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.
Kaitlyn Danielson’s portfolioOf Breath and Dust was a 2020 Denis Roussel Award Work of Merit winner.
Would you please tell us about yourself?
My name is Kaitlyn Danielson and I am a visual artist, working primarily in photography. Last year, my husband and I moved from NYC to a town of 400 people in the Catskills region of New York. I work mainly with antiquated photo processes, and my darkroom is in a shed behind my house that I share with the garden tools, friendly spiders, and the occasional chipmunk.
Where did you get your photographic training?
I have a BFA in Photography & Video from the School of Visual Arts, NY.
Who has had an influence on your creative process?
Everything/everyone I encounter probably has some influence on my creative process – nature, photographic history, music, life cycles, literature, travel, etc. I deeply admire the minds and works of Anna Atkins, Alison Rossiter, Marcia Lippman, Rebecca Solnit, Susan Sontag, Rainer Maria Rilke, Valerie June, Bob Dylan, and my husband Oriel, to name a few.
Please tell us about an image (not your own) that has stayed with you over time.
There is a photograph I inherited of my great grandfather, working a field in rural Oklahoma. He was old when this image was made, but still in determined-motion with his bow rake in hand, entirely indifferent to the presence of the camera. His gaze is stubborn but tired, and directed forward, toward the destination of his steps. He wears a pair of dirty jeans, a white and red checkered flannel shirt, and a white ball cap that casts a shadow over most of his face. His fully white and well kept beard shines in the bright sun. The color of his skin against the white of his beard and hat oddly mimic the colors of his shirt and the red dirt under his feet. I am not sure who made this photograph, but it has always stuck with me. It’s a beautiful reminder of my heritage, and perhaps proof of the source of my quiet, but strong will.
What image of yours would you say taught you an important lesson?
In my sophomore year of college, I began collecting old photographs that had handwritten captions on the back. My interest in these intimate inscriptions eventually surpassed that of the actual images. This led to re-photographing the backs of the photos and developing my first real body of work titled Written on the Back. This project marked a turning point for me in the way I look and how I think about photography.
Please tell us about the work you submitted to The Denis Roussel Award
Of Breath and Dust is an ongoing body of work that I began in 2018. In this project, I seize the moment of my fading breath and directly address the legacy of the photograph as “memento mori”. The abstract forms of my breath are printed as ambrotypes, a 19th century process named from the Greek ambrotos, meaning “immortal”. Clung to glass through light and silver of the colloidal process, the breath becomes a nebulous glow, an organism, a cosmic landscape.
What part of image-making do you find the most rewarding?
For me, it is the creation process itself. Whether it is printing in the darkroom or piecing together a collage, I feel so alive when I am working with my hands, which is why all of my work involves a tactile process of some kind. To lose sense of time and obligation, to feel full of purpose and drive, to stretch the limits of my mind – I cannot think of a greater reward than that!
How do you work through times when nothing seems to work?
Take a break, take a breath, have a drink, talk it out with my husband, and get back to work!
What tools have you found essential in the making of your work?
A dark space, fresh air, running water, and a positive attitude.
Is there something in photography that you would like to try in the future?
I would really like to play around with the mordançage process.
How does your art affect the way you see the world?
It challenges me to look at things from different perspectives and constantly reminds me of the fragility of life.
How has the pandemic influenced your work methods? Or has it?
The pandemic hasn’t really affected my work methods in the practical sense, but it has definitely slowed my creative output. Earlier in the year, I felt too overwhelmed to approach art making. Thankfully, I am slowly but surely getting back into my studio and it feels so good.
What’s on the horizon?
I am working on a collaboration of photography and poetry with a good friend of mine, and experimenting with new methods of capturing breath. Stay tuned!
To learn more about the work of Kaitlyn Danielson please visit her site by clicking on her name.