Jacqueline Roberts: Nebula
Sometimes a photographic artist finds the perfect combination of subject, process, and way of seeing resulting in work that is quite extraordinary. In this case, that would be international photographer, Jaqueline Roberts. Born in Paris to Spanish parents and now living in Germany, Jacqueline’s work feels of this world, but ultimately very much about the intimate space of family. A beautifully written artist statement accompanies this work, with reference to Julia Margaret Cameron’s nod to the greatness of inner. Jacqueline’s portraits, captured through the wet plate process, are filled with the greatness of inner, with quiet emotion, where each feels like a love letter to her subjects. Her work captures the last vestiges of childhood, a time of innocence before the self-awareness of adolescence descends.
This beautifully seen work is now a book, Nebula, published by Damani. She will be signing books at Paris Photo in the Damani Booth (H09) on Friday, November 11th or the book can be ordered from her site.
Born in Paris in 1969, Spanish photographer Jacqueline Roberts graduated in Political Sciences and worked for international organizations before turning to photography.
Roberts’ work presents a collection of intimate portraits. She works using obsolete photographic techniques (wet plate collodion) and makes albumen prints, cyanotypes, and bromoils. Reviving the craft associated with photography constitutes an essential part of her process, from mixing her own chemistry, cutting her glass plates to working around chemical flaws.
Her award-winning portraits have featured in publications such as New York Magazine, the Royal Photographic Society Journal, Drome Magazine and China’s Photographers Companion among others. Her work has been exhibited internationally. She has published three books and her fourth monograph, Nebula, has just been released by Italian art publisher DAMIANI. Jacqueline will be at Paris Photo to sign her new book on Friday, November 11, 2016, at Damiani’s booth (H09).
Nebula are portraits that I make on glass and metal plates. I use an old photographic technique called wet plate collodion. This process was the primary photographic method from the early 1850s until the late 1880s. It was introduced in 1851 by Englishman Frederick Scott Archer in 1851 and consists of coating a plate with collodion that is sensitised in silver nitrate. You then expose the plate, still wet, develop it and fix it. It is crucial to go through the whole process while the plate is still wet, as once the collodion film has dried it will not react to the solutions. The result is a negative image on a glass plate that, when backed with a dark background, forms what we call an Ambrotype, derived from the Greek word for ‘immortal.’ Alternatively, on a black lacquered metal plate, the image appears directly as a positive. Collodion’s unique aesthetic produces timeless and ethereal images … Each plate is unique.
But, for me, making wet plates goes beyond the photographic process itself. It is a sort of inner journey. A state of mind. In today’s digital world we are swamped with images. If we look back, photographs used to be some of our most prized possessions, treasures that we would save from a house on fire. We are losing the emotional connection with photographs. Most of the images that we take have become meaningless and disposable. I want the image to be precious again. I look for images that are unique, that hold value. Images to remember and preserve. To this end, I believe that engaging with the sitter and capturing emotion in a portrait is essential to how I approach photography. Other aspects, such as a sense of aesthetics, composition, contingent metaphors, pictorial references or intimacy, are fundamental too if I want to transcend the portrait and look for the “greatness of inner,” to borrow Julia Margaret Cameron’s words. All these are features that I pursue in my work.
Another essential aspect in my work is to pause and take the time to create an image. My portraits are about that, time. Time passed. Time elapsed. Time suspended. Time ahead or behind us. The portraits from the series Nebula required long exposures which eased the sitters into detaching themselves from their immediate surrounds, as if suspended in time and in space. The individuals in these portraits are neither children, nor adolescents. I wanted their portraits to emerge from that state of limbo to evoke the transitional stage that they are going through. Nebula, Latin for mist, reflects on the turmoil of growing up with all its relational, psychological and emotional changes.
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