ARTIST INTERVIEW: Lindsey Ross of The Alchemistress
Company: The Alchemistress
Artist: Lindsey Ross
Conceptual fine art photographer Lindsey Ross has early memories of making photographs, which include enlarging poster-sized images in the basement darkroom with her father. She has been most influenced by photographers such as Marcia Resnick and Francesca Woodman. After earning a BA Religion at Denison University, Ross moved to the west. Her independence, sense of adventure and curiosity compelled her to work on a self-sustained cattle ranch in the Chilcotin, British Columbia. She lived in Wyoming for five years working as a photojournalist, assisting photographers and working in restaurants while avidly backcountry skiing. In 2008 Ross moved to California to pursue an MFA Photography at Brooks Institute. She became interested in wet plate collodion process when she viewed a collection of early 20th century prisoner mugshots, and she began working with this process in 2010. Wet plate collodion has become the ideal format for Ross, who seeks autonomy and at the same time a sense of connection. Ross finds freedom in taking raw materials and transforming those into photographs. The slow pace of collodion requires a presence and intimacy that connects her to both the physical and spiritual world.
Describe the path that led you to the work you do now.
I was finishing my MFA in photography, living in Isla Vista near UCSB. I was reading a lot of cerebral theory on art, photography, and visual ethics. Sometimes I just needed to get out of my head so I would wander around my neighborhood with my 4x5in view camera taking photos of things that interested me. It always helped stop the chatter in my head. After that I started working with vintage photographic processes to continue working in the physical world of photography. I apprenticed with photographer Luther Gerlach to learn wet plate photography. The slow pace of the process and the focus it demanded of me immediately resonated. My portrait business began organically when friends of mine started bringing family members to me for portraits in my Santa Barbara studio. As I started shooting larger sizes of plates I was commissioned to make large scale landscapes. It took me a little time to connect with the landscape but I have gradually defined my own style over the last couple of years.
What would you say is the driving force behind your creative work?
Connection is the driving force behind my work: connection to people and connection to the land. The camera has always been my conduit or portal through which I have connected to people and the land.
How is your work inspired by or influenced by nature and your surroundings?
There is no doubt my work has been shaped by my time in the American West. My experience working on a family ranch in British Columbia gave me the confidence to take on working in an industrial space like my studio. My aesthetic interest in wet plate collodion was shaped by my visual memory of the American West.
What do you do, or where do you go to seek fresh ideas or renewed creative energy?
I go running. This puts me directly in touch with my own pain and vulnerability and it speeds up how I am able to process emotions and discover creative solutions.
Do you see your work as part of an artistic tradition? Where does your work depart from artistic tradition and move into new territory?
Yes, I see my work as a part of an artistic tradition being that I work with a historical photographic process. There are historical heroes I feel I’m referencing or honoring. But unlike those working with wet plate collodion during its prime era (1850-1880’s), I have the benefit of 150 years of art history, art theory and cultural evolution to inform my work. Also, the history of women in photography (like the history of art in general) were underrepresented. So I feel like I am working on a little bit of a tangent of history due to being a woman working in an anachronistic process.
Who are some current artists, creators, or people working in other fields whose work you admire?
I was just in New York and I saw John Chiara exhibition at Yossi Milo. They are large-scale, original, negative, color cityscapes of New York. I’m obsessed with this work!
Also my dear friend Manjari Sharma is also one of my favorite artists. Her Darshan work depicts photographic versions of Hindu Gods and Goddesses. It is colorful and fantastical!
I also admire my friend Neal Casal who is a recording and touring musician in several bands but also a talented photographer.
Did you have any artists or creative people in your family? If so, how did they influence you?
My Aunt Cindy has been a commercial designer with Hallmark for 30 years. She has always been a great influence and supportive of me being an artist.