Angela Franks Wells: The States Project: North Carolina
In 2014, I had the great pleasure of speaking at the Southeast SPE regional conference in Greenville, North Carolina. It was one of those magical weekends that sparked new friendships and exposed me to a wonderful group of Southern photographers. Angela Franks Wells had jurored an impressive exhibition of photographic artists to accompany the conference, Image : Constructed :: Constructed : Image at the Gray Gallery at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC and appreciated her enthusiasm for all things photography. This week Angela will share photographers from a state rich with photographic communities and wonderful image makers. Today we start with her work plus an interview.
Angela Franks Wells is a photography-based artist specializing in 19th century photographic processes. As an educator, she is committed to facilitating creative thinking and skilled making with her students. Her recent creative endeavors are about playful investigation and finding levity. Angela is an Associate Professor of Photography at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC. where she enjoys the lush greenery of the south, proper weather storms, and the benefits of natural humidity in the studio.
In the simplest of terms, photography is a recording of how light falls across the surface of the subject. The works in Seeing Light are visual accounts of my investigations with seeing rather than looking. I live in the country surrounded by farmland. I find myself mesmerized by the little gifts that show up on my porch or in my yard. Artifacts of life that are ever present but often overlooked. I began collecting these treasures and taking a much closer look at them. The evaluation process continued to delve deeper as I got closer and closer. The images reflect this inspection; the pause in the hustle of the daily grind to stop and see the wasp (rather than smell the roses!) Chromoskedasic is Greek for “color by light scattering”. The Chromoskedasic Sabatier printing method produces a full spectrum of colors through chemical and light reaction. The process is difficult to control or reproduce and I’ve found it to be liberating in that it encourages play and experimentation. By combining these two elements, I am able to craft a unique print that expresses the wonder and delight of seeing the little things, making art, and adding levity to my creative practice. – Angela Franks Wells
Tell us about your growing up–are you a native of North Carolina?
I am a native Californian, born and raised, I lived there until I was 22. My parents were (and still are) hardworking, generous, and fun people. We were rich in love and I was always encouraged to be imaginative and happy. I am pretty lucky.
What makes North Carolina special and how does it inspire your photography?
North Carolina is full of friction. The state’s history is deeply rooted in the foundation of our country, the civil war, and has often been a place divided by very different and equally passionate views regarding, well, just about everything. We have gorgeous beaches, epic mountains, rich agriculture, and thriving industry. It’s a state (not unlike California) that includes the entire bell curve—the extreme opposites and everything in between. I’m not sure this overtly inspires my work, but it does encourage an open mind and lots of question asking, both of which are essential art making tools.
How did you select the photographers you are featuring this week?
Choosing was really difficult; there are so many incredible image-makers in our state. I have often heard people remark that you can be an artist or a teach, but you can’t do both well. I wanted to focus on my colleagues that are doing both successfully. Showing the breadth of problem solving that is occurring here is also really important and I think you’ll see that first hand from the artist I’ve chosen.
How did you come to specialize in 19th century photographic processes and copperplate photogravure?
I love making things, not just taking pictures. The magic of the darkroom was amplified ten fold when I started working with historical and alternative photographic processes. I went to Arizona State University for graduate school specifically to work with James Hajicek. He and the community of makers there were instrumental in nurturing my investigations. Process based work fulfills me so I keep doing it and eventually, you master your craft! I’m a fan of learning all the tools and using what’s appropriate for your ideas and needs.
Tell us about you project Seeing Light–it’s so painterly!
I suppose in a way I am painting with chemistry. I collect artifacts of my environment and am often given treasures from students, friends, and my cats. These little things are so intriguing when you change your perspective. The work is really about that discovery of something curious and then how I can transform it into an alchemical experiment of sorts. I use the Chromoskedasic Sabatier process to chemically alter the surface of black and white paper. Repeating results precisely is pretty much impossible. Each print is unique and reflects the ‘base image’ or artifact along with a play of light and chemistry.
You speak to the importance of play and levity in making art, can you expand?
If you aren’t enjoying what you do, you need to change something. I found myself struggling with what to make work about or of shortly after I moved to North Carolina. I was stuck in my thinking of what a photograph is or can be and couldn’t shake it. Through a series of lovely events I found myself listening to the things that I tell my students to do when they are stuck. I began to play. I had fun and no purpose to my images except to explore and make a mess. As soon as I lightened up, I began to desire making. Photographs can be made in many ways. They can give voice to people and share stories of events. They can be metaphors for life and experience. They can reflect the magic of chemistry and science. They can also just be something lovely to look upon. I am working at embracing all of the possibilities.
I hope many things. I just met a man with a beautiful life story and a strange little shop. I’m going to make photographs of him and his space. It might lead to a new project comparable to Parts & Labor…or it might just be a fun adventure. Either way, I’m excited to photograph.
And finally, describe your perfect day.
Perfection is overrated. I enjoy so many types of days and I could never choose just one. Some aspect of the day might include a success in the studio; a moment of discovery with a student; a delicious meal cooked while listening to records and drinking adult beverages; a secret snuggle from my cat Larry (he’s really shy); watching our chickens run around in the yard (they’re butts are so funny when they run!). A day of simple moments and no drama—that sounds lovely to me.
Posts on Lenscratch may not be reproduced without the permission of the Lenscratch staff and the photographer.
Lorraine Turi: The States Project: North CarolinaNovember 19th, 2017
Aspen Hochhalter: The States Project: North CarolinaNovember 18th, 2017
Leah Sobsey: The States Project: North CarolinaNovember 17th, 2017
Ryan Adrick: The States Project: North CarolinaNovember 16th, 2017
Courtney Johnson: The States Project: North CarolinaNovember 15th, 2017