In conjunction with the popular surfer series of photos that Joni Sternbach has on display currently at the Kenise Barnes Fine Art, the photographer gave a special talk and visual presentation on June 17.
A packed house came by to listen to her speak about the photos in "SurfLand," plus her unique way of shooting, which relies on an old-fashioned, large-format camera and the wet-plate collodion process.
The first thing she delved into was the unusual camera itself. Stenrbach transports her wooden camera and portable darkroom on beaches on both the east and west coasts to create one-of-a-kind surfer portraits.
As a photo of a picture of her camera on the beach came up, Sternbach explained what a dark box is and how it is used
"Inside the dark box is my brown wooden box, which is my silver tank. After I coat my plate with collodion in the dark, I submerge it in this tank that has silver nitrate in it and it sanitizes it. In three minutes, I take it out, blot it and fit on back of my camera and then I'm ready to shoot," she said. "All of this is done while it's wet or the image is destroyed. My work is very much controlled by time and weather."
The first tintype photo she ever took of a surfer appeared, and she explained more about the process of her work and where the series came from.
"This project evolved out of a former project where I was shooting in the same location. I had been doing close up portraits of the ocean and then went into the 'Sea and Sky' series because I was getting bored with shooting the surface of the ocean," she said. "It was a way to stay in the same location but change it up a bit."
While working on that series, the appearance of surfers in her frame was inevitable. Sternbach would try to shoo them away by whistling, but her efforts proved to be for naught for the most part.
One picture she took of the sun breaking through after the storm had all these little black things in the distance, which were surfers.
"It gave a sense of scale and importance to the image that it would not have had if it was a straight up landscape of water and sky," she said. At this point she realized that maybe she should pay more attention to the surfers.
When an audience guest asked if she is going to continue with the theme, Sternbach smiled. ""I might never be able to stop photographing surfers. There is a sense of mystery and magic to every picture I make," she said. "I just meet new people each time and each person brings something new to the project. I can't say if I will stop, but I am working on another project."
The presentation also included a series of photos from Western Utah—of pictures from the area of the Great Salt Lake and the salt dessert—where she did an artist-in-residency.
Editor's Note: To find out what Sternbach has to say about some of her photographs, read the captions under each photograph in the slideshow.