Connecticut’s Modern Women Photographers and Their Fine Art Processes

On March 29, the temporary exhibition Through a Different Lens: Three Connecticut Women Photographers will be wrapping up, which means that the various events and presentations and tours that I’ve been doing are also just about over.Last week, to make the connection between our three historical women photographers and the present day, we hosted a panel of contemporary female photographers who live in Connecticut. Liz Calvi, Pam Rouleau, and Donna Callighan were invited to speak at the CHS about their careers and the photographic processes they use, and to display some of their work. They are members of the American Society of Media Photographers, an organization to which Rosalie Thorne McKenna also belonged. All three women use a variety of formats and processes, and it was cool to see how seamlessly they combined the new and the traditional.

Ethereal, Liz Calvi.

Ethereal, Liz Calvi.

When making salted paper prints, Liz makes the print the old way, mixing chemicals, coating paper, placing the object on the sheet and the exposing it to light. Later, she can scan the results digitally.

Athyrium niponicum, Pam Rouleau.

Athyrium niponicum, Pam Rouleau.

Pam combines the old and the new, using digital negatives to create cyanotypes of plants that hearken back to Anna Atkins.

The Therapist, Donna Callighan.

The Therapist, Donna Callighan.

Donna has gone in another direction entirely, using a special piece of glass to create artistic, painterly images that distort focus.

Because photography is a marriage of science, technology, and art, it has always been a discipline that thrives on experimentation. Shorter exposure times, reproducible images, lifelike color, greater image quality, smaller cameras, digital pictures—these desired achievements have propelled photography forward over the past 175 years. Even though they also make use of digital cameras and are skilled at using Photoshop, it’s nice to see that there are still some photographers who appreciate the slower, more complex processes.

Tasha Caswell is a Project Cataloger/Researcher at the Connecticut Historical Society

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