RE: authenticity/appreciation

From: D. Mark Andrews ^lt;[email protected]>
Date: 02/22/05-08:47:12 PM Z
Message-id: <>

I find myself wondering if alt-process "viewers" and "artist-creators" are
responding to the same impulse--especially with respect to the whole notion
of "authenticity."

>From the perspective of a wet-plate artist, John Coffer, who drove a
horse-drawn photographer's wagon across the US selling "authentic" tintypes
to townspeople seems as authentic as they come. Or perhaps my other
wet-plate brethren and sistern who only shoot civil war re-enactments, and
where the camp fire conversation usually revolve around the "authenticity"
of one's underwear (thread count) or uniform buttons (metal alloy
content)--their cameras and chemicals are a given from an authenticity
perspective. It seems to me that what they are seeking is an "authentic
experience"--a type of experience that I would argue most on this list are

I embrace this about myself entirely. It is why I shoot with a 100+ year old
camera with an even older lens--no shutter requred--simpley remove the lens
cap for 10sec to 20 minutes. But I refuse to shoot images of people clothed
in historic clothing. For me there is a boundary, the "authentic experience"
is about the "creative process" not a re-enactment of the past. I'm in
constant dialogue with the past (photography, chemistry, art, etc.) but not
part of it--yet. The creative process for me is rooted in:
* Magic - I still marvel at how a piece of glass can hold an image
* Handmade - mixing my own chemicals, cutting my own glass, polishing my
plates to luminosity AND
* Danger - I fix my images in potassium cyanide after developing them in an
acid (highly dangerous) and have to heat the finished plate to "blood
temperature" warmness over an open flame while pouring on top of it a highly
flammable varnish.

No matter how careful I try to be, I leave a full day at the studio with
silver nitrate stains on my skin, minor burns to my hands, and occasionally
a reddened (inflamed) face which has been exposed too long to dangerous
chemicals. An experience I wouldn't trade for a single great day in my
daytime role of consultant where I sell ideas and information (nothing
tangible) to Fortune 100 companies for a handsome sum.

But I seriously wonder if the viewer even knows, let alone cares, about this
experience. Do we not mat over the platinum printer's handmade brushstrokes?
Do viewers marvel at the time it takes a gum printer (which is a cult by the
way :) to select the "right" paper with a perfect tone, body, tooth,
texture, etc. Do they care how long it took the cyanotype printer to achieve
a mind-numbing blue heightened with pineapple juice and softened with a good
soaking in Chinese oolong tea brewed in sun? I think not! They may be after
an "authentic experience", but I don't think it is rooted in the same
compulsions as the artist-creator.


-----Original Message-----
From: clay []
Sent: Tuesday, February 22, 2005 2
Subject: RE: authenticity/appreciation

I think there is an element of perceived 'magic' and a respect for the
magician involved also. Anyone can hit command P after a lot of margaritas
and expect to get the same print they would get at any other time. One can
also pick up the phone in the same condition and order a plastic chair and
the brown-shirted UPS guy will drop it off in a few days.

OTOH, if you give the average person a pile of lumber and a table saw, or
some watercolor pigments, gelatin, ammonium dichromate and some Fabriano Uno
AND a pitcher of margaritas, and then demand a mission-style chair or a
damned fine piece of art, the hill in front of them would be so daunting as
to appear impossible. The pitcher of margaritas would present a much more
tractable problem to solve.

Keep discussing all this amongst yourselves because I need some cool
insights and aphorisms to blithely toss around during a gallery talk on

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Marie Wohadlo []
> Sent: Tuesday, February 22, 2005 3:45 PM
> To:
> Subject: RE: authenticity/appreciation
> How are/were you using that word, "appreciation", Gerry? In the fine art
> sense?
> I am thinking more towards awe or any general affinity for something, some
> more kneejerk and....uh....."authentic". <grin>
> --Marie
Received on Tue Feb 22 20:47:30 2005

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