When asked to describe her award-winning photograph, Kathleen Clerk cops a grin and says matter-of-factly, "Disturbing." Not content to let images appear as they are in real life, Clerk would prefer to tweak the subjects she shoots. In her own words, "messing with" images is extremely satisfying.
Clerk, 27, created "Untitled No. 2" using an emulsion transfer process and aluminum foil. The photograph itself was taken almost as an afterthought, at the end of a photo session with her younger brother, who she confesses is her "favorite model." As he disentangled himself from the pose, she popped a blur filter onto her lens and took some shots. Fortunately, the lens gave the picture a distorted quality that reflected the feeling of tension she had been seeking all along.
One of the aspects Clerk enjoys most about photography is the steps it takes to create an image. "I love process," she explains. "I like that I can control it." Emulsion transfer enhances that enjoyment.
To create "Untitled No. 2," Clerk used a slide printer to put the image onto Polaroid film. She then placed the film in boiling water and then in cold water, to separate the emulsion layer from the paper.
After floating the emulsion onto a sheet of acetate, she transferred the translucent image onto the aluminum foil.
Because of the delicacy of the emulsion and its susceptibility to tearing, "Untitled No. 2" was Clerk's 10th attempt at placing the image intact. But she chose the process because of the sense of fluidity it lends to the blurred image. She selected crinkled aluminum foil as a backdrop because of the texture's sense of tension. "It's not smooth and simple," she says.
Clerk received a B.S. degree in photography from San Jose State University.
During the day, she works as the marketing and office manager for a Palo Alto
architectural firm. Not surprisingly, one part of the job that she enjoys is
taking architectural photographs.
Clerk's other talents include painting--she uses emulsion transfers there, too--and digital photo-manipulation. She spends about five hours a week on her creative pursuits, although she wishes she had more time.
In spite of Clerk's education, she had never entered a contest before the Palo
Alto Weekly's. And she almost didn't enter the winning photograph, concerned
that its disturbing image might make people think she was "strange." But at
the encouragement of her co-workers, she took the plunge.
Clerk says the recognition for her work has come at a good time. Discouraged until now that she has not been earning a living through her art,she calls this award "an inspiration to do more." Soon, she plans to take some time off, when she'll stay at home and, uninterrupted, manipulate images to her heart's content.