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Over a century ago a nineteen-year-old Vermont farm boy named Wilson Alwyn Bentley began a 46-year love affair with the typology of snow crystals. A century later, I began my love affair with the mordançage process and at the same time discovered Bentley’s snow crystal photographs. Bentley’s snowflakes with their black backgrounds were perfect for mordançage. The backgrounds would veil and dissolve in the caustic bath—a fitting visual metaphor for the floating and ephemeral nature of a snowflake. And because each mordançage print is completely unique, how equally fitting to the uniqueness of snowflakes. In the summer of 2010 the Jericho Historical Society granted me permission to use Bentley’s archives. I created contact negatives from 52 of the 5000+ snow crystal images, which I then printed onto 8x10” gelatin silver paper. The prints went through the chemical baths out in the garage with its requisite excellent ventilation. Here was more connection with Bentley for he, too, did all of his photography in his garage. For Bentley, the garage provided the cold that would preserve the snow crystals long enough to photograph. In my case, heat and sun, not cold, are my allies. They speed the process along, and work to produce unique colors on a normally monochromatic black and white paper. Bentley’s snow crystals are beautiful in their pristine, white, perfect surfaces. The beauty of my work lies in darkened imperfections. All images are from the Wilson Bentley Archives/Jericho Historical Society (snowflakebentley.com).

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