Ruta Saksens Kalmane
Updated: Mar 3
Collaboration should be seen as an opportunity to improve personal projects. By inviting other professionals to collaborate on one’s project, a photographer can achieve more unique outcome and enrich the project.
‘When collaboration works, it can result in something that is better than what individuals produce alone. Synergies result when human beings blend insights and worldviews to develop new ideas, and the new ideas can be exciting and enlightening.’ (Chandler-Olcott and Hinchman, 2019: 125).
Photographers can collaborate with other photographers, their models, painters, sound engineers, scientists etc. The collaboration possibilities are endless. Although, Ariella Azouley writes that the ‘history and theory [of photography] have been written as the story of single heroes’ (2016: 187), photographers actually have collaborated since the invention of the medium (in one way or another) - it has always been an important part of the industry, but perhaps not much talked about. For example, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Garry Winogrand didn’t develop their own prints, they collaborated with others who did it for them (Palmer 2017: 8).
My project during this module will focus on the topic of nature, therefore I was interested to look at artists who have collaborated with something organic or around nature topic. I would like to share three interesting findings.
Firstly, a photographer can collaborate with nature itself. Microbiologist and photographer Zachary Copfer (http://www.sciencetothepowerofart.com/) uses bacteria to create unique images by controlling the growth of bacteria.
Fig. 1: Copfer N/D. Bacteriograph Portraits grown in Serratia marcescens [bacteriograph]
Secondly, during my search process I came across an artist Hannah Fletcher (https://www.hannahfletcher.com/research/). Her work combines scientific techniques with photographic processes. She uses organic matter to produce cameraless images and has used organic matter (fungi) to create a cover for one of her books, and she also works with not only organic matter (algae, mushrooms, roots, etc.), but with other like-minded people who are interested in challenging the environmental impact of the photographic darkroom. I recently tried making anthotypes, therefore her practice raised my interest.
Fig. 2: Fletcher 2015. The mushroom book
Thirdly, another interesting collaboration that I found is being developed between a photographer Leslie Bartlett and a silk painter Susan Quateman (https://artistsandclimatechange.com/2017/06/26/a-silk-painter-and-a-photographer-collaborate-to-address-climate-change/) who explains that: ‘Our goal is to present – through silk paintings, photography, and montages of the two media – an emotional fusion of the art and science of climate change as it impacts Boston and the North Shore’s coastal landscapes’ (2017). This is a collaboration where two professionals of different disciplines come together to form a unique teamwork. Furthermore, they also collaborated with several different associations to enrich their research (Windhover Center for Performing Arts and Essex County Greenbelt Association).
Fig. 3: Bartlett and Quateman 2017. Collaborative collage of silk painting and photography, Marblehead Arts Association exhibit [collage]
For my own project at the moment I plan to collaborate with a sound engineer to create a unique outcome where a sound material compliments photography and vice versa. During the weekly webinar with the course tutor and peers I was introduced to a Berlin based artist Susan Philipz who works with spaces and sounds. Susan is examining how sound triggers memory and emotions. According to Susan, ‘sound is materially invisible but very visceral and emotive. It can define a space at the same time as it triggers a memory’ (c. 2016). In a similar way, I am interested how sound can trigger emotions and how it can benefit a visual message, since the sound itself is invisible and an image alone is soundless.
The three above mentioned artists are examples of not only cases of collaboration, but also of artists who have found their personal visual language and areas of interest within photography. At the moment I couldn’t say the same about my own practice, since I am still trying to figure out what is it that I would like to focus on in the long-term. In relation to that, this week I participated in a couching session with an aim to help me to narrow down options for future work and development. To my surprise, it was a helpful session and my life goals started to look clearer. I think that my personal visual style will develop organically and in its own good time. There’s still a lot to research and learn before I develop a certain visual language.
Just the mere fact that humans are and always have been social beings shows that collaboration is embedded in our DNA. Artists simply need to look for what best fits them. I, personally, love to learn from others, and there’s always something new to discover.
LIST OF REFERENCES
AZOULEY, Ariella. 2016. ‘Photography Consists of Collaboration: Susan Meiselas, Wendy Ewald, and Ariella Azoulay’. Camera Obscura, 31 (1 (91)), 187–201.
CHANDLER-OLCOTT, Kelly and HINCHMAN, Kathleen. 2019. ‘Collaboration’. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy. 63(2), 125-126.
PALMER, Daniel. 2017. Photography and collaboration: from conceptual art to crowdsourcing. London; New York: Bloomsbury.
PHILIPZ, Susan. c.2016. Who is Susan Philipz? From Tate [online]. Available from: https://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/exhibition/susan-philipsz-war-damaged-musical-instruments/philipsz-introduction [accessed on 8 October, 2021].
QUATEMAN, Susan. 2017. A Silk Painter and a Photographer Collaborate to Address Climate Change. Artists & Climate Change [online]. Available at: https://artistsandclimatechange.com/2017/06/26/a-silk-painter-and-a-photographer-collaborate-to-address-climate-change/ [accessed on 5 October, 2021].
LIST OF FIGURES
Figure 1: COPFER, Zachary. N/D. Bacteriograph Portraits grown in Serratia marcescens [bacteriograph]. From Zachary Copfer [online]. Available at: http://www.sciencetothepowerofart.com/portraits [accessed on 5 October, 2021].
Figure 2: FLETCHER, Hannah. 2015. The mushroom book. From Hannah Fletcher [online]. Available at: https://www.hannahfletcher.com/mushroom/ [accessed 5 October, 2021].
Figure 3: BARTLETT, Leslie and QUATEMAN, Susan. 2017. Collaborative collage of silk painting and photography, Marblehead Arts Association exhibit [collage]. From Artists & Climate Change [online]. Available at: https://artistsandclimatechange.com/2017/06/26/a-silk-painter-and-a-photographer-collaborate-to-address-climate-change/ [accessed on 5 October, 2021].