Ben Nixon creates landscapes of extraordinary beauty through the unwieldy nineteenth-century wet-plate collodion process, a hands-on photographic technique that offers the artist tight control of materials and yet invites serendipitous visual irregularities influenced by conditions in the field. Nixon avoids photographing recognizable landscapes, transforming non-iconic terrain into mysterious, intriguing worlds.
Nixon prefers older technologies so that he can slow down and respond to the subject in front of him. While shooting in the field, Nixon’s car becomes the darkroom, because in the collodion process, glass-plate negatives have to be prepared, exposed, and developed on-site while the materials are moist. If the plates dry, they are no longer light sensitive. Although Nixon is a master technician, he sets aside academic ideas of what constitutes a perfect print, preferring to show his hand as an artist.
Nixon grew up in Spartanburg, South Carolina. While he was in high school, he received a book about Minor White, and it changed his life. He realized that photography was more than a documentary medium; it could be an integral part of one’s life as an avenue of self-expression. This inspired him to attend Sierra Nevada College in the Lake Tahoe region and then to study photography at Rockport College (now Maine Media College) on the east coast.
In 2002, Nixon began what he considers his real education when he moved to California to assist Jack Welpott, with whom he worked for 5 1/2 years and from whom he learned to appreciate metaphysical and surrealist aspects of photography. Afterward, Nixon assisted Arno Rafael Minkkinen on West Coast projects and printed for Arthur Tress, William Heick, and Art Rogers, and he continues to collaborate with many artists.
Last year was an exciting one for Nixon. 21st Editions published “To the Wheatlight of June: The Visions of Ben Nixon and Steven Brown,” a beautifully cased portfolio of ten platinum prints and nine poems. Nixon also received the Pirkle Jones Foundation Grant.
Nixonʼs work is shown at many museums and galleries, including Oakland Museum of California, The Center for Fine Art Photography, Duncan Miller Gallery, Gallery 291, and SFO Museum. His prints are part of the permanent collections of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art and Bolinas Museum, as well as many private collections throughout the United States. His work is currently traveling in South Korea in the exhibit Tracing Light, also featuring works by Linda Connor, Klea McKenna, and Chris McCaw. The exhibit has moved from the Datz Museum of Art and will open this fall at the Eugean Gallery, in Seoul.