The Denis Roussel Award is given to a photographer whose work is based on the historical/alternative photographic processes, including silver gelatin.
Thank you to Jesseca Ferguson who spent long hours reviewing your submissions. Thank you to all of the photographers who applied for this award. You set the standard very high.
Statement from Jesseca Ferguson
Thank you, Rfotofolio, for the privilege of reviewing the handmade photographic works submitted for the Denis Roussel Award. Thank you to all the photographers who shared their work and their thoughts with me, as the reviewer. Although I never met Denis Roussel, I feel very connected to him because each semester I show my students his cyanotype photograms on found paper and cardboard. By using trash to create treasure, Roussel gracefully conflated material and meaning in visual haiku. His starry night skies were another aspect of his poetic vision. My students always find his work inspiring.
In choosing the award winners, I looked for thoughtful and thought-provoking handmade photography made in the spirit of Denis Roussel. I was drawn to work that is not only intriguing to look at, and to puzzle over, but that also makes us think in new ways about the potential of handmade photography and its role in our increasingly digital world.
I was truly excited to see the range and variety of images but was sorry to only see them on-line. I wish I could have experienced them in person, as they are all so tactile and evocative in their physical presence.
The written statements truly worked in concert with the images submitted, enhancing and clarifying works whose subtlety or underlying meaning might have been lost, without the text. I really appreciated the care that went into each artist’s writing about their work.
The projects submitted were at such a high level that I could not limit myself to just one winner and three merit award winners. I also wanted to highlight some new faces as well as appreciating some photographers who have achieved attention elsewhere. I certainly hope that Rfotofolio features a number of the applicants in interviews and exhibitions so that we all may have a chance to explore their works in more depth.
Denis Roussel Award Winner 2019
Oyster Shell Ghost
Using liquid emulsion, this artist prints found negatives anonymous snapshots from a previous era, onto oyster shells she gathers at the edge of London’s Thames River – a very unexpected conjunction of materials. She has fused two castoff elements into small handheld portraits which are oddly reminiscent in size and weight of original 19th century daguerreotypes in cases. The artist wrote that she displays these photo-objects alongside other found artifacts from her river walks. Viewers immediately handle the shells, engaging with these photographs in ways they would not, had the images been printed, framed and hung on the wall in a more conventional presentation.
Merit Award Winners
Among the Tides
Cyanotype and wet plate collodion
Concerned about plastic in the oceans, the artist gathers plastic items on nearby beaches, then makes photograms with them using cyanotype and wet plate collodion. She prints these images on found papers and found glass, so she is recycling/re-using in all aspects of this work. Displayed salon style on an entire wall, these images give a sense of the accumulation of plastic in the ocean. Material conveys meaning in all aspects of making the work. Additionally, she is helping clean up the environment by gathering her materials!
This artist makes chlorophyll prints using medical imagery (her own and that of others) to comment on the hidden, latent nature of illness. Like a photograph, the illness can be invisible until it develops further. The artist engages others with chronic or invisible (to the non-medical eye) illness in this series. The communal nature of the project is important, as illness can be lonely and isolating. The fragility of the leaves and ephemeral nature of chlorophyll prints comment further on the vulnerability of illness.
Koenigsgraben/The Royal Canal .
Cyanotype and gum bichromate, brick dust.
We have all seen so many images of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, that it seems there could be no way to photograph this place without resorting to cliché. Yet this photographer manages to show us new aspects of this iconic site. He has photographed the camp’s main drainage ditch, dug by the prisoners, and also the site of numerous escapes. The work is printed in cyanotype and gum bichromate. The photographer’s excellent explanatory text points out two important aspects of the printing methods. Cyanotype’s potassium ferricyanide converts to cyanide (under certain conditions), one of the ingredients in the infamous Zyklon-B gas used to kill prisoners at Auschwitz. The gum bichromate was tinted with brick dust from Bunker 2 “the little white house”, where prisoners were gassed. Thus the very methods for printing the images convey the content of the images themselves. The artist is an adjunct professor of photography at the University of Warsaw, which adds further resonance to the work and to the statement.
To encourage creative work and the gifted practitioners that created it we are recognizing the following work as chosen by Jesseca Ferguson and Rfotofolio.
Composite negatives printed in gum bichromate and cyanotype.
This photographer’s imaginative and eclectic approach to handmade photography operates at a very high level. His devotion to teaching handmade processes is legendary.
Cyanotype/gum bichromate books
Diane Bloomfield’s cyanotype/gum bichromate books are very elegant. The cyanotype flag book printed on transparency is especially intriguing technically.
Cyanotype and platinum/palladium prints.
These prints of abandoned interiors are exquisitely printed. The most intriguing image conceptually is the one with the dead fly on the windowsill.
Cyanotype on glass
This photographer has perfected the technique of printing cyanotype on glass.
This photographer invented/developed a technique involving cyanotype printed onto black and white gelatin silver paper. The statement reveals great resourcefulness in working without a darkroom in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence.
Gregory Brophy (Rfotofolio selection)
The Iron Triangle
“I was originally trained as a painter before falling in love with photography. While I do sometimes use digital cameras, I felt that something was missing. That was the process of making things by hand and having something tangible to hold. I work in Carbon, Platinum/Palladium, Photopolymer Gravure and Gum Bichromate and strive to learn and share new ways of using these historical processes with other artists. Wanting to keep these practices alive and sharing them is what motivates me to apply for the Denis Roussel Award.” Gregory Brophy
Thank you toJesseca Ferguson for your thoughtful considerations .
Thank you to Rachel Wilson-Roussel and family for your encouragement and support.
Thank you Josephine Sacabo for your support of the Denis Roussel Award and your support of Rfotofolio.
Thank you to the following individuals and businesses.
Carol Boss and Hahnemühle paper.
Mark Nelson and Precision Digital Negative.
Bostick & Sullivan for a two hundred-dollar gift certificate.
Christopher James for his donation of The Book of Alternative Photographic Processes 3rd Edition, Signed
Josephine Sacabo and Luna Press.
Thank you to all the photographers that applied for the Denis Roussel Award. It was very rewarding to see the wonderful work being submitted and to read your statements. Thank you for the donations that you made and for the work you submitted. You inspire us.
“What a wonderful selection and beautifully written comments by Jesseca Ferguson. Congratulations to everyone! incredible how much good work is out there in these digital times. A pleasure to see. Thank you for sharing.” Jill Enfield