Ink and Flesh: A Few Frames with Francesca Preston

Last week I photographed the artist Francesca Preston using a beautifully slow, old twin-lens camera and black & white film in her Petaluma home’s backyard studio.  Francesca asked me to make a portrait, but one that revealed only her hands, a few spare materials and the sumi ink staining her skin after a session in the studio.   I love the way film leaves so much to mystery:  it spills details but doesn’t tell every secret, and the ones that are present flicker in the wind and in light itself.  I photographed Francesca’s studio and home space digitally that day as well, but soon after the shoot my computer was stolen and the non-film images we’d made were lost with it.  When a sole roll of negatives returned from the lab the photographs felt like treasures from an uncovered tomb, ancient and potent, more moody than factual, a bit like Francesca’s ink paintings do themselves.  The film images, and the experience of being stolen from reminded me of holding close what’s dear, not objects or things exactly, but sensations and impressions themselves.

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