F295 is thrilled that photographer Joni Sternbach will be delivering the opening night artist talk at this years symposium!
Sternbach is a prolific photographer, specializing in the field use of the wet plate collodion process, with a clear artistic mission. We are excited to have her with us this year. Sternbach is probably best known for her series SurfLand. She has travelled the world photographing contemporary surfers. On the use of collodion in the work she says it’s important because of it’s “air ambiguity and timelessness.”
At first inspection, it seems the photos are from another time, with their muted tones, exotic locations, and wild looking subjects. It’s almost shocking to discover that they’re all very recent images. Sternbach contends that collodion’s raw quality is precisely what makes the technique suit the subject matter. She carefully composes each scene before shooting and processing on site.
Another of Sternbach’s many fascinating collections is Shinnecock Days. The Shinnecock Indian nation is near the Hamptons and Montauk, but the people there lead a very different lifestyle. Sternbach uses the same wet plate process to capture the Miss Shinnecock Teen Pageant, where the girls have the opportunity to perform traditional tribal dances, songs, and poems.
In her statement about the series, Sternbach discusses Edward Curtis’s influence on her, but says their goals are not the same. Her intent with Shinnecock Days is to address the relevance of tradition in a still-thriving, however marginalized, culture whereas Curtis photographed what he considered a dying culture. Sternbach’s choice of the slower wet plate process gives her time to connect with her subjects. Her connection is clear in the richness and quiet power of her photographs.