Time has this ability to show the vulnerability in what it gradually consumes.
- Osheen Harruthoonyan
Photographer / cinematographer with a background in Biology, Osheen Harruthoonyan's work blends the unusual with the usual to create stunning black and white images that are both scientific and poetic. He shares with SPACE his latest photographic series entitled Saw the Splendor and tells us a little bit about his process.
What inspired Saw the Splendor?
There wasn’t a particular moment or thing that inspired this particular body of work; it was more about taking all of the things that interested me the last couple of years and finding a way to bring some sort of abstract narrative to them. All of my various series are just extensions of themselves where I continue to explore the same themes from different angles. Memory, history, identity, time and the complex relationships between them. Time has this ability to show the vulnerability in what it gradually consumes. Darkroom creations evoke our collective understanding of memory in its most raw and in-between state; as a noisy and less acute summoning that correctively interprets a moment in time.
I'm very much into biology and astronomy; I believe these are influences very clear in Saw the Splendour. At times for me it’s like looking simultaneously through a microscope and telescope. What’s great about art and science is that we are always exploring and discovering, creating narratives around those discoveries.
Jellyfish are almost always an inspiration in everything I do; the mood and atmosphere underwater is amazing and very otherworldly, much like outer space. The life cycle of stars, Le Petite Prince, old maps, the ideas of future exploration and time travel, cartographers, and antique drawings of the cosmos all had a role in the final results.
What process and / or methods were used to create the Saw the Splendor series?
The original photographs were all taken with a studio camera on 4x5 large format black and white film. After each sheet of film was processed I proceeded to carefully manipulate the film emulsion with chemistry and a variety of tools (various paint brushes, dental tools, q-tips, razor blades…) - usually placed in a petri dish or on a glass plate over a lightbox. Once I was happy with the results I dried the film and took it into a darkroom to make prints on fiber paper. For Pour Etienne et Son Ciel and The Hive I employed a lot of collage techniques; cutting sections of negatives out to paste onto others, blending with glue, ink, acrylic paint and even butterfly taxidermy. It’s almost like merging painting, printmaking and photography. The final stage is always to tone the print with sepia, gold and selenium.
What drew you to photography to create an image rather than drawing or painting for instance?
It just made sense. I always had cameras around growing up and I found analog printing in the darkroom quite simple. I love painting and drawing but unfortunately I’m not very good at either. However, you can see elements of both in my work. I will seek out work in other mediums for inspiration; there are some amazing artists these days pushing their mediums in really exciting directions.
How did you learn about manipulating images through dark room development?
I was looking for ways to manipulate emulsion and tried a variety of tools until I found what worked best for the narratives I wanted to create. It took years of experimenting. I’ve really been doing the same thing the last decade and have worked hard to hone my craft and bring it to a place where I am comfortable exploring and displaying to the public.
Is there a reason you gravitate towards black and white photography rather than color photography?
There are practical and emotional reasons. It’s not possible to manipulate colour film the same way as black and white, nor am I able to print in a colour darkroom. A lot of colour work these days is done digitally and that’s great; there is a lot of control over an image, and the possibilities digitally are endless, especially with colour manipulation. I personally haven’t found the right aesthetic and material for me to make colour prints. There is carbon printing, which is quite beautiful, and I would love to have the opportunity to try it, but I think that is several years away…and even then the colour will be far from any reality.
I love working in an analog environment. The process is part of the product. At times I will deliberately add my fingerprints on a negative to create texture. Black and white for me is also very nostalgic, dramatic and further removed from reality. It elicits very different emotional reactions than colour work in my opinion.
Describe your photography in 3 words. Black and White