At first glance, the moody and introspective black-and-white photography in the Delaplaine satellite gallery at the Urbana Regional Library may seem ordinary. But if you look closer and read the information sheet provided by fine art photographer Alison Bur, you’ll see that the images are specific and very thoughtfully put together to express her personal journey and the meaning of “Transient,” the title of the series.
The presentation represents a journey we all take from one stage of life to another. In this case, Bur illustrates her move from the family farm in Cheboygan, Michigan, to Maryland and a metamorphosis to adulthood. Inspired by moving away from home, leaving family and starting anew, as well as how relationships evolve and change but seem to also stay the same, Bur’s photo series transported her to an end, but also to a beginning in her young life.
Bur earned a bachelor’s in fine arts from Saginaw Valley State University in Michigan and moved to Frederick two years ago to teach photography at Frederick Community College and grow her passion for film. She is highly trained in the discipline and does not use digital or Photoshop methods. “I do the whole process manually and in the darkroom,” she explained. “My main body of work is all film, and I’ve always liked film more than digital … the manual process. I’d much rather do something with my hands.”
Bur enjoys combining her own work with teaching and experiencing her students’ grasp of concepts; the challenges in the classroom and the time available to further analyze film and process is rewarding. “My students add so much to my life in general,” she said. “My greatest joy is to have my students be passionate about film—to pass on that passion.”
Bur typically creates her photography in a series, with the majority involving transience, natural landscape and vulnerability.
For “Transient,” she wanted to slow down and take a closer look at the people and objects in her life that matter most—small personal intervals with camera, subject and photographer. She chose a 4×5 large-format view camera, an oversized camera about the size of her head, in order to capture smaller details. “When you take a picture with it,” she said, “you can see everything in it. It’s like taking a picture through binoculars.”
The photographs were printed using a black-and-white silver process, which allows a more intimate and contemplative pace to processing. Many of the photos are double exposed, which gives them a shadowy and ethereal quality.
Bur chose not to use the double-exposed technique when creating photographs of her family, which all show a melancholy ambivalence. These shots were developed by soaking film in boiling water and laundry detergent to distort them and portray both aging and timelessness. These photos were taken on the family farm in Michigan so that family members appeared in their natural space with no specific props or posing.
Bur said she especially enjoyed hanging the show and answering people’s questions as they walked by. “I hope the viewer takes something from my work and holds their loved ones a bit closer that day,” she said.
Bur remembers her grandmother in cherished things that belonged to her—an old radio and her necklace set with Petoskey stone. “Death of Childhood/Pouring Out” features a jar of sand spilled like the sands of time and the past flowing out.
Upcoming for Bur is collaboration on a book with a painter friend that combines art, photography and writing dealing with modern love and relationships. She has dabbled in this medium previously and wanted to develop the idea a step further.
Bur will give an artist talk on Jan. 14, 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Urbana Senior Center. “Transient” will be on exhibit on the lower level hall of the Urbana Regional Library through Feb. 28, 2019.
See more of Bur’s work at www.alisonburphotography.com.