“Pehoski Purple with Baby Ginger” by Eric Baillies.
Anders Zanichkowsky and Eric Baillies are moving forward while looking backward — reviving historical processes to create prints.
And though the results are quite different, the two artists featured in the “Alternative Photographies” show at Overture Galleries were both inspired by pilgrimages of sorts.
Anders Zanichkowsky started producing cyanotypes (or blueprints) on a summer 2016 residency with the Arctic Circle Program, which sponsors artist trips to the Arctic.
A longtime Madison resident who recently entered the MFA program at UW-Madison, Zanichkowsky, 31, stresses that he is not a photographer, not even an amateur one. His background is in printmaking.
“They put us on a tall ship — a sailboat, a huge sailboat — and we sailed around the Arctic for three weeks,” says Zanichkowsky, who was drawn to the challenge of creating cyanotypes. To make prints, Zanichkowsky would scour the beaches in places like Svalbard, an island between Norway and the North Pole. He would place pieces of ice on chemically prepared paper.
"Pack Ice 1" (left), and “Pyramiden” by Anders Zanichkowsky.
The immediate footprint of the shape of the ice would stop the print from developing, creating a stark white shape in a sea of cyan, he says. Then the ice would start melting, leaving additional, unique marks on the print.
“As it melts, the sunlight is slowly turning permanent blue wherever the ice isn’t,” Zanichkowsky explains. “As that water is melting — before the sun can make it a really, really deep, dark blue — the ice melts water onto it and says ‘all right, we’re done now.’ Wherever that melting water goes also fixes a permanent image — sort of recording that process.”
Eric Baillies’ mediums (tintypes made on aluminum and prints made from collodion glass negatives) are likewise more like “recordings” than typical photos. Most of the prints depict familiar Madison landmarks (Camp Randall, the Edgewater), but the effect is otherworldly. The scenes appear to be a century or more old. One highlight: “Pehoski Purple with Baby Ginger,” which depicts a bundle of garlic and ginger hanging in a void of gray.
Baillies, 37, says he came to photography later in life, although his father, a chemist, enjoyed it as a hobby. Baillies spent his childhood in DeForest “looking through rangefinders and viewfinders, printing in the darkroom.” He majored in business at UW-La Crosse, but returned to photography after about five years of odd jobs, working with several commercial photographers to learn the ropes before launching as a freelancer.
Baillies studied his techniques at a number of workshops led by “process historian” Mark Osterman of the George Eastman Museum in Rochester, New York. Baillies describes the museum’s namesake, George Eastman (founder of Kodak) as the “Willy Wonka Batman” of photography.
To make his prints, Baillies has to first make a glass negative, using a difficult process he learned from Osterman. The end products are stunning. Says Baillies: “The silver [of the prints] has a kind of tooth to it that you can actually lay down with your finger, so it reflects light differently. So when you try to take a picture of it...they just never look the same.” n
“Alternative Photographies” runs through March 6, with an opening reception Jan. 13 from 6 to 8 p.m.