In 1996 I was 28 and living in my hometown of New York City. At that time I already had about six years of work experience in photography as well as a degree in photography from art school. I heard through a friend about a three-month photography position in France for the artist Anselm Kiefer. Within no time, I had applied, been interviewed and hired for the job, and told I’d be starting in two weeks in the south of France. In those two weeks I renewed my passport, found a sublet for my tiny Brooklyn studio apartment, packed, and tried to quickly refresh my high school level french.
Barjac was a dramatic change from Brooklyn. Time slowed down and weekends were spent biking along quiet roads and picnics by the Cèze. I should say the transition was eased by the fact that I thought my stay would last only three months. Instead of feeling homesick, I was busy soaking in as much as I could of the beautiful countryside and visits to nearby cities countryside and visuch as Avignon and Uzès. I did not miss the New York City subway’s and crowds, and found the work for Mr Kiefer fascinating.
In one of several buildings that made up the old silk factory which was his studio, was the darkoom, where I spent most of my time printing his photographs, sometimes as long as ﬁve meters. This was well before digital photography. I developed the prints in baths of chemicals, then washed and hung them like sheets on a clothesline or laid them on the cement ﬂoors to dry.
Three months ﬂew by and when it did Mr Kiefer asked me to stay on and it was then that I understood that this had been a test period. Three months turned into about nine years in which time I dated, then married, my now husband who was and still is Mr Kiefer’s assistant, managing the site in Barjac.
After the birth of our son I decided to take a break from worklife, and shortly after that Mr Kiefer moved most of his studio and darkroom up to Paris. I found part time work printing but mostly took full advantage of raising my son.
As over the years I have also had several shows of my own photography, I found new subject matter in rural France, and developed a series of photographs made with a made with a large format studio camera, entitled, Paysages Sauvages.
While I was putting my career on pause, the world fell in love with digital and one by one big ﬁlm producing companies such as Eastman Kodak shut down. I watched as local photography studios shut down and my anxiety over ﬁnding work in my ﬁeld in a region of already high unemployment grew. I felt defeated when Pole Emploi told me to ‘reorient’ my career. However, I think because I really couldn't see myself doing anything else, eventually things fell into place.
As a mostly analog photographer myself I began to understand the predicament of transitioning into the fast changing digital world. I saw the need for digitizing and archiving photography collections that were in danger of being neglected and forgotten. I enrolled in several classes in archiving photography at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de la Photographie d’Arles and taught myself the various scanning processes. In 2016 I started a small business, Neg Contact, that offers scanning services of 35mm to large sheet ﬁlm negatives, slides, glass plate negatives, photographs, as well as Super 8mm and 8mm ﬁlm. As requests are made for other formats (such as Hi8 and VHS) I am equipping my studio rapidly to fulﬁll the demand. The digitzing process not only permits visualization of sometimes expired formats, but also preserves those memories and makes them easily accesible. I can also assist in choosing and ordering archival storage materials.
I recently moved my ofﬁce to Saint-Ambroix where clients can drop off ﬁlm directly and discuss any related concerns. I consider myself lucky to be able to continue to work in the ﬁeld of photography and to have survived this difﬁcult wave of change to digital. As many popular trends come and go, and we see vinyl records coming back, and some ﬁlm directors are choosing to use ﬁlm instead of digital, I ﬁnd satisfaction knowing that a more permanent image, one made out of physical properties, still has an important place in people’s memories.