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Silver and Light

By Karen Ocampo

Those who were born on the other side of the digital picture gap remember with nostalgia the days when it was a mystery how what we captured would look when printed. There was not always a screen placed between the eye and reality, so that uncertainty and expectation had time to cook. Now we are witnessing something very disturbing: the silent extinction of photography as we used to know it.

We know that technology is growing rapidly. And commercial photographic production is fast, rarely cheap, and usually out of control with overwhelming special effects, such as David LaChapelle’s. The solemnity that a silver photograph can offer is unique, despite the great possibilities we now have at our disposal.

The walls of Santa Ana Café at La Biblioteca Publica proudly hold the Silver and Light exhibition, by Adriana Morales, Selene Melendez, and Marianthe Leach. They try to rescue the beautiful essence that film can portray, and they thought it would be the best choice for San Miguel de Allende. This city and its surrounding regions have a long and early history in the silver industry. In addition, this is a zone bathed in light due to its location in an area between the mountains. Silver and light are the same essential elements for capturing images on photographic paper.

For each of the artists, photography shapes a different meaning, even though the three were trained at the same art school, Glassell Art Studio School in Houston, Texas. Their photos have been selected in different years for the juried Annual Glassell Student Exhibition.

The school’s insistence that students should learn about film and hand developing is about discipline, and it is a thoughtful, meditated, and analyzed art. “You have to think about the camera, on the film, in the picture … you have to think in a very methodical way. And you’re doing physical things. Particularly now that everybody is plugged into their computers, it’s needed as a physical art,” said Marianthe Leach.

Definitely, it is not in the blink of an eye like digital cameras. And that makes us wonder why, then, is there a preference for the non-digital? This may be because gelatin silver print sharpens the paradox of photography itself to fix a moment in time, offering permanence to what is, essentially, temporary. However in digital photographs, so overwhelming, so fast, so out of control, the essence of permanence is not captured authentically.


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