It was nothing like the cowboy-dress, sepia novelties of every town tourist traps. Having my collodian portrait taken at Heliopolis gallery by inherent photographer Eric Lee Bowman felt (and was) more like a real, happening tradition. The week of signup volunteer shots was an active extension of his too brief cynanotype print and glass plate figure show at the Huron space.
Good and non-gimmicky fun too, showing a live practice rather than just the settled product of most shows, or the didactic schooling of too many interactive events. A third generation shooter, and grandson of legendary adventurer Roy Pinney, Bowman looks every bit the part, with red beard flaring out from under his goggles and ventilation mask. Before the actual sit down, Bowman gives a tutorial on the historical wet plate process while mixing the chemicals on the street from a portable darkroom suitcase.
After quick flash snap, I became the rabbit out of the hat in front of gathering passerby. The result itself is a smoky, silvery footprint of instant history. The next trick is the flip personality of the 19th century technique. When held by hand, the image is a negative ghost, reminiscent of the older daguerreotype. When placed in front of a black background, the textural positive jumps to life.
The show itself presents a kinetic back and forth between the large prints (cameraless photograms most popularly associated with Robert Rauchenberg) and the small shimmer of the glass. The clean modernist blue looks like a ghost sky above the earthy human portraits. Still, the livelier duet was getting to become part of the show inside. The whole thing is more time travel than history lesson.
My Chemical Portrait
Eric Lee Bowman
August 10 – 26, 2012
154 Huron Street