Willie Anne Wright: Direct Positive
Candela Books has just released their sixth publication, Direct Positive: Willie Anne Wright, accompanied by an exhibition at Candela Books + Gallery in Richmond, Virginia that runs through December 23, 2015. Publisher Gordon Stettinus always produces interesting publications, and this book celebrates Virginia photographer, Willie Anne Wright, who began shooting pinhole photography in the 1970’s after starting out as a painter. Direct Positive explores Willie Anne Wright’s innovative use of Cibachrome color material and her production of unique direct positive images. The saturated color, visual distortion, and unusual framing add to the unique qualities of these photographic objects. “Willie Anne Wright embraced the unexpected while blending older techniques with diverse contemporary motifs. This one-of-a-kind collection portrays Wright’s mystic journey through pinhole photography. Darkly beautiful in one photograph and then startlingly emotional in the next, each image is unexpected and impactful.”
Willie Anne Wright, a Richmond, Virginia native, holds a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia and a Master of Fine Arts in Painting from Virginia Commonwealth University. She also studied photography at the Maine Photographic Workshops in Rockport, Maine and the Visual Studies Workshops in Rochester, New York. Her paintings, serigraphs, and drawings were exhibited widely until 1972 when pinhole photography became her primary creative medium.
Among the institutions that have acquired her photography are the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Virginia; Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Virginia; Mariner’s Museum, Newport News, Virginia; Southeast Museum of Photography, Daytona Beach, Florida; High Museum, Atlanta, Georgia; New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, Louisiana; Mobile Museum of Art, Mobile, Alabama; Longwood University, Farmville, Virginia; University of Maine, Bangor, Maine; University of Mary Washington, Fredricksburg, Virginia; Morris Museum of Art, Augusta, Georgia; and the New Mexico History Museum, Santa Fe, New Mexico.
In the late 1970’s, I extended my use of photographic paper and sheet film in pinhole cameras to shooting directly on Cibachrome color materials, a direct positive paper designed to make color prints from slide films. I was drawn to experiment with this material because of its extraordinary color qualities and immediacy.
At the time, I was already using various homemade cameras, essentially wooden boxes that would accept large format film holders of different sizes – 8″ x 10″, 11″ x 14″, 16″ x 20″. Glass filters were placed over the pinhole to accommodate the natural light on Cibachrome material engineered for exposure to tungsten enlarger light.
With most exposures lasting as long as 3–5 minutes in bright sunlight, my subjects needed to remain motionless, which narrowed my potential subject matter. Urban pools proved a good choice, as did beaches. Still life set-ups incorporating organic material provided a race between opulence and deterioration as minutes ticked by. Storefront displays were static and possible subjects. People seemed to vibrate or hum with energy.
Once my exposures were made, the exposed Cibachrome sheets were processed chemically in the darkroom. As with daguerreotypes, 19th century direct positives, there were no negatives in the process, so each of my Cibachrome prints are unique and one-of-a-kind. With so many variables–the color, exposure, movement, absence of a viewfinder–there were numerous ways an exposure could go wrong. It was always a hard-won victory when everything somehow came together.
As I processed this work at the end of each day of shooting, there was a cloud, which emanated from the processing cylinder once the top was removed. This moment was always a revelation, alchemy, a moment of transformation when energy and effort became something unexpected. With these Cibachrome images, I continued my journey to the heart of pinhole photography.—Willie Anne Wright
About the Writers..
Denise Bethel, formerly Chairman of the Photographs Department at Sotheby’s, Inc., spent over three decades in the photographs auction business in New York, where she set world records for artists ranging from Southworth & Hawes and Alfred Stieglitz to Edward Weston and Diane Arbus. A Richmond native, she holds a B. A. from Hollins College, Virginia, and an M. A. from London’s Courtauld Institute of Art, where her second year was funded by a Virginia Museum of Fine Arts graduate fellowship. She is now an independent advisor, writer, and lecturer based in New York City.
Dr. Sarah Eckhardt is the Associate Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Her department is responsible for the museum’s early twentieth-century European holdings as well as the mid-to-late-twentieth-century and twenty-first century collections, including photography and the sculpture garden. She received her B.A. from Valparaiso University and her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she was awarded a Henry Luce Dissertation Fellowship.
Susan Hankla is a poet and short story writer from southwest Virginia. Her published works have appeared in Poetry Northwest, Southern Poetry Review, Beloit Fiction Journal, New Virginia Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, and in numerous chapbooks and poetry collections. She has been a recipient of the Virginia Prize for Fiction from the Virginia Commission for the Arts, a fellow at Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and at the Robert Frost Poetry Festival in Franconia, N.H. She has taught at the Virginia Museum Studio School, University of Richmond’s School of Professional and Continuing Studies, and at the Visual Arts Center of Richmond.
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