Works with expired photographic paper
Image above: Alison Rossiter, from the series Fours, Gevaert Gevarto 47, exact expiration date unknown, ca. 1960s, processed in 2014 (#37), Gelatin Silver Print © Alison Rossiter, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York
In her works with expired, unused and unexposed silver gelatine paper, Alison Rossiter conducts a certain form of media archaeology. The artist prefers materials manufactured prior to 1950, because these early papers offer – unlike more recent papers – a broad variety of choices with regard to the emulsion’s silver content, the added dyes, coating, tonality and contrast grade, which all have an influence on the texture and appearance of the image. According to their handling, Rossiter distinguishes two categories of images. On the one hand, there is what she calls the “found-photograms,” or “latent images,” where the artist simply develops and fixes (or only fixes) what is already there in the unexposed paper. On the other, there are her “processing experiments,” which require more calculated procedures. Latent images may result from a number of imponderables that have affected a package of paper or a single sheet. These range from physical damage such as accidental light exposure, oxidation, introduction of moisture, spores or mold, to impressions of protective wrappings or traces of handling.
While the found-photograms bear testimony of an auto-generative process that brings the latent image to life, Rossiter’s processing experiments, in which she handles the paper in the darkroom, demand much more decision-making and manipulation by hand. The actions she performs are simple and consist of “immersing or dipping a sheet of paper in developer or of pouring or pooling the developer on the sheet, followed by stopping and fixing the print.” (Heckert 2015, p. 16). Thanks to her extensive knowledge of photographic processes and papers and her long-time experience in handling silver gelatine materials, she achieves a rich array of results.
Rossiter’s only other intervention with her photo papers is to title them. All of her titles include the name of the paper’s manufacturer and the brand, the expiration date as well as the date when the paper was subjected to various processes. (Ju.Ju.Li.)
Alison Rossiter, born 1953 in Jackson, Mississipi, USA.
1. Alison Rossiter, from the series Landscapes, Defender Argo, expired September 1911, processed 2014 (#2), Gelatin Silver Print © Alison Rossiter, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York
2. Alison Rossiter, from the series Latent, Eastman Kodak Solio (P.O.P.), exact expiration date unknown, ca. 1910s, (unprocessed), Gelatin Silver Print © Alison Rossiter, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York
3. Alison Rossiter, from the series Latent, Selo Gaslight, exact expiration date unknown, ca. 1920's, processed 2012, Gelatin Silver Print © Alison Rossiter, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York
4. Alison Rossiter, from the series Latent, Eastman Kodak Kodabromide E3, expired May 1946, processed in 2008, Gelatin Silver Print © Alison Rossiter, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York
Robert Enright, “The Darkroom Alchemy of Alison Rossiter,” Border Crossings, 119 (2011), pp. 69–79.
Virginia Heckert, “The Photograph as Assisted Readymade,” in Light, Paper, Process. Reinventing Photography, ed. Virginia Heckert (Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2015), pp. 16–19.
Sarah Freeman, “Technical Notes,” in Light, Paper, Process. Reinventing Photography, ed. Virginia Heckert (Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2015), pp. 20–21.
Thomas Niemeyer and Andreas Krase (eds.), Sun on Paper – Art/Experiment/Photography (Nordhorn, Dresden: Städtische Galerie Nordhorn, Technische Sammlungen Dresden, 2016).
Carol Squiers, “What is a Photograph?,” in What is a Photograph?, ed. Carol Squiers (New York: International Center of Photography and DelMonico Books, 2014), pp. 9–45.