Jane Olin’s childhood years were spent in Steilacoom, a tranquil village overlooking Puget Sound in Washington State. Her introduction to photography came in high school where she fell in love with the darkroom experience. To her regret, she did not pursue an arts education and it was many years before she rediscovered her passion for photography. During the interval, she traveled widely for business. Japan, of all countries she visited, had the most profound impact, and its aesthetics and its Zen Buddhism resonated deeply with her.
The cultural emphasis on beauty found in nature, and in simplicity, in the imperfect, the transient, and the values of grace and subtlety suited her own. She maintains a mindfulness practice today, and present moment awareness is imbedded in her photographic process.
Like the Surrealists before her, Olin has a deep respect for the fortunes of chance. So when a strong impulse to photograph an ordinary scene of dried plants falling against a wall came over her, she followed her intuition. The resulting images became the genesis of her new series On the Edge of Chance.
While she was working with the Havana negatives, an unfixed print remained in the darkroom sink all day, unnoticed. As it lay there an alchemical interaction took place between the gelatin silver paper, light and the developer. The dramatic effects and unexpected beauty of that print opened up a new way of working for her, in which process itself rather than preconceived ideas takes precedence.
She describes her process: “Engaging uncertainty, I purposely pour, spray, and drip chemicals onto exposed gelatin silver paper, manipulating and closely monitoring changing effects with an alchemist’s attention to detail. This method of intermingling conscious choice, chance, and inspiration allows me to compose richly layered silver gelatin prints.” These images are enlarged and then printed on archival paper using the digital process.
Olin continues to innovate in this vein. In her new work, she uses negatives of trees and continues to use the darkroom process developed for the Havana photographs.
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© JaneOlin, Tree and Moon