Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Chuck Close's best shot / A Couple of Ways of Doing Something

A Couple of Ways of Doing Something by Chuck Close

Chuck Close's best shot

'Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work'
Leo Benedictus
Thu 19 Apr 2007

Lorna is one of my artist friends. She has a very infectious smile and very sensuous lips - I had a photograph on my wall for a long time of just her lips. I love the way her face looms out of the darkness and floats there above the out-of-focus neck and chest. I love the way she looks too - the range of things that are in her face. And then there is this sculptural quality, almost like a Brancusi or something.
The picture is a daguerreotype, which used to be called "keepers of light". They have a range from the deepest, darkest velvety blacks to the brightest highlights that reflect into your eyes. Each picture has unbelievable detail and very shallow depth of field. Photographs are often so big now that 20 or 30 people can view one at the same time, but a daguerreotype is the most intimate image made with a camera, because it is small and only one person can look at it.
It is a very slow process, too. After the plate is prepared, and the model is posed, you expose it in the same way that you would with film. The only difference is that it's a mirror-image. In a way, the daguerreotype is built for the sitter - because the sitter has always looked in the mirror, so it always looks right to them and wrong to everybody else.

Then the plate goes into the dark room, where it is suspended in mercury vapour. After that it is brought back into regular light and washed, so you and the subject get to see each piece before you move on. I put the plate in a tray of water at my feet while I'm taking the next shot.
I'm not interested in daguerreotypes because it's an antiquarian process; I like them because, from my point of view, photography never got any better than it was in 1840.

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