John Chiara at Getty featured in ForbesLife

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John Chiara, Holyoke at Pacific Coast (Variation B), 2012 

John Chiara, Holyoke at Pacific Coast (Variation B), 2012 

When Chris McCaw takes a picture, smoke wafts from his camera as an image is burned into his paper. His subject is the sun, which his lens focuses and intensifies like a magnifying glass. The span from dawn to dusk is seen as a streak of radiant heat.

Don’t try to replicate it with your DSLR. The fact is, you can’t (though you can fry the electronics). In an age when digital photography is nearly ubiquitous—and most darkroom supplies have been discontinued—McCaw’s work gives a glimpse of what new technologies have thoughtlessly abandoned. Other glimpses are provided by the photography of Alison Rossiter and John Chiara. All are included in a revealing new exhibit of experimental photography at the J. Paul Getty Museum.

Like McCaw, Chiara makes his own equipment. He works with a camera so large that it must be transported on a flatbed truck, and composes his image by climbing inside it. Rossiter, in contrast, uses no camera at all. Instead she collects expired photographic paper—some more than a hundred years old—which she develops and fixes, visualizing the entropy of time by making images of photochemical deterioration.

The history of photography is one of hands-on improvisation. This Getty show demonstrates that darkroom experimentation is never passé and sometimes futuristic.

-Jonathon Keats, April 14, 2015

The article can be read in its entirety on ForbesLife by clicking here. The exhibition catalogue, Light, Paper, Process: Reinventing Photography, is now available for purchase in our online bookstore.