Friday, September 14, 2001
Carol Krauss captures 'Time Passed' at Gleason Library exhibit
Have you ever noticed that black-and-white photographs usually lend credibility to their content? Items photographed seem to portray historical accuracy and almost have an archival nature. Black-and-white photographs appear more real than the flashy and colorful conglomerations created by digital cameras today. Well, be prepared to set aside any such preconceptions when viewing the work of fine art photographer Carol Krauss.
Take a trip to the Gleason Library for the third show in the Visual Arts Program and you'll find stark black-and-white images that float inexplicably in wavering backgrounds. Parts of the picture are in focus, then diffuse, then sharp again. The Krauss exhibition, called "Time Passed," will run until October 30. The library will host the artist's reception, which is open to the public on Saturday, September 15, from 2 to 4pm.
"I use a technique that I call split printing," said Krauss of the process with which she transforms sharp photographs. "I use diffusion material over parts of the image while I'm making the exposure in the enlarger. That's what gives it this blurry look. Sometimes it looks like you're looking through a sheer curtain. Other times it looks like you're looking through a wet window."
Creating art in the darkroom
The "Time Passed" exhibit contains two series: "Torn Memories" with sixteen pictures and "Barn" with five pictures. All images are relatively small and centered in a large white mat. The ragged edges of the "Torn Memories" images are what led Krauss to experiment in the development process.
"I had this image in my mind of what I wanted these things to look like," explained Krauss. "It took me a long time to figure out how to do it, but I wanted them to look like they were old... worn out...watery...like you were looking through something in order to see what's on the other side. But I also wanted them to look like they were old and ripped out of a book from the attic.
"So I developed a technique to put those wavy edges on. As the exposure is printed in the darkroom, I move it so that it's sort of blurred." Krauss liked the results so much that she applied it to the image itself.
"They are always real good negatives that I start with," continued Krauss. "They are all medium format, 2 1/2 inches square. If I were to print out the negative just straight, it would be a beautiful image and I could make it as big as I wanted to. I deliberately choose to make these small and put them in big white mats because I wanted the viewer to have to walk up to them to look at them really closely. And I used the medium format negatives because I want all the detail in there but then I use this diffusion material so it looks kind of blurry."
Krauss snapped the original photographs in "Torn Memories" over the last five years. She tweaked the development process over the last three years, and actually reprinted some of her earlier photographs using her new technique. Common motifs include benches and boats. She took the "Barn" photographs in 1999, and produced them last year.
All pictures are for sale, with "Torn Memories" editions starting at $275 and "Barn" editions at $250. Krauss only produces a limited number, 15, of each photograph to maintain the value of her work, and the price of an edition goes up after she sells the first five.
Developing a photographer
Krauss grew up overseas. Born in Egypt, she spent many years in Europe before moving to the Washington, D.C. area at the age of 11. She attended American schools throughout so did not have trouble dealing with a new language. Her love for photography was the first constant in her life.
"My mother took black-and-white photography pretty seriously," said Krauss. "She had access to a darkroom in Rome. I would pick up things from her. I was always taking pictures as a kid."
After studying photography a bit in college, Krauss turned to business school and earned an MBA at Dartmouth College. She worked for eight years as a management consultant. She moved to Concord in 1985 with her husband who works in the money management field. With the arrival of a son the following year and twin daughters two years later, Krauss found herself busy at home. She turned to family photographs, and it wasn't until the girls reached kindergarten that she had time for black-and-white photography again. She studied fine art photography at the New England School of Photography (NESOP). Krauss exhibited her photographs throughout the '90s, and most recently at a two-person show in Newburyport.
Today, Krauss has a studio at the Emerson Umbrella Center for the Arts in Concord. She has taught at NESOP and local adult education programs. She contributed color photographs to two books authored by Barbara Lehn, a first-grade teacher in Concord. Milbrook Press published "What Is a Scientist" in 1998 and "What is a Teacher" in 2000. Two more books are in progress.
Krauss finds herself doing a lot of driving during the week, with her son a sophomore at a private school and her daughters in the 8th grade in Concord. In her free time, she makes time for yoga and Pilates. She also serves on the Emerson Umbrella board of directors where she chairs a strategic committee. Then she makes time to work.
"I don't have such a thing as a regular week," said Krauss. "I tend to work in spurts. Some days I'll be in the dark room for an eight-hour day; other days I won't be in here at all. If I see something that I really like, I'll stop and I'll do the photo and make the negatives. I may not get around to printing the image until many months later. I like to work in big blocks of time."
Krauss keeps precise and accurate records of her work. She tracks when she takes a negative, the type of film used, how she makes the first print, and how she makes the final print.
"That's why I don't put dates on my pictures," she added. "There can be a big difference between when I make a negative, when I make the first print, and when I make the final print."
Practicing a dying art
Krauss uses several cameras. She took the "Torn Memories" series as medium format negatives with a Bronica. For the "Barn" series, she used the same camera or a large format camera called a Speedgraphic, an old press machine from the 1940s. She doesn't own a digital camera.
"I think digital cameras are useful for particular purposes," said Krauss. "I don't use one; I have enough on my plate right now. It's easy to use a camera, but using it effectively is the tricky part."
Krauss explained that she can do anything she wants to in the darkroom, and it can often take her less time than someone working on a computer. The darkroom work is labor-intensive, but so is computer work. A computer artist needs to figure out all the settings, and determining color balance is still a manual process. While the screen may look good, it prints out differently on paper.
"People working in PhotoShop manipulate and combine images so that they come up with a different type of image, and I wish they would call it something other than a photograph," said Krauss. "They can make some very beautiful things, but it's a very different art form."
Krauss noted, "I think fewer people want to learn about black and white. More people want to go for the latest technology. I don't think it'll become a lost art, I just think fewer people will know how to do it."
Fortunately, one of them lives in Concord and is exhibiting in Carlisle.
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