A short film featuring artist Barret Oliver
Making photographs in the field during the Civil War was a complicated and disaster-prone affair. It involved a portable darkroom, bulky cameras, large sheets of glass, volatile chemicals, and clean water, not to mention resourcefulness and nerves of steel. A productive day might yield 20 pictures. The demanding nature of the process makes it a captivating one to witness, especially in an era of instantaneous image-making.
In the evocative film shown here, Barret Oliver brings his darkroom and gear to the Huntington Library to produce hauntingly beautiful work ‘in the usual manner’ of the nineteenth-century photographer. In the accompanying audio segments, the artist also reflects on the arduous aspects and aesthetic rewards of using historic technology.