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Visual Arts

Piper Grosswendt '11 - 2010 McKee Photography Grant Recipient

Bitmapping Brunswick

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Embarking on this project, I knew that I was interested to explore how my physical position informs my literal view of the world. I have long been interested in photography of banal, chiefly suburban, landscapes, and the way quotidian spaces can be made visually engaging. With this in mind, I spent the summer walking around Brunswick and focusing my lens on familiar spaces—either personally familiar or familiar in an abstract sense—in ways that made the spaces unfamiliar and, hopefully, visually interesting.

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The necessary geometry of built environments offers ripe opportunities to organize shapes into balanced compositions, simply by altering one’s—and one’s lens’s—position in relation to one’s surroundings. I identified this kinetic exercise as key in the goal of making the commonplace compelling. Photography already engages in a game of making the three-dimensional two-dimensional; to play with this fact, I experimented with my physical position in relation to my surroundings to push the image-making process to further flatten visual clues that normally read as depth.

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Brunswick served as a near-ideal laboratory as I explored these questions of visual relationships this summer. I only photographed at locations I reached on foot, and my walks started and ended on campus. A practical goal of my project was to familiarize myself with the relatively immediate surroundings of the College. I find that my day-to-day experience as a student is often contained within the physical limits of campus, and commuting along routes developed by routine causes my mind to go numb. Setting out on walks with the purpose of looking at my surroundings, and looking for something purely visually interesting within them, provided a stimulating change of pace.

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The decision to reproduce my images as solarplate etchings arose from an overall desire to push the idea of de-familiarizing the familiar beyond just the content of my compositions. The process is a study in removal and manipulation. The original digital image is converted from color to black and white then printed as a bitmap positive onto a transparency. Using the sun, the transparency is exposed onto a solarplate. The solarplate is developed in a short water bath, and then cured in the sun. After setting, the plate is inked in precisely the same way as any intaglio plate, and a print is pulled onto the paper.

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-Piper Grosswendt ’11