JOHN CHIARA CALIFORNIA
John Chiara creates his own cameras and chemical processes in order to make unique photographs using the direct exposure of light onto reversal film and paper. Chiara describes his process: “When I’m out shooting, I directly expose the paper, dodge, burn, and filter the light as if I were working in the darkroom.” This compression of the traditional photographic processes into one event, involving the hauling around of huge, handmade cameras and film backs, results in images that are intuitive and performative―and visually stunning. Focusing almost exclusively on landscapes and architecture, each resulting photograph is a singular, luminous object that renders each scene with an almost hallucinatory clarity, deploying surreal shifts of color, light, and skewed perspectives. This book, his first, focuses exclusively on images of Chiara’s native California, including images from his hometown of San Francisco and other locations in Northern California, as well as Los Angeles and along the Pacific Coast. Virginia Heckert’s essay situates Chiara’s work in the long tradition of the landscape of the American West while also discussing his working methods and the contemporary context of this process-driven work.