Chris McCaw first encountered a darkroom when he was 13 years old and he has been making photos ever since, from his roots in the skateboarding and punk rock scenes of the 1990s until now. What he does is straight photography - a lens, the light, a camera, and something to receive the light. That’s it. Elemental. Elemental is also the perfect description of the primary subject of his work - the movement of the sun across the landscape, often in the most remote places on Earth. Chris has taken his homemade, monumental cameras to the Mojave Desert, the equator, and the Arctic Circle to photograph the path of the sun in its variations. His images have a reverence to them, a deep sense of respect and awe that these timeless processes and places exist and go on every day without regard for us.
If we came upon Chris in one of these places, we would see a rugged, humble guy with his camera made of plywood, wood screws, duct tape, and surplus airplane parts, a hole cut in the bellows to vent the heat and smoke that come from the sun literally burning its way across the vintage photo paper that receives its light. We might smell roasting marshmallows, the smell of the burning of the gelatin coating on the photo paper as the sun makes its mark. And we would hear the timeless sounds of the landscape - the wind and birdsong - and maybe some colorful language when it’s time to quickly change the paper in the back of the camera. And if we followed him back to his darkroom we would see beautiful images with a palpable, almost sculptural presence emerge on the paper, reflecting the heat and light of the sun and its interaction with the chemicals on the paper and in the darkroom. Straight photography, and so much more.
Chris McCaw: New Works is on view at Candela Books and Gallery through June 16, 2018.
Paige hosts the LookSEE podcast and is a freelance audio producer, an art lover, and a lifelong Richmonder. Her favorite place to be is in a museum. A close second is a bookstore.