Ross Sonnenberg: The Big Bang Pictures
Sometimes events in our lives shape our futures in a profound way, especially when we lose control over our assumed narratives. Photographer Ross Sonnenberg states, “My life has been defined by chaos“, referencing a diagnosis of systemic lupus as a young man, just as he was starting a career in film. That chaos became a space for creativity and is wonderfully reflected in the work he creates. His latest series, The Big Bang Pictures, are created as photograms. Sonnenberg describes his process, “Photograms are made using light directly on the photographic paper. There is no camera or negative. I lay the photographic out in my garage, which has to be completely dark, and as my light source, I use different kinds of fireworks. For example, firecrackers, bottle rockets and ground flowers, which spin and change colors. As they do this, they leave marks, burns, streaks and actual holes in the paper. Chaos, when it works, is magical.”
Ross is represented by Gallery 1/1 and his work has been exhibited in solo and group shows across the U.S. His photographs have been published in Wired, Artnet, PDN, Od Review, Harpers, American Photo, Colors, and more. In 2017, his was noted as “10 Remarkable Photographers to Discover at A.I.P.A.D”.
My life has been defined by chaos. 24 years ago I was getting ready to start film school, and embark on a career in the film industry. That dream came to a crashing halt when I became ill with a debilitating disease, It took over eight months for the doctors to figure out what I had. It turned out to be Systemic Lupus. I had to undergo chemotherapy to stop my immune system from killing me, and I had to say goodbye to my dream of film-making.
It took several years to get my disease under control. When I was finally able to get back to being functional I still had all these creative ideas in my head, but no outlet for them. I started painting, abstract forms with tons of color. Some were expressions of pain that still wracked my body, some expressions of loss, and yet others were expressions of love.
After several years of making art on canvas, I moved toward photography, because I have always “seen in pictures”. I have never been a traditionalist, and that was evident in my photographs from the beginning.. My first series was a combination of images. Taking color positives, and piecing them together to create something wholly unique. I used rough surfaces together with soft images, again creating expressions of chaos.
For my second series, I’d become fascinated with photograms, reading all I could on the topic. I discovered artists like Adam Fuss, Susan Derges, and especially Marco Breuer. Each artist’s work was completely unique, yet they were all using a similar process. Around the same time, I’d also become intrigued by the photos taken via the Hubble telescope. wondering if it was possible to create my own galaxies through the photogram process. While experimenting with different fireworks as my light source. I used color sources from things as mundane as a child’s windmills or a colored solo cup, and I used sand or water to create texture. The images I made, with some direction from me, were at the whim of the light source. When there was a successful image. I found I had succeeded in creating art that resembled real solar systems. Like those created by the first Big Bang millions of years ago.
Lupus turned my life into chaos, changing the direction forever. My art has allowed me to give expression to that chaos. – Ross Sonnenberg
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