Daniel Ehrenworth’s Sky / Water is a contemporary, conceptual interpretation of a common practice in early photography. After cameras became more widely accessible in the mid 19th century, accurate captures of landscape views were frustratingly elusive, as lengthy exposure times meant that some details were lost in the development process. Limitations in the collodion process meant that landscape photographs often ended up showing an empty white sky and a large dark mass in the foreground; details and gradations had to yield to these slow exposure times and collodion’s poor receptivity to certain colours. Photographers like the French Gustave Le Gray solved this problem by taking two separate negatives – one that captured the detail of the sky and another that isolated the details of the sea or land – and physically cutting and pasting the two properly-rendered parts to make a composite. In this way, the technical and chemical limitations of photography were answered by manipulation in the darkroom.
Erhenworth builds on this practice with composite photographs that actually show inconsistencies in depth and perspective – the very problems these earlier photographers were trying to avoid. The result is a set of photos of actual places combined to form imaginary, impossible ones.
See more Daniel Erhenworth here, and read more about early composite photography here.
- Erin Saunders