Photographic Alphabet: O is for France Scully Osterman
By Micheál Masterson
France Scully Osterman is an intellectual and photographer. An artist at Scully & Osterman Studios and guest scholar at George Eastman Museum in Rochester, New York. Osterman is recognised for her extensive knowledge of the wet-plate collodion, salt and albumen prints. She co-published and edited The Collodion Journal (1995-2002) and passes on her knowledge by lecturing at universities, museums and art schools.
Osterman’s images offer an insight into early photographic methods. The work from her series entitled, Sleep, demonstrates the meticulous work that her photographic process entails. She uses a method common in the nineteenth century known as wet collodion, this requires her to makes the negatives just before they are exposed, then immediately develop the plates while they are still wet. Osterman is recognised as one of the few experts and practitioners of the wet collodion and waxed salt print methods.
Osterman's Sleep photo series captures an innocence where the subjects are at their most vulnerable. The subjects appear still and peaceful. However, there is a morbid sense of voyeurism that is reminiscent of looking at a body, post-mortem. For this series Osterman invited friends, acquaintances and loved ones to her studio, first thing in the morning before practicing their morning rituals so they remain in a state of rest. Providing a intimate and relaxing atmosphere, she helps them settle in with some ‘sleep’ music and once they drift off, she gets to work.
Osterman is represented by Tilt Gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona and the Howard Greenberg Gallery, NYC. Her work has been featured in many publications and is internationally collected.
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