Saturday, October 31, 2009

Go-Go Gadget: Ghost Picturer

I love a good ghost tale and admit I loved Tales from the Darkside when I was younger. So, I'm celebrating Halloween with a post highlighting some paranormal-photo activity.

According to, "The Brown Lady" is arguably the most famous ghost photograph ever taken. It was snapped in September, 1936 by Captain Provand and Indre Shira, two photographers who were assigned to photograph Raynham Hall for Country Life magazine. The ghost is thought to be that of Lady Dorothy Townshend, wife of Charles Townshend, 2nd Viscount of Raynham, residents of Raynham Hall in Norfolk, England in the early 1700s. Her husband suspected her of infidelity, and although her "official" death is recorded in 1726, it was thought that he just locked her away in a room until she died many years later.

Now you too can add in a spooky specter to each photo you take! For those who prefer old school film to Photoshop-trickery, the Ghost Finders Camera promises "there's a ghost in every room!".

I don't know about you, but I think I can get the same effect with the light-leak in my Holga. It also reminds me of this photo my mother showed me when I was younger, it was of the sky where the virgin mary was appearing in a cloud. Maybe they took it with a "holy ghost finder" camera.


Friday, October 30, 2009

Polaroid to make a comeback

According to the Huffington Post Polaroid cameras are making a comeback in 2010. Read about the relaunch here.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Conversation with Ellen Rennard

© Ellen Rennard

All of us at Nymphoto love the evocative & timeless work of Ellen Rennard. And I am delighted to present today's conversation with Ellen -- a fellow horsewoman who inspires me with her photography, writing and spirit.

© Ellen Rennard

NP: Tell us a little about yourself.

ER: Born on the island of Guam, I was raised in small town Wisconsin and suburban Chicago. I earned a BA in Independent Studies from Princeton University and an MA in English from Middlebury. Now I live outside of Boston, where I teach at Groton School. In an earlier incarnation I published some nonfiction and poetry, but I’ve focused on photography for over a decade now. In 2003 I started a project about The Downs at Albuquerque, a racetrack in New Mexico, close to where I was living at the time. Then I had to put it on hold for a few years. When I returned to photograph in the summer of 2007, the work began to take off, and now it’s shaping up as a book.

© Ellen Rennard

NP: How did you discover photography?

ER: My father was an enthusiastic advanced amateur photographer, and as an intelligence officer in the Navy, part of his work was to document former Japanese munitions sites in the South Pacific. He also photographed me with his Rolleiflex, lights – a whole studio set-up – until I was about 5 -- so from that experience, portrait photography became second nature to me. I made my first serious photograph with a Brownie camera when I was 9 -- my friend Mary in her white communion dress standing on the sidewalk. In college when I was writing my thesis on images of Native Americans, I became friends with a student of Emmet Gowin’s, photographer/filmmaker Victor Masayesva, who encouraged me to get a Yashica MAT124, but I didn’t identify myself as a photographer for another twenty years. Then in 1998 I took a workshop called The Camera and the Pen. On the first day, the teacher sent us out to photograph something the size of a truck or smaller. I decided to find a horse, but after a couple hours of fruitless searching, I just about gave up. Then I stopped at a store, saw an old farm truck parked in front, and thought, well, a truck will have to do. Within a dozen frames, I started to see. It just blew my mind, and I’ve been passionately committed to photography ever since. Of course, I eventually discovered plenty of horses to photograph at the racetrack.

© Ellen Rennard

NP: Where do you find inspiration?

ER: I find inspiration in art – especially music, painting, photography, and literature. Pentthi Sammallahti, Frida Kahlo, Helen Levitt, Sherwood Anderson, Rumi, the Rolling Stones, etc. In nature – light falling on green pond scum, a bear lumbering across my yard, the smell of rain in the desert. And traveling. I mean, how can you not be inspired when you see a man in Tanzania riding a bicycle with three loveseats balanced on the back? Or a brown cow and a string of balloons in front of a taqueria in Mexico? Most of all, I’ve been inspired by my teachers, especially Shelby Lee Adams, Douglas Kent Hall, Craig Stevens, and Eugene Richards, and by friends who are also devoted to photography, including, among others, Suzanne Révy, Paula Tognarelli, Jordan Kessler, David Bram, Keith Johnson, Cara Phillips, and Amy Elkins. For their support I am most grateful.

© Ellen Rennard

NP: How do your projects come about?

ER: I start with an idea that usually comes from something I see that seems worth exploring in a number of realms – visually, psychologically, and culturally, for instance. I photograph a little, look at the proofs, maybe revisit the subject, photograph more. If the situation holds my interest, if it resonates, I just enter into it and stay open to whatever emerges. I photograph, I listen, I write, I read, I hang out. At the racetrack, I took my time getting to know people, gaining access, and at a certain point, I just made a decision to stick with it. Or perhaps more accurately, the project wouldn’t leave me alone, so I decided to pay attention to what it was saying. Then different doors started to swing open, so I kept returning through this past August, when I knew I was finished photographing there.

© Ellen Rennard

NP: What's next?

ER: Over the next year I’ll be writing the text for the racetrack book as well as re-editing and sequencing the images to include the new work. I’ll be preparing for a solo exhibition of the project on The Downs at Albuquerque for January 13 – February 28 at the Griffin Museum of Photography’s Atelier Gallery at the Stoneham Theater in Stoneham, Massachusetts. Next summer I’ll start to explore a new long-term project, possibly in color. I have a wildlife photographer friend who has invited me to stay at her cabin in – let’s just say far away -- and I’m planning to take a long drive with my Australian Shepherd, Tommy, and to spend some time visiting there. It’s nowhere I’ve ever been, I wasn’t expecting to go, and I don’t know what I’ll encounter along the way. But I’ve always wanted to work on a road trip project with text and images – so perhaps that’s what will evolve from next summer’s travels. Lately I’ve been seeing some possibilities closer to home as well. I’ll have to wait and see what I see.

© Ellen Rennard

NP: Thank you so much!

To see (& read) more of Ellen's work please visit: and her excellent blog: Quintessence.
Ellen is represented by Kevin Longino at

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

This Friday: Joni Sternbach @ ICP

Joni Sternbach: Surfland
1114 Avenue of the America,
October 30, 2009 7 PM

Humble Arts Rocks Indeed

Head over to Liz Kuball's blog to find out why.
And/or re-visit our conversation with Liz, by clicking here.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Congrats to 20x200 & Jen Bekman

20 x 200 is expanding! read more at TechCrunch:

Nicole Lloyd on WIPNYC

from WIPNYC:

for more see

Monday, October 26, 2009

Tomorrow: Lorna Simpson @ Aperture

(via Exposures)

Join Aperture and the Parsons Department of Photography for an artist’s talk with Lorna Simpson at Aperture Gallery. Simpson is known for her use of the image of the African-American woman to examine the ways in which gender and culture shape the interactions, relationships, and experiences of our lives in contemporary, multi-racial America. Recently, she has turned her attention to moving images; in film and video works such as Call Waiting, Simpson presents individuals engaged in intimate and enigmatic elliptical conversations that elude easy interpretation while addressing the mysteries of both identity and desire. Her newest works include figurative drawings of characters from her video works and a collection of drawings of women’s heads, turned in profile to reveal their various hairstyles. Simpson is currently creating installations involving found vintage photographs accompanied by her own drawings and new photography.

Artist’s Talk with Lorna Simpson
Tuesday, October 27, 7:00 pm


Aperture Gallery
547 West 27th Street, 4th Floor
New York, New York
(212) 505-5555

Picturing Depression: Dorothea Lange

David Oshinsky reviews Linda Gordon's Dorothea Lange biography for the New York Times. Find it by clicking here.

FT Reviews Sally Mann's Proud Flesh

Ariella Budick recently reviewed Sally Mann's Proud Flesh exhibit at Gagosian Gallery for the Financial Times. You can find the review by visiting
Sally Mann's work is on view through October 31, 2009.

Sally Mann
Proud Flesh
Gagosian Gallery
980 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10075
- through October 31, 2009

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Go-Go Gadget: Macgyver Edition

© Justin Lee and Oliver Yeh

(via I'm a big fan of the d-i-y, especially when it's images of Earth from space taken with a Canon A470 point and shoot. Two Macgyver-like M.I.T. students launched their camera, lodged in a Styrofoam cooler into space (well almost). Hoisted by a weather balloon (but a really cool weather balloon, not some stupid fame-seeking hoax kind of weather balloon), the camera made it to 93,000 feet and took some amazing photos of our planet. The last thing I put in a cooler were some ice-cold beverages.

The two students, Justin Lee and Oliver Yeh, named the mission Project Icarus. They hacked the camera to add a feature called an intervalometer (how science-fictiony), which makes the camera take a photo every 5 seconds. The best part about the whole thing, it was done for under $150. Near-space travel, on the cheap. Totally cool. I have got to get up into space one of these days, just in something a little more substantial than a cooler.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Visual Op-Ed: Kerry Mansfield

Recently while researching women photographers for a project I came across the work of Kerry Mansfield (tx, Jane Tam & Lenscratch).
Kerry is an artist with a strong vision and an assured sense of space coupled with a superb color palette. See her work at and look for our interview with Kerry as part of the Nymphoto Conversations series in the weeks to come.

But today I wanted to share a different body of work by Kerry Mansfield's.
Aftermath is very personal, incredibly frank, courageous and will not leave you untouched.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Go get checked, check yourself. Remind your friends and family to get checked. Help raise awareness.

Aftermath © Kerry Mansfield

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Conversation with Christine Osinski

Joanne from Drawn To Water © Christine Osinski

Christine Osinski has been a long time mentor of mine. Christine literally introduced the world of photography to me. During my sophomore year at The Cooper Union, she started a guest artist course which has a rotating roster of contemporary photo artists. I was fortunate enough to get into the class every semester. The range of work and personalities that I was presented with were distinct and engaging. Her words have guided and stayed with me and what I didn't realize until recently was the profound effect Christine's personal work has had on me. We are both "drawn to water" as the main theme in our work. It is basic and elemental but so strong and central in our lives. Drawn To Water has a particular stronghold on me as my dreams and much of my ambitions involve swimming.

Emily from Drawn To Water © Christine Osinski

Nymphoto: Tell us a little about yourself.

Christine Osinski: My method of working as a photographer has always involved not drawing attention to myself, so I’m not in the habit of talking about myself much. My quietness has served my work, but perhaps it’s not always a good thing. In 1982 I invited Helen Levitt to speak at a school at which I was teaching and she was so wonderful in so many ways and I felt a certain kinship with her---that she was able to take all those incredible photographs because she let herself blend in. I am flattered to be giving this interview, but it’s also a little weird.

Phyllis's Torso from Drawn To Water © Christine Osinski

That being said, I grew up on the South Side of Chicago in a working class neighborhood. Most of my uncles worked in the same factory. I grew up in a brick bungalow almost identical to and geographically close to the one that Michelle Obama grew up in. Although I haven’t lived in Chicago since my early twenties, my experiences of the harshness and toughness of working class Chicago continue to inform my choices and my work. I think that geography is a force that most people overlook. After completing my undergraduate education at The Art Institute of Chicago, I moved to the East Coast to pursue graduate work at Yale. Walker Evans was still connected to the university and I was very fortunate to spend some time with him. It was an eye opening experience to say the least. After graduate school I lived in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania for a couple of years and then moved to New York City. I have continued to live in or around New York City ever since.

Pat, Rita and Phyllis from Drawn To Water © Christine Osinski

Pat from Drawn To Water © Christine Osinski

NP: How did you discover photography?

CO: During my time in undergraduate school I mostly took painting, drawing and printmaking classes. Although I did study photography as well, it wasn’t until my last semester in school that I really discovered how photography worked for me. It was spring and I had just moved into a new apartment in a new neighborhood. I was feeling very isolated from working alone in the studio at school and having just moved, I decided to explore my new neighborhood. As you know, there is something so magical about late afternoon spring light and it was so wonderful to be outside rather than alone in a studio. I found that with a camera, I was so much more adventurous. The camera became a transitional object for me---a way to navigate the world.

Mary Floating from Drawn To Water © Christine Osinski

Lillian from Drawn To Water © Christine Osinski

NP: Where to you find inspiration?

CO: I don’t usually use the word “inspiration”. It sounds too ethereal for my taste; maybe that’s my working class background showing itself. I prefer to think about influences and traditions as shaping my work much more than inspiration. I believe that influences come from some cockamamie places and quirky things in addition to one’s biography and other artists’ works within the pantheon of art history. The times we live in are interesting and every individual has a very interesting personal story, but art is something different. The problem for the artist, as I see it, is to make one’s work much more interesting than one’s life and that is no easy task. How do you breath life into your work? That’s the ongoing challenge, no matter what you point the camera at. How to get your work to speak and not just sit there is quite an endeavor. I believe that you have to really like something or identify with it in order to take the time to shape it into something.

Fiona and Kerry from Drawn To Water © Christine Osinski

NP: How has teaching influenced your work?

CO: Teaching, if you do it well, takes a great deal of time. Outside of class, I spend a lot of time thinking about my students and their works and dig through my files for materials that might help them. Teaching affects my life a great deal, but apart from the time spent on teaching, I don’t know that it really affects my work. Experiencing all the youthful, crazy energy that students have is life affirming and infectious. I am sometimes overwhelmed by the courage of young people in choosing art as their life’s path. To choose the visual arts is to choose a certain type of orientation with the world and it is not easy.

Iffy from Drawn To Water © Christine Osinski

Girls in Locker room from Drawn To Water © Christine Osinski

NP: How did this project come about?

CO: In the 1980s, I moved to Staten Island after losing my Manhattan loft to a real estate developer. Staten Island was another planet from Manhattan, but a planet with which I was familiar. Photographically for me, it was a gold mine. There were pictures everywhere I looked. Shortly after moving there, I saw this funny picture in the newspaper along with an article announcing a performance by a local synchronized swimming group. It was a picture of about six various sized legs jutting out of the water at different angles. So I went to the performance and the following fall I began to photograph the swimmers during their classes and practices. They only met on Wednesday nights and only from about October through April. The first eight months I photographed, I got nothing. It was a very difficult situation. The humidity eventually rusted out a brand new camera, the light was horrible and the swimmers who were in class practicing routines seemed always to be swimming away from me just when I would get ready to photograph. It took a very long while for all of us to become comfortable with one another and with the camera. I photographed this swimming group for twenty years. This was a very good project for me because I was able to continue while having two children and I kept returning even after I moved away from Staten Island. It was a wonderful environment to see so many female body types moving in and out of water in an attempt to swim harmoniously, a society of girls and women who created a gliding, floating world for themselves.

Barbara with Legs from Drawn To Water © Christine Osinski

NP: What’s next?

CO: One way or another, a lot of my work seems to be connected with water. In addition to bringing DRAWN TO WATER to closure, I have another long range project going. For the last ten years I have been photographing New York City’s Archipelago. There are about thirty-eight islands and island communities within the five boroughs. Many of these urban outposts can only be accessed by boat. It gets to be expensive so I often have to apply for funding. The project involves notions about travel, exploration, historical narrative and myth as well as descriptions of what these islands look like. The passage of time, the psychology of islands and water are important components in this work as is the role of women in exploration. I tend to work on projects over long periods of time. In addition to the island project I am in the process of testing out other disparate ideas hoping that they will visually become something of merit.

Swim Book from Drawn To Water © Christine Osinski

Thank you Christine!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A.I.R. Now Has A Blog

Check it out at:

Reminder: Unseen Opens Tomorrow

© Cara Phillips
; courtesy Ruben Natal -San Miguel

Curated by Ruben Natal San -Miguel
Ruben Scott Gallery
111 Front Street
Suite #204
Brooklyn (DUMBO), New York
October 22-November 21, 2009
Opening Reception: October 22, 6:30 -9:30 PM

Tomorrow: Lynn Saville Lecture

from The Camera Club of NY:

Smith and 9th Street, Brooklyn, 2008 © Lynn Saville

Lynn Saville
Thursday, October 22, 7 pm
School of Visual Arts Amphitheater, 209 East 23rd Street (between 2nd and 3rd Avenues)

The CCNY Lecture Series is presented in conjunction with SVA's BFA Photography Department. Admission is free for SVA students and staff and CCNY member, $5 for other students, and $10 for the general public.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

This Week: Brea Souders

©Brea Souders

See Brea Souders work at:

Jack the Pelican Presents
Untitled: 10 artists questioning realism and abstraction
October 23 - November 15
Opening reception: Friday, October 23, 6:30 - 9 pm

487 Driggs Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11211

Murray State University: Clara Eagle Gallery
Creatures Great and Small
October 23 - December 6
Opening Reception: Friday, October 23, 6 - 8 pm

604 Fine Arts Building
Murray, Kentucky 42071

Rona Chang

Shaving Business, Wuhan, China from Moving Forward, Standing Still © Rona Chang

Also currently on Urbanautica is work by Nymphoto's Rona Chang. Find it here: Congrats, Rona!


In the new issue of URBANAUTICA:

Textures of time by Richard Chivers, living water by Brea Souders, fragile reality by Yee Ling Tang, Ferit Kuyas's city of ambition, wildfires by Youngsuk Suh, and much more on

Monday, October 19, 2009

Reminder: Hey, Hot Shot! Deadline Approaching

Jen Bekman Projects is happy to announce the opening of the 2009 Second Edition of Hey, Hot Shot!
Entries will be accepted now through Friday, October 23rd, 2009 at 8:00 p.m. EDT.
Find out more at:

Sunday, October 18, 2009

New orleans Photo Alliance Call for Entries, Juror: Deborah Willis

New Orleans Photo Alliance presents The American Dream
Juror: Deborah Willis
Submission Deadline: December 14, 2009
Opening reception: February 4, 6-9pm
Exhibition Dates: February 4 - March 21

What does the American Dream look like? How is it now defined? Has it been realized? The New Orleans Photo Alliance is seeking contemporary photographs that explore these questions and more about The American Dream. Dr. Deborah Willis, chair of the Department of Photography and Imaging at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and one of the nation's leading historians of African American photography, will jury this exhibition. Selected entries will be exhibited in the NOPA Gallery during the months of February and March 2010. They will also be featured and archived in the Alliance’s online gallery and considered for publication in the New Orleans Photo Alliance Best of 2010 Photo Annual. In addition, the juror will award cash prizes.

Find out more by visiting:

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Go-Go Gadget: iPhoto(shop)

So lately I've been forgetting my digi camera at the most inopportune moments, like when my young niece put on a Darth Vader helmet in Target and said "I am your fahhder".

Darth Nina with iPhone (original)

In a pinch, I'll have to resort to my iPhone camera (I'm kicking it old school with the vintage version). Photos are less than awesome, but do the trick of capturing the moment. Adobe released a Photoshop mobile app for the iPhone and I downloaded it a few days ago and put it to the test. It offers very basic, but super-simple to use functionality like cropping, some cheesy photo effects (why would anyone want to rainbow-ify a photo?) and remedial saturation/exposure stuff. Not bad for quick on the go hack job on an already sketchy photo - but then again, I guess the subject is really what makes the picture...

Cropped with Photoshop mobile


Opening Tomorrow: Keliy Anderson-Staley in Fractions of Sight

Stephanie, 8x10" Wet Plate Collodion Tintype 2009 © Keliy Anderson-Staley

A quilt-like arrangement of Keliy Anderson-Staley's tintype portraits, entitled Patchwork Nation, will be on display as part of a group show, “Fractions of Sight” at Rockland Center for the Arts (ROCA) in Nyack, NY. The opening is Sunday, October 18, from 1:00-4:00.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Upcoming: Unseen - Elizabeth Flemming & Others

ARTmostfierce© Elizabeth Fleming/courtesy Ruben Natal-San Miguel

Curated by Ruben Natal San -Miguel
Ruben Scott Gallery
111 Front Street
Suite #204
Brooklyn (DUMBO), New York
October 22-November 21, 2009
Opening Reception: October 22, 6:30 -9:30 PM

UNseen: A Photographers Salon

"Unseen is an introduction to some of New York’s most promising, hard working, and creative minds in the photography field whose bold ideas, themes, and techniques work to transcend the history of photographic art.

Adam Krause, a third generation Holocaust survivor, creates portraits of Neo Nazis. Nicola Kast, A German, explores and deconstructs German History. Cara Phillips Singular Beauty is a haunting social critique on modern surgical rooms while Phil Toledano’s portraits of plastic surgery patients is a classic aftermath of the surreal. Portrait work by Chad States, Natasha Gornik, Eric McNatt, Richard Renaldi, Bon Duke, and Ryan Pfluger examine the notions of self and the other. Leah Oates and Megan Cump visit serene, painterly landscapes while Nadine Rovner sends us back to retro the seventies through feel and color. Elizabeth Fleming examines the simplicity of the moment in a child’s world, Clayton Cotterell documents his brother now serving in the US military, and Alex Leme searches random urban settings.

As an Art Collector, I address the challenge that most art lovers constantly face… the search of new art and the issues of acquiring work for small spaces. By using the salon style for this show I demonstrate different themes and techniques, presented in a very traditional manner, that work within a confined space. Space should not limit your desire for collecting…the sky is the limit!"

Ruben Natal-San Miguel
Art Collector and UNSEEN curator

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Conversation with Keliy Anderson-Staley

Hanson's Root Cellar, Whipple Pond, Maine 2007 © Keliy Anderson-Staley

I was introduced to Keliy Anderson-Staley's work, right here, on the Nymphoto blog (this added bonus happens quite often). As I looked through her website, Keliy's Off the Grid project drew me in. I was curious about the Off the Grid lifestyle, how it was sustained and carried out. As an insider who grew up in one of these communities, Keliy is the perfect vehicle through which to view this way of life. And in the same vein, I understood how she can be so passionate about methods of photography such as collodion, tintype and ambrotype, that in essence harkens back to the early days of the medium.

Knapp's Living Room, Temple, Maine 2008 © Keliy Anderson-Staley

Nymphoto: Tell us a little about yourself.

Keliy Anderson-Staley: I grew up in a log cabin in Maine. We didn't have a phone or running water or regular electricity. Our dirt road was over a half-mile long and it wasn't plowed -- we had to drag all of our food and school books up to the cabin by sled. We had a gravity-powered shower that we had to fill using water from our hand pump that was heated on the wood stove. I joined the local YMCA just so I could take hot showers there. When I was a teenager I walked almost a mile to a pay phone at a rest stop on a nearby paved road to call friends. Back then I dreaded the isolation and long dark winters, but now, after living in NYC for the last 8 years I wish I could spend more time deep in the woods where you can see thousands of stars in the night sky and pick wild blackberries at dawn.

Matthew Corbin on Stoop, Sebec, Maine 2005 © Keliy Anderson-Staley

Emily in Doorway, Guilford, Maine 2005 © Keliy Anderson-Staley

NP: How did you discover photography?

KAS: I found my way to photography through collage and photo montage. As an undergrad at Hampshire College I was looking for new ways to flatten collages and to bring images onto unusual surfaces. I made a series of photograms using layers of text and image on acetate to create a kind of palimpsest on the smooth surface of a photograph. I also began printing images with liquid light onto rusted baking pans. At the time I still didn’t consider myself a photographer yet, but rather someone who used photography in her work. After college, though, I began photographing the area in Maine where I grew up, and realized cameras and film were the most appropriate expressive vehicle for me. I also became interested in the history of photography and learned the wet plate collodion process, and I've been making tintype and ambrotype portraits for six years.

Jesse, 8x10" Wet Plate Collodion Tintype 2007 © Keliy Anderson-Staley

Jenowade 1, 8x10" Wet Plate Collodion Tintype 2007 © Keliy Anderson-Staley

NP: Where do you find inspiration?

KAS: Even when I am photographing houses and the things that people accumulate and surround themselves with, I see myself as producing portraits. So I’d have to say, I find inspiration in people themselves. Photographing with collodion has made me obsessed with faces. Everywhere I go—on the subway, in a store—I’ve begun imaging how a face will look as a tintype. I am drawn to faces and I hope as a photographer to do them justice. I believe photography should tell the truth; it shouldn’t hide blemishes or the unpleasant realities of someone’s life. But it shouldn’t be cruel or judgmental either. Although I hope to reveal things about people that they may not have seen in themselves, I have no interest in making photographs that they wouldn’t like.

Couple 3, 5x7" Wet Plate Collodion Tintype 2008 © Keliy Anderson-Staley

NP: How did this project come about?

KAS: I’ve really been working on two projects simultaneously for a number of years—the wet plate collodion portraits, which I've begun calling "-americans" and “Off the Grid.” The processes for the two are very different. I’m producing the wet plates in the studio the way Mathew Brady and Julia Margaret Cameron did—using the same chemistry formulas and equipment. In the field on the other hand, researching and working on the "Off the Grid" series, my practice is different—I’m seeking out a narrative and working out a visual vocabulary that suits the subject. There is a story to tell and details to root out, characters to develop and define. Both projects are deeply personal for me, though. As I said, I grew up in an off-the-grid cabin, and I am still trying to make sense of my childhood in that context, I think. But my aesthetic was also defined by my father’s cabin—the makeshift nature of the structure, the diverse and collaged pieces out of which it was constructed, the familiar rusticity of wood, stone and glass.

Sally & Duane's Tent, Unity, Maine 2008 © Keliy Anderson-Staley

Tom's Cabin in Winter, Guilford, Maine 2007 © Keliy Anderson-Staley

I have increasingly discovered connections between the two projects, most importantly the fact that both the wet plate process and living off the grid require a devotion to techniques and skills that have mostly been forgotten. Living off the grid in the woods – growing one's own food, chopping fuel, building and maintaining a shelter – requires dedication to a set of skills that must be practiced and learned. Each of these families has learned survival skills, but they also live their lives within the context of life as a craft, mastering skills that in the modern world are divided among hundreds of workers. The use of actual period lenses, handmade wood view cameras, and chemicals mixed by hand puts me in contact with the craft of photography in a way that a digital camera cannot. I have, however, resisted using the wet plate process to photograph the off-the-grid families. Although they live seemingly antique lives, they are very much of the modern age – using solar panels and other technologies to diminish their impact on the environment.

Armstrong's Solar System, Palermo, Maine 2007 © Keliy Anderson-Staley

NP: What's next?

KAS: I am shooting a lot of tintype and ambrotype portraits these days. I always need more sitters. If anyone would like to come in to my studio for a portrait session, please contact me. I am also teaching the process at the Center for Alternative Photography in NYC ( I have a few shows opening in the fall and I expect to be traveling a bit to see them.
(ed.: we will be posting her shows as they come up.)

Sasha and Megan on Their Houseboat, Brooklyn, NY 8x10" Wet Plate Collodion Tintype 2007 © Keliy Anderson-Staley

To see more of Keliy's work, go to