture, you have some meditative time processing the film, and somehow these strange, translucent, negative images appear on your film. Then you take that film into this room, dimly lit in orange, that has cool optical devices and trays full of liquids, and, after a little fussing, you stand and watch a picture emerge on an apparently blank piece of paper. Often it’s not quite what you were imagining when you pressed the shutter; sometimes it’s much better.”

 

black and white image of chickens in a tree

Robin Dreyer, “Dawn Patrol,” silver gelatin print.

 

“My idea for this class,” he continued, “is to streamline the technical parts as much as possible so we can focus on the excitement of creating gelatin silver pictures. We’ll make our own pinhole cameras from tin cans to get grounded in the basics of the process. We’ll use them to make paper negatives and positives. Then we’ll expose film negatives using large-format cameras and plastic cameras. Large-format cameras can be intimidating, but they aren’t that hard to use, and the results can be amazing. Plastic cameras are quite easy to use; they give you very little control, and the results tend to be surprising and sometimes great. So we’ll get negatives a few different ways.

“With those negatives, we’ll make beautiful prints using Penland’s excellent enlargers. At the end of the week, everyone will have a little portfolio of new images—maybe wonderful, maybe weird—along with a deeper understanding of photography, black and white materials, and the mysteries of light and time.”

More information about Black-and-White Photorama with Robin Dreyer (March 27 – April 2)

Register for Black-and-White Photorama

 

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Photo(s) of the Week: So Much Winter!

The following blog post is a photo slideshow. We recommend viewing it in an Internet browser.

Same old knoll, different outfit. Photo by missmarimos
Snowy studios, snowy paths. Photo by lilliputianb
In the middle of two straight days of snow. Photo by missmarimos
Meanwhile, at the residents artists' studios... Photo by mjelinek2
All suited up. Photo by apronon
Making good use of the snow and the slopes. Photo by powerandlightpress
Resident artist Seth Gould and iron coordinator Daniel Beck post race sledding. Photo by margret_mae
Snowy porch sit. Photo by nickeshep
Wood studio adventurers. Photo by ellieinthewoods
Photo by madeline.manson
Hollow spheres with snow hats outside the glass studio. Photo by ohcriminy
The dye shed has seen this all before. Photo by apronon
A brief moment of sun as the storm cleared. Photo by kimmirus
Some pretty wild icicles outside the letterpress studio. Photo by margret_mae
And some giant icicles setting up shop on the iron studio. Photo by christinaboydesign
Evidence of some serious sledding.
Monday morning—the calm after the storm.

 

This weekend’s snowstorm brought out a softer, quieter, colder beauty here at Penland, not to mention ample opportunities for sledding on the knoll! Here’s to Penland winter at its finest.

Thanks to all the winter residents who kept their eyes open and their cameras handy to get these great shots.

 

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The Potential Energy of One Week

samples of shibori-dyed fabrics

Paisley’s fabric samples from her week-long shibori workshop in October make up a rainbow of colors and patterns. (Photo: Paisley Holloway)

 

As a block of time, a week is most suited to building, developing, progressing. It is long enough to see forward movement, yet large progress tends to happen on the scale of months or years. Most weeks blend together with those on either side of them, more marked by variations to routine than by anything truly out of the ordinary.

But what about the rare, uncommon week? For Jackie Dering and Paisley Holloway, a 1-week workshop at Penland this fall was the ideal opportunity to step away from the general flow of life and immerse themselves in a week of something totally different. The result was more than just a set of new craft skills.

Jackie and Paisley work at Valdese Weavers, a North Carolina company that has created jacquard fabrics for over 100 years. When the opportunity arose for two of the company’s employees to take a Penland workshop thanks to the generous support of Penland friend Laura Levinson, Jackie says, “We both jumped at the chance!”

The workshop, taught in October by textile artist Carol LeBaron, focused on shibori techniques with acid dyes. “Carol really brought a new perspective to the class,” Paisley explained. “It wasn’t traditional shibori, and she really let us go wild with what kind of techniques we wanted to use.”

 

textile artist applying pattern to fabric

Instructor Carol LeBaron demonstrating a screened technique. (Photo: Jackie Dering)

 

At Valdese Weavers, Jackie works with patterns as a designer, and Paisley is a colorist. “It was funny,” Paisley tells me, “she and I went in different directions that were very related to our jobs, but we didn’t do it on purpose.” Paisley focused on the play of colors on fabric, experimenting with color mixing and overdyeing in her pieces. Jackie, meanwhile, found herself exploring patterns and design techniques. She tells me how she got excited about clothespins as a way to create resist patterns: “I thought I knew what they would look like before I prepared the fabric, but it came out totally different from what I expected. It was a cool, happy accident, and so exciting!”

Both Paisley and Jackie returned to Valdese Weavers the next week with lots of samples to pin on their walls. “I have some really cool patterns that I want to try as woven fabric,” Jackie says. Paisley adds, “I look at my pieces all the time for inspiration.”

 

Woman holding a clamped fabric; dyed fabric sample

Jackie with one of her intricately-clamped pieces ready for the dye pot. To the right is one of her finished pieces, the pattern created totally with clothespins. (Photos: left by Amanda Thatch, right by Jackie Dering)

 

A wealth of inspiration is a solid result from a week’s work, but I was surprised to hear just how much more both Jackie and Paisley got out of their workshop. Both of them commented on how creatively rejuvenated and refreshed they felt by Friday afternoon. “When you’re designing for a client every day, you can start to feel a little stagnant,” Jackie explained. “It was great to feel so engaged in something new and to know that I’m still a creative individual.”

The class quickly developed a sense of community, too. “There were so many people from different backgrounds who were there for different reasons,” notes Paisley. Jackie commented on how rare that feeling of rapid community can be. “By the end of the week, you feel like you’ve made all these friends. As you get farther along in your career, that doesn’t happen as much,” she explained. “For me, that was a really nice reminder, just feeling like ‘I’m still a human being; I can still make a new friend who’s older than me, who’s different than me.’”

It’s a tall order for one week to serve up personal connections, intense focus, new skills, freedom to experiment, and creative validation. But on those rare weeks when the pieces all come together, surely the only thing to do is to embrace it all.

—Sarah Parkinson

 

 

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