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Jay Wolke

Past, Present, Future. 2022. 120x62 inches, printed on Photo Tex. Image courtesy the artist.
Past, Present, Future. 2022. 120x62 inches, printed on Photo Tex. Image courtesy the artist.

Past, Present, Future

I took a decidedly experimental approach to making photographs with the Al Vista panoramic camera. Borrowed from the Slemmons Camera Archive, the Al Vista was made by the Multiscope & Film Corporation of Burlington, Wisconsin around 1900. It was intended to give the amateur photographer the ability to photograph:


+ A whole range of mountains
+ A whole sweep of river
+ A whole army
+ A whole fleet of ships
+ A whole city


Instead of photographing grand landscapes on location, however, I repurposed this instrument, to record abstract “landscapes” made in the studio. My intention was to merge analogue with digital, choreographing film exposures, that utilize multiple, semi-transparent backdrops, and lighting effects in tandem with moving elements. The unique, spring-loaded, 180-degree shutter mechanism was exploited to evoke temporal artifacts, while other, digitally created forms– embedded into the live set and, again, in the final stages of image production– create a transformative marriage between 19th and 21st Century technologies.

Portrait of the artist

Jay Wolke

Jay Wolke is an artist and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. His photographic monographs include: All Around the House: Photographs of American-Jewish Communal Life, 1998; Along the Divide: Photographs of the Dan Ryan Expressway, 2004; Architecture of Resignation: Photographs from the Mezzogiorno, 2011 and Same Dream Another Time, 2017. His works have been exhibited internationally and are in the permanent print collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York MOMA, the Art Institute of Chicago and San Francisco MOMA, among others. His photographs have appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times Magazine, Guardian Magazine, Financial Times Magazine, Geo France, Exposure, Newsweek, Fortune, and the Village Voice. He is currently a Professor of Photography at Columbia College Chicago, where he was Chair of the Art and Design Department from 2000-2005 and again from 2008-2013.

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