“Winter Flood” a 4.5 minute time exposure during a recent flood in the Squamscott River in Exeter, by Casey Waters. Courtesy of the artist
At Iocovozzi Fine Art, everything old really is new again.
The downtown Savannah art gallery, one of a handful of venues in the United States to showcase antique 19th-century daguerreotypes, is featuring 34 new “dags” by Casey Waters, a rising star in the photography world.
Gallery owner Kim Iocovozzi is especially excited to host the first exhibition of contemporary daguerreotypes in Savannah. Very few photographers in the United States work in this notoriously challenging photographic medium, which was originally developed by French chemist and artist Louis Daguerre in 1839.
“The daguerreotype process is easily the most complicated process in photography, then and now,” he said. “You have to understand chemical theory, light and exposure time.”
Waters, who started out as a daguerreotype conservator, has electrified the photography world at the age of 30 with his masterful approach to the original mercury method.
“Casey’s work has been recognized so quickly,” said Iocovozzi. “He has an amazing eye and makes these images look so easy.”
Seen under bright light, the daguerreotypes shimmer and shine with an almost holographic intensity. Waters focuses his camera on a wide range of subjects he encounters near his hometown of Exeter, N.H., from urban graffiti to rugged coastal landscapes. He captures the fleeting majesty of waves rolling over jagged rocks and the deserted splendor of a water park in the off-season, turning everyday moments into visual poetry.
“Seeing them in person, you really get a feel for what a unique photographic process this is,” said Waters.
“Everyone shoots digital now, but I think it’s cool to produce one photograph at a time. It really makes me think about the process and appreciate each photo in its own right.”
The daguerreotypes, which measure 4-by-5 inches, reveal ethereal photographic images rendered in lustrous shades of silver and pewter, lending a retro feel to this decidedly contemporary work. Waters uses original brass daguerreotype mattes from the 1840s as well as hand-cut birch wood mattes, in a tribute to his home state of New Hampshire.
This retro-photographer enjoys working with antique equipment and mastering the original 19th-century live plate methodology. He buffs each plate and coats it with special chemicals that make the surface especially sensitive to light. Then he pays special attention to the exposure time, which can range from a few seconds to more than a half an hour, in order to ensure that the image has the proper balance.
“Controlling the light is what all daguerreotypists are after,” he said. “They historically worked in controlled conditions in a studio, but I like to take these images while I’m out walking or driving around.”
Waters excels at portraiture, landscapes and slices of life. In “One Love,” he immortalizes graffiti spray-painted on a wall in Exeter, N.H., while in “Where’s the Third Tugboat,” he captures the industrial splendor of two tugboats docked along a waterfront.
Unlike conventional photography, a daguerreotype doesn’t involve a negative. Instead, each image serves as a one-of-a-kind mirror-image reflection of the scene at hand, etched into shiny silver-coated copper plate.
“You get an amazing depth and clarity with daguerreotypes that you just can’t get with any other photographic process,” said Waters.
Waters admits that he’s attracted to the longevity of the images he creates, knowing full well that his compositions will outlive him.
“Antique daguerreotypes have lasted more than 160 years so far,” he said. “This work will last longer than any paper photographs. I hope they will leave a lasting impression.”
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Casey Waters began collecting antique daguerreotypes when he was 7 years old.
An accomplished daguerreotype restoration expert, he studied photography under Rob McElroy and Mike Robinson and processes his daguerreotypes using the original mercury method of the mid-19th century.
Now 30, he lives and works in Exeter, N.H., where he enjoys documenting life in New England using this vintage photographic technique.
SUNSHINE STATE SPLENDOR
In addition to the exhibit of contemporary daguerreotypes, Iocovozzi Fine Art also offers a brush with old Hollywood.
With “Anne Power,” a collection of 26 paintings by Anne Lavenue Power Hardenbergh (1915-1999), the gallery celebrates the artistic achievements of the sister of legendary Hollywood actor Tyrone Power through the end of April.
“She wasn’t a Sunday painter,” gallery owner Kim Iocovozzi said. “She was an accomplished artist who painted throughout her life.”
The paintings on display, part of Power’s estate, are largely based in Florida, exploring landscapes, seascapes, fishermen and bits of local color in the Sarasota area she called home for many years.
“Her work is not overly complicated, but it’s wonderful,” Iocovozzi said. “It’s fun Florida stuff, which is really popular now.”