Typically, photography is used as a method to record events that are time, people or place specific.
But Guillermo Peñafiel, art and design professor, never viewed photography this way.
Peñafiel’s work is currently on display in the Carlsten Gallery in an exhibit titled “Capítulos,” Spanish for “chapters,” and aims to show viewers photos are not always tied to time and place.
“In a way, we think of photography as recording real events. My photography records events that never happened. They record constructs which is very different,” Peñafiel said.
He works primarily in a black and white palette using a traditional film camera, which is unique because it takes four by five inch film, a format much larger than typical film.
Peñafiel’s process includes physically stacking image negatives and layering them together to create each finished photo. He develops each one by hand using photo chemicals in the traditional dark room process.
“These images are for the most part one-of-a-kind. They cannot be recreated. The process destroys the negative as it’s being made,” Peñafiel said.
His pieces usually include a base image of an architectural subject with a second photo of a figure layered on top. The goal is to make the architectural and figure forms function together in the space, although they are photographed in completely different times and places. For example, one photograph features a base negative from three decades ago and is layered with a photo taken in the past six months.
“They are about blurred timelines. They are about the way our memories are built in layers from stuff that has happened to us, stuff that we’ve seen, stuff that we’ve read, stuff that we’ve been told. The context comes from our personal experience,” Peñafiel said.
He traveled to several places, including Turkey, Greece and Egypt, gathering images for the pieces on display.
“Capítulos” features two new bodies of work by the professor, one from Scotland and one from Mexico. The exhibit will display some of his early work from during graduate school and when he first began teaching at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point 25 years ago.
He is excited to see people’s reactions of the work but knows his photography is not what viewers will be expecting.
Usually in classes, he does not show pieces of his own because students can be easily influenced by a professor’s particular style, so he is looking forward to having his photography students view the exhibit.
“Having taken his class, I know how hard it is to layer photos, and I was really blown away with how much texture he got out of those prints,” said Grace Ballweg, senior graphic design major, after viewing the exhibit.
“Guillermo Peñafiel: Capitulos” will be on display until Oct. 25 at the Carlsten Gallery, located inside the Noel Fine Arts Center. The gallery is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. as well as from 1 to 4 p.m on Saturday and Sunday.
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