Rachel Heath’s work is on view at the ICA in the exhibition Exposed: Today’s Photography/Yesterday’s Technology thru Sept 19, 2010.
19th-century landscape photography required transporting the entire darkroom to rugged and often uncharted territory. Similarly, contemporary artist Rachel Heath travels with her large-format camera and portable darkroom to capture intimate landscapes using the wet plate collodion process. Heath is acutely aware that the work is in conversation with the long-standing tradition of landscape photography. She writes, “the traditional western landscape photograph regards horizon, ridge-line and distance as a grand vista on which one can impose one’s own presence and fantasies.” Heath considers this complex relationship between idealized images of nature and man’s relationship with the landscape in her work.
However, for Heath, making the work is not just about the nostalgia of the landscape. She is also interested in how the antiquated process she employs calls attention to her hand in the work, often resulting in uncertain and surprising details that are not possible to achieve with digital tools. The collodion process she uses creates a surface for the exposed silver that produces a nearly grainless image. Also, because the plate is hand-made, its surface is never uniform, which often results in unexpected and painterly patterns in the background of an image.
Based in Oakland, Heath received her MFA from the California College of the Arts (CCA) and her BFA from UC Santa Cruz. Her work has been exhibited in San Francisco at Stephen Wirtz Gallery and at CCA. Nationally, her work has been exhibited at New Orleans Center for the Photographic Arts, and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.