ARTIST INTERVIEW: Lindsey Ross Photography
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 of British Columbia. She lived in Wyoming for five years working as a photojournalist, assisting photographers and working in restaurants. 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 mug shots. Ross began to assist and learn from collodion artist Luther Gerlach. Wet plate collodion process 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.
Ross lives in the Funk Zone of Santa Barbara, CA where she runs her boutique collodion studio, La Chambre Photographique. We spoke to her about her story and creative process.
What is your background and how have your past experiences fed into your art?
After growing up in the suburbs of Columbus, OH I moved to a rural ranch in the central interior of British Columbia. Isolation, self-sufficiency and mortality were inherent to living and working in this exotic, wild landscape. We were living off-grid with a hydroelectric system. We used traditional ranching methods, riding horses and working with dogs to push cows. I also built fence, moved irrigation pipe, harvested hay, cooked meals, cleaned the house, gardened, and preserved vegetables.
My experiences there cultivated my need for autonomy in my craft and my relationships. We lived in what could have been late 19th century lifestyle at the ranch; now I work in a late 19th century method, making my own film from raw materials working with cameras that I can maintain myself. Autonomy in relationships because the ranch taught me staunch independence: I couldn’t seek validation or approval from outside myself and I had to take responsibility for my work and attitude. I had to start the day with self-love and inner strength otherwise work conditions and dynamics could quickly drag me down. These lessons stung when I was living there, but I am more and more grateful for how my time at the ranch prepared me for artistic practice.
Do you feel that your environment feeds into work and if so, what makes your work distinctively Californian?
When I was in grad school I met up with one of my hero photographers, Marcia Resnick, in the east village. She told me “you know, California is the place for alternative photographic processes”. I didn’t ask her why, I just dove deep into alternative processes from that point forward.
Six years after my visit with Resnick I see how freedom of expression, rebelliousness and progressive nature of California culture all shape my work. The vast physical space of the American West has also greatly influenced my work.
What are your top 3 studio essentials?
Record player with selection of psych rock, Americana and funk. John Coffer’s “Doer’s Guide” Handbook for wet plate collodion. My Toyo, oil-in-handle glass cutter.