Photograms by Ann Beason and Merri Lawrence
August 6th - October 15, 2022
Looking for a silver lining to the pandemic, two friends and lifelong artists, Ann Beason and Merri Lawrence found inspiration in a centuries old technique begun by William Henry Fox Talbot (1800 – 1877). By fixing a light-reflected image on paper treated with silver-iodide, Talbot produced what he termed a calotype from the Greek meaning “beautiful image”. In effect Talbot created a negative image that could be converted into a positive one, thereby allowing it to be replicated, unlike the earlier and sharper daguerreotype, which was unique. This was a pioneering move toward a more versatile photography and the product is known today as a photogram.
Benefiting from the mentoring of Professor John Lawrence, Ann and Merri began in 2020 to experiment with a process analogous to that of Talbot. Using silver based paper and choosing a variety of organic materials with interesting shapes and transparency, they have produced hauntingly beautiful photograms from simple natural forms that might otherwise be overlooked or tossed aside.
Reflecting on the work, Ann likened the images to traditional botanical prints and drawings of plants and flowers. They echo, as well she notes, the elegant simplicity of Japanese flower arrangements, which often focus on a single blossom. Essential to the project, moreover, was working with Merri as a “creative partner” in a common effort to master a process demanding patience and attention to detail.
Merri credits the project with encouraging her to slow down. During the forced isolation of the pandemic, she paid more attention to her surroundings, be it in her own backyard, the beach or the woods. Even though she had long been a gardener, she acquired a new appreciation for seasonal rhythms and came to appreciate more fully the ordinary, even invasive species and noxious weeds. But being able to work with Ann lent joy to an otherwise solitary endeavor.
Being inspired by an excellent teacher, who resuscitated a 19th century photographic technique and being able to produce intriguing images from natural materials was an excellent way to get through a pandemic. But most importantly, it was the collaboration between friends that created a “silver lining”.