“Exposed” Artist Profile: Stephen Berkman

Stephen Berkman, The Songbird and the Sharpshooter, undated, printing out paper, Courtesy of the Artist

Stephen Berkman
Stephen Berkman’s work is on view at the ICA in the exhibition Exposed: Today’s Photography/Yesterday’s Technology thru Sept 19, 2010.

Looking to the past for inspiration, Stephen Berkman stages elaborate tableaux of 19th-century characters in his work. By using antiquated photographic technology and the visual cues of that time, Berkman takes advantage of the historical patina of the process to create implausible scenarios that are suspended in time.

Berkman uses the wet plate collodion process to make his theatrical images. Invented in 1851 and popular through the 1880’s, the wet plate collodion is a temperamental process, requiring swift and economical motions. To make one, Berkman holds the plate in one hand and pours the syrupy collodion evenly on the surface of the plate with the other. Before the collodion dries, he bathes the plate in a solution of silver nitrate, which creates a light sensitive plate. While the plate is still wet, he exposes it to light and immediately develops it.

Born in Syracuse, NY, Berkman is based in Pasadena, CA. Currently a member of the film faculty at the Art Center College of Design, his film work has been screened in both national and international film festivals. His photographs have been featured in the book Photography’s Antiquarian Avant-Garde, The New Wave in Old Processes (Abrams Publisher, 2002) and in 2002 he was commissioned to create photographic tintypes for the feature film Cold Mountain.

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