Negative Prints

Negative Print Series  1978-80
Silver Gelatin Prints  16x20”

Memories of Childhood   
This project was inspired by an old snapshot from my childhood of white sheets hanging on a backyard cloths line.  When I looked at that picture I could smell the sweet clean damp presence of the sheets hanging on the line.  I used to like to hide in the space between the rows of sheets my mother had just washed.

Because of the memory invoked by the white tones of that early snapshot I got the idea of reversing the print tones to turn the shadows of my images to light.  The more I worked on this project the easier it was for me to see the light in the shadows.  

When I first started this series I entitled it Memories of Childhood.   For me, the negative imagery was like reversing time, or going back to those early childhood memories of the spaces I loved to hide in: between the damp sheets, under the rubarb plants,  between the lilac bushes, in the cherry tree, on the concrete block at the corner of my neighbor’s garage which was on a small mound.

When I started this series I was also listening to the late piano music of Franz Liszt.  The late music is very contemplative and religious in feeling - almost nostalgic.   I felt these light toned negative print images carried a similar feeling as the music and my memories of childhood.  
There is one composition by Liszt entitled Grey Clouds (he wrote it in 1881, at the age of 70 - five years before he died) that was an important influence on the whole project.  Perhaps, like a cloud passing in the sky, this project has something to do with death, and about memories lost.  (Visit Color Diptychs).
In a statement I wrote for this project back in 1980 I remember saying something like: "I love snow - the way its white magically transforms the world."  

I was working with a 2 ¼” square format camera, and so the images I started with were square.   The white space within these square images often merge into the surrounding white space of the 16x20” paper border .  This is very important; it's probably a metaphor for something I don't know how to write about.  In any case this merging of interior image tones with the outer boarder tones is something that happens again with the Garage Series, the Thing Centered Photographs, and other later projects.  

For this project, then, please consider the entire 16x20 inch piece of paper to be the image.

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