The Photograph Explained – Untitled 2011 by DM Witman


Silver gelatin photograph

I am obsessed with themes of ephemerality, and biology, consequences of both my art and scientific background and curious nature (or perhaps it’s the other way around). My way of working is very experiential. While I am out in the woods, I am inspired by the feeling of the place, both literally and figuratively, leading me to cover my body in moss, or plunge into the sea. A merging of the self with the memory of the landscape and its biology, a synergy of time, place, and being.

DM Witman with pinhole camera.

I work with the pinhole camera because of its capacity to share this synergy. Moving the shim across the pinhole to allow the light in, for the moment (seconds, minutes, or hours) to record on the film, has become ritual. Metamorphosis is a frequent consequence of the process, with unexpected forms slowly emerging and un/becoming.

These images were created in camera with one negative exposed using a large format pinhole camera and untitled. I have continued to use the same wood box since the project’s inception.

The film I have used has changed over time. When I first began this project in 2005, I used Polaroid Type 55 because of the amazing fine grain structure. When that film was discontinued, it forced me to choose a new black & white film for the project. I have always employed Kodak TMax for other black & white work, and so it was a natural switch for me to continue using it for my large format pinhole work.

When working in black & white for this project, there has been no other choice for me, but to print in the darkroom as a silver print. I love the process, slow and methodical. I print these 4 x 5 negatives to a final size of the image at 14 x 11 on 20 x 16 double-weight warm tone fiber paper, which is silver rich. Each image is printed in a limited edition of ten.

This image Untitled, 2011 (0010110704) is part of a larger body of work, Ways of Being, soon to be in its tenth year. The project has taken a turn in recent years to color. I felt a need to make experiment further, and began using Kodak Portra film. And now these color images are printed as archival pigment prints. I haven’t given up on black & white, just extending a branch of the tree.

I made this image as part of a cycle over the summer months. I never know exactly what will happen, given the exposures ranging from mere seconds to 45 minutes (at the longest end of the time spectrum). The exposure of this image was somewhere in the range of 7 minutes. There are qualities of the figure emerging and receding that I don’t want to explain – I just want it to exist as it is, and for it to resonate with others. I can speculate on the framing, and have an estimate of exposure, but the serendipity and the magic of the process of this way of working still remains, even after all this time.

DM Witman with pinhole camera.
DM Witman

Deanna is represented by Susan Maasch Fine Art, her work is currently hanging at HEIST in London.

Her work was featured in the Ballarat International Foto Biennale 2013.