pg. 124: The Special Portfolio: Ken Rosenthal pg. 125 The American fine-art photographer plays with memories and dream, with fiction and past experiences. In the darkroom he disguises autobiographical details and filters universal pictures from the 40’s to the 60’s. The result: a collective family album, which is allowed to be nostalgic. pg. 126: That photographs evoke memories is well known. To leaf through the family album allows one to reflect - however what one has stored from childhood is only in part reality. Films, fantasy, and especially snap-shots form this picture. Ken Rosenthal began this series 3 years ago during a visit home as he sat in front of old photographs and remembered things which he never experienced. That engaged the photo artist so much that he returned to the studio with a stack of his family albums. He sorted through 5000 6000 photos and tried to get behind the secret of false memory. He chose pictures which told stories, discovered common standards like crying babies, people in the water, birthday parties, houses, pets, and vacation pictures. pg. 127: "Nostalgia is a slippery slope" He started to make the photos more diffused in order to reduce them to their essential elements. Autobiographical details were not allowed to distract - facial expressions, dimples, material patterns, and geographical details were to be blurred into a phantom like representation. What was once internal familiarity he made universal, freeing viewers to bring their own associations to the work. With Rosenthal’s series “Seen and Not Seen” emerges a kind of collective photo album. “Many of the images in the series are quite iconic (the woman in the bathing suit by the swimming pool, the old house, etc), and do seem to speak to a shared experience. I think that changes from generation to generation, culture to culture. I tend to think that perhaps part of the reason we photograph certain scenes or events is because there is some sense of need, perhaps subconcious, to replicate the experiences of our ancestors for ourselves and future generations.” pg. 128: "Many of the images are iconic." He worked for a year and a half on the photos, which are traditionally printed in the darkroom, not digitally. Ken learned some darkroom techniques from Arnold Newman,
the famous American portrait photographer. Whenever possible he worked with the original negatives, otherwise he rephotographed the photos. He makes 15” x 15” black and white prints, bleached selectively with potassium ferricyanide, and uses sulfide based and selenium toners with a warmtone paper. Somber images are given colder colors like green and blue.
pg. 129: Apart from snap-shots, dreams, and family stories which lose clarity with every telling like images repeatedly reproduced from a copy on a copier, cinematic influences creep into our childhood rememberances. The photographs in “Seen and Not Seen” have been intentionally left untitled. “I am more interested in leaving the reading of an image as open as possible, and not imposing my interpretation on the viewer.” Sometimes one makes cinematic associations more with Hitchcock's “The Birds” then with American love stories from the 50's. Many are reminded of Jack the Ripper or Churchill by the picture on page 125, but it came from a family vacation to New York. Several more recent series’ are made in the same visual style. "Not Dark Yet" is a reaction to 9/11."Ghosts" deals more intensely with lasting memories. Presently Rosenthal is working on a series of cloudscapes and with photographs from taxidermy studios. by Anja Martin.
Published on May 20, 2014
Das besondere Portfolio: Ken Rosenthal by Anja Martin, fotoMagazin, October 2004, pg. 124-129. With an English translation added.