John Wojtowicz

 
 
 

Biography

Christmas 1967 (more or less) brought me an Instamatic 404. But film was expensive on a grammar school allowance, and I didn't take the big plunge until the end of college. A master's degree in the history of science set off a later interest in the history of photography. That began with 1950's equipment (arguably the heyday of the silver-halide monoculture) and later drifted on to earlier eras and  exposure to the plethora of nineteenth century processes. As the poet Judith Schrier has said, "You can do anything; you can't do everything." So I've stuck to doing just a couple of them as well as I can. 

 

Artist Statement

One of the attractions of working with hand coated photo processes is the belief that they are more open to artistic accident sometimes resulting in new perceptions. Furthermore each print is unique; small variations always exist even within an edition. 

For me, the cyanotype process embodies a sense of craft. Intellectual components can also enter when, for example, 21st century subjects are depicted in a 19th century style, as are the implications of unanticipated change seen in some of the landscape photographs. Heart, by which I mean what can make an emotional, even non-verbal reaction to a photograph comes from the subject, but its other wellspring is the process. Think of how different your reaction would be if these very same images were color jpegs on a phone, tablet, or monitor.  These prints require a negative the same size. If it is true that the equipment used affects how one sees, the limitations of using film and large cameras mean that I have to think things through to the final print when I make the exposure.  I hope this makes me more aware of the world and that it shows in the final piece. I encounter "creative" accidents more than often enough to suit me. I don't like them overpowering what I am trying to do. 

Why is the retro aspect of alt-process pictures so appealing? I think there is an important part of heart in that. Unlike painting or sculpture whose primary methods developed over centuries, photography has a relatively brief history as an art form, and is perhaps the first to be so tightly tied to emergent technologies.  Rapid change has been our common experience since the industrial revolution began, but that does not prevent us from wanting a connection with our artistic forebears, and one gets that by doing as they did. Photography has roots that are profound but fundamentally of the modern world.

On the other hand, my color work is almost entirely digital. That's because some image processing tools available today allow me get quality that would have been impossible with film. That's especially true with the extreme close-up work, which is done in a studio setting allowing for fine control. Process of another sort.

My interests include landscapes, particularly areas whose original purpose or setting is long past. That's often thought-provoking as what was in an outlying area might now surrounded by residential development. Whether they are of objects of a normal size, or just a little too small to see without optical aid, the still life subjects attempt to be a non-conceptual way of experiencing a piece of the world right in front of me. Things are what they are. I have respect for that.