Today we’re featuring the work of Alicia Blanchard. Blanchard specializes in architectural photography, but her pet projects are consistently explorations of low country landscapes. To see more of her work (including her beautiful 78 Hours in Saigon series) visit her website, http://www.aliciablanchard.com/.
SAI: What drew you to the Isle of Hope as a subject?
Alicia Blanchard: I was reading about historic architecture and antique gardening in the South and the Isle of Hope kept popping up in my research. I had heard of it because of Wormsloe, and I knew it had a famous historic district. Driving down La Roche Avenue through the marshes on my first visit to the Isle, I immediately understood why this was such a special and treasured area, and why it has been for centuries. I fell in love with the Isle that first sunset, a shimmering, sherbet, ombre fractal, long before I got to the houses and gardens. I have visited forty-seven states and over half of our national parks, and I still think the Isle of Hope is one of the most beautiful places in America.
SAI: What artists inspire you?
Blanchard: As a kid I was really into Ansel Adams, Georgia O’Keeffe, Andy Goldsworthy and Frida Kahlo. I love landscapes and plants, so I gravitated towards artists expressing that same love. In high school, I was obsessed with pictorialist photographers and English romantic painters, and in college I became fascinated with landscapes as representations of society and conceptual previsualization, like Edward Burtynsky, Hiroshi Sugimoto, and Richard Mosse. I would be remiss to not mention my long-time devotion to Henri Cartier-Bresson, Imogen Cunningham, Edward Weston and Louise Bourgeois.
SAI: Was nature photography always something of interest to you?
Trees, creeks, leaves, and flowers were the first things I started taking pictures of with my parents’ camera in 1998. I took my first darkroom class the next year where I made several prints of tree reflections in water. When my dad gave me his old Minolta, photography became a perfect excuse to go wander in the woods until I found water. I took pictures all of the time, mostly landscapes and plants, with a few architectural studies. I still have a lot of those early prints—after fifteen years in the darkroom I am a better printer, but the subject matter hasn’t changed much.
I would also add that if you know a shy high school kid who spends a lot of time staring at trees, buy them a film camera for their birthday.
SAI: What has photographing the Isle of Hope taught you?
In an effort to be true to the history of the area, I shot mostly film on the Isle and printed constantly in the darkroom, which made me an infinitely better photographer. The photos for this project were developed in a color darkroom (the prints are scans of darkroom enlargements) and my first 4×5 film project was also shot on the Isle. The darkroom printing of my work from the Isle, and this series in particular, helped me transition from being a picture-taker to an image-maker. I realized that just because you may not be able to perfectly capture an ethereal wonderland doesn’t mean you should stop trying to capture it.