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Ghosts from the past captured by contemporary photography


Photography has been with us now for almost two hundred years, so you might think there’s not much new to do with the art form.  And you’re probably right.  So I was pleased to see that photography connoisseur Rick Wester is representing Brooklyn-born photographer Joni Sternbach, an artist who is going back to the foundations of the craft and using a process first developed during the 1850s to create tintype images.



Unlike modern photographs – wait, those are all digital now – maybe I should say, unlike photographs of the 20th century which used a negative process and thus allowed multiple images to be printed from a single source leading to numerous variations of the same image, tintypes are 1-offs and unique works of art which by their very making cannot be duplicated.  Collodion photographic emulsion fixes the image and when placed against the darkened background of the metal plate, produces a picture with a ghostly silver image.



Sternbach’s series of surfers posing with their boards in the brilliance of the summer sun provides the perfect subject for this technique – the bright silvery background of a sunny day contrasting with the stony beach and grasses in shades of grey and black.  As these are made in negative form, the image is actually reversed.  When first used in the 1860s they were vital to spreading the popularity of photography as a photographer could quickly take images and develop them for the client in a matter of minutes and present them with an image that was stable, sturdy and long lasting.



I can’t help but think that I’m looking at an image from the distant past, but this series was done between 2006 and 2011.  This scene of twin brothers sitting with their surfboard is reminiscent of haunting images of soldiers going off to fight in the Civil War with their stern expressions and stiff poses.  Sternbach’s  cleverness is in taking an ordinary day at the beach and capturing a distinctly beautiful moment in time.

© Joni Sternbach, Courtesy Rick Wester Fine Art, New York



PS: Thank you for stopping by and reading my feature today.  I love what I do as an interior designer and art advisor, and it’s my hope that through these blog posts I’m enriching and heightening your aesthetic sensibility towards art, design and fabulous interiors in some way ~ Richard Rabel (a.k.a. the modern sybarite)

Florence von Pelet

Florence is a senior editor at Modenus.com. Aside from her natural passion for interiors, kitchens and baths Florence also leads the way on Modenus’ BlogTours around the world so please follow her on Twitter to get the latest information and inspiration about design trends from around the world.


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