Heather Oelklaus, print workshop supervisor, on darkrooms, Instagram, food porn, and the subconscious of photography
What kind of work do you do for the college?
I am the print workshop supervisor. I supervise the 2D areas in the art department, where I order and coordinate for the art classes.
Who can use the darkroom?
I want everyone to enjoy the darkroom while they’re still around, and it’s a way to make images. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to know what you’re doing. If you take a class you learn really quickly, but if someone has taken a darkroom course in high school, I can look at their contact sheet, their negatives, and their enlargements, and from there I can usually tell how many years experience they’ve had. I want people to use it, but I also want people to take the class because they miss out on a lot if they don’t.
Do you think darkrooms will be around for much longer?
I have a little bit of everybody’s darkroom in my darkroom at home. It’s usually people who are so sad that their darkroom is sitting in the basement crying for them, and they feel guilty so they end up giving me all their stuff. They’ll always be around. That doesn’t mean that everything you need to run one will be at your corner store, but there will always be a place to go get it, and of course the cost will go up. The more people that don’t do it, the more my personal artwork is elevated to a different realm of fine art. I’m trying to be positive about the whole thing.
What do you like about photography?
I like the process. I like that there are many steps in the process at times, but then I also like the instant gratification of seeing the image quickly. Now digital: too quick. I also like the anticipation of waiting to see what’s on that roll of film I took. I love that it’s a mystery. People always say that photography is a slice of reality, which to me it is so not. Reality is three-dimensional, photo is two-dimensional, and it’s a moment of time, but it’s a fleeting moment.
What kind of camera do you use?
I have over 130 cameras.
Do you have a favorite photographer?
Michael Wesely. He will do pinhole [a light-proof box with a small hole in one side] photographs with a five-year exposure.
Did you make a camera out of a bus?
Well it’s not a bus. It’s a pinhole camera truck. I call it Little Miss Sunshine. It’s a 14-foot-long box truck, and it looks like a Kodak box of film. I’ve blacked it all out, put metal on it, and drilled the hole through. I put photo paper on the wall and made a five-foot by ten-foot image. I’m hoping to do something like that in the display case in Worner.
How do you feel about Instagram?
I don’t do anything on it. I don’t understand the filter thing; it just seems cheesy. I understand the need for people to want to feel like they’re photographic artists, and I understand it’s so alluring to make the world look better than how it was, but the more different you think you’re doing, the more the same it is becoming.
How do you feel about people who post pictures of food to the internet?
I just really think it’s interesting. It’s like food porn. Are people wanting to prove ‘I’m here, I’m eating this, look at me’? Art has always been a self-portrait. If I take a picture of you, it’s really a portrait of me. I think that’s getting lost in this click, click, click world. No one is thinking about it, so the subconscious of it comes out.
What is your favorite medium with photography?
I like alternative processes. That’s as narrow down as I can get. I like the stuff that takes chemistry and maybe one or two steps, or more.