Elizabeth Z Pineda
“I use a combination of photography and painting to visualize the subconscious nature of humanity. I am fascinated by choice making and the paradoxes of consciousness. Choices ripple out to affect our lives in ways that are not always clear or understood, but are often felt intrinsically. I turn to the beasts, forms, and textures of the natural world in my work, and use these symbols to reveal secret dramas and dichotomies, and illuminate the natures that position humanity within the microcosm and macrocosm of the universe.” --Benjamin Timpson
Benjamin Timpson is currently the Studio Coordinator, Photography and New Media at AndersonRanch Arts Center in Colorado. Ben has an ability to work across several mediums adding to the depth of his work. The topics he works with, specifically in his Metamorphosis, About Face, and Human Transplant projects have a profundity that is not only important, it is imperative to be exposed to artists whose voices talk about themes that people turn a blind eye to. I feel strongly that artists and students have much to gain from his influence, voice and unique perspective. This is why I’ve decided to do my research project on Ben Timpson.
In his “End of the Roll” series, Ben has created a body of work that speaks to the transformation of photography from analog to the digital format and wonders if one is better than the other. He states, “Photography is consumed faster than any other medium. Thanks to technology, we are exposed to hundreds upon hundreds of photographs every day. Photography is now a language and a survival tool for communication. My photographic series explores and symbolizes the transformation of analog photography to digital photography. A tearing and ripping effect, the sun and the moon, polar opposites and one who needs another. A balance through chaos is formed. Using analog slides (Ektachrome), and natural detritus I form compositions on a light table 1” x 2” with glass slides that are then photographed and enlarged.” (i)
“Daily Head Transplant” delves into social and perhaps political issues. The work begins with Ben making a self-portrait, a head-shot image. Using available software and laser tools, Ben takes his likeness, and makes a laser etched “head” out of acrylic. He then slices, his head, and imprints photographic stills that he has taken from media sources that speak to the vast volume of imprinted information one receives from the media. This work questions the effect that the abundance of information one sees through television, and other devices, specifically news derived, that intrinsically delivers one-sided messages, and their effect on the self. Ben is currently working with his students and teaching them the process of constructing their own heads. The information the students will imprint on the head "slices" will be of their own choosing. However, this time the stills that get etched onto the slices will also be transferred onto plates that can be printed using printmaking techniques. The prints will add another layer of information to the work as they will be displayed alongside the "head" structures.
In “About Face” an impressive body of work, that once again embraces digital technology, yet is rooted in the medium’s historical beginnings brings over 300 16x20 large format negative portraits that Ben made with a camera he constructed himself. The intent of the work is to embrace people’s humanity by removing clues of ethnicity and or race in the images by leaving them in the negative state. These images engage the viewer directly, since they have to actively participate using their phone devices in order to “see” the likeness of the sitter. “This intentional requirement directly engages the viewer with the work. Looking becomes an active experience. The phone acts like a photographer’s loupe, a tool for exploring the negative print and decoding the portrait. The installation of negative prints functions as a collective of presences, each one in dialogue with the other. However, it is not possible to see all the work at once through a smartphone. This is another intentional aspect of the work, one that forces an exploration of each individual alone and separate. It requires the viewer to scan the surface of the print incrementally, like an investigator moving through the woods in the dark of the night, flashlight in hand. The work becomes an opportunity to explore the topography of the human face with the intent of uniting humans through portraiture and allowing the viewer an opportunity to really “see”. (ii)
Ben’s “Metamorphosis” work addresses Native American Women abuse, which is a topic with staggering numbers, yet few people know about it. Ben’s work is an intricate, almost reverent gathering of (safe-sourced) butterfly wings, of which he carefully takes small squares, resembling the pixels in a digital photographic image, and with which, he constructs the likeness of women who have suffered abuses, sexual and domestic, and in some cases, women who have lost their lives. This work is truly inspiring, because he is dealing with much heavier issues and working on an intensely personal level by turning the lens on his own personal culture and background. The symbolism, attention to detail, and reverence with which he approaches this issue is beyond moving. Ben carefully selects each small piece of butterfly wing and one by one lays them on a piece of glass that is 4 x 5 inches long. This size he chooses to once point to the traditional photographic medium, and a size that is important since it references medium format cameras, and it was also one widely used to make portraits. Of the work Timpson states, "I am inspired by nature and feel compelled to tell the story of these women through the symbolic nature of the butterfly wing. The butterfly is a representation of metamorphosis, fragility, and hope. In tribes of the American Southwest, the butterfly is revered and respected. Conceptually, I use the butterfly as a catalyst. It is my hope that this series brings awareness to a very important issue through beauty and change.” (iii)
After witnessing Benjamin Timpson’s work I felt deeply moved and wanted to share it with everyone else I knew. I feel even more grateful that I had the incredible opportunity to meet this amazing artist.
4/11/2019 06:09:52 pm
I love this artist’s beautiful merging of traditional and contemporary photographic methods. The way homage is paid to the history of the medium while still embracing current technology is both inspirational and very successful. Thank you for sharing this work!
4/11/2019 08:49:48 pm
The idea of removing the hue from the individual by creating a negative of their portrait is brilliant, we are all of the same likeness despite the color of our skin. People are often quickly dismissed based upon their background, ethnicity, and race. Though Timpson's project allowed the viewer to look past these apparent characteristics and truly see the individual for who they are. Thank you for sharing this artist's work!
4/11/2019 09:08:08 pm
I really enjoy this artist's work and I am glad you chose to highlight him! I think that work that showcases the stories of vulnerable populations is really important and I think you picked out good examples of work that he has done to show his sensitivity to these topics. The concept of using the negatives to remove racial prejudices is a really interesting one.
4/11/2019 10:36:44 pm
Thank you for sharing your interest in this artist Elizabeth! I was really touched by use of butterflies in his work and how he relates it to those women that he is intrigued by. I also enjoy how you related it to your work because I know of why butterflies hold such great importance to you. Butterflies are a symbol of many things and its interesting to see how both you and Timpson hold such meaning to them.
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