Cyd’s portfolio“The Amber of the Moment” was chosen as a 2020 Rfotofolio Selection. We are pleased to share her work and words.
Would you please tell us about yourself?
I was born and raised in the rolling hills of Eastern Ohio, an area of farms and coal mines. My dad was a teacher and athletics coach; my mom was a homemaker who loved to write poetry. There wasn’t a lot to do when I was young, so I spent my time playing outside (hiding in a fort under a giant lilac bush, collecting tadpoles in the pond across the road, and chasing fireflies at dusk). Eventually, I joined a 4H club where I learned to sew, then on to playing flute and being a cheerleader. I went to the University of Cincinnati to earn an Associate degree in marketing and got my first real job at a publishing company downtown.
At 26, I moved to Phoenix because I wanted to see more of the world. I knew no one and had no job lined up so my parents were very concerned. My poor father cried the day I left. This set the course of my work and personal life. Jobs in publishing (writing and editing) and printing (planning and managing projects for sheetfed and web presses) filled a creative impulse. I met my husband Frank at one of those printing companies, and we’ve been married for 33 years now. We moved to Utah in our first year of marriage for a job opportunity he wanted to take. This led to photography for me! Now, I’m a fine art photographer working full time from my New River, Arizona studio. New River is a rural community about an hour north of Phoenix, so I have ample places to explore the Sonoran Desert right outside my door.
Where did you get your photographic training?
My first formal class (film and darkroom) was at the University of Utah, where I earned my Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science. (I thought I might go to law school, but photography took over … thank goodness.) The teacher, Laurel Casjens, also worked at the Natural History Museum on campus and made me aware of classes taught by Rodger Newbold at the Salt Lake Contemporary Arts Center who in turn introduced me to the Photographic Print Society there.
My Aunt Naomi left me a small inheritance that I used to set up a basement darkroom during that time. Frank and I eventually moved back to Phoenix where work demands became the primary focus. Over the last 10 years, I’ve had the great fortune to take workshops at Art Intersection (Gilbert, AZ) such as platinum/palladium with Michael Puff, “Taking Your Work to the Next Level” with Christopher Colville, hand coloring with Kate Breakey, tri-color gum bichromate with Diana Bloomfield, polymer photogravure with Karen Hymer, collage with Andy Burgess, and bookbinding with Jace Graf. I learned cyanotype and tried pinhole photography with James Hajicek and Carol Panaro-Smith at their Alchemy Studios’ retreat in Italy. I made the leap into digital photography with classes taught by commercial photographer Jerry Sieve at Black Mountain Community College. This past month, I took a plant-based printing class with Anne Eder via Zoom.
Who has had an influence on your creative process?
My mom has had a strong influence on my passion for nature and its creatures, which informs my creative process. She passed on her love of birds and plants and poetry. We would take walks gathering bittersweet in the autumn and sit on the back porch listening to bird song from the woods behind our house in the summer. Gosh, so many memories of her. I remember she always created a beautiful aesthetic at home as if it was simply her calling. Mom could take some “weeds” and put them in an antique vase transforming the weeds into objects of art that rivaled their container. When I was older, she shared her poems with me. That opened up another creative avenue of thinking about the world. She was refined and outdoorsy at the same time, friendly yet deeply private, which I think has influenced the way I look for what’s under the surface.
Please tell us about an image (not your own) that has stayed with you over time.
So many of Minor White’s images resonate with me, but “Highway Canyon, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah” (1961) comes to mind. While the forms, texture and light all come together to create a beautiful physical print, he also captures the spirit of this particular place, and of the West generally. The layers, the water are living testaments to the transience of life. Looking becomes a meditation. The meditation gives way to seeing metaphors.
What image of yours would you say taught you an important lesson.
I did a portrait of my mom wearing an antique velvet hat with feathers. It was early in the morning, and she was still wearing her bathrobe. We were goofing around, and she put the hat on and struck this pose of a proper English lady holding her coffee cup. It was a fluke from start to finish. The final print was so much darker than anything I had ever done before with just a bit of light falling on her face and coffee cup. When I saw it come up in the developer, I cried. It taught me that images don’t have to be “perfect” technically or planned to the nth degree to have an emotional impact.
Please tell us about the work you submitted to the Rfotofolio Call.
These images are part of a series called “The Amber of the Moment” and look at my time of solitude during Covid-19 restrictions. The title is inspired by a quote from the novel “Slaughterhouse Five” by Kurt Vonnegut — “Here we are, trapped in the amber of the moment. There is no why.” I like this quote because it conveys the idea that there aren’t always easy answers or explanations for what happens in life.
At the onset of stay-at-home orders, I had that moment of internal primal scream at the thought of being isolated for an undefined period of time. Turning to nature for solace, I settled into a routine of walking my yard and rural neighborhood as well as searching photographs from precious travels as a way to express what I was feeling. My aim is to convey a sense of stillness, singularity, and survival.
Each image is printed as an archival pigment print on vellum over 24 kt. gold leaf. I’ve been exploring this process for the last three years and chose it for this portfolio because of gold’s symbolism (a soft, pliable, precious metal that is also one of the most stable elements) and its ability to enhance the qualities that first drew me to these plants: a sense of light and depth that added to their beauty and vulnerability.
What part of image-making do you find the most rewarding?
Oh, hard one. I like it all! It’s probably the printing. Seeing the image I have in my mind and feel in my heart come to life on the paper.
How do you work through times when nothing seems to work?
I have a tendency to get frenzied about making photographs, so I try to slow down, step away for a bit. Maybe clean something around the house. I also love to make lumens when I get stuck or too critical of myself. They’re so freeing. You can be happy with whatever nature gives you on the photo paper without judgment.
What tools have you found essential in the making of your work?
I’ve always been a paper person thanks to my sheetfed printing days. The color, texture and weight of good paper can really affect the way a print comes across visually and emotionally.
Is there something in photography that you would like to try in the future?
I want to explore phytograms more. Plants, film, sun. Yay!
How does your art affect the way you see the world?
My art helps me to make sense of life and reminds me that what others see as important may not be so important at all. It keeps me grateful for the small wonders and gifts that can slip by unnoticed in our very complicated and frenetic world.
How has the pandemic influenced your work methods? Or has it?
The pandemic has made me think about the fragility of relationships, but I don’t think it’s affected my process or methods. It has maybe added a bit more urgency to getting out there to do the work of photographing.
What’s on the horizon?
I’m hoping to restart a project I’m calling “Growing Invisible” that had to be postponed because of Covid. It centers on something my mom said to me before she passed about the feeling women get of becoming invisible as they grow old. I’m hoping to get small groups together to talk about this idea – so wonderfully expressed in a quote I found from a “Paris Review” interview with poet Mary Ruefle:
“But this becoming invisible—all women talk about it. There’s a period of transition that’s so disorienting that you’re confused and horrified by it, you can’t get a grip on it, but it does pass. You endure it, and you are patient, and it falls away. And then you come into a new kind of autonomy that you simply didn’t have when you were young. You didn’t have it when your parents were alive, you didn’t have it back when you were once a woman to be seen. It’s total autonomy and freedom, and you become a much stronger person. You’re not answerable to anyone anymore. For me, it was a journey of shedding the sense of needing to please someone—parents, children, partners.”
I’m hoping to record insights from the conversations and do portraits of the participants. Now that we have Zoom, I should at least be able to start the conversations, if not the portraits. If anyone is interested, I would invite them to reach out.
Thank you Cyd.
To learn more about the work of Cyd Peroni please visit her site at Cyd Peroni.