Hand-Colored Photographs
Artist's Statement

See related images |  See a related sculpture made from a photograph with 3D imaging technology.

Several years ago, I began to wonder why forms and patterns in nature look the way they do. Readings on the subject led me to chaos theory and complexity theory, which view the world as dynamical systems cycling in a constant flow between stability and instability, order and disorder, information and noise. I started to understand natural formations differently, recognizing rhythms and patterns -- albeit complex ones -- in what at first appears random and chaotic. My background in making relief sculptures caused me to look at these systems as forms subject to forces operating in a three-dimensional field. Photography became my primary vehicle for exploring the temporary spatial structures that I was now discerning with the insights of science.

Searching for an even better way to communicate this deeper understanding to others, in 2009 I started hand coloring my prints with pastel pencils.  I choose my images for their poetic expressiveness and aesthetic impact. The hand coloring process is a contemplative one of discovering the deeper levels of the underlying structure and resonant details. The representational force of photography is key. I may alter the tonal range and some of the color information to bring out the spatial qualities of the subject, or mask out the background as if they were studio photos, but I never distort or augment forms. The only time I layer different digital negatives together is to create a continuous panorama. What you see in these images was all there.  I integrate the hand coloring gradually and selectively; it does not cover the entire print.  Many of my prints are at least 40 inches in one dimension. In the past year I have also been developing a process for translating my photographs into actual three-dimensional forms, using 3D imaging technology. These small studies are also on this web site.

Until recently most of my photographs have been of cloud formations. Many in this series depict Indian laurel fig trees planted the busy streets in Los Angeles. Indian laurel figs are a Southeast Asian species, often planted as shade trees in Southern California. Battered but surviving, they bear the scars of urban living and interaction with humans — staples, nails, wiring and streetlamps, bits of torn posters, carved initials and peeling paint. I've since started photographing urban trees elsewhere that also show traces of human intervention. My underlying motivation is to find a sense of discovery in something we think we already know, underlying relationships in what at first glance seems random, and experiences that cannot be fully described verbally. I search for a deeper understanding of what natural forms tell you about the particular conditions of the moment. But it isn't as if my attraction to these trees is purely intellectual. Some childlike part of my psyche has never stopped seeing faces and bodies in inanimate objects. I've also come to understand that what drew me to return with my camera after I first noticed them is an empathic connection with them as having adapted and survived in a tough environment, still standing.

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Contact: helen@helenglazer.com
Text © Helen Glazer 2013. All rights reserved.

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