Elmental Forms 58 ©Nadezda Nikolova-Kratzer

Today we are pleased to share the work of Nadezda Nikolova-Kratzer.

Would you please tell us a little about yourself?

I am a photographic artist, living and working in Oakland, CA, with my husband and son.

Where did you get your photographic training?

I studied historic processes at the University of Kentucky and with Mark Osterman at the George Eastman Museum. I was also a member of the Lexington Camera Club, whose original members notably included Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Robert C. May, Van Deren Coke and other visionaries.

A gentleman, Wendell Decker, whose kindness I will never forget, showed me the ropes with wet plate collodion and helped me acquire equipment after which I embarked on a self-guided learning journey. Initially, I focused on making tintypes and ambrotypes but soon I began exploring the possibilities of using the process for camera-less work that walks the line between photography and painting. 

Who has had an influence on your creative process?

I find inspiration in art that is stripped to its essentials such as Helen Frankenthaler’s color stained canvases, Agnes Martin’s understated meditations, Ellsworth Kelly’s chance studies, etc. Work that is contemplative, even spiritual, resonating beyond the thinking mind speaks to me. 

Having a primary interest in non-traditional uses of photography, I look to artist who explore the materiality of the medium and are pushing its boundaries: Alison Rossiter, Ellen Carey, Gary Fabian Miller, Michael Flomen, Chuck Kelton, and others.

Please tell us about an image (not your own) that has stayed with you over time.

Of course, there are many and it is difficult to choose one, so I will stay with one of the above-mentioned artists, Alison Rossiter. 

© Alison Rossiter

Art that is able to make a strong statement with limited means moves me. We can never approach the complexity of the world by attempting to recreate it, the best we can hope is to chisel away the inessential. The photogram is the most rudimentary photographic technology, using light, photosensitive surface, and objects that block the light, forming a silhouette. I appreciate the photogram’s simplicity, essentially, we are experiencing light and the absence of it, in a careful balancing act. I am interested in this dance between darkness and the light, control and surrender. I also find shadows as interesting as forms (if not more so), as they engage our imagination and connect with us on a more primal and non-intellectual level. 

My latest series is inspired by Alison Rossiter’s sensual photograms on expired silver gelatin paper, some of which I was fortunate to see in person at SFMOMA. The balanced shapes and intriguing artifacts in Rossiter’s prints, resembling graphical work and paintings more than photographs, moved me to explore a similar direction using the wet plate collodion process.

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

Because my artistic practice requires treading uncharted territories, I could share mountains of “failed” photograms that taught me something new about the process or triggered now ideas. 

Click on image to view a larger size.

What makes a good day for you creatively speaking?

The ability to have uninterrupted darkroom time and being fully present with the process regardless of the outcome. 

If you could spend a day with any other photographer or artist living or passed who would it be?

Julia Margaret Cameron. 

Elemental Forms 41 ©Nadezda Nikolova-Kratzer

What equipment have you found essential in the making of your work?

I require very little in terms of equipment for my process – darkroom, chemistry, light, aluminum, paper and scissors, sink and water.  I do not use enlargers but print directly by exposing objects over the sensitized collodion emulsion.

What hangs on your walls?

Our walls are crammed with artworks by contemporary artists working in historical processes. We also collect daguerreotypes, hand-painted tintypes, and other historic photographs. 

What’s on the horizon?

The 2019 Photography Show by AIPAD with HackelBury Fine Art, London. 

Thank you Nadezda.

To learn more about the work of Nadezda Nikolova-Kratzer please visit her site by clicking in her name.

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