Thursday, January 17th, 2019

Solargraphy slow moments in time

Johanna Moore’s solargraph exhibit is located on the 5th floor of Glickman library.
Krysteana Scribner
Johanna Moore’s solargraph exhibit is located on the 5th floor of Glickman library.

Posted on March 02, 2015 in Arts & Culture
By Krysteana Scribner

The new USM solargraphy exhibit consists of 28 images that show the whole length of the Kennebec River. These photos, taken with a pinhole camera and given long exposure, act as a diary that tells the story of the river as it goes through seasonal changes.

To make the pictures into a diary, the artist Johanna Moore built 120 pinhole cameras and placed them along the Kennebec River. These cameras then took long solargraphy, or exposure photos, over a six month period between the longest and shortest days of 2014.

“When I started the project solargraph it was a test because I was about to conduct a pinhole photography workshop in 2013 and I did the test in the swamp behind my home,” said Moore. “I would walk out there on a daily basis. I realized that I could record time in photographs like a movie. Sunny days blend with rainy days and cloud streaks.”

A pinhole camera is described as a box with a tiny hole that you place on your lens. Moore described her situation of buying tin cans and creating each of the 120 pinholes by hand to be a tedious but very important part of the process. These pinholes needed to match the depth of the camera in order to get the most accurate photos. Using black and white photographic paper, Moore produced photos with exposure that ranged between 63 and 134 days.

After she finished putting together each camera, Moore took all 120 cameras and duct taped them to trees, stumps, fence posts, bushes and whatever else she found to be sturdy enough.

“I put so many cameras out around the river because I had to ask myself, ‘what are the odds of what can go wrong?’ I had to take into consideration that my cameras may not function properly, that they may be stolen or get filled with water,” said Moore. At the end of the project, Moore found that at least 20 cameras had a failure.

“In total, I lost 38 cameras. 20 of those were to basic failure, and the rest were thrown in the river or taken down by someone who perhaps didn’t know what it was. One camera I put over a marsh, and it ended up failing because the camera was submerged half the time. Luckily, I planned for this kind of malfunction to happen,” said Moore.

Moore said that each photo taken from individual cameras came out entirely different. In some photos, the sky would be filled with more streaks from the sunshine and photos less exposed would have less streaks.

“Ideally I would have done them all for six months that was near impossible because of how long the river is and how long it took to set the cameras out,” said Moore. “I had to go obtain my cameras while the weather was still relatively nice. If I tried to get them in the middle of December it would be rough. I went and got them at the end of November and even then everything was starting to get slippery.”

Moore said that the most important message she tries to get across with her photos is that it’s important that we keep the river clean and healthy in order to maintain the natural habitat of the creatures that live there.

“Time is a constant and its moving and each moment that you live you have a moment that leaves, we take for granted that place,” said Moore. “I think the river is important because it could easily be taken away by things like development and toxic waste.”

For Moore, this exhibit has allowed her to express emotions that become visual representation of what she believes to be the most important part of her life. She loves the river, and by taking photographs of a special place to her, she can show others how important this place is to her.

“Some people have a diary and write down their feelings, where as I take my photographs that essentially do the same thing.”

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