© Cynthia Karalla

Central Park, NYC



Experimental Photography:


Experiencing a State of Mind

by Richard Rabel


Experimental contemporary photographer Cynthia Karalla, influenced by Eugene Atget (1857-1927) and his photos of the trees around Versailles and Saint Cloud,  like Atget, pays homage to the tree and its heroic position living within a man-made world. But she is also inspired by the moody renderings of “Gotham” by Hugh Ferriss (1889-1962) that reveal life in a Gothic soul-less city. Experimental photography can be, at its most basic, about grabbing a camera and experimenting by shooting everything you see. And while this is close to what it means, if we think of it in that way, we miss a deeper meaning.


You see, experimental photography is not so much about what or how you frame the subject or what camera and lens you use, but it’s more about the state of mind of the photographer. And it’s not about whether the artist is happy or sad; mad or excited. It’s about first, unedited photo shooting – no notion of what you want to achieve, no filters, no preconceptions – and secondly, about evaluating the results (not the other way around). “There are no failures” in experimental photography Cynthia told me one time, “… you learn along the way and there’s nothing to lose. Finding something is the reward and there’s never any loss”.


Case in point, after six years of photographing the same tree in the park, it was only recently that she got something she could actually embrace. It wasn’t the tree that changed, but it was everything around it (including her) that finally let her see and represent the tree in its proper relation to its surroundings. Patience really is a virtue! 






Central Park, NYC



Brooklyn Bridge, NYC



The Process


by Cynthia Karalla


Shooting, in the awareness of time, I chase the light, shadows and details. Always with a minimum of 10 rolls in my bag.

Developing the film is by pushing, pulling, always testing the limits. These last 2 years I have been processing through my homemade stand development recipe, sometimes the film sits for 3 hours in the mix.

The negative is my beginning, to bleach, bend, cut, scrap, throw the negatives in a drawer or leave them out on any dusty surface, anything to let it collect life.

Rebuilding the image is where I am always unaware of time. I start with the most hopeless images, because there is nothing to lose. Hours mesh into days, there is an alchemy of magic that comes into play. The only thing I am aware of is the afterwards, I find it impossible to walk among the people on the street or even speak to another living soul.

Editing the aftermath, being a one person operation, I restart the play again with my cameras, to create a distance and procrastinate from the process of editing. After a 5 to 6 month period I can return to the previous project with fresh eyes, and edit the images, this process helps me to see what I could not see before.

My process was once a passion, now it is my addiction.




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All photos by Cynthia Karalla, used with permission.