Selected Gelatin Sliver Prints
10x 8 inch, 8 x 6 inch
Mar 2019 ongoing project
Anonymous is an ongoing experimental analogue photography project, exploring alternative ways to process gelatin silver prints since 2019. I approach and review the history of photography through the processes, exploring how image is emerged, fixed, and unfixed from a contemporary perspective. I specifically choose the images from my film negatives, which are about the full body size back view of one or two figures, or the figure without showing their whole face in the open air or the obsolete/ forgotten places. Personally, they are not necessary about the narration of stories, the nature and sublime, the nostalgic landscapes, or the relationship between human and nature. I am more interested in the imagination about the figures' perception on the surroundings, the relationships between the figures and me, the camera and me, or the conscious I and subconscious I, when I photograph people and make the prints in my way. There is no storytelling in my photos, I intend to invite the viewers to imagine if they were the figures in the prints, what they could perceive; what kinds of stories or memories they would make up for the photos.
I'm not interested in me doing portrait photography, because I tend to control the figure's postures, or they tend to perform themselves, or they would ask me how to perform, with the lens in between. However, I would photograph people in these ways: for the people I know, I will ask them to turn their back to the camera; for strangers, I always candidly photograph them without showing their whole face. To take photos in these ways, I feel like the figures can be free from my control to some extent. They can consider their own business, and they are both unaware of the certain moment they are photographed. Meanwhile, I adjust myself rather than them, to reach a vantage point and then click the shutter. On the other hand, the figures are also not free, because the background, the focus, the frame, the moment and all other elements- even the permission for photographing- are all my decisions. For me, photography could be gentle, carrying parts of life of the subjects, though photography could also be domineering, showing the photographer's subjectivity.
The ways of photographing people reminds me of the scene when a person is undergoing psychoanalysis. The person keeps lying down and talking to themself, pretending the therapist's absence, but the therapist is just around them. After a session the therapist would review and analyse the record, just as I make the prints from the negatives in the darkroom, trying to recollect the moments when I took the photos, observing the then me and trying to understand the consistent me- myself both the therapist and the patient.
However, it could be me making up the moments, the memories, for both myself and the figures. It is because film photography cannot be seen directly just after the shutter is clicked. Thus, the scene could exist in my mind or the figure’s mind as an imagined picture, until the visible photo is printed out. There could be gaps between the imagined picture and the visible photo. The gaps could fit, change, distort or even rewrite our memory. The print could also implant a true moment of now or a fictitious moment of then to our mind.
I'm very interested in spontaneity, unpredictability and the unknowability. I often make a group of prints from one negative in the darkroom, repeating a similar working process in one group. I would create a condition that things could happen, such as the condition for the chemicals to react. I wouldn't completely calculate the reaction, and I cannot do that too. It is the chemistry creating the prints as well. I cannot really control the chemistry in a way, what I can do is waiting for it happening and then responding to what has happened- sometimes the unpredictable, the unexpected and the unknown. Mostly, people tend to respond to those by instinct, especially when those need to be dealt with very quickly. For me, it is a repeated working process as well, to keep getting lost and then trying to find a way to return. In the process I only focus on making without deep consideration, just like meditating. When I review the prints after they are done, it is the reflecting stage for me to have conversation with the deep I (the subconscious mind). If I return I bring something fortuitous; accept something abrupt, reversing and forming myself over and over.