Photography has always been a passion for Charles Bremer, inspired first by his grandfather, then by his father, who first met Ansel Adams in the 1940s at Yellowstone National Park, and went on to study with the famous landscape photographer. “I was weaned on Edward Weston and Paul Strand,” Bremer recalls. “I had learned darkroom techniques by the time I was seven or eight.”
Bremer married his high-school sweetheart and, after studying art at Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, determined that he wanted to live life as an artist. “I gave up my day job 30 years ago. I had one for about 6 months, and gave it up.” The couple bought a 100-acre farm in Otego, New York, just west of Oneonta, in the remote heart of rural upstate. He converted the barn into a studio and made his home a center of creative energy.
At the heart of Bremer’s philosophy is working by hand. He studied ceramics in college, and did the building around his house himself. “The foundation of learning about human life is learning how to work with your hands,” he maintains. “Your eye, your ear, your imagination, can be guided through your body, through having a physical relationship with things. If you can transform a raw material into something, you understand where self-confidence comes from.”
His artwork is similarly handmade. He began a series of female figures by scoring his negatives with abrasive grit so that the resulting print had “the quality of an etching or lithograph—all the specificity of a photograph, but also a whole other detail of handwork.” Bremer then hand-colored the images with materials ranging from coffee and walnut extract to silk dye, and impregnated them with
a beeswax glaze, a technique known as encaustic.
Each of the figures is isolated against a black background, a choice inspired by the famous photo of Earth suspended in the blackness of space. “That’s the image that defines all of us,” he says. “Th e only image that all of us are in.”
His new series of photographs operates under the same metaphor, but this time the subjects are objects, not figures. Th e red Eveready arrived via serendipity this past winter. “I was working with some old equipment, and this battery popped out,” Bremer says. “I started off just liking the black cat, and saying, ‘Look at that, there’s Weaselmuffin,’ as we call our cat.” So he took a picture.
From this first photo, Bremer embarked on a series about commercial objects with animals on them. “I’m interested in images that transcend the product itself and elicit the mystery of the animal.” By now, he understands his battery picture more deeply. “It’s almost as if it becomes an allegory for all the energy that a living being can encounter in his life.”
Bremer’s images are on exhibit through November 25 at Amrose Sable Gallery, 306 Hudson Avenue, Albany. A reception with the artist is scheduled for November 2. (607) 437-6977; www.amrosesablegallery.com