|Written by Anna Holtzman|
When embarking on the ongoing Girlfriends project in 2000, Goldkind set out to make images that would explore the unexpected aspects of the subject's persona lying hidden beneath the surface. However, the series began as a casual set of experiments - "a Sunday project" - that developed into a more cohesive study over time. "The project started with the idea of doing costuming, and kind of got out of hand," the artist relates. In his line of work, Goldkind's husband is surrounded by a world that embodies a traditionally macho ethic - and when he is not running his scrap metal business, his hobby is driving Formula Atlantic racecars. "The project took a man that was so much a 'man,'" she explains, "and it showed a different side of him. Underneath being a tough guy, he's really very vulnerable - and a little on the strange side." Goldkind emphasises, "It wasn't meant to be a comedy," but rather a serious investigation into the unseen complexities beneath a person's exterior.
Despite his ultra-masculine pastimes, Goldkind says that her husband was a willing participant from the start. "He was very much excited to be a part of whatever I 'was doing," she asserts, "and he was excited by the fact that [the images were selected for] a lot of museum shows." Yet when it came to inventing the characters that her husband would portray, the photographer saysthat the processwas decidedly not a collaboration. "That was mine," she states, "and I actually got annoyed if he gave me a character." In an amusing paradox, while the artist mandated that her husband don women's clothing, she admits to being bothered by his enthusiasm for the game. "He seemed to enjoy me putting makeup on him - and that really disturbed me. We're married 40 years and have three kids. [The images aren't intended to imply] that he has a gay streak-but he definitely liked being dressed up!" Acknowledqinq the irony of her discomfort with the situation she created, she elaborates, "He's a man from the 60s.
Today, men have a soft side, but back then they had to be tough."
The first of the portraits, titled Lulu, shows the subject dressed as a Geisha, with a lacy fan, kimono, and traditional whiteface makeup. Goldkind sent that photo to a juried show, and it began to win prizes, "50 I knew there was something there," she says. The prom queen photo (Anabel/a) also did well in competitions. "It was exciting to be at the beginning of my photography [career] and doing so well," she recalls.
Previous to devoting herself to art photography, Goldkind had worked as a children's-wear designer in New York City, and began her evolution as a photographer at 50. "1 was a mother of three daughters," she says. "1 took a photography classand when I saw my daughters' eyes come up in the water, that was it." Goldkind was hooked . "After that, I couldn't get enough of it. I was possessedby the whole technical side of it, and I learned all of the different processes."
She has worked with everything from wet-plate collodion photography to platinum prints, only eschewing digital photography.
She now works exclusively with the time-consuming and labour-intensive Bromoil process, in which a silver gelatin print is bleached to remove the silver and then inked with lithograph ink. "1 got serious about photography when I found the Bromo process [in 2000]," Goldkind says. "1 found that I could manipulate the processto take things even more out of reality. Things started to get more abstract than [traditional] portraiture."
She continues, "The process was so flexible and had so much creative potential that it really excited me. I took it away from the true pictorial and played with it in a much looser way." She notes, however, that in terms of technical aspects, she adheres strictly to the traditional Bromo process, and to the hand-made ethos that confers a distinctive physical quality to the finished product.
The artist shoots 4 x 5 images, and Goldkind relays that while her husband had plenty of patience for being outfitted with dresses and makeup, his patience evaporated when it came to actually snapping the slow-exposure pictures. "It shows in his face," the artist says. "It would take about a minute to pose, and then it was, 'hurry up and take the picture'." She muses, "1 think it worked very well, because the series was shot over a period of years, and yet the face of the character is exactly identicalin each one."
Her more recent series,Adagio, comprises portraitsof dancers in timed-exposure images. As with the Girlfriends series, these photos are carefully stagedin the artist's small studio, "under hot lights, the whole thing." This project began after Goldkind was asked to take some photographs for a book on dancers, which led her into contact with a number of performers whom she would work with repeatedly over time.
Accommodating themselves to the limited spaceof her studio was challenging for the dancers, she says, but the timed exposure allowed her to convey movement within these confines. Through this work, she says, "I've met so many people from so many dance companies, and I've done so many women; now I'm doing men." She plans to include her husband in the Adagio series as well. It remains to be seen whether the different circumstances of this serieswill elicit the same facial expression that unifies the Girlfriends - or whether an entirely new alter ego will emerge when put into the motion of dance.
© All pictures: Joy Goldkind, Eyemazing Contest Winner, 2007.
. Courtesy William Goldkind
Exhibitions: April 2008 reception 28 march 2008 | Photography 414, Fredricksburg September 2008 | Callery Imperato, Baltimore
Publication 2008: Joy Goldkind artworkswill be publishedin "Alternate photographic Processes" 2nd edition, by Christopher James