A Contemporary Photographer Prefers Film
By Richard Malinsky, Arts Editor
The home page is as sophisticated and uncluttered as the actual works of Stephen Althouse—a small sample photograph set against a muted background. Accompanied by a testimonial quote and a simple black navigation bar, the page establishes a branded look that anticipates what follows.
His current body of work, Tools and Shrouds, comprises powerful imagery that can be appreciated on several levels—the purely visual, conceptual, intellectual, and emotional. Althouse proves a master at transforming everyday historic objects—old tools like a shovel, broken bow, and rusted maille—from the simple into the epic, into profoundly powerful images of power and reverence.
What is particularly unique to this transformation is that these images are not digital. The “Technical Information” page, accessible via the “About the Artwork” bar, offers a wealth of insight into Althouse’s use of actual film and his printing process. His subjects are filmed against a staged black background, the maximum amount of detail captured with a large format view camera:
He relies solely on natural light and long-time exposures. To accentuate the shadow detail, he overexposes the actual film. This method is combined with a special underdevelopment of the film to achieve the opposite, an accentuation of details in highlighted areas, such as in the bright white cloths in Shrouds:
This page on the technical also differentiates between the types of film in each series as well as provides a glossary of terms.
Occasionally, works such as “Axe and Tapestry” are a departure from this reliance on film, and he describes how his subject matter is placed directly on a scanner bed then manipulated digitally in preparation for printing.
Stephen Althouse, raised in rural Pennsylvania, developed early an admiration for the relationship between farmers and the equipment they depend upon. He holds a keen appreciation for a lifestyle that is focused upon self-sustaining rewards rather than material gain.
His use of contrasting shades of light and dark gradations, magnification of detail, and large format prints communicates significant meanings beneath these time-worn surfaces.
His body of work is documented in two extensive exhibition monographs, included on the website and easily browsed under the “View Artwork” tab:
Stephen Althouse – Tools and Shrouds, Boca Raton Museum of Art, Boca Raton, FL; and Samek Art Museum, Bucknell University, Lewisburg, PA.
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