v1.6.2 / Chris McCaw: A Blister in the Sun

Earlier this year, scientists confirmed Einstein’s prediction of gravitational waves. When I look at McCaw’s panoramas, I see the undulations of the universe, the aesthetic of the cosmos. In his new work, McCaw brings his technique to instant film. The results, as seen below, exhibit a poetry all their own.

Chris McCaw


SUNBURNED GSP#786 (Near Dietrich River, Arctic Circle, Alaska), 2014. 20-4″x10″ Unique Gelatin Silver Paper Negatives © Chris McCaw

After capturing a complete 24-hour exposure in the Arctic Circle in 2011, I decided to revisit this strange waveform line that happens during arctic summers. Taken in May when the sun sets but keeps the landscape bright enough to record at midnight, the complete exposure went about 36 hours on twenty 4”x10” paper negatives, turning in a circle at one point. Also the paper used was a recently discovered stock that solarizes in a strange way, riding the line between positive and negative at the same time.

SUNBURNED GSP#860 (Double Midnight, Galbraith Lake, Arctic Circle, Alaska) 2015. 25-12”x41” Unique Gelatin Silver Paper Negatives © Chris McCaw

This piece was made one year later in response to SUNBURNED GSP#786, again working with the undulating arctic summer sunlight. It was made in June when the sun never sets. Taking the inverse of #786, I placed the high midday sun in the middle of the composition. This also happens to be the biggest piece I have ever created, with a custom made 12”x41” camera sitting on a large heavy duty lazy susan.

25 panels—each measuring 12”x41”, a total of 25 feet of exposure—capture two mostly clear sequential midnights. Breaks in the line are from momentary rain and snow. Near noon, at the highest point, there was a terrible hail storm with crazy gusting winds. It was so stormy that my tarp flew off the camera and rain actually got into the film holder and dripped down the paper surface. It blew the camera out of position, and the sun angle got distorted.

As a collection of still images, it records the uncontrollable variation of weather during the course of exposing the 25 frames.


SUNBURNED GSP#795 (Clear Skies Descend into Snow, North Slope, Alaska), 2014. 6-4″x5″ Unique Gelatin Silver Paper Negatives © Chris McCaw

As these are paper negatives right out of the camera, the image is recorded backwards. To stay true to the backwards sequence, we have to read the image right to left. On the right, we see relatively clear skies. As we move to the middle, the Alaskan snow begins. And finally, in the far left panel, the landscape disappears.


INSTANT#001, 2014. 10 unique diffusion transfer prints, each 3 1/4″x4 1/4″ © Chris McCaw
INSTANT#005, 2014. 10 Unique Diffusion Transfer Prints, each 3 1/4″x4 1/4″ © Chris McCaw


IMG_9529 © Chris McCaw

For more of Chris McCaw’s series, click here.