Critique Collective

Critique Collective is your source for information and interviews about emerging and established contemporary artists.

Tag: photographer

Sharon Holck’s Experimental Alcohol Photography Process

Sharon Holck is a photographer from Hawaii who is currently working in New York City in pursuit of a BFA at Pratt Institute. Her current body of work deals with photographing bars using long exposure and various alcoholic beverages for processing film. More images of Holck’s work are available on her website.
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Paul Weiner:
In your recent Pick Your Poison series, you are using various alcohols to process your film. What has been the most interesting formula so far?

Sharon Holck:
So far my favorite formula has been where I used Arrogant Bastard Ale and Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale that was heated up to 103 degrees. Before that, I had been using beers like Stella Artois and Yuengling, which are milder beers that created only slight color changes in the negatives. When I chose the Arrogant Bastard Ale and Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale, which are 7.2% alcohol and decided to heat it up to the same temperature as the developer, it created smokey effects with a blue or green hue.

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Paul Weiner:
Are you aiming to send a particular message with your examination of bar culture?

Sharon Holck:
This project is still very much in the works so I haven’t quite figured out the message I want to send. Originally, I set out to create an experience through photography that one may have while he or she attends the bar by having the series start off with very static, straight images just like our vision is when we begin the night and then gradually go into the more abstract images to symbolize drunkenness.

I feel a connection between photography works as a medium and how alcohol affects our judgment. Photography is made to where we believe things are true, but, in fact, when you study it, you can find so many other stories behind an image. An image that may be thought to be true can actually be a lie. Alcohol, in the same sense, clouds our judgment and can make things be looked at in different ways as well as make people make choices they may regret later on. They can also remember things differently or not remember things at all.

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Paul Weiner:
Are your photos ever staged or are these photos of events as they naturally occurred?

Sharon Holck:
It’s a balance of both. There are some portraits in the series where I have asked people to sit still for a minute for a photograph. Then there are some who approach me and ask for a portrait, and I let them choose whether or not to stay still or move. I will also occasionally set up still lifes with wine glasses or beer bottles on a table. I’ve also once asked for a bunch of people to dance for me.

The more abstract ones though aren’t really planned. I look for a space that has interesting light or objects in the image, and then I will keep the camera straight for maybe half the exposure. Then I move the camera around to get light trails and help to abstract the image.

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Paul Weiner:
When you go to these bars, are you going only as an observer or as a participant who is interested in documenting your own experience?

Sharon Holck:
I think I’m more of an observer. I like people watching and make things out of what I got in the moment. For myself I even don’t like getting drunk and it’s only happened once. So a lot of what I’m making is taken from that one experience or from what I hear from friends.

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Paul Weiner:
This seems to be a process that is unique to film photography. What are some of the challenges of working with film in the 21st century?

Sharon Holck:
It’s definitely a lot more work. There aren’t tons of places that sell the film, and sometimes they don’t have it in stock. Then bringing this large camera into a bar setting where it’s dark is really hard to focus so there are times I’m not sure what I’m going to get. But I think that’s part of what makes film so intriguing. Something you may think you see will come out different, either better or worse but still different then what you thought.

Another hard thing is processing. At first, I had a place to send my negatives to, but I couldn’t get the effects I wanted in the post processing, so I had to learn how to process color myself and buy the chemicals and equipment.

I think really the only other issue I find is the cost of film being so expensive. 35mm is easy cause you get so many exposures for four dollars, but shooting large format where it’s ten pictures for $43 is a bit of a struggle when you’re maybe only getting 4 images out of each shoot. But I love the detail that large format gives, and it really makes me stop and think when I shoot. I love the medium. I think I would be too wild working in a smaller format.

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Paul Weiner:
Which photographers do you find the most inspirational?

Sharon Holck:
Keith Carter is very influential in my life. His story and photography helped get me out of a rut back when I first started college. I still share his work with others whenever I can.

I also love Ian Ruhter for his use of wet plate photography and using a van as his camera.

I also like other photographers like William Eggleston, Thomas Roma, John Divola, and Todd Hido to name a few.

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Paul Weiner:
Many of your most dynamic photos incorporate a sense of repetition probably because of your use of long exposure. Why did you choose to use a long exposure process in this series?

Sharon Holck:
It was both planned and limited to not being able to use flash. In general, I don’t really like using flash. I’d rather use the natural ambiance of an interior to light itself, so I had already planned the exposures to be long. Then, when I went to the bars, they would tell me they would rather me not use flash.

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Paul Weiner:
Have you ran into any interesting characters during your bar photography trips?

Sharon Holck:
Yes! I have good relationships with two bars in particular right now. Both are very friendly, supportive, and interested in the project. Many people approach me asking questions and are very intrigued to see me working with a large camera instead of digital or some other small, handheld camera. I’ve met many artists, musicians, bartenders, and, recently, someone who works at an art museum. To hear her opinion was very interesting, and it gave me a lot of things to think about for the future.


Please view Sharon Holck’s work online and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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Samuel Lopez and Portrait Photography

Samuel Lopez is a photographer living in New York City and working with film while developing his own prints. His work can also be found online.

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Paul Weiner:
How did you get into photography?

Samuel Lopez:
I grew up looking at the wonderful photos in Life, Look, and many well know newspapers during the late 60s and through the 70s. The images from Vietnam and other places fueled my interest. Photojournalism was my desire. I have always been an observer. I wanted to bring the world to everyone looking at my work.

Also, due to a set of circumstances, all of the photos from my mother’s life had been lost or destroyed. We only had one photo of her as a child and no photos of her mother, my grandmother. I wanted to preserve our family history by taking so many photos that, even if some got lost, there would always be plenty available for future generations.

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Paul Weiner:
Why do you prefer film photography to digital?

Samuel Lopez:
It is a personal preference. I love the entire process of making a photograph. Seeing the image come out on what used to be a blank piece of photo paper still fascinates me. I have always liked things I can touch and see. It goes along with my personality, also. I have always been a hands on, old-school type of guy. The process holds, for me, a certain therapeutic aspect. When I do prints I am in my own world. Knowing that I took an image from eye to camera, to film, then to print it and see it again before anyone else is, and always will be, magical for me.

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Paul Weiner:
Describe the sensation you get while developing your own prints.

Samuel Lopez:
When I go in for a printing session, I lock myself away for about 7 hours or until my chemicals are exhausted. I surround myself with all I need for that time. I even have a small refrigerator in my space for food and drink. I play my favorite music.

As I do each print it, takes me back to the exact moment I exposed the photo. I literally get a chill up and down the back of my neck when I see it first enlarged to the size I’ll be doing the print and secondly when the image comes out as it’s in the developing tray. There are times I’ve been moved to tears, not because I think I’ve created some masterpiece of photography but because, at times, the circumstances, the emotions, and feelings come rushing back to me as I’m reliving the moment all over again.

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Paul Weiner:
What are some challenges that you’ve found as a film photographer in the digital age?

Samuel Lopez:
I often feel a bit isolated. I’ve tried to network with other photographers, but because I work in film it’s like I speak a different language. The fact that I am not able to move into commercial work saddens me, but I realize it’s just the way the business is these days. I am also seeing more and more stores I visit for supplies making their film sections smaller and smaller with less choice for chemicals and paper. Archiving my work properly has become a challenge. My negatives and original Polaroid prints have to be filed away properly. I take great care keeping them dust and scratch free, as well as trying to control humidity and temperature. I recently moved from California to New York City, and I was terrified the entire time that my archive would meet some bad fate on the moving truck!

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Samuel Lopez:
Chemicals are becoming harder to find. Photo paper is becoming scarce also. The loss of Polaroid 600 film was a big loss for the photo community. Spare parts for my cameras when they need repair is getting very hard. Most of my cameras are from the 40’s to 50’s.

Paul Weiner:
Do you see yourself more as a photojournalist documenting the world around you or a fine art photographer?

Samuel Lopez:
Definitely a photojournalist documenting the world. Even when I do studio work, I prefer to work with models that can take a concept and move about freely within the idea as I document their journeys in the moment. I rarely use a tripod. I’m always in motion with my subjects.

Paul Weiner:
I can see how supplies must be limited nowadays. Are there any particular materials for film photography that you wish you could still find for sale somewhere?

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How do you find subjects for your photography?

Samuel Lopez:
I look on various model photographer sites, and, at times, I’ve put out open calls for free portraits for anyone willing to sit for me. Models will refer me to people they know that fit my work style, also. I will even ask someone I see that looks interesting on the street or subway to model for me. As a freelance photographer, I don’t have the budget yet to hire from agencies.

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Paul Weiner:
Many contemporary artists shy away from the male nude because of expectations and assumptions our society makes. Have you found it difficult photographing nude men, and have you ever received surprising feedback about male nude photography?

Samuel Lopez:
I have only found that finding male models has been difficult. Most are a bit more over-muscled for my choosing. As a former athlete, I formed an appreciation for both the male and female form. Therefore, the models I choose to work with are more lean and athletic, and I try to pose them in natural positions, also.

Photographing males, for me, is the same process as when I work with women. I try and represent the body as a whole, even in my abstract work. I haven’t had any surprising feedback so far. Mostly very receptive and positive.


Please view Samuel Lopez’s work online and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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Christian Duvua Gonzalez Blurs the Line between Abstract Painting and Photography

Christian Duvua Gonzalez is an artist from Coral Gables, Florida working in mediums of abstract photography and painting interchangeably. More of his artwork can be found online.

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Paul Weiner:
Your abstract paintings and photographs are very similar in aesthetics. Do you purposefully look to create photography that fits together with your painting?

Christian Duvua Gonzalez:
Yes. On some of my abstract paintings, I channel through the vision from some of my photography and create a unique style of painting. However, I feel abstract expressionism gives me the opportunity to connect with the freedom I seek as a painter.

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Paul Weiner:
How do you find subjects for your abstract photography?

Christian Duvua Gonzalez:
I have to thank my dad for giving you the answer for this question. I remember like it was yesterday when my dad told me this for the first time. When I was about 5 or 6 years old, he said, “Son you have to look both ways when crossing the street.” Well, I took that to heart, and I added up, down, and all around to that equation. I feel that art is everywhere, all around us, and all we need to do is open our minds to pay attention.

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Paul Weiner:
Tell us how you begin a painting.

Christian Duvua Gonzalez:
Well, I can tell you what I don’t do when I start a painting. I don’t start with an empty canvas. I don’t believe that anything is empty; everything possesses the ability to open your mind, from a white canvas to a stain on the ground. I start my paintings in a relaxed state, usually with a glass of pinot noir and some music as I let the mood take over.

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Paul Weiner:
Do you prefer a certain type of board or canvas to paint on? Also, do you print your abstract photography in a way that it can be viewed with your paintings?

Christian Duvua Gonzalez:
I love all surfaces, from wood to canvas, and even linen napkins. I feel every surface has an inner shape screaming to come out. Allowing it to come to life is the reward. I try to separate my photography from my paintings to show the meaning behind the vision, but, in some of my photography, I try to make it simple for the viewer to translate the connection between the two.

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Paul Weiner:
Could you name a few artists you’ve drawn inspiration from?

Christian Duvua Gonzalez:
I have been influenced by different artists from different eras as I’ve gotten older, but there are few that have impacted my mind in a personal way. I find inspiration by Albert Kotin, Barnett Newman, Hans Hofmann, Robert Motherwell and Gerhard Richter.

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Paul Weiner:
I noticed that a lot of your artwork has geometric themes to it. Would you consider your work styled on geometry?

Christian Duvua Gonzalez:
Yes. I have a huge passion for math and equations. I feel that geometry plays a big factor among artists, as it helps guide the structure of a subject.


Please view Christian Duvua Gonzalez’s artwork and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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Ruthie Schneider Vast Library of Photomanipulation

Ruthie Schneider creates photomanipulation artwork by sampling from a vast library of her own photography in order to create aestheticall pleasing compositions. Her abstract compositions are also available for viewing online here.

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Paul Weiner:
Tell us a bit about how you got involved in this type of photography and manipulation.

Ruthie Schneider:
Up until about two years ago, I had been doing primarily street photography in my travels and still life photography of things that caught my eye in my environment. I was somewhat bored with my work. I had been to a painting workshop out in Oregon and was experimenting with abstracts. My closets are littered with unfinished paintings!

When I saw what one could do with post processing methods, a light went on in my head about merging an existing photograph with another, or several. This is a challenge, as I have to visualize the shapes and composition of the images, and make a decision as to where the strongest elements are. I go through a process of changing the rotation, RGB curves, contrast, and such until I find two or three images that work.

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Paul Weiner:
Was your photography similar stylistically before you began using digital tools?

Ruthie Schneider:
Not at all. I was raised on the Zone System of photography back in the 70s and followed in the footsteps of the “f/64 club.” After I sold my darkroom equipment and focused on raising babies, I transitioned into doing travel – street and still life photography.

Digital manipulation has totally opened up a new world for me, one which allows me to utilize both my painting skills and photography to reach a happy medium. I actually feel as if I am producing a canvas. It is always a pleasant surprise to see two, three or sometimes four images merge to produce a totally different result.

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Paul Weiner:
Is your photography influenced at all by abstract expressionism in painting?

Ruthie Schneider:
Absolutely! That and my keen awareness of shadows, textures and light.

Paul Weiner:
How do you balance raw camera images and Photoshop as tools for abstract photography?

Ruthie Schneider:
Well, I actually don’t use Photoshop for my work. I use a free online app called PicMonkey, which I use for enhancement and occasional manipulation. I have a huge library of photographs from my travels and day to day stuff. I have photographed many unfinished, abstract paintings that my daughter and I have done that are languishing in our house! I also utilize images of various ‘textures’ as you will; rust, peeling paint, shadows, etc.

When I set out to make a new image, I pick something from my library that perhaps doesn’t make it on its own, but that can come to life when merged with a texture or painting.

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Paul Weiner:
How do you find a subject for your work?

Ruthie Schneider:
As I mentioned, I draw upon my vast library of images that go way back. I revisit photos that need help!

In my travels and walkabouts, I like to shoot from the hip so that, often, I leave out what is happening at eye level. I enjoy this method as it gives a skewed look. Since I have started merging, for lack of a better term, I also shoot textures.

I had a grand time behind Walmart, photographing all of the pallets with plastic shrink wrap that had water droplets beading everywhere. There were also flattened boxes with layers and layers of color and texture. Old cemeteries have endless opportunities, and we are fortunate to live in New England, land of historic graveyards. Other places that have wonderful subject matter are airports. Cleveland comes to mind, but just about every airport gives me great inspiration, especially when spending hours hanging around while flights are delayed. Farmers markets, food, and dogs in the street strike my fancy as well.

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Paul Weiner:

Is your chief concern aesthetics or are these photos all connected conceptually?

Ruthie Schneider:
I have groups of images that share the same element of texture. For instance, I will use a photo of a shadow and merge it with several scenic, still life, or street photos. So, you will see that connecting theme, but that would be the only connected concept.

Paul Weiner:
What types of cameras and equipment do you use?

Ruthie Schneider:
I keep it simple. I am not one of those with two cameras and long lenses hanging around my neck—the smaller and lighter, the better. I began with a Nikon D40 when I first started using digital, and it was strictly for travel. Right now, I am totally enjoying a Fujifilm X100, which reminds me of a Leica, extremely quiet. It has a fixed lens, which forces me to compose more carefully.


Please view Ruthie Schneider’s artwork and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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