La Brea T1, 2014
Heliograph, sun cured tar from La Brea Tar Pits, Los Angeles, CA, on aluminum
72 x 42 inches
In returning to the alchemist nature of the dark room, the Los Angeles based photographer Mathew Brandt experiments with the surfaces of his prints by incorporating the physical matter of his subjects within the developing process. Often depicting large-scaled land or cityscapes, the substances he uses vary from lake water to bodily fluids to tar, dust and even food. His labor-intensive technique aims to rupture the seemingly impermeable flatness of the photographic picture plane, creating unique, vintage-like prints. The chemical impact of his experiments varies from work to work. While in certain photographs it seems as if small dust particles accidentally create slight imperfections, in others, the original image is hardly recognizable.La Brea T1, is part of Brandt’s 2013 “La Brea” series in which the artist created heliographs from pictures he took of fossil from the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles. An early type of photoengraving, heliographs are usually made by using a sensitized metal plate that is coated with an asphalt or bitumen varnish. In order to incorporate materials from the source of the objects he used, Brandt developed his negatives on an emulsion of tar that he extracted from the site itself. The tarnished look of the background coupled with the menacing skeletal creatures is reminiscent of pre-historic cave paintings.