David Wolf Photographs

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My creative process is organic, allowing the path of one project to create a context for the next as I follow the impetus of one idea as it flows toward another. This way of working often results in individual pieces and entire bodies of work that grow from and inform one another. The After Life of Things illustrates this process well.

The first phase of this project stems from a previous body of work, Left Behind, which is devoted to unwanted, discarded things I photographed as I found them on the streets of my San Francisco neighborhood.

A few years later I made a parallel between these discarded objects and the unwanted, expired photo papers I had begun to collect on which to print their images. The unknown condition and hidden qualities of the expired paper—the color shifts, fogging and stains that now characterized this material—turned these papers into found objects that echoed the random encounter with the discarded things I first photographed years before.

As I pursued this work in the darkroom the shift to digital photography accelerated, with many photographers making the transition to digital printing. This left all kinds of darkroom materials to expire, untouched. Using my now growing collection of unwanted paper, I pushed the project further during an artist residency at the RayKo Photo Center in 2012, exploring a variety of approaches to the hidden potential of this material.

The residency’s success and the wealth of expired paper I had accumulated convinced me I had only just begun to fulfill the project’s promise. In January of this year I was awarded a grant by the San Francisco Arts Commission to deepen my exploration. Over the next fifteen months, through August 2016, I’ll have the opportunity to expand this work to encompass the three aspects of the project as I now see it, pursuing The After Life of Things in three parts: “Discarded,” “Collected,” and “Assembled.”

Looking forward to the next phase of the project, my work will both engage the timely question of just what is photography and reflect on the century-old conversation between photography and painting, as digital technology threatens to make darkroom practice a novelty.