By Victor Cassidy
Susan Aurinko, the Director of Flatfile Galleries, gets 20 to 30 portfolios per week from photographers, returns most of them, offers representation to a few, and puts others aside for further review. Annually she presents FOTOWERK, a group show of people who've caught her eye over the past twelve months. Those chosen include gallery artists and some who submitted by mail.
In September and October, Aurinko presented FOTOWERK 2007, her eight such annual. Work must be "very much outside the box" to get in, she states. Included this year are Claude Andreini, Euro Rotelli, Carol Coates, Marc Sirinsky, Ryan Zoghlin, Gary Engle, Flyn Vibert and Fred Camper. The strongest artists of these are Engle, who's very much outside the box, and Camper, who's very much inside it.
Engle, who claims to suffer from "Obsessive Emulsion Disorder," exposes sheet film to a bare light bulb, then processes and dries it to produce a totally black negative. Next, he uses liquid to soften the gelatin that holds the emulsion onto the film such that he can move the emulsion around by blowing on it or tilting the film plane. When the film dries, he makes traditional silver gelatin prints with it, using an enlarger. Roughly ten days elapse between the first exposure and the final print. Ambient temperature, humidity, and water temperature determine the resulting image, which Engle says that he cannot predict or control. We see flattish black and white fields and surfaces, softly lit from within that suggest microorganisms and land forms as viewed from far above. Recalling Moholy-Nagy's photograms, Engle's work is lyrical and winning.
Fred Camper, an art and film critic and filmmaker, was visiting Lucerne, Switzerland when he photographed the Reuss River that flows through the center of town. "I photographed quickly," he writes, "and in a nearly ecstatic state, finding myself suddenly and utterly captivated by shifting patterns in the water, as seen first from one position and then from five others." Camper shot six views of the river, with water churning in some and almost still in others.
At home, Camper printed the six views in different sizes and mounted them together in different sizes and arrangements to produce Permutations, which is the name he gives to this body of work [Permutations 1: Reuss River]. Sunlight on moving water is hardly a fresh subject for photography, but Camper makes it new by capturing the colors of the water and the way the sun gives it internal life.