by Karin Leuthy
In conjunction with the completion of its six-year restoration of the Winslow Homer Studio, the Portland Museum of Art is highlighting three Maine Media Workshops + College faculty in an upcoming exhibition, Between Past and Present: The Homer Studio Photographic Project, opening October 6th. Maine Media is one of the few places photographers interested in historical and alternative photographic processes can learn and hone these techniques, through its workshops as well as its Professional Certificate program.
Using photographic processes available during Homer’s time, Tillman Crane, Brenton Hamilton, and Alan Vlach bring the painter’s studio, its artifacts and surroundings to life in a way that evokes the landmark’s history and its lasting presence. Winslow Homer moved to Maine in 1836, and painted his most well known seascapes and marine subjects at the Prouts Neck studio between 1883 and 1910. Notoriously and unapologetically reclusive, he displayed a sign warning prospective visitors, “Snakes! Snakes! Mice!”
“I actually started photographing around the area before I even knew about the show,” said Vlach, whose photographs showcase the salted paper process. “I was looking for places to hike and walk my dog, and I discovered the cliff walk around Prouts Neck and the studio. I was really taken with the shoreline.”
Tillman Crane used the platinum printing process to capture the interior of the studio. “I loved the way the light played around the rooms,” he said. “I always chase the light. That’s what I respond to. It was inspiring to work in the same space that Homer worked.”
Brenton Hamilton was taken with Homer’s Harper’s Weekly engravings from the 1860’s. “They were incredibly incisive and moody,” said Hamilton. Using cyanotype and gum bichromate processes, he explored Homer’s engravings through historic methods and fresh eyes, “suggesting new meanings via collage and adjustments and juxtapositions.”
Working with alternative processes can sometimes be more challenging for today’s photographers than those that lived during Homer’s time. Emulsions and other materials that were once available commercially now must be mixed and applied by hand. Enlarging prints and negatives can require hours of work. But the long tonal scale, hand-made nature and even chemical challenges make these photographs all the more exciting to create.
The Homer Studio Photographic Project will run through Feb. 17. Tours of Homer’s studio can be scheduled through Dec. 2. For more information, visit PMA’s website at www.portlandmuseum.org.