Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Nick Olson and the Role of Technology

The Water by Nick Olson from his Camp Tintype series
This past Monday I had the pleasure of hearing Nick Olson, a 2008 Lawrence University graduate, speak about his sojourn in tintype photography. I found it fascinating that there are still artists that can fully commit to a new lifestyle in order to immerse themselves in their art. Inspired by Thoreau's Walden, Olson has embarked on many endeavors, the most recent of which is entitled Mildred's Lane, that examine the way in which people interact with their environments both now and in the past.
Portrait 7 by Nick Olson

Koré by Hillary Rogers
Since I work so closely with (almost tethered to, if I'm honest) my computer for everything I do with my own photography, I was interested and surprised to find that there were certain parallels between Nick's goals and my own. He, too, searches for the beauty that is present in the simplicity of life in the past. My work focuses more on the similarities between past outrageous characters and present day celebrities, but to an extent I do strive to capture an essence of archaic forms of beauty in my aesthetic. Since Olson did a critical series of photographs focused on his contemporaries and how much time they spend at their computers, I'll be interested to see what he has to say about my process and products!


  1. Your point about Olson immersing himself in his art is intriguing and after looking up John Coffer, I wonder how far an artist can go to really live their aesthetic. Also, there's a compelling juxtaposition between Olson's work and your own: he uses old techniques to chronicle modern times and you use modern techniques to portray historic figures. Cool stuff.

  2. Good point Paul! Olson is no Luddite! He drove to Lawrence in a car, gave a PowerPoint from a Mac laptop, has a website, and owns an iPhone. Without these tools, artists would become isolated and it seems he knows that, even John Coffer has a website (sure it's administered from a solar powered straw bale hut!). For Nick and John, it seems, digital tools are utilitarian whereas Hillary uses them to make her work...Each have attributes and qualities that add meaning to the work. The bisque skin tones of Hillary's digital portraits are sublime and transcendent whereas the tonality of Nick's tintype portraits call to mind entropy and inevitable decay.