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Gulf News Highlights John Chiara at the J. Paul Getty Museum

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In synopsis, the video of John Chiara at work is straightforward enough. A photographer takes out his camera, drives to a viewpoint, focuses, loads film, and takes a photograph. He goes home and develops the film himself. There’s nothing unusual in this for a fine arts photographer.

What’s startling is the scale at which all this is happening. Taking out the camera involves hitching it to a truck and towing it on its custom trailer. To focus, Chiara has to tug with all his might to move the camera body out inch by inch. To check focus and load film, he actually enters the camera, or “suffocation box” as he calls it, and tapes a photographic paper to the back. After crawling out through a light-tight garbage-bag chute, he’s ready to expose the shot. There’s no shutter, he simply removes the lens cap for a while. He doesn’t use a light meter or a stopwatch, just his intuition, sometimes blocking off part of the lens with his hand to balance the exposure.

There’s no film big enough, so Chiara shoots directly on photographic paper up to 50x70 inches. Developing the print involves loading it into PVC sewage pipe section almost as tall and broad as Chiara himself, that he has capped so it’s light tight, and agitated by rolling it up and down the clearly much-abused kitchen floor. (Photographers usually agitate by turning their little film tank over every few seconds.)

Chiara, based in San Francisco, is one of seven contemporary artists featured at a new exhibition at the famed J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. Called Light, Paper, Process: Reinventing Photography it pushes the medium so far that the curator’s tour visits the galleries of four photographers before arriving at one who actually uses a camera.

Source: Gulf News

"Light, Paper, Process" featured in "The New Yorker"

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John Chiara ,  Grandview at Elysian , 2012

John Chiara, Grandview at Elysian, 2012

Experiments in Analog Photography

by Christopher Phillips

At a moment when smartphone users send more than a billion digital images cloud-ward each day, a growing number of contemporary artists are turning away from screen-based images to explore the photograph’s existence as an insistently material object. Often dispensing with the camera and lens entirely, they employ the bare essentials of paper, chemicals, and light to fashion near-abstract images that have a tantalizing physical presence. Works by seven of these new photo-materialists are currently on view in the Getty Museum’s fascinating exhibition Light, Paper, Process: Reinventing Photography. Each artist has a distinctive and often eccentric mode of operation.  

Read this article in its entirety over at The New Yorker.

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.