Review by Douglas Stockdale •
Amanda Marchand’s artist book, The World Is Astonishing With You In It – A 21st Century Field Guide to the Birds, Ferns and Wildflowers, is a slender photobook, minimalist by design, nevertheless delivering a solid punch.
This body of work is an emotional response to her natural subjects, similar to her earlier lens-based book 415-514, which she distills the landscapes down to an almost abstract and poetic essence. The transition of a lens-based semi-abstraction to a pure abstraction reminds me of Richard Diebenkorn’s progression from his figurative artwork to his harder edge color field paintings, in which you can find traces of the former in his later artwork. I think the same can be stated for Marchand’s development; in her urban landscape photographs of 415-514, we could almost anticipate how her sense of abstraction could be pushed beyond the edge of representation.
For the past five years as well as this body of work, she has used lumen photography (solar photogram); a form of camera-less alternative photography using light sensitive papers, object(s) and light, predominantly sunlight as her light of choice. Lumen photography, along with other alternative photographic processes, has seen a resurgence among artists while pushing these methodologies well beyond their original late 1800’s and early 1900’s esthetic boundaries. Merging this historic camera-less photographic methodology with twentieth century color-field artist theories creates a truly 21st Century object in the hands of this artist.
I had the good fortunate to attend Marchand’s presentation at Medium Photo last May in San Diego during which she described in detail how this and her other lumen photographs were created. And I was inspired to obtain this artist book to complement her prior photobook which I had reviewed in 2010.
Her lumen experimentation with current and expired photographic papers leaves much to chance, especially considering the unknown conditions that her starting materials may have endured during storage over the years. The essence of lumen camera-less images results from laying an object on top of the paper, subsequently exposing the paper and object to sunlight for a duration that will allow the paper to ‘develop’ an image. The paper can be ‘fixed’ to stop the developing process, be re-photographed or scanning to capture the resulting image and fugitive colors as a point in time, or not ‘fixing’ the image to allow it to dynamically continue a slow image development process.
Marchand’s practice, similar to Meghann Riepenhoff’s work creating unique dynamic (ever changing) cyanotype prints, is to not fix her lumen prints and allow these unique prints to continue to evolve, what Reipenhoff describes as a state of perpetual becoming’s. Also similar to Riepenhoff, Marchand documents the phases of her lumen prints, scanning the images, to create derivative artworks, as lumen images cannot be really ‘fixed’. This artist book provides both of these creative elements; a documentary point in time that has been recomposed post-production in conjunction with a dynamic lumen print.
Her lumens and subsequent collages are angular, quasi-geometric shapes and patterns, with blocks of wash-out color that create sun-filled interior spaces. The potential hard edges of her lines have been slightly softened by her practice of using sunlight, as her starting object, three of her her mother’s books (field guide to bird/ferns/flowers), meant to block the sunlight also casts its shadow by the arc of the sun as it passes overhead. A series of conceptual objects based on nature, which are not intended to be literal interpretations, to mimick real life, but to use color and line through a process of reduction toward a simpler visual language. She deconstructs her initial lumen images to create collages constructing her final compositions, working each image with a pastel color palette to create a series of poetic images.
That her lumen print is not fixed (fugitive), thus constantly changing, also challenges our notice of what a photograph is. Perhaps more akin to a performance. That like her subjects and nature itself, her lumen artwork is also constantly changing.
“The lumen process is a fugitive process – you can fix the image chemically but not the color. For me the color of the lumen marks time, which is why I chose the scanner to “stop” the color at a point in time. But I do scan, and the scanner’s light participates in the final image that I then print as a pigment print. It’s a combination of tools and processes. And I love how the mix of tools adds to the larger conversation I’m interested in about time and flux.“
Other than her initial subject being found in nature, there are few clues as to what each composition represents, which engages our sense of imagination. That someone could dissociate and find other potential subjects resulting from the non-representational aspect of her images is another wonderful attribute of her artwork.
Amanda Marchand has been featured earlier on PhotoBook Journal; 415/514
Douglas Stockdale is an artist and Senior Editor of PhotoBook Journal
The World Is Astonishing With You In It – A 21st Century Field Guide to the Birds, Ferns and Wildflowers, Amanda Marchand
Photographer: Amanda Marchand, born in Quebec, Canada and lives in Brooklyn, NY
Self-published: Brooklyn, NY (for this review, Pocket Version, 2nd Printing, with tier pricing)
Stiffcovers with glued pocket, clear poly outer-case, litho printed and die-cut sheet printed by Datz Books, South Korea with an unfixed lumen print by Marchand, second printing.
Book Designer: Amanda Marchand
Articles and photographs published in the PhotoBook Journal may not be reproduced without the permission of the PhotoBook Journal staff and the photographer(s). All images, texts, and designs are copyright of the authors and publishers.