I always think we can trace our influences and what we are drawn to as artists to the visual stew that makes up our childhood. Walter Plotnick is no exception. He had a father who shared his love for photography and the darkroom with Walter at an early age and an artistic mother who painted mannequin faces for a living. Today these influences, combined his interest in photographic collage and surrealism, result in very unique imagery.
Walter is a photo-based artist who lives and works in the Philadelphia area. He received his MFA from University of the Arts and BFA from Tyler School of Art. Currently, he is an instructor in the Fine Arts Department at Penn State Abington, as well as Montgomery County Community College. He recently completed a film, featuring a Fine Art Department colleague and a classroom of art students engaged in an end-of-year assignment that Walter wanted to document in a creative way. It’s a testament to the power of collaborative artistic expression and how art inspires.
Walter’s interest in photogram collages permeates much of his work. I am sharing photographs from two of his projects, Circus Work, and1939 Worlds Fair.
Images from Circus Work
My current work is a hybrid of wet photography and digital process. I am influenced by the work of Bauhaus, Constructivist and Surrealist Photographers from the 1920s through the 1930s.
I make photographs and photograms by constructing temporary still lifes, using vintage found objects and images on top of photographic paper in the darkroom. By manipulating a variety of light sources, then digitally combining, repeating or adding images, I am able to visually explore an abstract environment with objects and light, creating movement, form and tension.
Photography is a form of communication with the power to move, inspire, and motivate people. Two areas of inquiry have fascinated me with their graphic possibilities – the “World of Tomorrow” themed 1939 New York World’s Fair, and vintage images depicting feats of daring as performed by 1930s circus performers.
On the surface, these are two disparate themes. But for me, the commonality is humanity striving to reach its potential. The 1939 New York World’s Fair presented this on a grand stage, showing what was possible in technology with the right vision and will, engaging science, commerce, and government in an inspiring display of imagination. The circus performers, with little or no technology, took us to the outer limits of skill and performance using only the human body. Together, they offer us a thrilling picture of what we can do when we have the faith to leap forward to the next level.
Faith, inspiration, and achievement are the hallmarks of human accomplishment. I feel that through creating images that celebrate these themes, my images will resonate with viewers, and hopefully awaken in them an appreciation for their potential and expand a sense of what is possible in their own lives.
Blending darkroom practices with digital technology adds a layer of complexity to the photographic process of making images. These works are limited edition archival pigment prints on smooth photo rag paper.
Images from 1939 World’s Fair