Emergence © Susan de Witt

“Your work is beautiful and I deeply appreciate the workflow of your studio process incorporating registered “slices” of information that can be translated into final images. The inclusion of color, as a move from the monochrome evidence of a traditional photo polymer gravure is a great move and adds both dimension and emotional references to the work. I am very interested in the scale of this work as I feel that information will greatly influence my experience with it. I especially love As My Dreams Unfold  and Emergence. Excellent and very skilled artistry.” Christopher James

Would you please tell us about yourself?

My name is Susan de Witt, and I currently live in Portland, Oregon.I have been a film photographer for 22 years. My initial training was in Seattle at the Photographic Center Northwest, where I studied for 4 years. In time, I was able to build my own darkroom, and you would find me there most every day. I completely loved being in the darkroom, where I would print large and small.

I took numerous workshops that changed my viewpoint more than once. My first one was with Mary Ellen Mark, in Oaxaca, Mexico. It was an exciting time for me, as I was so new to photography. I fell in love with Mexico on that trip and returned to different parts of it many times over the years, always with photography in mind. After a few years, I took a very important workshop for me – it was with Tim Rudman, who taught me how to do Lith printing. Ultimately, I took 3 workshops with Tim.

I only printed Lith, and loved the different visual outcomes I could get when using different brands of paper. Sadly, a few years ago I realized that the papers I loved for Lith printing were becoming scarce, and many weren’t being produced any longer…so, after a lot of consideration, I decided to give away my darkroom equipment and start a new process – Intaglio printmaking. I have set up a printmaking studio in my home and I’m loving this new way of seeing things.

Who has had an influence on your creative process?

My mother was an artist, and she always encouraged me from an early age. But, while I was always being creative in one way or another (knitting, quilting, making pottery), I didn’t take up photography until the year 2000. Once I started at the Photographic Center in Seattle, it took me some time to learn about the famous and the less famous photographers and their works.Two of my strongest influences came from the work of Sarah Moon, and Lillian Bassman. Both of them were blessed to be fashion photographers, with all the trimmings – beautiful models, incredible couture clothing, and a hefty budget. My photography definitely had the beautiful models…I’m happy to say we made some beautiful works together, on a much lower budget.

Please tell us about an image (not your own) that has inspired you.

One of the many images that inspired me by Sarah Moon was called La Robe à Pois. It was just such a fun fashion encounter for me to see. It still makes me smile. I like a little bit of humor in my images.

Is there an image that you wish you would have taken and can you still see it?

I was lucky enough to see the work of Willy Ronis a few years ago in Paris. It was such an amazing show, and he’s always been one of my favorite photographers. I would choose one of his iconic images called “Le Nu Provençal”- it’s perfection.

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

I usually just move on to something else for the time being. Coming back to it later on will often help.

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

I think the final result – if it’s exactly what I had in my mind, and if everything about it is the way I had envisioned, then I’m happy.

Please tell us about your process and the work you submitted to the Denis Roussel Award.

I submitted 7 images, each of them being photo polymer gravure prints. While each image is unique, one from the other, I feel they represent my artistic point of view. To start, I take my images and separate them into tonalities. I make each image black and white, then separate them into the many shades of white to black that are in that image. I may end up with 6 or more separations, which I call ‘slices’, but I may choose only 2, 3 or 4 of those slices to create my plates. Each ‘slice’ is a separate plate, which will have to be registered with the other plates when printing the final image. By eliminating a few slices from what will make up the final print, I have left a negative space that will appear as white (or blank) in the final print.  This void adds an interest for me that would not exist if I had used all the slices. Examples of that technique are seen in “Disembodied v2”, “Emergence”, “As My Dream Unfolds”, and “Kimono”.

Each of my remaining prints were created using chine collé (‘Becoming a Butterfly’), the à la poupée method of inking (“As My Dream Unfolds”), and using wallpaper as part of the image (“Bird Lover”).

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

I need all the usual printmaking equipment to create my work. The main items are an etching press, a vacuum exposure unit, print dryer, unexposed plates, heavy-duty Kutrimmer, watercolor paper, etching inks, plate-glass setup for mixing inks, cleaners, nitrile gloves, and newsprint.

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

I recently visited the Guggenheim Museum in Balboa, Spain. I was so inspired by the beauty of the building, both interior and exterior. I took many photos there, and have started making some rather stark large works, that simply showcase the beauty of the walls. I’m excited to continue with that idea.

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

When I started photography 22 years ago, I only produced black and white images for a number of years.Then, with Lith printing, it became slightly more colorful, in a subtle way. But now, as a printmaker, I have completely opened he door to bold, bright colors.It’s a whole new perspective for me.These bold colors keep me awake!

To learn more about the work of Susan de Witt
please visit her site by clicking on her name.


One thought on “Susan de Witt

  1. I enjoyed reading Susan’s steps in her career over a 22 year period as she learned while she changed her printmaking methods as she grew her interest in employing color in her works. I admire the femininity she keeps active in her prints as well as the textures she shows in some work.

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