The Denis Roussel Award was started in 2018 to help continue the legacy of photographer and educator Denis Roussel and to highlight work done by photographers whose work is based on the historical/alternative photographic processes, including silver gelatin.
This year we would like to thank juror, author, and educator Christopher James who spent long hours reviewing the submissions.
Thank you to all of the photographers who applied for this award. The standard is set higher each year. It was very rewarding to see the wonderful work being submitted and to read your statements.
You inspire us.
Statement from Christopher James
Permit me to begin by sincerely thanking each of the artists for submitting such an impressive and eclectic selection of work for this most recent iteration of the Denis Roussel Award competition… and for making my task of selecting the images for the show so much fun.
I want to thank Rfotofolio and Connie & Jerry Rosenthal for being great curatorial leaders and for their support and celebration of contemporary alternative process image-making in the spirit of Denis Roussel… a legacy intimately entwined with a love of the natural world, finding muse-worthy inspiration in the humble and non-spectacular discoveries of simple observation, and a love of the hand-made image.
It is particularly interesting to me that a great majority of the submissions were created in response to the act of being scared and sequestered in the world, without a safe place to be, often without a lab to work in, surrounded by memories of what once was and the challenge of making-do with whatever was near.
Alternative process and integrated media image making is not about the technique employed, the camera in hand, or the preference of digital or analog capture. Nor is it about the “artifact” or accident within the image that represents photography’s version of gesture that miraculously makes an image artistic and expressive. Alternative process and integrated media image creation has its heartbeat strongly allied to the time-honored traditions of studio practice and making images by hand. It is driven by curiosity and the desire to see where a process will lead the artist and their imagination in personally important directions. This living philosophy is the soul of this year’s collection of submissions. It is, in my mind, a representation of the new photography and of those artists who are actively defining the future of the medium we all love.
As is the case in all juried exhibitions, a selection of work is only a representation of a juror’s personal imaging preferences over several days of methodical evaluation and curating. Personal choices are not, in any regard, a rendering of judgment upon the artists who put themselves, and their work, on the line. I was seriously impressed with the quality of the work and ideas presented and I sincerely hope that you will all continue to put yourself out there in future competitions. Thanks for the opportunity to see such outstanding work… it was an honor.
The Denis Roussel Award is judged as a body of work, not just the images you see below.
Denis Roussel Award 2020
Cyanotype / Lumen prints
This is a beautifully crafted, realized and graphic portfolio full of painterly energy and gesture. As well, the work is resplendent with a multitude of powerful themes involving your Mexican heritage combined with an ever-evolving American identity, the internal and social struggles embodying your desire for children and that desire being challenged by the chronic health afflictions within yourself and family. It is an impossibly rich combination of themes which, to this point, you are representing with passion and power. Great work!
Works of Merit
The Old Garden
Cyanotype / Gum Bichromate / Handmade book
Letting go of subjective perfection… Such a great release from that pressure and the expected results of a disciplined and very eclectic exercise… to create something new every 24 hours during a year. In many ways, a perfect reflection of the Denis Roussel spirit. The Old Garden embodies this idea and easily illustrates a mature artist in graceful control of the medium. Great work!
Of Breath and Dust
Ambrotypes – Of Breath and Dust – You write, “I seize the moment of my fading breath and directly address the legacy of a photograph as memento mori. Each breath is captured digitally, printed as a digital transparency, and finally transferred onto glass. Just as every breath is unique, so is every photograph.”
The conversation regarding the fleeting moment of both existence, life and photographic exposure is beautifully represented in this work… I think Denis Roussel would have greatly approved of the marriage of both concept of subject and physical object. For me, this is a profoundly spiritual body of work illustrating the unknown.
To encourage creative work and the gifted practitioners that created it we are recognizing the following work as chosen by Christopher James and Rfotofolio.
I loved your scanned calotypes (really well-done paper negatives) enhanced in Photoshop and completely understand the need to marry the paper negative with digital technology. I like the images a great deal and see their compositional construction as windows isolating me from the actual experience of the nature depicted is particularly effective and quite powerful. I often felt like I was visiting the environment rather than experiencing it.
We are Selma
Wet Plate Collodion
We Are Selma: Selma Portrait Project – wet plate ambrotypes – As you expressed, your project highlights Selma’s extremely complicated past as a pivotal placeholder in the rich history of the civil rights movement. Your ambrotype work is beautifully crafted and celebrate perfect and dignified human moments in an increasingly complicated, angry and fractured world. Your work will drive sensitivity for the changes to come. Well done!
Wet Plate Collodion
Two Nail © David Russo
The Framer – believes the physicality of the print affects our experience of the subject – wet collodion positives on glass The works you have created are beautifully crafted. My favorite in the portfolio is the image Two Nails which, for me, beautifully demonstrates your wet plate collodion skills as well as your ability to replicate magic and illusion. I would love to experience more of this type of work!
Horizontal Displacement – You write, “My work explores the landscape and the natural forces that animate it – makes exposures of the horizon from a boat – “mechanical objectivity” – the process being perceived as unmediated.” –
As in the process of creating a physical painting, your photographs in this portfolio feature “gesture” as the subject… where the platform for the mechanical apparatus moves with the rhythm of the subject. This symbiotic relationship of allowing the environment to dictate the making of the image is lovely as an idea and is similar in concept to the portfolios that I feel best represent Denis Roussel’s creative spirit.
Your portfolio has some beautiful work in it and I truly love the concept of Phosphene (the stimulation of the visual system other than by light), The experience of contemplation in solitude – and rendered as cyanotypes toned in yerba mate tea – is profound. For me, in this particular selection of work, the missing element is the rest of the body and its visual representation and relationship to the whole experience. It is more than just the head and I suspect that there is more work in this beautiful series.
Gestural and organic photo-graphic drawings that illustrate the depth of the artist’s internal self and relationship to life-altering loss.
I am deeply moved by this work and how humble and powerful it is simultaneously. It is evident that your skill and background as a painter, printmaker and photographer is at work in this series. This is one of the rare cases where I seriously wanted to hold the prints in my hands while contemplating their energy and purpose. I’m sorry for your loss.
Wet Plate Collodion
Hemicránea 6 © Joaquín Paredes
You write, “Hemicránea ” is a project that conceptually illustrates the struggle of living with a chronic and ever-present illness.”
What I am responding to in this work is the reference to what is felt, what is seen, and what is experienced. I would love to see the entire series and feel that several of these images are the best I have seen interpreting the horror of living with pain and illness. Very strong work.
Maria Isabel LeBlanc
De la Luz
Silver gelatin and palladium prints
“De la Luz” Silver gelatin and palladium prints w 4×5 – farm fields – Monterey, CA
You have created a solid and exquisitely crafted portfolio and I think the essence of your inspiration and resulting work has been perfectly realized. This is a very strong portfolio. I’m wondering if you have shot any of this series in color and in different kinds of weather and at different times of day?
Nothing, Without Us
The artist writes, “I am perceived as healthy but inside of my body, my immune system mistakes my tendons, ligaments, joints, and organs as invaders” …
This portfolio is a perfect example of the fragility and mortality of living tissue and matter. My only suggestion is to avoid the hard edges of the inter-positives you are using for the printing so that the final image is not losing its illusion to the hard-edged negative. There are no straight lines in nature and this fact creates a break in my experience with your outstanding work.
Manifestations of Spirit
Manifestations of Spirit, A range of work exploring the symbolic representation of self, creating psychological spaces between dreams and reality.
I would recommend translating these beautifully crafted and graphic images into a printmaking medium such as intaglio where you could control textures and colors with acids and inks. Your work is very powerful and I think it can be even stronger if the photographic evidence in play is married to an additional medium. I think the concept deserves that complexity.
Wet Plate Collodion Tintypes
Last Speaker of Kawaiisu © Paul Adams
This portfolio is exquisitely crafted and a perfect representation of an artist at the top of his or her game. What I am missing in “Vanishing Voices” is the sound of their spoken language and I wonder if the artist has integrated this work into a slide-tape or video to enhance the pathos and dignity of his subjects and what they represent. Beautifully done project paying homage to the last fluent speakers of disappearing North American languages.
I am very much taken by the organic and graphic power of this work dealing with the notion of loss and absence, ghosts and traces of reality. I would love to see your aesthetic, and this project, rendered with gum-oil, gum bichromate, photopolymer gravure or lithography. The surface is incredible and deserves to leave the careful substrate of photographic paper to celebrate its crazy texture. Nice work!
This portfolio represents, I believe, the essence of what moved and inspired Denis Roussel… a blending of magic, creative human response with the barest of materials and collaboration with the natural world and what it offers. There is also the element of magic and of those transitory moments as the work changes before your eyes… and how the artist seizes upon those random gifts to represent the harmony between the artist and what is created.
BotaniKa: Climatic change
Mordancage/ Silver Gelatin
( Rfotofolio Selection)
Gazania Speciosa © Gerardo Stübing
I am so impressed with your alchemical hybridization between science, art and nature. Many of my current and recent MFA candidates are following the same path that you are and it is clear that your years of teaching have honed your concept very well. I will add that my wife, an organic gardener and lover of nature, loved your work!
Thank you to Christopher James for your thoughtful considerations.
Thank you to Rachel Wilson-Roussel and family for your encouragement and support.
A special and continuing thanks to Josephine Sacabo for your support of the Denis Roussel Award and your support of Rfotofolio.
Thank you Denis.
Thank you to the following individuals and businesses.
Carol Boss and Hahnemühle paper.
Mark Nelson for Precision Digital Negatives eBook and the Precision Digital Negatives custom 31 step standardized film step tablet. 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.
To learn more about Christopher James please click on his name.
To learn more about the photographers please click on their names.
It is an honor to receive this recognition. Thank you Christopher James for your thoughtful insights and feedback. Thank you Rfotofolio and Matt Connors!
Maria Isabel LeBlanc
“I am so thrilled and honored to have my work recognized with a merit award here! Thank you to all, especially to the Rfotofolio folks, and to juror, Christopher James. I especially appreciate all of James’ thoughtful words about the overall jurying, and about each person’s work shown here. Illuminating, thoughtful, and ever-helpful.”
“At a time, living through what has become a plague year, so many of us turned inward, these images allow a level of communication about others’ worlds–an opportunity to see through others’ eyes–that is wondrous, welcome, so much appreciated. Thank you for the opportunity to experience these images.”
“Honored and happy for this recognition. Thanks to the organization of Rfotofolio and Christopher James, it is a luxury to obtain from you such a positive evaluation of my work.”
“A truly beautiful + inspirational collection of work. Congratulations to Lesha Rodriquez + to all the artists! You honor Denis + his legacy with your work.”
“W O W ! So much talent, depth and skill. What a great gift from all the participants, the curator, the sponsors.”
“Beautiful work! Congratulations to all the winners! Especially to my palladium workshop pal and fellow ImageMaker Maria Isabel Saez LeBlanc!”