Light and color are essential elements in the works of Ann Rhoney and Ingar Krauss, who combine photography with painting by applying oils directly to their gelatin-silver prints. Though their approaches are similar in that they unite the two mediums, each artist’s spiritual insight and sensitive investigation of the nature of light and color is deeply personal. For both Rhoney and Krauss, the end result is a unique vision and a masterful work of art.
Since the mid-1970s, Ann Rhoney (b. 1953, Niagara Falls) has created works of art that marry the light of photography with the colors of painting. Her tenacious questioning of the camera’s ability to register the nuances of color seen by the human eye recalls that of Josef Albers, who wrote in Interaction of Color (1963) that “color photography deviates still more from eye vision than black-and-white photography. Blue and red are overemphasized to such an extent that their brightness is exaggerated. Though this may flatter public taste, the result is a loss in finer nuances and in delicate relationships.” The rich blacks and silvers of Rhoney’s darkroom prints recall photography’s etymology as “drawn light.” By applying transparent paint to the surface of the print, she fulfills photography’s promise of true luminosity, and reveals a dazzling spectrum of blues, pinks, and grays unattainable in traditional color photography. Rhoney’s obsessive pursuit of light and color has produced artwork as much technically proficient as emotionally gripping. The catalog for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 2012 exhibition Faking It wrote of "Silk Dress Coming," “…the silver dress undulates like molten steel, and its carefully positioned streaks of rust and lavender rhyme with those of the admirer’s übermasculine conveyance. The chromatic affinities allowed Rhoney to propose a narrative relationship to which the ‘natural’ color of commercially available film would have been indifferent.”
Born in East Berlin in 1965, Ingar Krauss worked as a psychiatric caregiver before turning to photography in the mid-1990s. From the start, Krauss was drawn to portraiture. His subjects have included his daughter and her friends in the Oderbruch countryside in eastern Germany; children living in state-run orphanages and juvenile prisons in the former Soviet Union; and the Eastern European migrant workers who travel hundreds of miles to Germany every year for seasonal fruit and vegetable harvests. In the introduction to Krauss’s book, Portraits (Hatje Cantz, 2006), Vince Aletti writes that Krauss “has produced a remarkable group of images that balance historical resonance with contemporary relevance… The portraits are understated, unsentimental, and as straightforward as official documents, but they also have an extraordinary emotional weight and clarity.”
In 2010, Krauss began working on a series of still lifes – embarking, in effect, on a new form of portraiture, one in which his subjects were not human faces and personalities but the flora and fauna of the natural world. As Krauss explained in a 2017 interview with Roberta Levy, "Since I moved my studio from Berlin to the Brandenburg countryside, I became a gardener and dedicated a lot of time to plants and vegetables, and so they naturally became a privileged pictorial subject – in the tradition of German Romanticism and its longing for self-knowledge in nature. I am interested in the hidden relationship between the inner life of human beings and the world of plants and animals, and I want to transmute those commonplace subjects by a process of replacing inattention with contemplation."
Krauss carefully arranges his pears, quinces, lilacs, and taxidermied animals in stage-like boxes of his own construction, then shoots the composition under natural light in such a way that light becomes a subtle actor in the silent drama. To give the images a transcendent dimension in the tradition of the vanitas Krauss reworks each handmade black and white print with a glaze of oil paint, thus enhancing the shine and depth of the objects. Some subjects are suspended from a string at the top of the box, while others are positioned in the foreground against a deep, darkening depth of field, echoing the work of the dramatic Baroque Spanish still-life painter Juan Sánchez Cotán (1560-1627) and placing the natural world, both literally and metaphorically, on a pedestal.
Ingar Krauss’s work has been shown in numerous solo and group exhibitions worldwide, including shows at the Musée de l’Elysée in Lausanne, the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, and the International Center of Photography in New York. In 2004, he received the Leica Prize of the Grand Prix International de Photographie in Vevey, Switzerland. His books include Portraits (Hatje Cantz, 2005), 39 Pictures (Hartmann Books, 2016), and Huts Hedges Heaps (Hartmann Books, 2019). Krauss lives and works in Berlin and Zechin, Germany.
Rhoney’s artwork was first shown in 1985 at the Daniel Wolf Gallery in Manhattan. Today, her photographs can be found in museums throughout the United States and in Europe, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Albright-Knox Museum, Buffalo; the George Eastman Museum, Rochester; the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin; and the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris. Her photographs have also appeared on the covers of New York magazine, Newsweek, and Life, and have illustrated articles in The New York Times, The New Yorker, and Vogue.