Friday, September 15, 2017


The Joburg fringe Exhibition for 2017 in Johannesburg South Africa has come and gone, as one of the Artist who participated in the Fringe this year, I was drawn to the work of one particular Artist/Photographer Bryan Whitney. 

In my brief interaction with Bryan, I came to understand his passion and appreciate his work in Photography. With his vast experience in this genre Bryan's work  
'Mini Structures: 3D X-rays of Oil Cans,' stood out especially for me at the fringe.. This is what Bryan had to say about his work....

Bryan Whitney and I standing in front of his Installation 'Mini Structures' whilst checking out a silk Print of his.

This is Bryan Whitney Artist Statement

This collection of x-rays reveals architecture in a surprising form: oil cans used to dispense oil
for sewing machines, motors, and other mechanical devices.
The simple industrial shapes reveal both similarities and elegant variations on a theme. They are accidental stupas, a Buddhist temple form found throughout Asia.
Whitney, whose work often focuses on the “cosmology of architecture”, saw this collection of oil
cans posted by an artist friend Allan Wexler on Instagram. He borrowed the collection and,using a stereo (3d) x-ray technique, transformed the simple oil cans, emphasizing their architectural form.
The resulting images were printed on transparency and placed on windows. When viewed with anaglyphic (3d) glasses the forms appear to float in space outside the window. 
Bryan Whitney


NILES - Photographer Bryan Whitney has long been enamored with the beauty of the natural world.

He also, however, knows enough art history to realize that simply capturing flowers in their natural state falls dangerously close to becoming an art cliché.

"They're just gorgeous things in themselves," Whitney says by telephone from his home in New York City. "The fact that they are natural and living somehow makes them a classic thing to do."  A lot of photographers have shot calla lilies, for example, like Imogen Cunningham, and Georgia O'Keeffe, of course, painted them. It's become a little bit of a genre all its own."

So when Whitney discovered floral radiography, he saw a way to use X-ray techniques to explore the deeper beauty of such familiar botanicals. A collection of 20 of Whitney's 16-by-20-inch images, titled "Radio Flora," opened Friday at Fernwood Botanical Garden and Nature Preserve. An opening reception for the new exhibit will be held there today.

"I first started doing experiments about 10 years ago," says Whitney, whose wife worked as a conservator for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. "They used to X-ray objects to see paintings and furniture and things like that.

 These are not medical X-ray machines. They are industrial so they can do a lot more things. As a photographer I thought, 'That sounds like a pretty cool technique, I'd like to try that.' So I dragged in all sorts of things and started X-raying them."

While he found these images of inanimate objects - from toys to soda cans - interesting, it was the prints of X-rayed botanicals that resonated with his artistic sensibilities. The radioactive rays that penetrated the plants preserved their beautiful exteriors while showing their more delicate and interactive structures from the inside out.

"This idea of transparency is a big deal for me in my work and always has been," Whitney says. "I've done a lot of self portraits called 'The Transparent Man' where I did very long exposures and stood there a little bit and walked out so you see this ghostly figure. So there's something about a different way of seeing things that feels important to me."

Floral radiography actually has been around for some time. John Hall-Edwards, who was a pioneer in the medical use of X-rays in the United Kingdom, published images as early as 1914, but the process didn't receive much attention until the 1930s with the work of Hazel Engelbrecht and Dain Tasker.

Engelbrecht's work sprang from scientific research of botanical specimens, whereas Tasker was interested in artistic presentation. Tasker, who was chief radiologist at the Wilshire Hospital in Los Angeles, became known for his ability to set the X-ray machine and exposure to record the subtle differences in plant tissue density. His most well known image, of a calla lily, was printed by Ansel Adams and displayed at the 1939-40 Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco.

Others have sporadically played with the process as well, including Albert Richards, a retired dental X-ray professor from the University of Michigan who did a lot of work in the 1960s and '70s, publishing the book "The Secret Garden," which featured 100 floral prints.

The technique itself isn't much different than getting a medical X-ray at the hospital. The X-ray machine shoots gamma rays through an object, which is placed in front of sensitized film or a digital plate. 
The shadow of the object is formed on the plate, but in this case you can see through the object rather than just the outline of it. X-ray film, once exposed and developed, can be processed like most photographic negatives, yielding black-and-white prints.

"A lot of people don't understand that there are no lenses involved," Whitney says. "They'll ask what kind of X-ray camera I use. Well, it's not really a camera. It's a device that shoots out rays in a beam and that goes through the object and onto a plate and the image is formed that way. It's kind of like a photogram."

Most early prints looked much like your typical medical X-ray, showing stark black and-white contrasts. Whitney has built upon the technique in the way he is able to limit exposure with more sensitive equipment and his use of color that more closely captures the original beauty of his subjects.

"I was originally taking those negatives and printing them in the darkroom," Whitney says. "The negatives are very difficult to work with because flowers are so delicate and it's hard to separate because there's very little difference in density. ... Now I can scan the film and work on the computer and hand color them there.

 I pretty much go with what the natural color is. Instead of a red I might go to more of a magenta, but I try to keep it in line with what the original flower is. There's a lot of delicate work to make it work well. It's almost like I've drawn the outside of the flower by hand to make it separate perfectly from the background."

Whitney, who grew up in Ann Arbor, first became interested in photography during his freshman year of high school.

"I started taking a photography class when I was 13 or 14 and my grandfather game me his 1932 Leica Model D," Whitney says. "He just said, 'Here, you can use my old Leica from the '30s.' I said 'Cool, I'll take pictures with that.' And that was just it.
 I've been doing photography ever since. Teaching photography, doing fine art, commercial work. It's been my whole career."

After earning his bachelor's degree in the psychology of art in 1981 from the University of Michigan, and his master of fine arts degree in 1988 from Temple University's Tyler School of Art, Whitney headed to New York City where he received sponsorships and grants from the International Center for Photography, the New York Foundation for the Arts, as well as a Fulbright that allowed him to travel to Eastern Europe and lecture on photography. 
When he returned to New York, he started working in both commercial and travel photography shooting for Fortune, Wired, Martha Stewart, The New York Times and others.

"I learned how to shoot architecture and interiors - I already had that sensibility - so I learned that as a trade to make a living while continuing to do my fine art work," Whitney says. 
" But commercial photography isn't as rewarding as doing fine art. You're always trying to make a certain type of picture and there's a lot of expectations of what things should look like. I'm more interested in experimenting. That's why I gave it up and started teaching."

Whitney has since taught at Rutgers University, and he soon will be teaching classes at both the International Center of Photography and the Center for Alternative Photography in New York while continuing his own fine art work, which has been featured in exhibits from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to the Hagedorn Foundation Gallery in Atlanta.

While his fine art work also explores architecture and light, it's his images of calla lilies, roses, irises and poppies that seem to have the widest appeal.

"I've done a lot of work outside of X-ray photography, but it's interesting to me that it has been one of the more successful things I've done," Whitney says. 
"I've X-rayed a lot of different things, but I prefer and love plants simply because there's something ultimately beautiful about them.
 I guess people respond to it because it's just a different way of looking at that beauty. It reveals something you kind of know is there but can't really see." 

Check out Bryan Whitney's website for all the info you need about the Artist....Enjoy.



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