John J. Penner’s photography practice extends from film to digital to alternative and historic processes, leading him to expand his technical expertise and open new paths of artistic exploration. In this series he has used salt printing, an intensively hand crafted process invented in the 1840s by William Henry Fox Talbot as the first reproducible process to yield an image on paper.
To make a salt print, watercolour paper is coated with a solution of Kosher salt and household gelatin, then dried and sensitized so when it is exposed to ultraviolet light through a contact negative, the area receiving light darkens and becomes insoluble, yielding an image. It is then processed through a salt solution developer, fixed, and washed to remove any chemical traces remaining in the paper.
“In a digital age, photographic images are ubiquitous and consumed voraciously, then discarded without much thought. Producing handcrafted images slows down this process and allows for a more contemplative approach to visualization. The process yields not simply an image, but an artifact, which has sensual properties much like a painting, sculpture, or a tapestry. The monochromatic prints afford a level of abstraction that encourages analytical or contemplative observation.”
John Penner’s upbringing on a farm in rural Manitoba has given him a lifelong love and appreciation of prairie landscape that still informs his art practice today. This reverence for nature’s subtleties is on view in the photographic work he has exhibited over the last several years, both nationally and internationally. Recent exhibitions include Land Anschauen (translated as: to look at the land) and Meditations on the Prairie Landscape, both in Saskatoon. He is the recipient of grants and artist residencies from SK Arts, Artscape Gibraltar Point, and the Emma Lake Artist/Writers Retreat.