Elvira Piedra Statement

Artist Statement
I discovered photography in my childhood through looking at old family portraits. These early impressions of black and white images are the most enduring influence on the work I have made. Photography was a mysterious means of communication for me, suggesting other possibilities of seeing and being. I would not really understand this potential however, until I actually began making photographs myself.

I photograph mostly what is familiar to me, the people and things of home. This is a way of honoring my life, and reaching deeper levels of understanding. Seeing is about both looking at the world outside and discovering the one within. From the beginning I saw that the camera itself was leading me somewhere new, an experience affirmed more deeply when I began using an 8x10 view camera. The camera opens a door inside me through which I can observe the world and often it is the camera itself that reveals the world to me. Photography is a means of making my inner life visible and it is through my work that I have moved out into the world. I have engaged with people and things, and nature through the wish to form an image. The images have developed out of a necessity to engage with my own creativity--to make a relationship between my own nature and the nature of Reality, and to take root there. By engaging my energies in this pursuit my life acquires gravity. I do not separate my aims for understanding from my photographic work. This work provides the means and materials for me to confront my life and find meaning. It connects me to my love, to the world of people and feeling.

It is in the process of printmaking and the physical print itself that my work is harmonized. I am often seeking the longest scale possible from the materials I have at hand. Printmaking is a process of reconciliation. It encourages the refinement of feeling. My images are primarily black and white, made with silver materials, although I have been exploring digital printmaking, seeing in it also a way to express the depths of the gray scale and its spiritual values. Black and white describe only the two absolutes of this photography, the places where details disappear. It is in the space between, of infinite shadow detail and the highest lights that forms emerge and our lives acquire substance.

Process Statement
The principal instrument of my work is a 8x10 Kodak D-2 view camera, though I enjoy using 4x5 for more intimate scenes and 35mm cameras while travelling. My large format lenses are uncoated.

My photographs are mostly in black and white, from negatives that I develop and print in a traditional wet darkroom, using pyro developer or D-76 for film processing. I prepare my paper developers from Ansco formulas. Each new series of work requires a new approach, so I experiment with as wide a variety of films and papers as I can still find to suit the subject. Printing is done by contact and completed with selenium and/or gold toning.

The finished prints are spotted and then dry mounted onto Museum Rising Board. My photographs are made with a sense of tradition which reflects the influences of my mentor Walter Chappell, as well as of the 19th century photographers from whom I have drawn inspiration.

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