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The pictures of Jan C. Schlegel bear witness of the special encounters of the photographer with unique people on his trips through Africa and Asia. Since 1998 Jan C. Schlegel regularly travels to remote places, which are secluded from the tourism of the western world. On his tours the artist observed the rapid decline of traditions and increasing change of the way of life of the people within their tribes due to globalisation. The inexorable changes woke the urgent wish in the photographer to portrait people, to capture impressions and to preserve traditional life forms in his pictures.
Thus Schlegel not only creates artistic photographs, but also documents and preserves unique pieces of art – the people themselves. None of people photographed wear special make-up or were specially dressed before the photographs were taken. Nothing was staged, nothing is fake. They were all captured in their own habitat – at the market, in the village square, or simply on the roadside. The only stylistic device Schlegel uses for each one of his photographs is a simple grey background. With it he concentrates the attention on the people, not on their living conditions. The basic message is the internal and external beauty of the pictured people. Schlegel emphasises their uniqueness, their value and their irreparableness. With his art he fights for the particularity and individuality of the cultures.
During the last years Schlegel visited 61 countries, always in search of the distinctive beauty and variety of the people. The picture’s compositions, the highly contrasted play of light and shadow, the inner dynamics and the extraordinary perspectives, open a crack in the door of secret-treasures of this world that are becoming increasingly difficult to find. Schlegel often stays several weeks with the tribes to get to know and understand its way of life. With his assistant Schlegel lives in modest circumstances among the people, which he tries to portray. Step by step the photographer gains their trust, in order to make pictures in the desired nearness and intimacy. With his photographs Jan C. Schlegel gives us a glimpse on foreign cultures and allows us to discover something about the uniqueness of every single person.
"Of Monster and Dragon"
A series of 16 Salt Prints
Limited Edition of 5 in the size of 56 x 76cm on Arches Aquarelle paper
When we see those little spiders, bugs or other crawlers we often see people respond by screaming, killing them or running away in panic like they are facing a monster or a dragon. Getting close to those little creatures shows their amazing beauty and detail that we normally never see. Some appear to me like they would be out of another world, or almost unreal. Taking the color away by turning them into unique salt prints emphasizes the amazing structures and patterns they have.
SALT PRINTING: THE EARLIEST PHOTOGRAPHIC PROCESS IN HISTORY
Since Aristotle (384-322 BC) there is evidence that men and women have explored the relationship between light and chemicals. Remarkably, it took until 1834 before William Henry Fox Talbot discovered the process of permanent chemically produced images created by light. His salted-paper prints were the ﬁrst photographic process to create a positive image from a negative. Talbot’s photogenic drawings and his continual discoveries had a profound effect on both photography and the development of printmaking. William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1870) came from a privileged background. He was well educated, had a brilliant mind and was curious about the world around him. Fortunately for historians and photographic researchers Talbot documented most of his experiments.
In 1833 Talbot was on holiday in Italy with his new wife and family members. He became frustrated with his inability to sketch on paper. Even with the aid of his drawing instrument, a camera lucida, he could not capture the beauty of Lake Como. Utilizing his knowledge of chemistry he pondered ways of “ﬁxing” an image on paper. By spring 1834 Talbot’s ponderings became reality. He found the ratio between salt and silver nitrate that was essential to create and ‘stabilize’ an image. Talbot’s discovery of the salt print inspired the foundation for many future photographic processes. In 1839 with the assistance of his colleague, Sir John Herschel, Talbot was able to ‘ﬁx’ this image permanently on paper. The history of Talbot and his inventions is quite remarkable. His discoveries were the foundation of the photographic processes until today.
Salt printing is a hand-coated two-step process. First, the salt solution is applied to the paper and allowed to dry. Next is the sensitizing step when a silver nitrate solution is applied to the paper to form light sensitive silver chloride. Exposure to light changes the silver chloride to the image making metallic silver. Due to the inherent masking ability of the metallic silver the salt print can create a greater tonal range than any other photographic processes and makes it to one of the the finest and nobel printing process. Even it seems to be one of the simplest photographic processes, it is one of the most difficult to control the outcome. However the intrinsic production problems have made it a 'forgotten' process.
The salt prints of Jan C Schlegel are done in the tradition of William Henry Fox Talbot and uses the same chemical compounds. The noble 100% cotton paper, together with carefully handled fixage through Ammonium Thiosulfate and a slightly gold borax toning followed by a two hours wash give the salt print a maximum durability. Today you can find in museums (like in the Getty Museum in Los Angeles) the original salt prints made by Talbot without any sign of fading or altering.