Today we share the work and words of Christine Fitzgerald. One of the selections in the 2017 Call for Entry.
“ Beyond personally being a collodionist I find this group to be authentic with respect to the culmination of the image to the technique. There are smears and smudges on the images that create a dream-like quality to the resulting images.” Willie Osterman
Would you please tell a little us about yourself?
I am a fine art photographer from Ottawa, Canada. I grew up in a small town in the Eastern Townships in the Province of Québec in Canada. My dad was anglophone of Irish descent and my mother was a French Canadian. I was one of the youngest in a big family and left home at 16 to go to university. My godmother was an artist and gave me paints, fancy coloring pencils and pastels on my birthdays growing up. I always liked visual arts but never really focused on it until much later in life when I started working.
How did you get started in photography?
I came to photography not that long ago. My oldest brother was a cinematographer. He would bring old movies for us to watch as kids and he had a dark room in the basement of my parents’ house. His black and white photos really got me interested in photography. I was largely self-taught. I had an interest in historical photographic processes and after exhausting what one can learn from the Web, I entered a full-time diploma program at the School of the Photographic Arts in Ottawa, Canada. Much of my work now is captured using large format cameras and vintage lenses. It’s funny. I used to spend so much time trying to capture the perfect image with almost unrealistic clinical precision. Now I embrace imperfection in my images. I suppose I had to reach a certain level of technical proficiency before I had the courage to start experimenting.
Would you share with us one image (not your own) that has stayed with you over time?
The image that really had a profound impact on me was an untitled image of a Virginia landscape from Sally Mann’s Deep South series. There is a dreamy tonality to the image that stopped me in my tracks when I first saw it. That image changed everything for me. The image triggered all my senses and still does to this day.
Which photographers and other artists’ work do you admire?
I have so many. I like photographers and artists for different reasons. Definitely, on my short list are Julia Margaret Cameron, Edward Curtis, Yousuf Karsh, Irving Penn, Richard Learoyd and Pieter Hugo for portraiture. Others include Margaret Watkins and Karl Blossfeldt for still life images, Sally Mann for her landscapes, Edward Burtynsky’s early work, and Michael Schreier’s haunting images. Painters on my list include: Giovanna Garzoni, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, Mary Pratt, Alex Colville, Tom Thomson and Lawren Harris…My short list is rather long.
Please tell us about the portfolio of work you submitted to our call.
The work that I submitted came from my Threatened series. The inspiration for the series was the novel, Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There, by Lewis Carroll and naturalists past and present. The series was produced using the nineteenth-century wet plate collodion process in which the tones and serendipitous imperfections generated by the process combine with the subject matter to convey the disturbing present reality of the world’s threatened creatures and the bleak future they face.
What Image of yours would you say taught you an important lesson?
Just about all my images have taught me a lesson. Many of the images in my Threatened series taught me an important lesson about using imperfections to create art. The beauty of the wet plate collodion process is that there are these unpredictable results that can be quite attractive from an aesthetic point of view. With experience I learned how to create imperfections but it is the unplanned ones that create the best and a most unique results in my opinion.
What makes a good day for you creatively speaking?
My chemicals have been mixed days ahead of time, my equipment is organized, my dark room trays are spotless, I am well rested, I have an interesting or a compelling subject matter to photograph, and the light is exquisite for an extended period of time. For me those are the ingredients for a good day and they are few and far between.
Do you have any favorite pieces of equipment that you find essential in the making of your work?
My lenses. I don’t care what people say – equipment matters – especially lenses. I need to spend a lot of time to learn how a lens behaves under various conditions. I have this old beat-up unmarked lens that is likely 130 years old. I love that lens. It weighs a little over 4 lbs and the focus knob doesn’t work. It took me a long time before I knew how to use it. Many of my favorite images to date have been captured with that lens.
What is on the horizon?
I just completed a series titled, Algonquin Park: Natural Histories. It’s a 21st century interpretation of one of Canada’s oldest parks – Algonquin Provincial Park – using the 19th century wet plate collodion process. The series presents a collection of natural histories from the park, each conveying a story in which the past and the present co-exist. Through the work, I examine how the natural environment shapes who we are and how we shape the natural environment. My intent for the series is to engage viewers and provide them with a different experience and connection with the Canadian wilderness – this at a time when our society is becoming increasingly disconnected from the natural world.
Thank you Christine. To learn more about the work of Christine Fitzgerald please visit her site at Christine Fitzgerald.