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On The Cover: "Nancy" by John Waldie 

click to enlarge Nancy, digital c-print, 30” x 40", 2007.
  • Nancy, digital c-print, 30” x 40", 2007.


Before he became an art teacher at Washingtonville High School in 2005,
John Waldie worked as a commercial photographer. He shot oodles of product still lifes during that time, and Waldie believes that his “30, Plus or Minus” series is influenced by his commercial technique, which relied heavily on oversaturated lighting. The idea for the project came to Waldie while he was sitting in his backyard in Beacon, drinking coffee with a friend, who was squinting in bright sunshine. “The light was hitting her in the face and distorting her expression,” Waldie says. Her strained look got Waldie thinking about using artificial lighting to create stress postures—photographic waterboarding. “It’s almost like torture,” says Waldie, describing the multiple hot lights he trains on his subjects’ faces. “In these conditions, people tend to express extreme emotional states.”

Waldie believes his camera aids this process as well. Waldie shoots with a 4 x 5 Sinar F2, which takes about 15 minutes to set up and focus, while the model is forced to sit still. Waldie contends this purgatorial period helps to break down any preconceived pose a sitter may have, and induce a mood of vulnerability. “People wait so long they kind of give up,” Waldie says. “And that’s when I start shooting.”

To achieve the intense details in his oversized prints, Waldie melds analog and digital techonology, shooting 4x5 color transparencies, then scanning the transparencies onto his computer and reverting the images to black and white. He then spends hours maximizing the detail on the surface of the model’s skin

While conceived as a group of portraits, “30, Plus or Minus” is as much an investigation of the emotional states of thirtysomethings as it’s an essay into mapping the surface of a group of faces, noting every hair, freckle, flake, and pore. “My images attempt to illustrate this psychological transition through an exploration of the skin’s physical and tactile properties,” Waldie says. “In front of my camera and through the post-production process, my subjects are transformed into rich landscapes of physical wear and emotional strain.” The distance between the blemish and the crease marks the passage of time.

In August, Waldie exhibited as part of the group show “Time and Place” at Gallery 605 in Beacon. Portfolio: www.jswaldie.com.

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  • John Waldie's photographic portraits were part of a group show in Beacon.

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