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Lisa McCarty

SPE Member since 2011
Member Chapter: South Central


The series Lumen is an ongoing experiment to systematically create and test handmade 4x5 film cameras. I make these devices from scrap boxes and often without a lens, as a means to reexamine the fundamentals of photography in an era when the science of imagemaking is far removed from the act of taking a picture. 

To this end, my investigation has yielded box cameras with multiple apertures, cameras with objects placed between the aperture & the film plane such as a magnifying glass or light bulb, and cameras where the film holder is placed perpendicular to the aperture or is otherwise skewed. Since each device is unique, exposure time is also variable. As noted in the image title, I make exposures ranging from several seconds to several hours and at different times of day. The resulting images are truly unpredictable and taken as a whole, the series documents the potential of photographic material and the agency of light. 

This practice of creating images via trial and error using the most basic materials is a return to methodology that facilitated the invention of photography. My subjects, which have included botanical specimens, lace, views from windows, optical instruments, and household tableaus, are references to images made by William Henry Fox Talbot, Nicephore Niepce, and Louis Daguerre in the 19th century. Through this process I reassert the instability of photography and question whether the medium has been perfected, or merely streamlined. I propose there are still discoveries to be made. What qualities of light, variations of color, and range of visual information can be rendered visible and registered on film by simplifying the mode of capture? I expose a new answer every time I make an image.

12:00 -1:00 am (Kaleidoscope Picture)

6:55 - 7:07 am (Bedroom Window)

1:35 - 2:13 pm (Lace)

11:45 - 11:58 am (Flower Arrangement)

9:10 - 9:011 am (View from Studio Window)

10:47 - 10:48 am (View from Studio Window)

:00 - 5:10 pm (Filaments)

7:00 - 7:12 pm (Preserved Butterflies)

1:00 - 2:00 pm (Electric Hurricane Lamp)

4:00 - 4:03 pm (Lace)

6:38 - 6:50 am (Lilies)

12:00 - 12:30 am (Kaleidoscope Picture)

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