Italian Gestures

From the mudras found in traditional Buddhism and Christ’s raised hand in benediction, to the rhetorical gestures of classical Greek and Roman orators, hands have mirrored human intention. Throughout the history of art, artists have mined this thread to allow their depictions of the human form to communicate emotions, to tell stories, and to express themselves in a rich way.

When faced with the splendid survey of human achievement that is the figurative sculpture in the museums and churches of Italy I used my camera to focus on the expressive and metaphoric nature of the timeless human gestures I found there. On a visit that included Rome, Venice, Florence, and Montepulciano, I was again and again pulled to this particular facet of the art that surrounded me on every stop.

I am especially interested in the kind of alchemy that occurs as 19th-century photographic processes collide with 21st-century technology. These images are 4” x 5” tintypes and employ the 19th century wet-plate collodion process. Invented in 1851, this process produces a negative on glass, from which positive enlargements can be made. The process can also generate an ambrotype or tintype, both positive one-of-a-kind images. This work has led me to explore the integration of this antique process with both darkroom and digital technology. The tintypes in this series were created using inter-positive transparencies that were made from jpgs shot with my digital camera.