Swiss Portfolio 1981
We're going to go back to another century, another era. It's been awhile since I've written about an older body of work but this one just reappeared this past week, photographs of mine I hadn't seen since the early 80's.
Let me explain. Micaela, my wife to be and the mother of my daughter, Maru, was from Lugano, Switzerland. We were visiting that summer, 1981, at her parents home in the small town of Breganzona, just above Lugano. We did some traveling throughout Europe, 1 1/2 years before Maru was born. I was photographing with the Hasselblad Superwide, working mostly handheld. The work in this portfolio is disparate, meaning that the prints were made in different locations under different circumstances, reacting to new surroundings and impressions. When back home I made Miki's parents a set of prints that I called the Swiss Portfolio and gave them to them. Life moved on and circumstances changed: a kid, a new house, a new job, a separation, a divorce.Things changed. I never gave the Swiss Portfolio another thought.
Flash ahead in time: Miceala's father dies tragically not so many years later, her mother lives for many more years. Within the past few the mother has died, the property in Lugano was sold and the art collection they had was split up between my ex-wife and her brother. Then some of the works came to my daughter, Maru. While at Maru's family for Christmas last week I opened a boxed set of prints of mine I hadn't seen in 36 years: the Swiss Portfolio.
I am in debt to Micaela for seeing to the work's return and to Maru for letting me have it.
Quite the build-up, yes?
So, let's take a look at the work, both because I believe it is worthy but also because it forecasts photographs of mine to come.
First off, I was photographing using regular black and white emulsions but also in black and white infrared. I'd developed a system of using a 70mm Kodak aerial infrared film that I loaded into 15-foot rolls for the Superwide.
I was also consciously pointing the wide lens of the SWC down frequently. This seems telling to me as much later I would work aerially, 1000 feet above the landscape. Additionally, nine years later in 1990, I would start to work in a similar manner in 8 x 10, hanging the big camera over railings on bridges in Europe to look straight down. I called those photographs the "Down Work".
Of course, this was much easier to do handheld with the SWC, as the three above demonstrate.
Another interest at the time was to look at surface and space when in the same tonality. This had been a preoccupation of mine when making the Bermuda Portolfio (a limited edition portfolio of twelve in a boxed set, of which one remains) the year before. I carried this over to the work I was making that summer in Europe.
How does photography distinguish between a smooth surface and say, the sky, when they are exactly the same tonality or degree of reflectance? It turns out that it isn't always clear where one ends and the other begins.
So, where am I here? I am almost ten years out from grad school, fairly sophisticated in my approach, heavily immersed in photographing and exploring new ideas and approaches. I've had some shows by now: a one man at the Addison Gallery in Andover, MA, and several at colleges: Tufts, Hampshire, Dartmouth, MIT. I will start teaching in the fall of 1981 at Northeastern University, a job I will hold for the next thirty years. I was teaching two days a week at Harvard as well. Add to that Micaela was about to start graduate study in Photography at MIT. Heady times and in a new relationship as well.
This last one, of the family's German shepherd Exxi, in the backyard in Lugano:
Specifics: prints are on 14 x 17 inch Kodak Polymax paper, toned with selenium and printed by me. Want to see the portfolio? My studio is always open to people wanting to see my work. If you're local, easy. Email me: here.
Full series is on the site's gallery page: here.
Thanks for reading and happy new year!