Artifice, a photo by Jane Alynn.
Artifice. Photo © Jane Alynn.

It’s Throwback Thursday!

The photograph above is a very early zone plate image.

This week, in the process of updating my website’s ABOUT page, I recalled my beginnings with black and white film-based zone plate imagery.

I was living in Edison, Washington, in a dilapidated building that once had been a lumber yard and hardware store. It was cheap—affordable for us—and we had a dream of creating a live-work space there. It was large enough to accommodate our living quarters, our separate studios, and even a gallery.

Though that dream never came to fruition, and we eventually sold the building, another beginning took root there.

I saw some photographs made by a friend. They were diffuse and mysterious, and the highlights glowed. They could have been out of the early twentieth century Pictorialist movement. It was like looking at the ineffable. I fell in love with those images, and I wanted to explore those lensless creations myself.

Gratefully, our friend sent me a zone plate to fit on a camera, so that I could experiment with it.

I mail-ordered a Lubitel, a cheap Russian-made camera priced at that time, as I recall, under $25—it had to be cheap, so that I wouldn’t feel badly when I crashed the lens out of it—which I did, and then fit the zone plate over the aperture. I couldn’t wait to expose my first role of film with a zone plate.

I’ve never looked back.

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