Christine Elfman

Light & Shadow, Reproductive Processes


Christine Elfman

Janelle Lynch, “A Digital Legacy: Christine Elfman”, Loupe: Journal of the Photographic Resource Center at Boston University, June 2012


Kija Lucas, "Christine Elfman Interview", Black Boots Ink, September 13, 2011


Christine Elfman, Fix & fade

Fix & Fade explores the perils of nostalgia through a series of photographs occupying various states of material stability. Archival silver gelatin and pigment prints are juxtaposed with unfixable iris anthotypes to suggest the way all photographic subjects remain just out of reach.  When the camera attempts to possess its subject, it ends up petrifying it.  These pictures reference the stories in which someone looks back and is turned to stone.  Emphasizing the tension between producing imagery as a form of posterity and material's tendency towards decomposition, the works ultimately accept the impossibility of rendering anything as permanent or invariable.

The process of anthotypy offers a rare opportunity to witness the constant cycle of growth and decay, as the image is made of its own decline. The flower is picked: sacrificed in order to obtain its true albeit fugitive color, which is coated on paper.  As the color is exposed to sunlight over the course of weeks, the fading creates an image made of its own decay.  The color pales, leaving behind a shadow image of the shielding material. This photograph can never be fixed or stabilized, and continues to fade in the light of day.  The gaze of the viewer destroys the image while their memory reconstructs it. 

Christine Elfman, Pillars of Salt (diptych) left: Crone, anthotype, 23 x 19 inches; right: Back, silver gelatin print, 23 x 23 inches, 2014



Christine Elfman, Hunt Hill, archival pigment print, 12 x 12 inches, 2014



Christine Elfman, Looking Back (diptych), left: Veil, anthotype, 27.5 x 22 inches; right: Looking, silver gelatin print, 27.5 x 27.5 inches, 2014



Christine Elfman, Ringing Rocks (diptych), left: Ringing Rocks, archival pigment print, 23 x 30 inches; right: Hammer, anthotype, 23 x 18 inches



Christine Elfman, Clamp, silver gelatin print, 41 x 30.5 inches, 2014



Christine Elfman, Salt, silver gelatin print, 20 x 24 inches, 2014




Christine Elfman,
Oracle, anthotype, 30.5 x 23 inches, 2014




Christine Elfman, Love Letters (diptych), left: All the letters she wrote him, 24 x 20 inches ; right: All the letters he wrote her, 24 x 20 inches, silver gelatin print, 2014




Christine Elfman, All ded pepole, silver gelatin contact print, 4 x 5 inches, 2014





Christine Elfman, Anthotype Dress

These photographs demonstrate the process of anthotypy. Invented in 1842 by Sir John Herschel, anthotypy uses light sensitive colors extracted from flowers to create a transient photographic image through fading. Within the context of photographic conservation and documentation, the anthotype is decidedly impractical, as it cannot be fixed. Not only does it contradict the goal of permanence, it is made out of impermanence. In my Anthotype Dress project, silk pattern pieces for the inner lining of the dress were dyed with the fugitive pokeweed juice and put in contact with the pressed flowers and exposed to the sunlight. After seven months of exposure, the fabric retained its magenta color behind the flowers, while the rest faded pink. Since the anthotype is the result of fading, it can never be fixed or stabilized, and will continue to fade with every exposure to light. A modest gray linsey-woolsey exterior dyed from sumac during winter protects the transient photograph underneath. Every time the anthotype inner lining is revealed, it is sacrificed. The more it is seen, the faster it fades away. Photographic reproduction allows us to see more of the anthotype without losing it, albeit from a distance.


Christine Elfman, from the series Anthotype Dress Project, 2011.


Christine Elfman, from the series Anthotype Dress Project, 2011.


Christine Elfman, from the series Anthotype Dress Project, 2011.


Christine Elfman, from the series Anthotype Dress Project, 2011.


Christine Elfman, from the series Anthotype Dress Project, 2011.


Christine Elfman, from the series Anthotype Dress Project, 2011.



Christine Elfman, storydress II, 2008

All photographs are untitled, albumen prints from wet-plate collodion negatives, lifesize paper mache dress. The two on cabinet cards are 4.25 x 6.5 inches. The rest are 6.5 x 8.5 inches.