Joni Sternbach has spent over a decade creating portraits of surfers on beaches around the world. Surf pictures are traditionally studies of motion, instead with Sternbach’s work we discover an ethnographic study in stillness, portraits captured in a silvery and antiqued timelessness. She shares more in our latest Behind the Scenes news post.
In 1999 I began photographing the ocean surface from the bluffs high above the ocean at Ditch Plains in Montauk, New York.
I used an 8x10 camera with a 5x7 reducing back, hoping to capture what I called, an emotional landscape. Landscape Photography doesn’t exactly reveal emotional states, but conceptually it was important to connect to that idea.
I began printing these pictures with historic hand applied process, like cyanotype and platinum/palladium. The brush strokes allowed the viewer a little more of the handmade process not often seen so clearly in photography, and if a more serene or Zen effect was wanted, the image could be over matted to just the edge of the frame.
Photographing the ocean surface meant being there, often, on those bluffs in every kind of weather (minus strong winds) in order to really see it, witness it and share in all its changing states.
Coating paper and making prints is a bit of whimsical affair. Some days, wonderful deep rich prints are made, and other days can be failure all around. Temperature, humidity, paper all effects the outcome of the prints.
High Tide Montauk Point book with original cyanotype. In 2018 I revisited the work I began in 1999 and collaborated with Dust Collective on this book. Inspired by a trip to NYPL I saw the very early unbound cyanotype work of Anna Atkins (fist photo book ever made in the 1840s) and was incredibly inspired.
A finished print from the Ocean Details series. Originally, I made very few prints from the series in cyanotype. I felt that printing the ocean in blue too obvious a choice. However, for a one person show at the Harn Museum I installed a wall over 30 prints from the series and wanted this installation to include a variety of colors and tones, so I began making more cyanotype prints for the show.