Beth Moon's Gallery Representation:
Portraits of Time:
|"Yews on Wlkehurst Path"|
|"Avenue of Baobabs"|
Seen But Not Heard:
The Kingdom Come:
|"Light of the Raven"|
The Savage Garden:
Island of Dragon's Blood:
|"Dragons on Hill's Edge"|
|"Dragon's Blood Forest at Dawn"|
Augurs and Soothsayers:
I am most grateful to Ms. Moon for her kind permission allowing me to
feature her work here on my blog.
Beth Moon talks about her process:
The dawn of the 21st century has seen an unprecedented boom in the industry of photography due in large to the commercial advances of the new technology of electronic imaging and sky rocketing prices in the auction houses. Digital capture is replacing film; silver printing papers are disappearing. Old processes give way to convenience creating the modern desktop darkroom.
So how does the connoisseur avoid becoming part of an industry that is turning fine art into a commodity? I’d like to quote John Stevenson who has over 25 years experience collecting platinum prints;
“It may be that photography has one more dimension still largely unexplored, one more joy. It unfolds when we go beyond the taking of the marvelous image, into the making of the marvelous expression of the image. When we go beyond the artist’s eye, to the artist’s hand.” John coined the following phrase for a show that included platinum prints at his gallery in New York aptly titled, ‘Noble Processes in a Digital Age.’
Some of the prints included in that show were from an ongoing series of ancient tree portraits entitled, ‘Portraits of Time’ that I started over 13 years ago.
To me the answer has always been art. Photographs have the ability to bypass the rhetoric of the written word, going straight to the heart. I believe taking the picture is just the beginning of a long process with each step being equally important.
The aspect of age, some trees being over 4,000 years old, is what has intrigued me. As I photographed these trees and learned more about their history I became aware that a lot of our oldest trees were disappearing at an alarming rate and thought it would be important to put them on film for the sake of posterity.
With platinum printing, a process born of art and science noted for its beautiful luminosity and wide tonal scale, the absence of a binder layer allows very fine crystals of platinum to be embedded into the paper giving it a 3 dimensional appearance. Unrivaled by any other printing process, platinum like gold, is a stable metal. A print can last for thousands of years, emulating the age of the trees that I was photographing.
Each printing method has its own legacy as well as unique visual style. The same negative printed in silver gelatin would translate differently printed in platinum and, therefore, an important decision in choosing the ‘best’ medium to express each style. So it really comes down to a long line of choices.
Printing in platinum (and/or with palladium, its sister element) surely does not turn a poor image into a good one. In fact, quite the opposite, it tends to be more of a weeding out process. Since so much time and resources are spent producing the image, only the best ones seem to rise to the surface. For me this process is a good way to slow down. Each step needs careful contemplation without distractions. A high level of focus and rhythm is very important to the work flow.
This process gives tones that range from cool blacks, neutral grays, to rich sepia browns. The color is controlled with humidity. Before the sensitized paper is exposed with the negative under light, it is put into a humidifying chamber. This is a water proof covered box with a plastic grate that is suspended over water on which the print lies.
I use a medium format camera and still prefer film although I'm backing up with a digital camera most days. Paper choice is key for me. I use Arches Platine, a 100% cotton water color paper with natural deckle edges that has been made by the same mill in France since 1492.
Contact printing basically means you need a negative the size of the image you would like to print. There have been a number of ways to achieve this in the past, but most of the duplicating and reversal films have become obsolete, and paper negatives provide a low quality solution.
Printing methods from the 19th century teamed with technology from the 21st makes the best of both worlds. Negatives printed with high resolution printers seem to be the best option these days. Once a negative can be scanned into a computer it can then be output as a negative printed on transparency material.
In a market that places a high premium on archival work, there is a degree of hesitancy among some collectors when it comes to the longevity of prints produced by digital technology. The struggle increases to balance art, commerce and technique.
Crossing the line from machine made to hand made does necessitate a commitment, and true, the work is labor intensive, but the finished results ensure a satisfaction that comes with the freedom to define many decisions while working with materials that allow you to be true to your vision. And in the end, what unfolds before your eyes is more of an ‘art-object- than an ordinary photograph.
Beth Moon Biography from Professor Boerner's Explorations:
Beth Moon was born in Neenah, Wisconsin. Although she was a fine art major at the University of Wisconsin, she is a self-taught photographer. Her interest in photography was discovered somewhat indirectly over the course of time.
Beth was designing women’s clothing under her own label and needed photographs of her line. Each season, she would hire photographers to photograph her new designs until she decided to do it herself. "I never looked back," she recalls. Beth later sold the company and continued to purse her photographic interests, experimenting with various printing methods. The majority of her work today employs the Mike Ware platinum printing method that she learned while living in England.
Beth returned to the United States seven years ago, and lives with her husband and three children in the San Francisco Bay Area.