Four photographers make portraits of waterways by using the elements — including pollutants in the developing process and salvaged wood for the frames — now on display in Photo Center Northwest’s “Salt/Water.”
There’s something extraordinarily tactile about the photographs in Photo Center Northwest’s new show “Salt/Water,” and it’s partly to do with the manner in which they were created.
In various ways, photographers Kimberly Anderson, Susan Derges, Daniel Hawkins and Meghann Riepenhoff all incorporate physical elements of the scenes they depict into the fabric of their work.
Salt crystals from the Great Salt Lake are used in Anderson’s development process, and her frames are made from wood reclaimed from the lake as well. Hawkins’ 8-by-10-inch color shots are literally polluted by the industrial locales where he took them. Both Derges and Riepenhoff forego cameras and immerse light-sensitive paper directly into the waterscapes that are their subjects.
Noon-9 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, noon-6 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays, through April 3. Photo Center Northwest, 900 12th Ave., Seattle; free (206-720-7222 or pcnw.org).
The images, PCNW executive director Michelle Dunn Marsh writes in her curatorial notes, “transport me to environments I can only inhabit through the intervention of these specific individuals. I could not see these spaces through my own two eyes as they are being presented to be in the photographs.”
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Bainbridge Island-based Riepenhoff provides the most extreme and yet sublime examples of that. Her unique cyanotypes are made by exposing photographic paper directly to the elements. The results are abstract yet powerfully evocative of the maritime elements that created them. The images don’t depict actual shorelines or rainstorms, but their titles detail the time and place that gave rise to them with obsessive specificity.
The twelve assembled “panels” of “Littoral Drift #270 (Ft. Ward Beach, Bainbridge Island, WA 06.16.15, Tidal Draw, Five Minutes Preceding Low Tide)” make gentle wave-action come to life with their turquoise and marine-blue depths of color, festooned with salt-whorl white. “Littoral Drift Nearshore #297 (Springridge Rd., Bainbridge Island, WA 06.04.15, Rainstorm, Three Hours)” is a watery deluge made material — a drenching downpour implied on paper.
Derges’ two pieces, which draw on photogram technique, are more tranquil. Her digital C-print, “Rowan Brook 3,” has a gold-leaf shimmer as it captures the shadows of branches cast across intricate water ripples. “Star Field Cypress,” a unique cibachrome print, does something similar with a painterly night sky viewed through the dark branches of a cypress tree.
Utah’s Great Salt Lake and its environs are used to striking effect in Anderson’s work. Her sepia-colored images have an otherworldly power, as if they were drawn from some post-apocalyptic screen epic or the careful documentation of an archaeologist searching for clues about a lost civilization.
In “Water Depth Marker, Lakeside, Great Salt Lake,” the marker of the title has been left high and dry by the receding shoreline of the evaporating lake. A diptych, “Brine Canal, Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah,” is as desolate as it sounds, yet dreamlike in its serenity. “Salt Encrusted Tumbleweeds, Great Salt Lake” suggests an eccentric sculptor at work, allowing the desert’s harsh elements to do his work for him.
Daniel Hawkins’ images of the industrial-shoreline sights around Seattle are smaller in scale and incorporate a wild-card factor as he utilizes the “specific geographic chemistry” of water from his chosen locales as one of the tools in his on-the-spot development process. The resultant stains and sickly blemishes that half-obscure his images, in “Duwamish #8,” “Union Bay #5” and other works, make our pollutant effect on our natural surroundings graphically palpable.
Four artists — four ways of pulling the physical world into a photographic realm.