Meet Your Maker Monday: Galina Kurlat
I first met Galina at an art fair – at the time I had no idea she was a photographer. Through mutual friends and involvement with Mid Main Houston, I learned of Galina's work that utilized older photographic methods. In contrast to an image for social media that is a second away via a phone at the end of your arm, her portraits are a deliberate process of capturing the essence of the sitter. Read on for more about Galina in this week's Maker profile.
What is your name, company, URL, and social media links?
What do you make?
I work in two photographic process using a large format camera from the 1920's. Many of my landscapes and portraits are shot using Polaroid positive/negative, black and white film. The film is intended to be processed in a solution of sodium sulfite and water. In some of the images I choose to leave the emulsion on the negative, which will continue to degrade the image over time. Other negatives I process only partially to emphasize the different densities in the film.
In addition to working with Polaroid film, I also photograph using the wet collodion process, which was invented in the 1851, by Frederick Scott Archer. The process involves coating a glass plate with collodion then sensitizing it by dipping it into a bath of silver nitrate; while still wet the plate is placed in the camera and the photograph is made. Within a few minutes of exposure the plate must be developed, fixed and dried in order to create an Ambrotype, a positive image on a sheet of glass.
What does a typical day look like for you?
A good day starts with a trip to the local coffee shop – sometimes my only social interaction for the day – on the way to my studio at Hardy and Nance Street Studios. After a few sips from my coffee cup I am ready to get to work. The flow of each day depends on the deadlines I am currently juggling or the shoots I have scheduled.
In order to shoot on glass I have to prep the silver nitrate and clean the glass a day before the shoot. This can be a tedious process, made better only by reruns on Netflix. Once the glass is prepared I can begin the shoot. A typical portrait session yields about 6-8 plates, which makes each individual image important.
During the shoot the collodion is poured onto the plate then immersed into a bath of silver nitrate for 3-5 minutes. Once ready, the still wet plate is placed into a holder and then inside the camera back. The shot is made instantaneously using studio strobes. The plate is then carried back into the darkroom, developed and fixed on the spot. One of the magical moments of the process is seeing the blue tinted shadows turn clear as the photograph is fixed and is no longer sensitive to light. Within minutes the sitter and I can see the image and make decisions about the next photograph.
Why did you decide to start your own business and why Houston?
Motivated by cheap rent and the possibility of having a studio space large enough to shoot and process in, I moved to Houston six years ago from Brooklyn. So far, being able to focus on my craft has been invaluable.
What are your inspirations and how do they guide your work?
Although I madly love photography, much of my inspiration comes from painting. I love texture, movement and the application of a medium by the artist's hand.
What's next for Galina Kurlat?
This summer I am working on my Safe Distance project in NYC, as well as preparing for a group show at the Ogden Museum in October. When I am back in Houston, I will be completing my portrait sessions and scheduling new ones. I typically offer portrait session specials a few times a year via my FB page.
What do you want people to know about your work?
Process and craft are integral to my photographic practice. By using a medium which allows for unpredictability and chaos, I hope for the image to transcend the subject and connect with the viewer in a deeper more meaningful way.