Podcast: Becoming Sculpture—Cameraless Photography with Alison Rossiter

One of the remarks that stuck with me from this week’s episode of the B&H Photography Podcast was Alison Rossiter’s casual mention, “I know how to rock a tray.” Rossiter is noted for her cameraless fine art photo prints, often made on expired photographic paper, some sheets dating back one hundred years or more. Her comment was a simple reference to how she guides developing solution over paper in the darkroom, but understanding the time and dedication she has put into her darkroom techniques, it seemed the ideal understatement for her refined yet simple processes, which include traditional photo printing, photograms, light drawings, and her current exploration, which enables vintage photo paper to speak for itself, processed and fixed, but free from the bullying dominance of projected light.

With her ongoing exhibit, Substance of Density 1918-1948, at the Yossi Milo gallery, through September 26, 2020, Rossiter presents a “chronology of assemblages” made of expired photographic papers from her personal collection. Papers chosen from specific years create a minimalist narrative through three specific decades of the 20th Century, suggesting a relationship between these photographic “leftovers” and historical events of those years. The exposed photo papers are grouped and presented in such a way as to form dynamic abstract compositions, made more contemplative by the papers' own histories. The work is a creative comment on a range of themes fundamental to 20th-century film photography: archival preservation, industrial production, physical and chemical degradation, social justice, and even the medium’s creative response to painting and sculpture.

With Rossiter, we speak about her darkroom techniques and supplies, about her evolution to cameraless photography, about sourcing expired paper, and the incredible gifts she has received in that regard. We also discuss the thrill of developing paper to find the clues of previous owners and the “fails” of the aged emulsion. Primarily, we revel in imagination and the stories that can be told when the past speaks to us through the still-verdant magic of the darkroom. Join us for this unique episode.

Guest: Alison Rossiter

Photograph © Alison Rossiter

Eastman Kodak Azo, expired March 1918, processed 2010 © Alison Rossiter, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York
Eastman Kodak Azo, expired March 1918, processed 2010 © Alison Rossiter, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York
Density 1919, processed 2010 © Alison Rossiter, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York
Density 1919, processed 2010 © Alison Rossiter, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York
Density 1936, processed 2020 © Alison Rossiter, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York
Density 1936, processed 2020 © Alison Rossiter, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York
Density 1921, 1922, 1923, processed 2019 © Alison Rossiter, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York
Density 1921, 1922, 1923, processed 2019 © Alison Rossiter, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York
Density 1938-1945, processed 2020 © Alison Rossiter, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York
Density 1938-1945, processed 2020 © Alison Rossiter, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York
Density 1932-1938, processed 2020 © Alison Rossiter, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York
Density 1932-1938, processed 2020 © Alison Rossiter, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York
Density 1941, 1945, processed 2020 © Alison Rossiter, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York
Density 1941, 1945, processed 2020 © Alison Rossiter, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York
Gevaert Gevaluxe Velours, exact expiration date unknown, ca. 1930s, processed 2020 © Alison Rossiter, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York
Gevaert Gevaluxe Velours, exact expiration date unknown, ca. 1930s, processed 2020 © Alison Rossiter, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York

Host: Allan Weitz
Senior Creative Producer: John Harris
Senior Producer: Jason Tables
Executive Producer: Lawrence Neves

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