Tracy Thompson's photos explore the meaning of the human experience

Tracy Thompson's photo journey began in high school and took a hiatus, but luckily she picked up a camera again and now has a large body of work. Following is her bio in her own words:


"I have been doing a lot of experimentation with soaked film and also with homemade/improvised lens filters. That started when I realized prism lens filters don't actually make rainbows. I have also been experimenting with the possibilities of a 6 inch glass prism held in front of the lens, and I do a lot with random double exposures and film swaps. My main cameras are a Nikon FM2 and a Superheadz Golden Half. I work with manipulating polaroids as well, and I think it is the similarity to that which first gravitated me toward film soup and other ways of either manipulating emulsion or creating effects on the film itself by heavily manipulating the way that light passes through the lens of the camera. -Next up on my prism experiments are plastic rainbow glasses and 3D glasses."


Tracy's instagram is @spit.fire_poetix)






ALTER/ANALOG: When did you begin shooting film?


T.T.: I started shooting film in 1996, as a freshman in high school. I was lucky enough both to go to a school with a darkroom and also to have a very talented photo teacher, who was an old hippie who grew up with my parents. It has only been in the past two years that I began focusing on visual art and photography seriously again, after focusing on writing for most of my adult life.


ALTER/ANALOG: What got you interested in soaking and other alt processes?

T.T.: I had some introduction to polaroid manipulation in my teenage years, and it was the desire to explore the possibilities of that medium that caused me to pick up a camera again in early 2017. In part, the physicality drew me to it- emulsion manipulation made me feel much more connected to the work than I would have otherwise, especially in the absence of darkroom access. Soaking film came as a pretty natural extension of that desire to physically manipulate the 'reality' captured in the camera's eye; after I tried it once, I was hooked.

 

ALTER/ANALOG:  Are there any overriding themes or concepts in your photography?

T.T.: One thing I have noticed is the almost complete lack of human subjects in my photographs. Even in street photography, I'm always facing away or looking up, avoiding humans except slealthily & from a safe distance. Without meaning to, the isolation I live in socially has expressed itself in every photograph I've taken in over two years. I am a firm believer in the statement that, whether intentionally or unintentionally, "all art is self-portrait" (either my high school oil painting teacher came up with that line or was quoting someone, but it's stayed at the forefront of my mind in the 20 years since I first heard it. Along those lines, confusion, chaos, despair, profound grief, and profound joy are themes that appear and reappear in my work.  


I also believe that whether one chooses to explicitly address social issues in one's art or not, the personal is indeed the political. Especially in midst the bizarre and horrifying slide into open fascism in the U.S. (whose Midwest I hail from) and the appalling injustices that exist in every corner of the brave new world of this young century, shying away from controversial or uncomfortable subject matter is a statement in itself, and certainly not one I wish to make. 


Conceptually, deconstruction, both literally and metaphorically, plays a large role in my work. All that I create is fragmentary and aims to show only a tiny portion of reality as I experience it, rather than trying to say more than is possible in just one photo. I try to bring the wild and fearful to the mundane and to force attention to the soft beauty of unpleasant moments and places.


ALTER/ANALOG:  Are there any other alt processes you would like to try?


T.T.: One process I am very excited about getting back into is the hand-coloring of silver gelatin prints. I learned the old-fashioned art of colorizing black & white prints on Marshall's Oils paints, & was ecstatic this winter to find out the paints are still made. 


A dream of mine would be the chance to work with tintypes. The concept of 'experiential archaeology' - roughly put, creating artifacts using the techniques by which they were created during the advent of the technology- is fascinating to me, and I think the recreation of lost photographic techniques (especially a medium so lasting and seeped in history as tintype) offers a vast and largely untapped opportunity through which to dig to the depths of what it is and has meant to be human and to create art. Along those lines, incorporating elements of truly ancient forms of human expression by such methods as soaking film in red ochre has been a fascinating tool to explore the depth and meaning of the human experience as I personally see and feel it.

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