Sunburn. Photographs by Chris McCaw. Text by Allie Haeusslein, Katherine Ware.
The photographs of Chris McCaw (born 1971) are produced with various hand-built view cameras as big as 30 by 40 inches, which are equipped with large aerial lenses designed to allow a maximum amount of light to pass through. Using large paper negatives, McCaw makes very long exposures ranging from several hours to a full day, which result in solarized final images. Besides the attractive neo-primitive qualities of his landscape imagery, the concentrated sunlight passing through the large optical elements actually scorches an etched path across the surface of the paper, rending open the charred skies to hint at a brighter light behind our sun. Sunburn brings together more than 60 of these landscapes, cooked visions in which blackened suns move stroboscopically through veiled skies that hang like curtains over vistas reduced to shadow. The violent shearing or destruction of each image contests the traditionally mellow aesthetic of the landscape photography tradition, and the marks left behind are a physical testament to the power of the sun, which is both subject and collaborator in this chance meeting of creator and destroyer. The excitement of discovering such a remarkable and untapped property of these particular lenses and expired gelatin silver papers is a testament to McCaw’s openness to the photographic process, and his continued experimentation over the past eight years has created an equally indelible mark on the tradition of landscape photography.