I grew up in a really small town in Southern Ontario. Other than Alice Munro, no one is from my small town except it turns out this young, great photographer is from my small town. Andrew B. Myers is in his last year at Ryerson:
Andrew and I have taken very different things away from our experiences growing up in our little small town. While I struggled with the wide open spaces and unrelenting sunlight (think dry farmer’s fields, not lush forests), Andrew’s work is a tribute to just this- negative space and harsh shadows. Even his comment on urbanity- his series of controlled pedestrian crossings called Xing (there was only one stoplight in our town) is stark and voyeristic. In producing this series, Andrew used an process traditionally reliant on the sun to help cook the negatives. He’s named another series “Solar Maximum”.
Andrew’s work has been described as painterly, and it also crosses into pure graphic design. As per our recent conversations, I think his work has some commercial application as well- uber stylized still life and portraits- think candy ads, or an updated version of Tony D’Orio’s Altoids work.
Considering he’s still in school, this work shows a tremendously confident vision, and one can only wonder where a guy from Wingham will end up. Well, let’s ask him some questions about that:
Tell me about your influences and where you go for inspiration.
I’m very interested in contemporary art and design, almost exclusively, so most of my inspiration comes from what I see going on in recent years. Painting to me is an exciting world, especially the work I see coming out of it now. I admire (and am jealous to an effect) of the sheer control painters have over the imagery they produce, lacking a lot of the external variables that photographers deal with all the time. I guess I like taking this sensibility to my work, using these variables that photography has to offer but bringing a very tight element of control in terms of colour and composition. I’m not quite sure where I became so obsessed with washed out colours, sunlit shadows and negative space, but it must have something to do with how much I fetishized warm weather, the beach, and open areas during the summer in the remote area I come from, which I mostly remember as freezing and covered in several feet of snow.
I snoop around galleries, blogs, magazines and library books near constantly and have seen some really amazing work as a result. I think the internet has become a really valuable tool for inspiration, as it allows you to see fresh work ALL the time, and by the same token, can promote work just as easily. I’ve really enjoyed some blogs which seem to always display fresh, visually interesting work, such as FFFFOUND!, but does it float, and I Heart Photograph.
Can you describe the salt print process and how you used it for your work. Also, why the interest in alternative processes?
Salt printing is one of the oldest processes photography has employed, pioneered by Henry Fox Talbot back in 1839. The process hasn’t changed much since then. Basically, you start by coating paper in a solution of water and sodium chloride (I ended up using table salt) and letting it dry. Next, in a darkroom environment, a silver nitrate solution is applied to the salted paper, creating a light sensitive emulsion. Let it dry. At this point, a contact print can be made by sandwiching a film negative or some sort of transparency and letting the paper sit in the sun. In my case, I had access to a powerful UV light with a timer, which worked in a similar fashion, and allowed me to work at night in the winter. It’s quite neat seeing the image once it’s been exposed, and after washing and fixing, you’re done.
The realm I work in is very modern, so I was curious to try something basic, and more rooted in history, even if it were only a novelty. What I thought would be really interesting would be to somehow couple very modern tools with early photographic processes, so the idea here was work with these images on the computer, and then turn them into negatives, which sets the stage for a salt print. Living in this turning point between analog and digital processes is exciting, and the fact that you can work backwards in this way is a neat quality of a time where both are accessible, which might not be the case in the future.
Can you talk about your next project and your plans post-graduation?
My next project is set out to really maximize the aesthetic I’ve been working in, with a variety of characters, objects, plants, symbols, etc. arranged very carefully within a sea of negative space, sort of like collage, but actually photographed. I’ve become much more fascinated with placement and composition within the frame, and what sort of effect this allows a photograph to have, how it changes, and its relation to something like design as a result. Very little choices can have drastic effects, so I want to toy with this as much as possible.
When I graduate it would be nice to start really promoting myself as being able to do more applicable work. I’m now living in a really neat space where I can produce work I want to outside of school, so that’s been quite comforting. I want to keep being a practitioner whether that means photographing, retouching or ‘image making’, although a lot of careers in the creative industry based AROUND art seem really interesting, and with my thirst for control at all costs, might be where I end up.
All the best Andrew. And thanks to Liz for the find.