Tributary

I feel deeply connected to the breath-taking mountains of California. I prefer the comfort of open forests, alpine lakes, and the chill of a high-altitude stream. I am aware of the water these mountains hold. From the high peaks of the Pacific Crest, to the sweltering Central Valley, every inch of watershed in between is as important as the next, whether its delivering life for our crops or to our faucets. I am also aware of the human impact and consequences we have on these locations.

We exist in a new epoch. Human life, for the first time, has influenced the geological and biological directions of our ecosystems. These new directions are no longer determined solely by the natural cycles and force of the earth, but instead react to creeping human influence and activity. Earth has always gone through its systemic changes on its own schedule, but now faces an infection of ignorance and mal-intent from the pressure of man. The idea of control over our lands and water systems is a complete fallacy, yet the hand of man has attempted to play God. Welcome to the Anthropocene.

My work mimics the perceived control, and the lack thereof, of these important water systems. I begin with aerial views of the tributaries that contribute to the Sacramento-San Joaquin River watershed, and print them traditionally in the darkroom onto silver gelatin paper. The prints then endure an abusive and destructive process called Mordancage, that plunges the work into a fragile state of malleability. Despite intent to control and direct, the very decision to alter the archival landscape enters the work into a limbo of decay and reclamation, a fitting parallel to reality.

The areas in the print that reveal bodies of water (reservoirs, lakes, rivers etc.) are affected most by the corrosive Mordancage solution, which bleaches and lifts the surface around darkest shadows of the print (sensitized silver). Upon re-development, the bodies of water in the print begin to drift, rip and disintegrate increasingly as time and handling passes. These areas appear like thin fabric veils that barely hang on to existence as the print is dried. The results are a blend of manipulated abstraction and destruction, from what were purely descriptive images. The original image is clearly eroded, and a new topography is formed.

The final products are far from repeatable; boasting a synthetic but realistic direction of water flow, sometimes sickly hues and a three-dimensional quality that is rarely seen from the photographic darkroom. The toxic and corrosive nature of the chemicals involved play at the real world situations of pollution, damming and re-routing that these rivers face. The aerial perspective in the work is one that recognizes its history in reconnaissance and land development, alongside a new age of technology that allows us to handle virtual maps in a “creator” like vision. In the end, a reminder of fertility and dependence exists in the fragile, silver laden details between extinction and abundance.

 

Each print is 8x10