Photo-realist painting was popular at this time and as a photographer, I wanted to reverse the process by making a series of large-scale photographs that combined and were informed by painting. Even though there could be a great similarity between photo-realist painting and hand-colored photography, I wanted to explore and demonstrate the differences that I thought I would encounter in making large-scale photographs. It is important to remember that most photographic work at this time was relatively small and rarely larger than 20” x 24” (the largest size sheet paper available). I wanted to try to produce photographic work that I thought would be capable of holding its own in terms of scale and projecting a physical presence equal to painting. Today the dramatic impact of such large-scale photographic work is somewhat diminished now that technological advances have made large, even huge, photographs much more feasible and commonplace.
In 1978 I received a grant to produce Portraits as a series of 28” x 40” images, a process that turned out to be fairly difficult at the time. First, I needed to reconfigure an enlarger so that I could project onto the floor in order to achieve a large blowup. I also concocted an easel of sorts for the mural-size black and white roll paper, built trays large enough to develop the images and then needed to figure out how to give the prints an effective final wash. The series was printed from 35mm negatives and I was very happy to find that they could withstand this amount of enlargement.
I worked with close-up images in order to push the sense of scale even farther, and eventually settled on a series of close-up “portraits” of friends and family that showed only exposed skin. I had just had a baby and was suddenly less interested in landscape and more drawn into the intimate space of sensually soft skin and flesh. This exploration into the world of human landscape would eventually lead me to the series Secrets and to start working with found imagery of the body in the series Cloud Reading For Pilots: Disclosures. The image + text works Preface: Portrait of Three People and Dr. XX: He Whispered Sweet Magic in Her Ear are several conceptual works that document a transition from series to series.
-See bookwork Portraits and Other Disclosures