Dandelion 1, 30″ x 30″
Dandelion Seeds, 30″ x 30″
Mississippi Clover, 30″ x 40″
Nasturtium, 16″ x 20″
Prairie Mimosa, 20″ x 20″
Sunflower 3, 20″ x 20″
Sunflower Seeds, 20″ x 24″
Switchgrass, 30″ x 40″
I’ve had many influences during my journey to understand what photography is and why it matters.
When I was a student, I was fascinated by the seeming freedoms and inherent limitations of the process of creating photograms, and it was in that process that I eventually found my “voice.” I discovered that by using a combination of transparent objects and projected negatives, I could produce what seemed to me to be a kind of visual poetics that converged on, and also blurred, the line separating the fantastic from the factual. With the scanner, I came to realize, I was creating high-tech versions of those photograms that earlier had so fascinated me, the resulting images seemingly capturing the aspirations of William Henry Fox Talbot’s Photogenic Drawings.
A second influence is the work of Karl Blossfeldt, which I first saw nearly 20 years ago. Blossfeldt showed me a different way to look at nature.
Though I always intended to create my own large-format images of botanicals, I had to wait for advances in digital photography and improvements in the quality of archival printing papers to catch up. Greatly impressed by the technology, I decided to put a common alley weed on the scanner to see what I could do with it. What I discovered in the resulting image was a world not quite visible to the human eye that nevertheless revealed the clarity, tonality and, most important, quality of light that analog photography had always aspired to.
Note on Imaging Process
Each of the images above is created from a scanned botanical that is printed on Baryta-coated paper with archival pigment inks. All were printed and framed in 2014. Printed sizes tend to be variable, ranging from 30″ x 40″ to 5″ x 5″.
I photograph using a dual lens flatbed scanner as a camera and treat the resulting image as I would a traditional photograph; that is, burning, dodging, and dust removal. In effect, what I create raises questions about the perceived verisimilitude of film-based images versus digital images. My images are purely photographic and purely digital, yet blur the line between the familiar and the new. Many of the images can be printed up to a fantastic eight-feet-tall, relegating the viewer to the size of some of the insects I find while crawling among plants.
About the Artist
Tina Leto, born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, received a Kodak Instamatic camera for her 13th birthday and promptly set out to make Ansel Adams-type images of a nearby wooded and swampy lot. She discovered that it was almost impossible to purchase 126 black-and-white film, let alone have it processed. Color film was the norm.
Though she took only one photography class in her senior year of high school, and had imagined working as a commercial studio photographer, Tina Leto spent the 30 years after graduation working as a freelancer, photographing (mostly in color) people and events. Full of restless energy, she had a difficult time working out a compromise with still objects. (One cannot ask the bottle, the sofa, or the chef’s platter to move or turn an inch to the left or right but, if asked, people might.)
Since 1994, Tina Leto has been involved with digital imaging, which she has always regarded as just another tool that eventually would become a better tool. Four years ago, she began experimenting with her flatbed scanner and the finer archival papers coming to market—and thus was born her Prairie series.
While in Romania in 1990, during that country’s first free elections, Tina Leto participated in a number of exhibitions. Subsequently, she became involved with the City2000 project directed by Rich Cahan, and later was commissioned by the Chicago archdiocese to make photographs for a book showcasing every parish in the archdiocese.
In 2014, Tina Leto began exhibiting at art fairs as a way to reach as many people as possible in person. The Internet is a fantastic communications tool but, Tina Leto says, it cannot rival seeing in person an image in print. Photographs do look different!
One of Tina Leto’s works can be seen in the “Wheaton Biennial Framing Photography” exhibition, in the Beard & Weil Galleries at Wheaton College, Norton, Massachusetts, from March 4 through April 10. The opening reception for the juried group show is March 4, 2015, from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Tina Leto is participating in the 66th Annual Old Town Art Fair on June 13 and 14 in Chicago’s Old Town Triangle District.