Bruce McKaig

Gelatin silver prints in ambient light

1991 - present, @900 one-of-a-kind gelatin silver prints

Gelatin silver prints in ambient light are produced with the naturally chaotic nature of light. The images involve no optics, no camera, no darkroom, working only with primary elements of photography: silver gelatin paper, chemicals, light. The paper is exposed to indoor/outdoor light, over hours or days, and with chemistries, timing and observation the silver develops not in black and white but in tarnished colors. The resulting image is the very object exposed to light, without intermediary, like Daguerreotypes and other photographic processes that engender neither negative nor copy. It is material photography, as in materialism, the doctrine that the only or fundamental reality is physical matter and that all beings, processes, and phenomena are manifestations of matter.

Diverse Works

1987 – 1999, various sizes, @1000 one-of-a-kind gelatin silver prints, sometimes with watercolor, oil, or color pencil, selective toning, added photogram shapes

 Latin America

1988-present, @ 300 one-of-a-kind hand colored photographs, pinhole photographs, and stereo photographs, taken between 1988 and 1994, printing and coloring 1988 - present

In January 1988, I left Washington DC to spend six months in Mexico. Instead, I traveled through Mexico and arrived in Guatemala where I lived for two years, traveling at times as far south as Ecuador. In 1991, I returned to Guatemala for @two more years. I worked extensively with hand coloring and began making pinhole and stereo photographs. The first stereo photographs were made by bolting two cameras together. The first pinhole photographs were made from powdered milk cans.

Works from this series are in the collections of the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, El Centro Nationale Para la Proteccion de la Antigua in Guatemala, and La Maison Europeene de la Photographie (museum) in Paris. Works have been exhibited at El Convento de Santa Clara, Anitqua Guatemala, Georgetown University, Martin Luther King Jr. Library, Le Faste Fou (Paris), Palais de Tokyo Museum (Paris).

History Series

2010 – present, +150 photo-based digital prints, 18” x 24”

I came. I saw. I manipulated.

Since 2006, I have been digitally photographing displays and in the summer of 2010, I started using these stills for the History Series. A dollhouse, the Christmas season, a wax museum, an altar, a multitude of fantastical maquettes of human thought and activity. What if polar bears decided to fill up their environment with dolled-up replicas of themselves doing what they usually do?

 Trashcan Pinhole Photographs

2001 – 2004, +100 gelatin silver prints, 20” x 24”

In February 2001, I made a pinhole camera out of a 10-gallon galvanized steel trashcan. The slow exposures explain the transparent presence of movement and activity in many scenes. The trashcan camera produces 16"x20" paper negatives that are contact printed for the final 20”x24” silver gelatin prints. The first two years of work produced cityscapes of Washington DC, but after 9/11 it wasn’t possible to wander the streets with a 10-gallon steel container sealed off with black plastic and duct tape.

Since January 2004, I have been using the trashcan to photograph perception drawings from psychology studies about vision and perception. Images taken from science and the arts are scanned onto transparencies that are photographed with the pinhole trashcan. I expanded the subject matter to consider, from beginning to end, how a photograph is materially made (creation), seen (perception), and understood (cognition). Sample subjects include medical scans of the eye, Gestalt psychology drawings, an 1840 English translation of Daguerre’s photo process, sheet music, cave drawings, Renaissance paintings, cookie cutters, dials, graphs and data sheets from Kodak how-to books, a Kodak grey card, a Chipotle napkin.