Maritza.This is a collodion tintype photograph, made on location using chemical processes. Photo by Zachary Krahmer
Q1. Why did you choose the collodion tintype photograph?
I chose the medium that I worked with for several reasons. One reason is because of the intentionality and time required for each picture. Each image represents a 5 to 15 minute effort between photographer and sitter for the image to be created. In learning about this part of the world, I found that the majority of voices being broadcast were from the dominant urban narrative where the largest news broadcasters are located. The collodion process requires a level of hands-on communication between the person photographing and the person being photographed. I knew this would provide structure to ask and learn about these individual’s lives and confront my own preconceptions about the group and this conflict. I knew that the medium would really force me to confront that and actually have real conversations with the people that I would be photographing and working with. More so, there are a lot of issues with how the current peace process is being implemented and I thought it was important to make something different from anything I had seen recently made. In some ways because of the medium, more people have been able to see the work, and this means more people have learned and potentially asked questions about what is happening. Additionally, wet plate images are grainless, which means they can be reproduced at very large sizes. I hoped to create life size reproductions of the plates to frame constructive conversations around the peace process. In addition to the tintypes, we returned printed copies of the images to the individual members and coordinated photography workshops with several groups from the demobilizing front, as well as youth within the community where they would be reintegrating so they could document their own transition to civilian life.
Q2. Do you always think hard about what formats to choose for your projects?
I'm beginning to. The ubiquity of imagery requires all photographers to reflect on 'what is it that I hope people will take away from my work? What is it that I'm actually hoping to accomplish with these pictures? And then thinking 'is this the right medium or combination of mediums?' At the end of the day, I believe as image makers we're creating experiences. Lately, I’ve been drawn to creating video with a photography mindset because it provides context, and a chance to convey deeper structural issues. Perhaps augmented reality, or maybe a quick snapshot camera is the best way to tell a story? There are many exciting new technologies out there that can be used to communicate. I think it's the elements of the story and what you're hoping to convey to the viewer that should dictate the medium you choose. We should be receptive when the elements of a story lend themselves to a certain delivery.
Q3. What advice would you give to people trying to do their own interpretive project?
Spend time reflecting on your motivation for doing a project and think about what you can offer from your own life that is unique. This could be a certain perspective, technique, process, or anything. Think about what you’re creating, and why you are photographing. Think about the audience you hope to reach and how you would like to affect them. How does this story relate to other things that people might already know about this topic? The topic itself could be interpretive.
Find something you're really passionate about and think about how you can convey that passion through your process. And just fail. Take a lot of chances and fail a lot. Also, I would say study what's come before you to inform your work. Unlike art in general, photography has been around for less than two hundred years. It’s not impossible to learn the history of photography. Study what has come before you and develop an understanding of how your work might fit into the larger photographic legacy of our shared experience on this planet.
Q&A by Yehyun Kim. Supervising Editor is Liv Paggiarino.