Carol Golemboski ~ Psychometry

I first came across Carol Golemboski's work when she won the 1st Place Project Competition at the Center in Santa Fe, NM. I was intrigued by the complexity and depth of the work... finding her creativity totally inspiring. Enjoy!

Artist Statement

Psychometry is a series of black and white photographs exploring issues relating to anxiety, loss, and existential doubt. The term refers to the pseudo-science of "object reading," the purported psychic ability to divine the history of objects through physical contact. Like amateur psychometrists, viewers are invited to interpret arrangements of tarnished and weathered objects, relying on the talismanic powers inherent in the vestiges of human presence. These images suggest a world in which ordinary belongings transcend their material nature to evoke the elusive presence of the past.

The objects I photograph, discovered in flea markets, auctions, estate sales, and antique shops, have their own unknowable histories. They range from ordinary items, such as doll houses, bird cages, and Christmas ornaments, to symbolically charged objects that relate to the human figure, such as dress forms, leg braces, and wigs. Once photographed, they form a visual language that hints at the lives that once surrounded them. Ironically, these metaphorical arrangements only reinforce the idea that the secrets of the past are forever lost.

Through an examination of fortune-telling and clairvoyance, many of the images confront the desperate human desire to know the unknowable, historically referencing the Victorian interest in spiritualism as well as the look of the nineteenth century photographic image. Illegible text and arcane symbols in pictures with themes like palm reading, tea leaf reading, and numerology force the viewer to consider man's insatiable need to anticipate his own fate.

The concept behind each picture dictates its darkroom manipulation, sometimes requiring research and revisions that last weeks or months. Combining photography with drawing, seamlessly incorporating photograms, integrating appropriated text, and scratching the emulsion of the negative create images where horror, history, and psychology occupy the same imaginative locale.

The success of these images relies upon the viewer's expectation of truth in the photograph, expanding upon age-old darkroom "trickery" to suspend belief between fact and fiction. The romantic ideas suggested by these photographs are enhanced by the nostalgia that accompanies historic photographic imagery, the process of traditional printmaking, and the magic of the darkroom.

Pervading the work is a sense of melancholy for the past, and a mounting dread that comes with the realization that our own stories will suffer the same fate. These images are designed to create a tension between beauty and decay that expresses anxiety over the passage of time, the inevitability of death, and a fascination with the unknown.

Process Statement
The photographs in the series Psychometry begin as straight negatives. I hunt for objects to photograph at flea markets and antique shops, arrange them in a space and shoot them with a medium format camera under natural light. Manipulations of the photograph begin in the darkroom. The marks that appear on the image are the result of a combination of scratching and drawing. I deliberately scratch the emulsion of my negatives in a way that will enhance the meaning of the pictures. Additionally, I draw and write on frosted mylar and drafting vellum with charcoal, graphite and ink. I then place the transparent mylar or vellum on top of the photographic paper during exposure to get an image of the marks on the photograph. Areas of the mylar which are covered with charcoal block the light during exposure, ultimately creating white marks in the final image. These manipulations are also often combined with photograms.

My final prints are the result of careful shooting, developing, scratching and drawing as well as selective burning and dodging. After an archival printing process, I tone the photographs with sepia toner to lend them a timeless look.