Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Conversation with Michelle Kloehn


Untitled from the series Unseen © Michelle Kloehn

Michelle Kloehn (who participated in the very first Nymphoto exhibit) has a wonderful sensitivity to light, composition and the finicky nature of collodion tintypes. The mirror-like surface holds a surreal dimensionality that fiber prints or c-prints do not contain. These nuances are incredible in person (I've been a lucky admirer). Run, don't walk, if you get a chance to see these in person!


Untitled from the series Unseen © Michelle Kloehn

NP: Tell us a little about yourself.

MK: I grew up in the Midwest in a town just outside of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and am the youngest of seven kids. When I was little our house was in a constant state of chaos, with multiple things going on at once- there was never a dull moment. It was within this free-for-all known as my childhood- that I think I unconsciously began my investigation into the world of observation. As the youngest of the clan I was always watching what everyone one else was doing- trying to learn what to and not to do-how to get away with this or that- the basic ropes of growing up. This coupled with being a slightly shy kid was the perfect combination for my keen interest in watching. And the watching- seeing- looking- grew into making images.


Untitled from the series Unseen © Michelle Kloehn


Untitled from the series Unseen © Michelle Kloehn

NP: How did you discover photography?

MK: I discovered photography really through my dad who was, and still is always taking photos. Growing up we would have slide show nights where he would go through slides he had taken from family trips- the culmination leading up to the shots from when my mom, dad and the four oldest kids lived in Africa for two years. I loved looking at these slides. I would imagine what it would be like to travel to Africa and how different this world looked from my Midwestern one. So I think my dad planted the seed, then as I got older the real hook came after taking a photography class in high school with Mr. Hep. I will never forget the feeling of watching my first image come to surface in the darkroom.


Untitled from the series Unseen © Michelle Kloehn


Untitled from the series Unseen © Michelle Kloehn

Np: Where do you find inspiration?

MK: This is constantly changing for me- but one thing that I always come back to is light. The way it gets distorted through a window- or runs along the side of a building- or fades just before dark and you can barely make out what’s in front of you. Light is a very physical thing for me and something that I am in constant awe of.


Untitled from the series Unseen © Michelle Kloehn


Untitled from the series Unseen © Michelle Kloehn

NP: How did this project come about?

MK: I started using the wet plate technique eight years ago, when I went off to a residency and holed myself up in the darkroom until I figured out how the process worked. From there I have created several bodies of work- each one generating more questions for myself. Lately I have been thinking about light and shadow, about abstraction and representation, about the difference between what we think we see and what we want to see.

This series “ Unseen” was made using a very primitive 16 x 20 inch camera that a friend of mine and I put together. The images are all made in my studio where I alternate between making small sculptures and working with light itself. As this work builds and has been getting more and more abstract, and I find myself trying to find a place where the wet plate process adds to and informs the work… a place where chance and intent meet.


Untitled from the series Unseen © Michelle Kloehn


Untitled from the series Unseen © Michelle Kloehn

NP: What's next?

MK: Using this large camera has opened up several avenues within the work-so I think I will continue down this path for a while.

Thank you Michelle! For more images, visit michellekloehn.com.

1 comment:

nina said...

Thanks Rona & Michelle. Michelle: I love your work!