“I was profoundly influenced by your statement regarding your husband’s dire illness. Like the indelible turmeric you used to color the prints, my knowledge of your situation translated the images into ones where the subjective information was a cacophony of disease inside of the body, childhood memories and blurred, quickly moving, realities. It is a powerful collection of images in context with your life.” Christopher James
Would you please tell us about yourself?
I was born in England and spent my early years there before moving to the U.S. where I became a naturalized citizen. I received a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop. Wesleyan University Press published “Parallax,” my book of poetry. Along with writing poetry, I experiment with various photographic techniques, including making toned silver gelatin photograms, lumen prints, and cyanotypes. I am generally drawn to works that combine humor and playfulness with a dash of angst. I live in Roxbury, CT.
Where did you get your photographic training?
I have no photographic training. I am self-taught and as such make many mistakes. My first film camera was a Nikkormat, which had been my brother’s and I loved it but sadly it disappeared many years ago. I stopped shooting film for a long time until I discovered the unique joys of using cheap, plastic cameras whose unpredictability and quirkiness are extraordinarily appealing.
Who has had an influence on your creative process?
I would say that my husband has had a great influence. He is a jazz musician and his deep love for all sorts of music is truly inspiring. There are other major influences as well including the works of Paul Klee. I particularly love Klee’s “Ad Marginem”, and Franz Marc’s paintings of horses, the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop, Emily Dickinson and Tomas Tranströmer. I don’t see a dividing line between visual and musical realms.
Please tell us about an image (not your own) that has stayed with you over time.
Well, this will sound like it’s from left-field as they say (whoever “they” are), but Walter Chandoha’s “The Mob” is a photo that I return to over the years.
What image of yours would you say taught you an important lesson?
The images that I did for an early series of lumen-chemigrams taught me to respect the subtle power of using developer as paint.
Please tell us about the work you submitted to the Denis Roussel Awards.
I submitted images from my “Deep in a Dream” series of photograms which utilizes images of horses and alienated people swirling in an out of control environment. Part of the narrative in this series addresses the ever-present reminder of mortality (my husband has stage 4 of a rare type of cancer). I toned these images with turmeric.
What part of image-making do you find the most rewarding?
Regarding my particular darkroom escapades, I love the tactile aspects of working with mixing chemicals, applying emulsion, fiddling with the lights, the timer, fumbling about in the dark, placing strange little objects on paper, etc. I basically feel like a child tinkering and creating a world of chaos and wonder; and perhaps occasionally from this disarray (not often in the forefront of my thoughts) a satisfactory print might emerge.
How do you work through times when nothing seems to work?
When “nothing seems to work” is a sign that I need to move on to another project. I can spend months and months focused on cyanotypes until I feel that I need to stop and take a breather. I think that this is a natural re-setting of focus.
What tools have you found essential in the making of your work?
An open mind. Because I am self-taught and always making mistakes, I see these mistakes as pathways. Mistakes can be liberating. As to the “nuts and bolts” of essential tools, well, certainly having a workspace at hand that can accept spills and scraps falling to the floor, is extremely useful. I converted a small home office into a studio. This space is chock-full of oddities that I use, little plastic toys, dried plants, tiny springs, boxes of shapes and people that I draw and cutout, etc. as well as the usual darkroom tools and a UV light. For some unknown reason I recently attached a disco ball to the ceiling as well as multiple string lights (I am a bit obsessed with string lights).
Is there something in photography that you would like to try in the future?
There are so many things that I would love to experiment with, many of them either daunting or expensive or both.
How has the pandemic influenced your work methods? Or has it?
I feel vaguely squeamish admitting this, but not having to socialize has yielded more time for me to play around in the darkroom.
What is on the horizon?
I will attempt to make larger works which is a move outside of my comfort zone.
To Learn more about the work of Maureen Mulhern-White please visit her page by clicking on her name.