[hyphen] AMERICANS on Display through Friday

A few selected South Side residents were magically transported back to the 19th century, courtesy of Keliy Anderson-Staley.

Anderson-Staley accomplished this feat by resurrecting an apparently outdated and obsolete photographic technology, called tintype, and embarking the residents on a mental trip to the past. They were among a group of 180 people who posed for Anderson-Staley during 2005, 2007 and 2009-2011.

Anderson-Staley was the 2010 photographer-in-residence at Light Work. Light Work, located at 316 Waverly Ave., on the Syracuse University campus, advertises itself as “an artist-run, non-profit photography and digital media center supporting artists since 1973.”

The tintype, or ferrotype, was a successor to the daguerreotype, the first photographic process viable in the marketplace. The tintype, invented in 1853, put the daguerreotype out of business in about 10 years for the new technique was much cheaper and simpler than the old one. In turn, the tintype saw the beginning of its demise in 1884, when George Eastman, of Kodak fame, came up with the idea of film to replace the photographic plates used by the tintype and similar technologies.

Tintype languished in oblivion until photographers like Anderson-Staley breathed new life to it. The vintage tintage is an artisanal and labor-intensive process compared to modern photographic technologies, some of which are effortless, involving just point-and-click.

Anderson-Staley, a graduate of Hampshire College and Hunter College, for her project in Syracuse focused on the issue of American identity politics. To highlight this, she titled the project [hyphen] Americans and recruited individuals from various Syracuse neighborhoods, including the South Side. The individuals came from diverse ethnic backgrounds such as African-American, Asian-American and Native-American.

The exhibit opened on Aug. 8 and runs through Oct. 14. It comes with a companion publication, said Jeffrey Hoone, executive director of Light Work. The publication, Contact Sheet 163, is available both in print and in digital form with a subscription.

The gallery show is organized according to the following pattern: north wall, 59 images; east wall, 33 images; south wall, 67 images, and; west wall, 21 images. There are five 36″x46″ images, around which the rest of them are arranged. The size of the smaller ones goes down to 4″x5″. All in all, it seems like the photos cover the largest percentage of the exhibit space of all the exhibitions displayed in recent memory at the gallery.

Visitors to the exhibit have noted that none of the models are smiling in the portraits taken by the artist. “This is because of the lenghtly exposure times required by tintypes,” Anderson-Staley said. “It may take 20 seconds on average for the image to appear in the photographic plate.”


— Story by Miguel Balbuena, The Stand community correspondent

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