Just Like Magic: Alternative Photographic Processes and the work of 2015-2016 SRO artist Rachel Rushing

TTU MFA Photo student Carolina Arellanos finds herself in her bathtub with bugs, paint, peroxide, and onions. She procures x-ray scans of bug bodies, paints over them with oil pastels, places the painted prints in a peroxide water bath, and tones them overnight with the juice of boiled onions or tea.  It is all part of her process in producing cyanotype prints. According to Arellanos, this process of creative documentation is “just like magic.”

Carolina Arellanos, Untitled (2015), cyanotype, 11 x 14 inches.

Carolina Arellanos, Untitled (2015), cyanotype print on paper, 11 x 14 inches.

Anna Atkins (1799 – 1871), an English photographer and botanist, was one of the first to employ the cyanotype photographic printing process, and she used it to document regional flora. Atkins created photo plates by placing wet algae or others plants directly onto light-sensitive paper and exposing the arrangement to sunlight. The chemicals used to sensitize the paper,  ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide, also render the print’s negative space a deep blue.

Anna Atkins, Asperococcus Echinatus, from Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions (1843-1853), Cyanotype. NYPL Digital Collections.

Anna Atkins, Asperococcus Echinatus, from Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions (1843-1853), cyanotype print on paper, 8 x 10 inches. NYPL Digital Collections.

Following a radical digitization of the photographic practice that has seen a dramatic decline in photography darkrooms, a number of contemporary photographers are revisiting historic techniques in their continued exploration of the dynamic relationships between light, chemical processes, material to impress an image upon, and the external world.

Like the work of Anna Atkins, lumen prints from the series Excerpts and Artifacts from 33.053444 N, -96.991328 W by Rachel Rushing, on view at the SRO Photo Gallery until October 11th, were the result of ecological research. While working with the Lewisville Aquatic Ecosystem Research Facility in Lewisville, TX, Rushing focused on a particular locale (33.053444 N, -96.991328 W) and observed the striking interplay of a verdant suburban creek bed and “human agency” in the form of industrial water management infrastructure and discarded things, where “because of the pervasiveness of human debris, it has become impossible to physically and mentally differentiate between what is natural and what is man-made.”

Rachel Rushing, Specimen #9 (Extra Large Pillow Case), 2013, lumen print, 16 x 20 inches.

Rachel Rushing, Specimen #9 (Extra Large Pillow Case), 2013, lumen print, 16 x 20 inches.

In response, Rushing created a series of prints in which she arranged plant materials and litter from the site on gelatin-silver paper and exposed it to the UV rays of the sun. These one-of-a-kind prints effectively document through an alternative photography method how the stuff of nature and the junk of modern consumption are thoroughly enmeshed in the landscapes of our time.

Rachel Rushing, Specimen #10.2 (Plastic Shopping Bag), 2015, lumen print, 16 x 20 inches.

Rachel Rushing, Specimen #10.2 (Plastic Shopping Bag), 2015, lumen print, 16 x 20 inches.

However documentary, processes such as cyanotype and lumen printing involve both freedoms and limitations in color, line, and even form, that recall the medium of painting.  TTU School of Art Associate Professor Carol Flueckiger has been exploring the cyanotype printing process for the past 15 years. Prior to working in this method, Flueckiger created small paintings by pressing leaves into paint, and the result appeared photographic. For Flueckiger, cyanotype similarly allowed for “printing into a painted surface” and additionally “offered a layer of texture, imagery and content.”

Carol Flueckiger, Untitled (2014), cyanotype.

Carol Flueckiger, Untitled (2014), cyanotype print on fabric.

In the throes of the digital age, the legacy and relevance of Anna Atkins’ work and “analog” photography methods persist. While experimenting with seemingly simplistic historic methods of documentation, artists maintain complexity and variety, and provoke new ways of seeing.

2015-2016 SRO Artist Tom Kiefer’s “El Sueño Americano Project” featured on CNN

Photographer Tom Kiefer’s El Sueño Americano Project will be on view in the SRO Photo Gallery November 10 – December 6, 2015. For now check out this CNN feature on the El Sueño series.

Tom Kiefer, Rosaries, El Sueño Americano Project (2013-2015), archival inkjet print.

Tom Kiefer is a full-time photographer based in Ajo, AZ. Kiefer was recently named one of the “50 World’s Best Emerging Photographers” by LensCulture magazine. His work has been exhibited throughout the United States, and his Journey West series has been continually on tour since 2007.

2016-2017 SRO Photo Gallery Call for Submissions

The time has come (again)! The SRO Photo Gallery at the Texas Tech School of Art is now accepting submissions for the 2016-2017 solo exhibition series.

The SRO Photo Gallery at the Texas Tech School of Art hosts an annual national competition for six to eight photographic art solo exhibitions. Portfolios are reviewed by a committee consisting of the Photography area of the School of Art and the Director of Landmark Arts. We look for portfolios that utilize photography in all styles, techniques, and aesthetic approaches. Consistency in the work as well as creative vision is important in the selection process. Call for Submissions PDF Version.

Entries must be submitted to SlideRoom at ttuart.slideroom.com by March 31st, 2016. There is no submission fee to apply to SRO Photo Gallery for consideration; however, there is a $10 SlideRoom submission fee. Selected artists will be announced in late April 2016.

All entries are accepted through SlideRoom at ttuart.slideroom.com

Include the following items:

  • 20 images
  • 1500 pixels in the longer dimension at 72 dpi
  • Image files (uploaded as .jpg)
  • Artwork Checklist: Title, year, media, dimensions in inches (uploaded as .pdf)
    • (ex. Title, 2013, gelatin silver print, 20 x 20 inches)
  • Artist’s Statement (uploaded as .pdf)
  • CV (uploaded as .pdf)

We are only able to display artwork without framing (either matted or mounted on thin backing). The maximum dimensions an individual print can be for display are 30 x 72 x 1 inches. We are unable to display video works.

All materials will be digitally archived through the 2016 – 2017 academic year if selected for exhibition, or discarded if not selected. Submit all materials to ttuart.slideroom.com on or before 11:59 PM (Central Time) March 31st, 2016.

A brochure listing the selected artists along with a reproduction of their work and exhibition dates is published annually and distributed locally and nationally. To view this year’s selected artists, visit landmarkarts.org.

Carolina Arellanos
Exhibition Coordinator, SRO Photo Gallery
TTU School of Art
Box 42081
Lubbock, TX 79409


Rachel Rushing: Excerpts and Artifacts from 33.053444 N, – 96.991328, September 14th – October 11th, 2015

LUBBOCK– Landmark Arts at the Texas Tech University School of Art presents Excerpts and Artifacts from 33.053444 N, – 96.991328 by Rachel Rushing, the second exhibition in the 2015 – 2016 SRO Photo Gallery Exhibition Series. Excerpts and Artifacts will be on view September 14th – October 11th, 2015. The exhibition is free and open to the public.

 Spatial Studies (2013), c-print, 4 x 6 inches.

Spatial Studies (2013), c-print, 4 x 6 inches.

Excerpts and Artifacts from 33.053444 N, -96.991328 W captures a particular locale and explores the relationship between its naturally occurring and man-made features. As a suburban creek and water management infrastructure intersect, digital photographs highlight the contrast between what is wild and the industrial structures of cement and metal integrated into the area.

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Specimen #9 (extra large pillow case), 2013, lumen print, 20 x 16 inches.

The series’ lumen prints were created by laying plants and debris collected from the area on top of sheets of gelatin-silver paper and exposing them to sunlight. Both the series’ photographs and prints may be understood as new expressions and artifacts of the ever-evolving relationship between human beings, technology, and the natural environment.


Specimen 10.1 (plastic shopping bag), 2013, lumen print, 20 x 16 inches.

Rachel Rushing holds an MFA in Photography from North Texas University, and is an Instructor of Photography at Mountain View College in Dallas, TX. Rushing created work for the Excerpts and Artifacts series in conjunction with study at the Lewisville Aquatic Ecosystem Research Facility in Lewisville, TX. Her work has been featured in numerous group and solo exhibitions, and she currently produces the Art Funk podcast.