Mary Shelley, Frankenstein and a Pinhole Camera

I have embarked on an 8-week course in online marketing for artists. Times they are always changing, but for someone like me, who lives at the end of a very long pot-hole riddled road in Midcoast Maine, online marketing to reach collectors, designers, gallerists, fellow artists, is, well, necessary. I can't get anywhere from here easily.

I have, however, had the good fortune in the last few years to resume a friendship and begin a collaboration with a former roommate of mine from Paris. Esther, is from Italy, but has made France her home. Currently living and working in Lille, Esther is a movement theater director and performer, who has begun using video projection and photography as part of her stage design.

When we reconnected over the phone in 2010, Esther broached the subject of a collaboration for her next play about Mary Shelley. She wanted to do a piece that would look into the ties between Mary Shelley's personal history and the narrative of Frankenstein, as well as ideas about what Mary Shelley might write today, nearly 200 years later. Esther had seen some of my pinhole images and thought they might suit the production by making reference to early photography, which is just a little bit younger than the novel that launched the science fiction genre.

In May 2012, Esther came to Maine for two weeks and we began exploring the relationship between photograph and stage. Taking our cues from the origin of the story, I suggested that my initial trials with underwater pinholing might give us something to suggest the exceptionally stormy weather that kept Lord Byron, Percy Shelley and Mary locked inside for days on end, resulting in Lord Byron's challenge to them all to write a ghost story. Frankenstein was born in June of 1816, the year without a summer.

We didn't use these images in the end, but the whole process inspired Esther, and her engineer, Jean-Baptiste Drouleurs, to think about the use of  "remanance", or visual trail left by the camera projection behind Esther's moving figure on stage...not unlike some of the ghostly effects of my 8 to 10 minute exposures.

Mary's Baby is going to Avignon this July; we are assembling the libretto in French and English, along with Esther's writing about her process and many of the photographs we took during the research phase, to be published in time for the festival. In going through my files I came across my underwater images and am sharing the one above.

The beauty of making and sharing art, it seems to me, is that we get to travel back and forth through time and space. Here I am at the edge of America, traveling virtually, in the company of all of you, perfect strangers. In fact, I would love to know what Mary Shelley would think of the World Wide Web! 

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