Mandisa Baptiste 2017. Scanning for Antoinette.
Strategies of Freedom: Hands Off!
The realisation that my beloved DSLR was limiting me was not a question I entertained in its entirety. The questions I had regarding any limitations were often in the realms of whether it was practical to upgrade to the latest and unfortunately, outrageously priced digital cameras. And the moments when I seriously considered returning to the non-DSLR world of photography, only 8x10 view cameras was something I researched and desired for my Antoinette Series. I had envisioned my photographs exhibited on a grand, or high scale, like the paintings at Versailles, except the reality of life, seeps in – I am not in Versailles, I’m in Abu Dhabi. I had unfortunately allowed myself to be limited not only by specific devices but also by unpractical fantasising. I was before this week, enslaved by my camera apparatus and the apparatus of my mind.
The Strategies of Freedom that were covered allowed me to put down my digital box and think of other ways to capture images without using a familiar apparatus like a DSLR or smartphone. In the “Hands Off” activity set out by Professor Gary McLeod, we had 24 hours to produce five images relating to our project, without using an image recording device – apparatus, that we are familiar using. The wording of the activity was quite tricky, as familiar has many interpretations such as, known, accustomed, recognisable, common, habitual, regular, well-known, acquainted and so on. The first thing I set out was interpreting what our module leader meant by not using “familiar apparatus”. Was it, not using any image making device that I had a passing acquaintance with (that would rule out all devices), or did he mean the first or second thing you grab when you want to take a photo? I decided it must be the latter, after all, 24 hours is certainly not enough time for many of us to access devices like a camera obscura, or in cases where materials are not readily available to produce cyanotypes, rayographs, photograms, and so on. Nor do many have the time in our pre-planned schedules to accommodate such methods listed. In the end, I convinced myself that our very clever and thoughtful module leader intended it to be a simple task and perhaps I was overthinking.
Scanning for Antoinette
I came up with the idea of using a scanner to photograph the objects used in previous project related photo shoots. I had two minds whether to edit the images or not, but I reasoned that in the days of the darkroom, burning and dodging was part of the equation. I decided to use my mobile phone, downloaded an app that is inspired by the wet collodion process. I applied the digital liquid and proceeded to tilt my phone at the right angles to spread this honey like digital liquid. I immediately became addicted, fantasising that I was employing a more environmentally friendly wet collodion process to my images, to justify its imposter. But I didn’t need to justify the results, the images were a marvel to behold, and served to highlight not only that you don’t need expensive cameras to be creative, for everything is a state of mind.