Chris McCaw, "Sunburned GSP #50 (Pacific Ocean)", 2007, silver gelatin negative.

Chris McCaw, “Sunburned GSP #50 (Pacific Ocean)”, 2007, silver gelatin negative.

Chris McCaw

This project began completely by accident. In 2003, an attempt to make an all-night exposure of the stars during a camping trip was lost due to the combined effects of friends, a campfire, and whiskey. Unable to wake up in time to close the shutter before sunrise, all the information of the night’s exposure was destroyed. The light of the rising sun was so focused and intense that it physically altered the film and created a new way for me to think about photography.

In this process, the sun burns its path onto the film base. The sky as a result of the intense light exposure reacts in an effect called solarization. Because this is a film negative, the image, which would normally be negative, is now completely reversed, as a positive, more recognizable image.

After experimenting with burning film and producing platinum/palladium prints, and working to express this minimalist aesthetic, I chose to use fiber-based gelatin silver black & white photographic paper. By putting the paper in the film holder of either my 8×10” view camera or a homemade 16×20” view camera, in place of sheet film, I create a one of a kind paper negative. Each negative, subject to varying sky conditions and lengths of exposure, is scorched by the sun, sometimes burning completely through the paper base.

Not only is the resulting image a representation of the subject photographed, but part of the subject (the sun) is an active participant in the printmaking.

My favorite part is watching smoke come out of the camera during the exposure.

Chris McCaw received his BFA in photography in 1995 from the Academy of Art in San Francisco, CA. His work has been exhibited widely in both solo and group exhibitions including shows at the Houston Center for Photography In Texas, Moab Art Works in Utah, and SF Camerawork in CA.

In 2007, he received the Alternative Exposure Grant by Southern Exposure. His work has been featured in issues of Daylight Magazine, View Camera Magazine, and Photo Metro.