PDN Photo of the Day

John Chiara Goes East

The places that John Chiara has photographed in San Francisco, where he lives, are not the sites of the city’s most glamorous views—instead, he records street corners and hillsides that often feel forgotten or anonymous. His images, dark or blinded by sun flare, bear the marks of their large-scale, hand-made production—rather than using film, Chiara exposes big sheets of color paper directly to focused light in huge, make-shift cameras. For “West Side at Tioronda,” a show of new work opening April 14 at Yossi Milo Gallery in New York City, Chiara has come East, making photographs using these same techniques in Manhattan and the Hudson River Valley. Writes the gallery, “While making an exposure, he burns, dodges and often filters the light entering through the lens as if working in the darkroom. Chiara processes these one-of-a-kind photographs in large sections of capped PVC pipes that he rolls across the studio floor. The prints retain traces of the developing process, such as streaks, drips, and unevenly saturated colors, evidence of the hands-on nature of making these pictures in an approach that is ultimately part photography and part event.” While Chiara has sometimes worked with direct-positive Cibachrome paper, the images here are mostly made from paper designed to use with negatives, which, when exposed directly, produce inverted colors—skies turn black or shades of deep yellow and orange, the red brick of apartment buildings becomes a vivid green. While a few noteworthy structures are visible—Hearst Tower, Herzog & de Meuron’s new downtown apartment building, still under construction, the arch of the elevated trains in Upper Manhattan—more often the location is ordinary. There are fire escapes and looming sky scrapers, but the images are more dreamlike than descriptive—as Chiara intends. As he said in an interview last year, “Through photography I’ve tried to set up a physical process that has parallels [to] a psychological process.”

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