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Deanna Witman received her undergraduate degree in Environmental Biology and her M.F.A. in Photography. Living and working on the coast of Maine, Deanna also shares her passion for photography by teaching. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally and is currently displayed in the “Alternative Processes” show at Panopticon Gallery in Boston through April 1st, 2013. To view more of Deanna’s work, go to: http://dmwitman.com
Elin: I can see how your education and experience as an environmental biologist has led to an affinity for unspoiled areas of the outdoors. But I am curious about the genesis of both your photographic technique and your attraction to the metaphysical world. Which came first?
Deanna: The settings in the images vary in size, geography, and condition. But they all have something in common, and that is the capacity for me to work there as I do, unfettered. I can’t say which came first, but only that the work all comes from the same place – that well we have deep inside.
These photographs exist in a longing to communicate intrinsic thoughts and experiences. A measure of existence, a rhythm with the Earth’s breath, a communion with the crust of dead leaves and soil that give life and shape to my imagination and being. It is Joseph Campbell who expressed the concept of dream being the private myth, and myth, the public dream.
Elin: Metaphysics can often be regarded as pure myth by scientists, somewhat akin to alchemy. How do you think about metaphysics and how does it reconcile with the scientific world in your mind? Are you rejecting science?
Deanna: When I reference metaphysics, I am really interested in the poetry and relationships of time, being, space, and how that is experienced and translated. And then there are the empathic feelings and emotions surrounding the entire experience.
It is only in recent history that scientists and artists have been partitioned into their own realms of work. Today, science and art have been shrunk to such a narrow bandwidth, although this seems to be improving in recent years with all of the interest in the mingling of technology and art. Prior to the 21st century, artists, writers, doctors, and scientists would frequent the same salons and share ideas, which is expansive. I don’t believe this broad thinking is rejecting science or elevating art- it is inclusive and open.
Funny, many photographers, particularly those who work with non-digital processes often think of themselves and their colleagues as alchemists. I love the idea!
Elin: Pinhole cameras create both a focusing and an obscuring effect in an image, distorting the world as we would view it by eye. How does your choice of camera contribute to the story in your images?
Deanna: I fell immediately head over heels for the pinhole camera, obsessed really. In a pinhole image, all planes are in focus, yet they may not all be equally apparent due to the properties of light and optics in combination with the exposure. The challenge in using the pinhole camera (typically a box without a lens) lies in its simple technology, which can be used to create complex and meaningful images or can be overwrought and become repetitive as a device.
The choice of this camera is important to me in how I experience and make the image. The exposures range from a mere second to many, many minutes (sometimes as many as 45 minutes) – both equally valid of what a moment or experience can be. There is no viewfinder, no way to preview the image on an LCD screen. It is not so much through my eyes, but rather a sensibility, an intuition. Moving the shim across the pinhole to allow the light in, for the moment to record on the film has become ritual. Poetry and ritual. What I appreciate about the images, as well, is that each originates from a single sheet of film, un-manipulated in the darkroom. Each image captured something, it happened. Each image is as it seems, and yet it is not.
Elin: Will you continue to use this medium? What projects are you working on now?
Deanna: I will continue to build this body of work for as long as I am able. I have been working on it since 2006 and believe that it has longevity for me. I am working on projects in addition to this one, one of which will be announced soon. I can say that my experience as a field biologist certainly influenced the idea.