Jamie Tuttle: Summer Plates
Projects featured this week were selected from our most recent call-for-submissions. I was able to interview each of these individuals to gain further insight into the bodies of work they shared. Today, we are looking at the series Summer Plates, by Jamie Tuttle.
“Nothing can re-incarnate the spirit like being in a place where something has lived.” – Renzo Piano
“Look for the little loves, find and shape the little bitternesses. Savor them in your mouth….” – Ray Bradbury
The intimacy of place and the ephemeral are two enduring themes in my work.
I photograph using an 8×10 view camera, which I think has a lot to do with what and how I see. Because of the weight and measured nature of this camera, I have a slow and contemplative approach, shifting and expanding my perception as I work.
These images are made using the wet plate collodion process. I am partial to the alchemy of photography: mixing the chemistry, pouring the plates, exposing emulsion to sunlight, and silver rendering an image. The process of working with my hands is gratifying, slowing time and heightening experience. I welcome the irregularities which can accompany collodion; they are akin to the nature of living and the subject of my work.
The framework for this work is primarily our backyard and places I frequently visit, over and over, year after year. Spending time in and photographing what is almost mundanely familiar provides the opportunity to seeing and experiencing things on an intimate level. These are places that are loved, tread upon, neglected and restored, places where life plays itself out again and again. It is the ephemeral, the flux of life, the messiness and tenderness of being alive —-that I look for and photograph.
Daniel George: Your process is labor-intensive and far from convenient. Despite this, you train your camera on what you describe as mundane and familiar. What value do you see in making these types of records?
Jamie Tuttle: Convenience has never been a big consideration when determining what materials or processes I use. The slow, deliberate act of seeing and crafting an image is of value in and of itself. Photographing the mundane reflects the stage of life I’m in right now as a mother, partner, and educator. Immersed in the repetitive and familiar, I have an inside seat as an observer and artist. It’s an opportunity to elevate the mundane to the sublime.
DG: There is no limit to subject matter in the quotidian. What is your thought process in regards to what may be worth a plate, or not?
JT: Ultimately, light is everything. I work intuitively. Prior to exposing a plate, I look around at the space, objects, light, and atmosphere keeping an open mind and a sense a whimsy to what’s around me. As the artist, Robert Irwin says, I just wait until “something stands up and hums”.
DG: In what ways does your process effect your perception of subject matter?
JT: The labor intensity of working with an 8×10 camera and wet plate process requires a certain deliberation, patience, and openness to the unexpected. After a decade of working with wet plate collodion, I intuitively understand how my subject matter will translate. Unexpected nuances and marks others might perceive as mistakes, I embrace as part of the process. The tones and striking detail that lends itself to this process, has led me to take a more painterly approach to my work.
DG: Looking at these images, I cannot help but think of several other image-makers who photograph the people and places close to them. How does your work fit within this tradition?
JT: As a child, I grew up in what I considered a magical place surrounded by nature and its forces. This environment encouraged beauty and exploring the unknown. As a young photographer, I was instinctively drawn to the works of Emmet Gowin, Eugene Atget, Ralph Eugene Meatyard, and later Sally Mann who have been tremendously important to me as an artist. The tradition of family and place is a natural extension of how I grew up; see; and experience the world.
DG: Your photographs focus on people, or evidence of them (if they are not present in the frame), and your statement alludes to the idea of places retaining a spirit of life. Tell me more about your interest in this theme.
JT: Our family bible was Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine. One of the things he wrote about was the depth of experience found in the smallest of things. For example: the way the water sounded when scooped out of the rain barrel or the way the light struck the bottles of wine stacked on the cellar shelf or the smell of fresh cut grass or the word relish. It was all about being alive.
I was sent off to art school with a copy of Loren Eiseley’s The Night Country that reinforced the importance of, in his words, “retaining a true sense of the marvelous”. Looking for the essence behind things and for the soul of a place is second nature to me. I’m hesitant to use the word soulful, but it’s really part of my DNA. I was taught to embrace the complexities and difficulties of life along with the joy. By photographing familiar places and people again and again there’s an intimacy that develops, a story told, and an essence revealed.
Jamie Tuttle received her MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and her BFA from The Kansas City Art Institute. She studied wet plate collodion with France Scully Osterman and John Coffer.
Her work has been included in exhibitions nationally and internationally including Filter Photo Gallery, Chicago, Perspectives Gallery, Evanston, Dolphin Gallery, Kansas City, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, The International Photography Festival, Liverpool, England, and Elder Gallery, Nebraska Wesleyan University. Her work is in several private and public collections including Sprint Corporation, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri, and the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, France.
Tuttle lives with her husband, daughter and dog in Evanston, Illinois. She began taking pictures at age ten and hasn’t looked back since.
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