Transient States 1 © Ana Tornel

Today we feature the work of Ana Tornel, a 2021 Denis Roussel Award Work of Merit  winner.

“What a strong portfolio of humanistic wet plate images in an industrial setting. Beautifully executed work and impressive in their modesty while accentuating the sensuality of both the subject and the process. The vanished ghosts of the workers returning to the site of their labors is a delight to imagine and to savor with the eyes. I have only one recommendation for you and it is a simple one having nothing to do with the work itself. Your statement is scholarly and erudite but it is, for me, actually too much so and it gets in the way, for me, of your beautiful imagery. I would recommend editing it all down to a single paragraph and letting the work carry the weight… which will do easily.” Christopher James

Would you please tell us about yourself? 

After a degree in Photography in Paris, I pursued my career in Press Photography. In 2012 I came across the wet collodion process. I found in the primitive processes the material and the suitable means of expression to represent my universe. This discovery took me to new artistic exploration trails. Far from aesthetics of the moment, I propose an intimate view on the reality of our nearest universe.

My works have been published and showcased in the United States, Argentina, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Spain, Hungry, Rumania, among others.

Where did you get your photographic training?

When I was 12, my aunt took me to her darkroom for the very first time. The moment I saw the image revealing on the white paper, I felt a deep emotion difficult to express. That day I fell into the photography spell forever. I mainly learned by myself, reading and asking other photographers. But I needed to go farther and took a degree in Photography at the Centre Iris in Paris. I took two Wet Collodion workshops with Quinn Jacobson, a Carbon Transfer workshop and a Masterclass with Klavdij Sluban and Diana Lui, looking for the creation of a more intimate work.

Who has had an influence on your creative process?

I think I’d have liked to become a painter. Therefore, my first influences for lighting and composition were Rembrandt, El Greco, Velazquez, Goya, the Flemish painting, the Italian renaissance painters, and so many others. On the other hand, I have been involved with photography for a long time, which means many different influences along these years. From the fathers Coburn, Steichen, Stieglitz, very important for my work Julia Margaret Cameron and Sally Man, Imogen Cunningham, Billy Brandt, Brassaï, Joseph Sudek, Kerstesz, Emmet Gowin, and of course all the photographers of the Provoke Era, Shomei Tomatsu, Eikoh Hosoe, Daido Moriyama, Nobuyoshi Araki….

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

Among others, there is one of the pics Nobuyoshi Araki took of his wife Yoko Aoki during their honeymoon, appearing in the book, Sentimental Journey. This one in particular shows Yoko in a boat, having a nap in a fetal position.  Her face shows a peaceful gesture. Both, the position and the gesture tell us she’s feeling secure, protected into the boat from dark waters. The boat seems to row us from birth to death, while feeling all the possible emotions.

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

Precisely this series, “Transient Spirits”. It was a very hard work as each plate is a nude self-portrait. No shutter, so I had to put the cap on and off and go quickly to my position in the scene and of course get undressed and dressed each time, for safety reasons. The factory was very dusty, worst enemy of collodion. It was very tough physically and this made me get really involved in this work and feel the pain I was trying to tell.

Transient States 2 © Ana Tornel

Please tell us about the work you submitted to the Denis Roussel Award


Oblivion is the main subject in the slow work of vanishing that I wanted to register with this series of images. I seized this old textile factory to tell those times, to tell those men and women….

Undoubtedly, photographic magic succeeds in harmonizing unconnected periods and the present time by mending and weaving again all the threads of the weft.

The looms, covered with dusty plastic sheeting, are the ghosts coming from the past.

And all those hard workers, there is no trace of…. I embodied their spirits coming back to this spectral workplace with the purpose of vindicating their existence.

And then, together with the ancient workers specters and the haunting looms, scratches and spots left an indelible trace on the wet collodion plate.

Transient States 3 © Ana Tornel

What part of image-making do you find the most rewarding?

In my case, all the process. Beginning with the creative moment, imagining the scenes. The work with models so as they can cast the emotion I need. Obviously, the wet collodion process, I’m addicted to. Framing for the exhibition, the last but so important!

How do you work through times when nothing seems to work?

Take a break, tomorrow will be a better day!!!

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

Honesty, resilience, a lot of patience!!!

Is there something in photography that you would like to try in the future? 

I like challenge. Platinum palladium and experiencing with many other processes.

How does your art affect the way you see the world?

I am the only and same one. Both are connected. My art arises from my views on what happens around me, for instance my current work on domestic abuse. On the other hand, I’m very sensitive as I put no boundaries to my feelings, as any artist does.

How has the pandemic influenced your work methods? Or has it? 

I went through a difficult personal time during the pandemic. I lost very loved ones and eventually quit my studio. I didn’t feel like doing any work. Luckily, I belong to the AmaZones Collectif and they towed me out by challenging projects in common to publish in social media and I forced myself to do it. Now that time is over, I have a new studio and a new series being showcased in Lyon, France.

To learn more about the work ofAna Tornel please visit her site by clicking on her name.




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