My name is Susan de Witt and I currently live in the beautiful city of Portland, Oregon.
My interest in photography began about 13 years ago. I had seen some photographs in a gallery that really intrigued me, and I felt right then and there that I must learn how to do that! And so thankfully there was a good photography school in Seattle, Washington, where I lived at the time. I bought a camera and my education in analog photography began. For a few years I learned the basics, always practicing and trying just about everything, from documentary style to fine art. Color didn’t interest me as much as black and white, and so I stayed on that path. I took some wonderful workshops from luminaries like Mary Ellen Mark, Bruce Barnbaum, Christopher James and Shelby Lee Adams. Digital photography has never been my goal, as I’d much rather be in the darkroom than sitting in front of my computer. Even though I was completely driven to produce a steady stream of work, I was always searching for my personal direction. I now feel that everyone must go through those years of learning and figuring out just what makes them happy artistically. It’s the only way you can be sure of just what your personal vision is. I built a small darkroom and spent endless hours in there, which I still never tire of.
In 2007, I took my first course in lith printing from Tim Rudman. This class showed me a new way to express myself in my photography. I always felt that I could not get the results I wanted with traditional black and white printing, but when I discovered what lith can do to your negatives, I was hooked. From that time onward, I pretty much stuck with lith printing.
Primarily, I’m interested in the human body, mostly female, and have altered my shooting style considerably over the years. I now often use diffusion during the shoot, which enhances the nostalgic, ethereal feel I want for my subjects. I might combine two or three negatives into one final image, which can present real technical challenges due to the nature of the lith process. However, if successful, there are significant aesthetic advantages to the final outcome. I might produce a print, then bleach it back, and redevelop it. There are endless possibilities and outcomes with lith printing.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with just what a lith print is, I will say in the most basic of terms that when making a lith print, you heavily overexpose your negative (which can be B&W, color or infrared) onto a lithable paper and then develop it in a very weak A + B lithographic bath. Your exposure may run from 20 seconds or even less, all the way up to many minutes, depending on what you want from your print. Your time in the developing bath may run from 20 to 30 minutes for each print. You don’t use filtration for lith printing, so if your image should need more contrast, you decrease your exposure. Or if less contrast is desired, you increase your exposure. Depending upon what your paper/chemistry combination is, your final print might have very colorful results, which just happens without toning. None of the images I’m attaching here today have been toned. Unfortunately, the papers that work with lith chemistry are disappearing from the market, thanks mainly to the popularity of digital cameras. Tim Rudman puts out a list of current workable papers once or twice a year, which you can access by signing on to his site, www.timrudman.com. [Official Website]
A new project that I’ve just started working on is printing my lith models in a very stark way, so that there is very little detail in the highlights, and mostly just black vs. white. I am quite drawn to this new look and hope to have some successful prints coming from this project. I have attached a few images from that new body of work.