Saturday Studio: Capturing the Past & Present

Natalie McKibben, Education Intern

A photograph of a young woman in a Victorian lace dress stands in front of a man in a suit and collared white shirt. The man is ghostly in appearance, fading into the darker background while the woman is brighter. Both look straight into the camera.
Martina Lopez, American, b. 1952. Awakening. Hand waxed pigment print, 2012. Museum purchase, 2017.70. Image courtesy of FWMoA.

Photographer Martina Lopez has worked with both film and digital media since 1985. In her earlier work, Lopez was heavily influenced by the family photograph and her own family history. Over the years, she started to include portraits outside of her family tree as a way to incorporate other’s memories and experiences into her art.

A tondo, or circular photograph, two young children, a boy and girl, stand next to each other. Only their shoulders are visible, and in the background a light seaside appears. Both are in Victorian dress and stare off into the distance.
Martina Lopez, American, b. 1952. Siblings, from the Between Reason series. Hand waxed pigment print, 2012. Museum purchase, 2017.71. Image courtesy of FWMoA.

In more recent years, her work has broadened to explore the human experience through 19th century portraiture and landscape. Lopez plucks individuals from their original environment and places them into various fabricated atmospheres. In doing so, she creates a whole new life and story for her subjects. Martina Lopez states, “While the pieces from photographs verify an actual lived experience, the landscape stands as my metaphor for life, demarcating its quality and reflecting our time on earth.” The photographed portraits are a window into a moment of a specific life or time. In contrast to these portraits, the environments they are placed into are timeless and imitate, the relationship between us humans and the earth.

Martina Lopez uses a digital process to extract images and mold them to her liking, but today we will be using a more hands-on approach. With some simple household materials, we can explore the relationships between humans and their environments just like Martina Lopez. Take a look around your home and make sure you have all the necessary materials below. You will need:

  • Two printed pictures of the same size (one a portrait and the other of nature)
  • Glue
  • A piece of glass or plexi-glass
  • Water
  • Scissors

First you will need to choose two pictures. One should be a portrait of one or more people in black and white or sepia tone. This can be a picture of you, someone you know, or a random picture. The second image should be a colored picture of nature. In the examples above, Lopez uses woods and leafy areas, but it can be wherever! Print these out so they are the same or similar sizes. Tip: Keep in mind that these images will be reversed by the end of the process.

Next, take your glass and apply a thin layer of glue. Place your nature scene face down onto the glued glass and let dry.

On the other side apply glue to wherever you will be placing your picture of people. Place the picture face side down and let dry completely.

Once the paper is dry, take a damp cloth and wet the side with the people on it. With your finger, gently rub the wet paper until the image begins to separate from the paper. Be sure not to rub too much in one area or you might rub off the image as well. Eventually, you will see your image appear. Tip: This will take a while so be patient!

Lastly, once you get as much excess paper off as you can, let it dry. Then, apply a layer of mod podge or glue to seal your work.


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