Garden Thyme © S. Gayle Stevens

” The grid quality of the images impresses me about this work. It deals with small things that make up the whole or our entire world. It seems that recently we are ignoring the small things and not concerned with them. This work reminds the viewer of that.”
Willie Osterman

Rfotofolio’s  annual call brings to our attention the inspiring work that is being done. Today we share the work of S. Gayle Stevens, one of the selections in the 2017 Rfotofolio Call for Entry. 

Would you please tell a little us about yourself ?

I am a 62-year-old artist who splits her time in the suburbs of Chicago and the Mississippi gulf coast. I received my BFA and MFA from SAIC, studying photography, sculpture, fiber and material studies, and paper-making. I am passionate about the environment and walk 5-8 miles a day.

How did you get started in photography?

I wasn’t an early shooter I was more interested in looking. We had this big box of photographs that I would sit on the floor in the living room and stare at. They were mystery photos, no clue who they were. I was gifted a Nikkormat and started playing with it when I was about 31. I took a darkroom class and hated gang darkrooms so turned my coal cellar (old house) into a darkroom, it was a pit, rinsed my prints in the laundry tub. Took an Alt Process class and loved it. Bought Robert Hirsch’s book Photographic Possibilities tried to do everything in the book: shot Diana’s, (bought Holgas by the dozen) stereo photography, made pinhole cameras including a life-sized coffin-shaped pinhole camera. Then I “fell” into a series of jobs: stringer for the local newspaper, sports stringer for the Sun Times, working for a major exhibition photography company, and working as a commercial photographer.

I still have that box of photos.

Would you share with us one image( not your own) that has stayed with you over time?

Etienne Jules Marey’s, Flying Pelican. I carried that image in my pocket for years. I later created an homage of the image using photograms.

Jules Etienne Matey

Which photographers and other artists’ work do you admire?

Sigmar Polke, Walter Anderson, Robert Rauschenberg, Sarah Moon, William Christenberry, Francis Bacon, Lee Bontecou, Annette Messager, Christian Marclay, Frederick Sommer, Robert Smithson, and Denis Roussel.  There are so many. I could go on for days.

What has been your most memorable experience as far as your photographic work is concerned?

What really changed my art/life was when I finally learned wet plate collodion. I was waiting for a student (who was late) for a project status meeting, and surfed the web and found F295, and had a wet plate workshop taught by France Scully Osterman – whom I had always hoped to study with. I signed up for the class. Poured my first plate and was totally hooked. I knew I had found my voice it was so hands on, with the alchemy and all… and my grandfather was a Mason.

Please tell us about the portfolio of work you submitted to our call.

The work submitted is a subset of Disappearance. This is a series of small plate grids concerning the environment, specifically our pollinators and our oceans. I find working with small plates more challenging and it also draws the viewer into a more intimate relationship with the works. The importance of smaller things is often overlooked whether it is the loss of a bee or the effects of the accumulation of items we discard. These small things carry a lot of weight.

Spring Rebirth © S. Gayle Stevens
Insectare © S. Gayle Stevens
Pollination © S. Gayle Stevens


What Image of yours would you say taught you an important lesson?

Icarus. I was lazy that day and didn’t make up new developer and had a flaw on my plate, a happy accident. At first I hated it but in trying to understand what had happened I realized the potential. I kept studying it until I had some control, I didn’t want to lose all the magic, and could use the effects compositionally.

What makes a good day for you creatively speaking?

Walking and finding/seeing something that inspires a new idea.

Do you have any favorite pieces of equipment that you find essential in the making of your work?

Light. Since I primarily create photograms light, chemistry, and the found object are my tools.

I use an enlarger for small object photograms and just room light for larger photograms. I can’t fit a 50-pound fish under the enlarger.

What is on the horizon?

I am creating a mural version of Wideness of the Sea. It will contain plates from two inches to twenty inches in size, the larger specimens are multiple twenty inch plates. The murals of Walter Anderson inspire me, so I am chronicling the Mississippi gulf coast wildlife. Besides, Katrina and the BP oil spill, the water and wildlife of the gulf coast are bombarded by the effects of our detritus and climate change. Thousands of sea birds and marine mammals are killed by the plastic waste in the oceans each year. The finished mural will include sea birds, marine mammals and detritus.

Thank you Gayle for sharing your time and your work with us.
To learn more about the work of S.Gayle Stevens please visit her site by clicking on her name.




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