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Olivia and David, Self-Portrait, 2020
My Place has always been the darkroom. Soon after our quarantine began in March 2020, I embarked on a new body of work that I hoped would take me through the COVID-19 pandemic. Olivia, my granddaughter, was unable to return to school and began spending more time with my wife/partner, Janet, and me. After a few weeks of observing me disappearing into the darkroom for a few hours a day, she asked if she could come in with me.

I agreed and suggested that she bring something with her with the intent of making photograms. After making her first few photograms, she expressed interest in making prints the way I was making them, by brushing chemistry onto the paper rather than immersing the paper into the chemicals.

That is when our collaboration began. Olivia chose all of the objects, placing them on the paper herself and then engaging the enlarger timer. Although I handled all the chemistry, she stood on a stool beside me at the sink, directing my hands and telling me when she felt the photogram was finished. To my amazement and delight, after two or three times she had already learned the names of the chemicals, what each of them does, and basically grasped the technique and theory behind my darkroom practice.

Scheinbaum    Scheinbaum

Words and image by Olivia.

While making each image, Olivia would tell a story about the picture. Like many children, she was very interested in dinosaurs, and many of her images relate to that interest. The dinosaurs were her friends. This project started at about the time she was turning four and was becoming aware of her "own" self and relationships with family and friends.

This is momma T-Rex.
She loves to race with her babies and she splashes in puddles with her kids.
She likes to play with Stegy Stegosaurus.
She likes to protect her babies.
She protects them from the wicked dinos.
And they jump on couches a lot.

In the days that followed, after the prints were dried, Janet would sit with Olivia and transcribe her stories and descriptions of each image, thus creating the text for her photograms. This collaboration has added new dimensions to our grandparent-granddaughter relationship.

Essay and photographs copyright © 2022 David Scheinbaum. All rights reserved.




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