Eugene Darkroom Group photographers explore the uniqueness of ordinary subjects | Arts & Culture

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The “Same Difference” exhibition by members of the Eugene Darkroom Group asked photographers to capture images using a unique printing method. The exhibit is a two-wall gallery of equally sized 5×7 photo prints and frames. The show’s 18 photographers were tasked with taking pictures of mundane things such as blurry faces, buildings, or trees. Although the imagery is simplistic, each depiction has its own story and connection to the artist.

According to Robert Hirsch in his book “Seizing the Light: A Social and Aesthetic History of Photography”, Henry Fox Talbot invented the calotype, the first silver gelatin printing method, in 1840 as a way for photographers to have flexibility over the intensity of light, shadow and depth of field of a picture. The calotype is a negative film paper glazed with light-sensitive chemical silver iodide. This method allowed photographers to touch up their final prints by filling in shadow effects with graphite or blue ink to remove excessive darkness. Photographers of the time switched to the calotype of the daguerreotype, a stable negative image on a piece of glass, because it could make endless copies of negatives on light-sensitive paper.






Carol Sillars presents Cat Tails, a gelatin silver print for sale at Dot Dotson’s Photo Finishing, February 11. (Jackson Knox/Emerald)


Ben Birkey, Eugene Darkroom Group board member and all-around volunteer, said he and his team envisioned their first exhibition in 2022 to portray “the embodiment of a unified work”. Birkey believes that with the show’s limitations, people have been forced to make their own interpretations of the “differences” mentioned in the show’s title.

“In an artistic medium where everyone uses the same color, paper and materials, we are always able to highlight our differences in how we see things,” Birkey said. “The show relates to the larger metaphor – the world is the same as always, but it feels like a time of huge change and difference.”

Birkey considers film photography itself to be super limiting. Film photography only has a certain amount of film and the quality of the photo is unknown until it is developed. The intention of the exhibition, however, was to “underline the difference in content” and to bring out the imagination of the photographers.







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Lisa Ertmer presents Arrival, a gelatin silver print featured at the Same Difference exhibit, Feb. 11 at Dot Dotson’s Photo Finishing. (Jackson Knox/Emerald)


“What people can take away from this exhibit is that this little store in this town has such a range of artistic vision,” Birkey said. “We all come from the same environment and we are always able to express different things.”

In the article “Touch, 2021” by EDG member Adrienne Turner, they wanted to play with the double exposure while printing it in the darkroom. Double exposure is two overlapping images, giving a ghostly effect to the print. Turner depicts a moving hand while being projected with the shadow of another hand. Turner thought it would be interesting if she could “transform the image using the same image”. It was their first time using double exposure, and it allowed them to create an effect of hands overlapping and reaching towards each other from two different images taken at different times on the same piece of film.

“It’s my partner’s hand, and I felt like last year I took a lot of photos with my hands,” Turner said. “What I love about hands is that it’s a vulnerable part of our body that to me represents connection.”

Turner and the other photographers were not allowed to view each other’s art, forcing them to make independent decisions during the creative process. Turner’s anticipation of seeing the final results made the show exciting for them. The only thing the artist had access to was the title of the show, and they didn’t know how that was going to turn out.

“I had no idea what anyone was going to do,” Turner said. “I think we all didn’t know what we were going to do, adding to the excitement for the end results.”

Although the photographer is key to capturing a moment in time, the subject doesn’t always get the recognition it deserves. Exning Smith, a Eugene-based model, visited the exhibit with her boyfriend from Bend, Oregon, who wants to join EDG. She loves being in front of the camera because she loves “having a vision come to life”. Clothing companies have even asked him to sell their brands. She believes black and white photography is bold, allowing model and photographer to share intimacy.

“I always like to see other people’s points of view,” Smith said. “I don’t see myself in the same way as someone else might. I judge myself all the time.”

Miles Shepard’s work “Mademoiselle #3, 2022” uses an alternative method to the production of photographs. Although the photo is printed with the same materials as the other exhibits, Shepard refrained from using a camera. The pictured Chanel No. 5 perfume bottle and the flowers in the print are created by exposing the objects to light and scanning them on silver emulsified paper.

This photographic process allows the photographer to control the staging of objects. The print is not intended to sell a beauty product. It is a framework of fragmentation and imperfection. Objects are blurred and covered in wire mesh, giving them the appearance of scattered magazine clippings.

The “Same Difference” exhibition expresses the multifaceted nature of images and the dominant narratives that animate people’s lives.

“Same Difference” is located at Dot Dotson’s Photo Finishing Store at 1668 Willamette Street in Eugene. It is open Monday to Friday from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. The show will be on view until February 28.

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