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Through the Looking Glass

Funny thing about today—we’re photographed more than ever before in human history. Nearly every single day of our lives is catalogued for all to see, tagged and codified for easy examination. But who’s it being recorded for? Will anyone care? Will anyone even know where to find all these shots in 100 years? This is [...]
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Funny thing about today—we’re photographed more than ever before in human history.

Nearly every single day of our lives is catalogued for all to see, tagged and codified for easy examination.

But who’s it being recorded for? Will anyone care? Will anyone even know where to find all these shots in 100 years?

This is what is driving Ed Gately: a mission to put permanence back in photography.

Gately has eschewed his former life in IT for a full-time gig in photography, an art he took up as a teen after realizing he wouldn’t be able to reliably narrate his own photographic memory.

“For the longest time, I never owned a camera; I had this young and naive belief I would vividly remember all of my experiences, until one day I was moving to a new home and opened a box. I discovered a book of photos documenting a language trip to Europe I had taken in High School. As I flipped through them, I instantly knew how wrong I had been. While I had not forgotten about the trip, generally speaking, recalling it might have been like watching a movie with the sound off. Each photo transported me back to that moment… the smells… the sounds… the emotions… all of it. The very next day I bought a camera and my adventure started.”

That adventure has pushed him forward as a photographer—by delving into the past. He now specializes in wet-plate photography, an antiquated technique that, while time-consuming, has resulted in images that have stayed around for centuries. His new business, in addition to making tintypes, will push to make glass negatives used to create vibrant 19th century prints, tactile documents captured in stunning, sharp detail.

“Ansel Adams has a famous quote,” Gately said. “‘The negative is comparable to the composer’s score and the print to its performance. Each performance differs in subtle ways.’ Think about that—every capture has a performance. If you just click to capture and then immediately click to “print,” you are missing out on the performance. I think I fell in love with the process because you get a chance to write the score and perform it all at once… right in front of your audience. It is incredibly personal and humbling.”

We leaned in a little closer to let Gately shine light on a more lasting look into modern life.

You talk of “permanence.” Why is that so meaningful to you in this day and age? Permanence is so undervalued today. Do you know if the image you created and saved digitally to the cloud or a social platform will be around to share with your kids? Or their kids? Or will it even be there for you late in life? Technology changes rapidly and may be incompatible with the way you digitally stored your images, and there is always the potential of data loss. Even current inkjet technologies have only been around for 20 years. We have no guarantee of their permanence. This was a big reason I fell in love with the wet plate collodion process and now print-out-paper processes; like cyanotypes. We have historical examples of these items existing for over five generations. Irreplaceable memories passed from one generation to the next. That is powerful.

Is there an irony to you, in that the disposable and affordable nature of photography today may give more people an opportunity to learn the art, but they may not appreciate the tactile relationship of the old process? When creating art with photography you are engaging in two general actions; capture and print. The affordable nature of photography in the digital world has been amazing. Our phones now have wonderful cameras in them to capture any moment in front of us. The vast majority of all captures are now “printed” on a screen. It has been a boon for getting exposure or just sharing with friends. All this is great to create work rapidly, but is it helpful to create it thoughtfully? You mention the tactile relationship of the old process. This is an amazing thing for me as an artist, but I think it may be even more important for the viewer. Each process I practice has a unique language for telling the story of an image. Holding a finished tintype in your hand is really a moving experience. The level of detail the process is capable of capturing surprises most people.

How much trial and error before you were able to get some workable images out of the wet plate process? Oddly enough, the first plates I poured turned out pretty decent. I had already spent over a year gawking at YouTube videos before I tried. It also helped that my very first hands-on attempt was done at a one day workshop over at UA Creative Studios with an amazing instructor. Heather Wetzel. In my eyes, the greatest advantage the wet plate collodion process is that it can all be created right in front of your eyes. The ability to visually inspect your work as you process almost always ensures you get some sort of image. The process of creating clean almost modern looking images or ones with the distressed look you intended is another story altogether. To further complicate things, the chemistry itself is its own living and breathing entity. You have to understand the interaction with temperature and humidity, decayed performance due to age, and maintenance of certain chemicals due to precipitation. It requires an immense amount of dedication to produce work on a high level.

Which photographers you are inspired by, around the world, and locally? There are so many amazing and talented photographic artists out there. If I just focus in the area of alternative process, I’d have to pick these three. First, Alex Timmermans from Holland for crafting amazing storytelling images. His set work and approach to solving problems without photoshop is rather unique. Second, Wilfred Thomas from France for his soft and delicate portrait work. I’m not sure he has shared a portrait I am not in love with. Locally, Tariq Tarey gets my vote for his gorgeous film portraiture work. So smooth and clean, it’s easy to waste too much time on his Instagram feed.

Who is one person you’d love to photograph more than anyone? I hope this does not sound cheesy, but the next person who comes into my studio. Sure I would love to meet someone famous and have them sit in front of my camera, but I am just as content having a friend or a new client come sit in my studio. It takes 10-15 minutes of total time to capture one image. This really changes how you interact and engage with each other. We must slow down on both sides of the camera and engage in mindfulness. I would not trade this for anything.

 

E.W. Gately

19th Century Photography  and Prints

ewgately.com

Instagram: @ewgately

Facebook:@ewgately

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Arts & Culture

Arts Fest Preview: See BalletMet live outdoors!

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BalletMet’s Friday night’s headline performance at 8:30 p.m. at the Arts Festival is sure to be a highlight of weekend. One of the nation’s top 20 largest professional companies, BalletMet consists of dancers hailing from across the nation and the world and boasts a premiere academy for aspiring professional dancers, one that’s been recognized as an institution of local and national stature.

Since 1978, BalletMet has brought incredible dance to theaters in Central Ohio and beyond and their commitment to bringing dance to the Columbus community, especially in underserved areas, is unparalleled.

Art of War Photo by Jen Zmuda

From in-school programs to theater field trips, scholarships and free performances, the company is dedicated to making dance accessible to all. More than 10,000 children attend the company’s Morning at the Ballet field trip performances each year. And thanks to a grant from PNC Arts Alive, BalletMet’s second company, BalletMet 2, has performed at free events at the King Arts Complex, Franklin Park Conservatory and more, throughout the 2018-19 season.

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In addition to the free performance at the Arts Festival BalletMet will perform at Dance on Dakota on Friday, May 10, from 5 to 8 p.m. in Franklinton. This performance is also free.

Dance on Dakota, co-hosted by Franklinton Arts District, is part of a weekend-long block party in Franklinton and features free food and drink and a collaborative performance with TRANSIT ARTS. The event will take place at Dakota Ave. and Town St.

Dancers Grace Anne Powers and William Newton Photo by Jen Zmuda

BalletMet’s Columbus Arts Festival performance will include a mixed repertoire of shorter pieces from its past productions and will be preceded by music from DJ Donnie M. of Damn Girl.

And if these performances capture your interest, the company recently announced its 2019-20 season, which includes ALICE, based on the later stories of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll, Twisted 3, a collaboration with the Columbus Symphony and Opera Columbus, and, of course, The Nutcracker.

More info at www.balletmet.org. For all your Arts Festival details visit www.colubmusartsfestival.org

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Arts Fest Preview: You wood hate to miss local crafter

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Woodworker and Art Makes Columbus featured artist Devon Palmer has been working with his hands since his upbringing in northeast Indiana. His mother a wood carver and his father a carpenter and cabinet maker, Palmer took a more mechanical route by obtaining his pilot’s license and attending Purdue University to pursue a career as an airplane mechanic.

But as his career transitioned from maintenance to the tech field, he yearned to work with his hands again. Originally he considered pottery, before a class he planned to attend got canceled. But a trip home the weekend before Thanksgiving led to his father introducing him to woodturning.

That was more than 15 years ago. And though he is largely self-taught, Palmer also credits local woodturners from the Central Ohio Woodturners (a chapter of the American Association of Woodturners) for taking him under their wing. In 2005, he opened his first studio just north of Downtown, and in 2007 he began teaching woodturning at Woodcraft Columbus.

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Today, Palmer does a bit of mentoring of his own. He teaches classes in blade and bowl turning, resin cast pen turning and more advanced projects like hollow vessel turning in his studio at the Idea Foundry. He is also adding a series of LGBTQ date night pen turning classes to his growing schedule of classes, shows and demonstrations.

Palmer says his work represents “family and connectedness” with work ranging from salad bowls and laser engraved pens to funerary urns and ornaments. The details in his hand-crafted tableware and home goods manage to invoke a warm sense of community, fellowship, and hospitality.

Devon Palmer works in internet technology and is also a pianist and ordained minister.

Make your own wood turned pen with Devon Palmer at the Columbus Arts Festival, June 7-9, at the Big Local Art Village located at the Festival’s Franklinton entrance. Learn more about Devon at www.columbusmakesart.com/stories/devon-palmer and get all your Arts Festival details at www.columbusartsfestival.org

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Arts Festival Preview: Dr. E uses voice to overcome adversity

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Dr. E, singer-songwriter and author Cleveland-born singer-songwriter Dr. Elaine Richardson — known by her stage name Dr. E — has used her voice to detail the incredible circumstances she encountered while overcoming great adversity. Born to a musician father and Jamaican immigrant mother, Dr. E begun tapping into her talent while singing in church, her school’s choir, and in girl groups.

Dr. E continued to sing despite the difficult path she faced. As a teen, she became a sex trafficking victim and fell into addiction. In her recovery, she pursued higher education at Cleveland State University and Michigan State University. During this time Dr. E also began performing as the frontwoman for a number of cover bands and placing her original music on various TV shows. She recorded her first album, “Elevated,” in 2010.

Dr. E’s introspective song lyrics reflect the often difficult process of healing while defending those who share her experiences or face exploitation and discrimination in other ways.

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On her sophomore album, 2017’s “Songs for the Struggle,” she gives a soulful retelling of her journey from sex trafficking survivor to university professor, Ph.D., author and advocate. Blending elements of soul, rock, funk, rhythm and blues, and jazz, Dr. E sings with an astonishing amount of hope and positivity; Though the album details the trauma and exploitation experienced by Dr. E during her teen years, her power message ultimately expresses affirmations of self-love and acceptance employed with an equally powerful and joyous voice.

Dr. E is currently a professor of literacy studies in the College of Education at The Ohio State University. She has written a number of books on African American literature as well as a memoir, “PHD to Ph.D.: How Education Saved My Life.”

See Dr. E. perform at the Columbus Arts Festival, Saturday, June 8 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. on the Big Local Stage on Rich St.

For hours, artist listing and all Festival information go to www.columbusartsfestival.org

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