We were so happy with the reception for Eric Overton’s show, Wild America: Process and Preservation, with his stunning ambrotype landscapes of the American West. Overton is a photographer, sculptor, and physician who earned his medical degree in 2013, but has been perfecting his craft of photography for over twenty years. Overton has had impressive professional exposure ranging from his time working for photographic publications like Rolling Stone Magazine, debuting his photographic work in Malaga, Spain, and opening his own gallery.
Overton noted in a recent interview with LensWork magazine that his goal in photographing these landscapes was one of personal exposure and involvement. He wanted to "experience these places anew; to exist in space and...experience the natural world.”
For Overton, experiencing the land anew was achievable by slowing the photographic process and restoring it to a time before it was mediated by technology.
“One particular component to this work originated from a fundamental idea I felt is becoming less important in our modern world. That is, the value of touch; to physically connect. As we go through our days, how necessary is it to actually touch things? For example, as photographers we no longer require the dexterity needed to load and process sheets of film in total darkness. Images are captured via methods few understand and stored as pixels on cards, clouds, and drives. Portfolios are often viewed on computer screens, blogs, websites, phones and on and on.."
This is why Overton feels such a connection to a nearly 200 year old photographic process that relies upon and materializes these concepts of tactility, patience, and exploration.
Overton starts by coating a viscous solution known as collodion onto a clean 8x10 inch plate of black glass. The plate is then sensitized in a bath of silver nitrate followed by transferring it into a plate holder, which fits into the back of the camera. The exposure is made without the use of light metering. After the plate is exposed it is then taken back to the darkroom in the back of his truck for development with an iron-based solution. The resulting ambrotype is a positive image when captured on a black surface and is the original image.
Click to watch Overton talk more about his process.
Each ambrotype is unique and is reproduced by using a high-resolution flatbed scanner to then produce a large format pigment print. The Diasec mounting method permanently joins together transparent acrylic glass and print backed by an aluminum sheet. The result is a completely flat mounted image that visually speaks to the original ambrotype process. It is resistant to UV light and fading and the combined back mounting on aluminum maintains the integrity of the photograph. The truly archival work is then crated and shipped to MWFA from Scandinavia.
Overton sees this anachronistic process as an effort to reconnect himself physically to the world and the land itself.
Initially, Overton did not start this series with a specific environmental agenda. It was during the intimate process of exploring the landscape personally for four years while shooting that he says he “came alive with passion” and felt deeply connected to his own American heritage.
"It is majestic but it is also delicate. It is in this awe-inspiring magnificence of the American landscape I am most free.”
Ultimately, Overton found that this slowed process rejuvenates him and has inspired him to contribute to the fight for land preservation.
“I now believe that our land not only affords us the opportunity to connect with the earth — but to our nation, to each other, and to ourselves.”
Stop by the gallery to view the original ambrotypes and archival pigment prints in person, Tuesday - Saturday 11 - 6 p.m.