In the spring of 2007 I began using my Bronica RF645 rangefinder, which makes vertical negatives on medium format film, to shoot two frames of adjacent views, composing carefully in the camera. For instance, in Otter Cliffs, Acadia National Park, Maine 2007, I shot the left frame (7<) first capturing the cliffs and climbers, and then waited for the lobster boat to enter the scene on the right before exposing the right negative (8<). When printing, I used a 4x5” optical enlarger to print each pair of images together on conventional RA4 color photo paper. I included the black frame around the negatives to echo the black-lacquered frames of some Japanese paintings and because I like the way the pictures look with black borders.
I have come to realize that I enjoy longstanding artistic interests which align with Japanese aesthetics. My aunt Pat Austin, a commercial photographer, used to tease me for my propensity to photograph dilapidated buildings, but I always admired the worn and antiquated structures. So I find I’ve always been fond of what the Japanese call sabi 錆, literally “rust”, the aesthetic of love for objects damaged by age. An example in this portfolio Island Marine Const., Benjamin River, Sedgwick, Maine 2007, depicts a steel-hulled boat, once used to haul construction materials to islands, now abandoned to corrosion. In contrast, Wooden Boat School Dock, Brooklin, Maine 2007 shows a restored dock and old boathouse still used for teaching sailing and boating.
I am also sympathetic to a Japanese art concept called wabi 侘, the appreciation of simplicity. In my Sunrise, Herrick Bay, Brooklin, Maine 2007, I shot simply, making an uncomplicated seascape, with the foggy atmosphere having muted many details. The indistinct horizon almost obscures the difference between sky and bay. But by splitting these images between two frames, I do add some complexity, compelling the viewer to do some visual processing to make the pictures whole again.
I plan to continue expanding this body of work in the near future, because taking two photographs to capture a scene makes a more fascinating final object for me than a single image. I also plan to experiment with pairs of diptychs and four-image panoramas using the same techniques.
Steven Keirstead Hac Facit MMXI, Copyright 1987-2011, Steven Keirstead Photography