“Glasslight” is a series of images made with the use of a light box, acrylic dividers and various sources of colored light. The subjects are primarily glass vessels found around my house as well as a piece of slag from a gemstone mine in North Carolina, and icicles. Each piece explores the properties of translucence within transparent and semi-transparent materials.

In this work, I attempt to look closely at the concept of illumination. Shining a light on that which we cannot see is an instinctive human trait. My work in this series actually went through a series of evolutions, both conceptually and technically. It has spawned ideas for future series and plans for creating a larger light box for this work. Exploring light, the way it penetrates through objects, and shows us the texture of what lies within is at the heart of this project. Even that which appears to be transparent exhibits certain flaws that reflect light in unexpected ways. In this work, I incorporate my view of this concept and how it metaphorically applies to the world around me by using the colored lights to represent the spectrum of human experience and the layers of glass to portray how we reflect our experience to the world.

Glass is a material of both strength and fragility that perfectly mirrors the human soul. We are so often stronger and yet more vulnerable than we think. This work is symbolic of that dichotomy. The quiet nature of the pieces illustrates that enlightenment is not a flagrant process, but a slow and meaningful progression.

Technical Inspiration

The idea for this series was born at 2 AM during an attack of insomnia. I decided to create a light box that would allow me to use layers of acrylic with translucent materials and shoot through the whole works to explore “transparency and translucency”. Ideally, the light source could come from below the subjects or above allowing me to capture the image of them pressed against the acrylic. As with all things that occur to me at 2 Am, it sounded good in theory. In practice, it required a bit of a technical evolution.

It turned out that my building skills were inadequate so I enlisted the help of my husband to create the apparatus. It seems I did not communicate properly how close the acrylic shelves needed to be and how many of them would be required, so the box was not going to work quite the way I planned.

The second problem was the light source. I tried fluorescent tube lights; these produced uneven and insufficient light for the project. Next, I tried spotlights with the same results, and finally I tried a square, halogen shop light, which provided a nice, even light across the entire surface of the diffusion material. However, after about 7 minutes, the heat produced by the halogen combined with the distance the light had to be from the plastic diffusion material, began to produce the odor of overheated plastic. I was able to remedy this problem by shooting in short bursts and letting things cool down in between.

Conceptual Inspiration

Normally I get an idea about a series of photographs and then I roll that idea around in my head for a while in order to come up with whatever technical process I might want to use. In this case, the technical inspiration led directly to the conceptual inspiration. Since I was actually working backwards, this was a novel approach for me. Getting the technical process nailed down is what led to the subject matter for this series. I used a blue glass vase to test the lighting set up and the series was born. Glass has a feel of liquid in suspension that makes it both a challenge and a joy to work with.

Personal History

I was a bit of a bookworm growing up. I learned to read at the age of three and by the time I was in 5th grade, I had read every book in the school library and had a wonderful teacher who was bringing me books from the high school library. One of the books I read had a description of the process of developing and printing black and white film. I could see it clearly in my mind’s eye. I would have a little dark room in my attic and never have to wait three weeks for a roll of film to come back from the processor again. Four years later, I was able to make that dream come true. Well, sort of. We did not actually have an attic; that had been a wild flight of fancy. However, my uncle had an old Bell & Howell enlarger in his attic that needed some work. My father helped me build a stand for it and I created a darkroom space our furnace room.

My high school had a photography club and I learned darkroom techniques from Dwight Kuhn, an excellent photographer whose work has been in National Geographic. My parents bought me the chemicals and a small pack of 5×7 paper and I was off to the races

To be honest, the enlarger was in bad condition and ancient to boot, so the images were not good but I did not care. The smell of the chemicals, the feel of the paper, watching the image appear in the red darkness was all I needed in life. I still feel that way each time I get into the darkroom. Developer, stop bath, and fixer are my drug of choice.