Too Bold for Boulder
By Hank Putnam
It could be a plot for a popular Nicholas Sparks novel: A woman goes through a life-changing divorce and rediscovers one of her first loves. In this case, however, it's not a high school sweetheart, it's art.
Pinque Clark's great romance with art began early, with the classics, when her parents introduced her to great works from the Italian renaissance and encouraged her to study their use of light, color, and composition. Later, Clark got hands-on training with noted photographer Andrew Kilgore that began in the darkroom, where she learned the magic involved in making powerful images appear on paper, the old-fashioned way.
Now Clark works in the digital age, and with the latest tools, she has come full circle. She explored Italy, the source of her first major inspiration, to work, study local history, and has exhibited there. In light of the reaction to her recent Boudoir series, the Arkansas-born artist seems to be amused by the controversy some of her images have sparked in her hometown, Boulder, Colorado.
Your pictures were removed from a show?
PC: Yes, there were three I had to take down, after we got some comments. A few of them made some people uncomfortable. Only the ones of the men. A common theme that runs through the show are pearls, draped around the subjects. Most people were OK with a photograph of a bound woman, holding her hands and legs behind her back. A woman in bondage? No controversy. But the pearls, wrapped around a man's behind, with no underwear on, that was too much. The one of the three men, there is no sex whatsoever. It's almost religious, like a classical painting. Three women wouldn't be a problem.
Didn't the gallery know about these photographs?
PC: It's kind of funny - the owners of the Colorado winery, where the gallery was, they were fine with all of them, the entire series. It was the younger people that worked there, they were the ones that said something. They said they were concerned about people bringing their children to the show. My work isn't really very explicit, but what they saw bothered them. And I thought that was interesting. I think it's a good sign. It shows that the pictures create emotion. For that reason, I don't name the pictures, I just number them, so there's no suggestion.
You've also gotten some attention for photographing older women?
PC: Yes, I try to photograph emotions and feelings, with all kinds of people, of all ages, to express an individual sensuality with elegance, texture, with the play of light on their skin. One of the most popular photographs in the series is of a 60 year-old exotic dancer. It all depends on who commissions the work. In one case, it was two guys. Paper is the traditional 1st anniversary present, so one man gave his husband a photograph, by me. I'd love to do a trans-gender commission.
Do you do much retouching?
PC: Not really. I hardly ever use Photoshop. When I first got involved with digital photography, I did learn some of the trickery. When one model for a job, a Wall Street guy from New York, showed up terribly hung-over, in the end, we had to put another head on his body.
Tell us about your apprenticeship to Andrew Kilgore.
PC: He was a wonderful man. Incredible, really. He really understood light, and how it works, in black and white. He only used natural light, with a large 4 by 5 camera, and I was his assistant. He taught me how to look for the absolute white and the absolute black in a picture. He also told me that I should get the best camera I can afford. When I decided to go digital, I worked my way up from a simple point-and-shoot to a very nice Canon. I take this camera with me everywhere.
We are exposed to so many images, digitally, these days. Does printing a photo on paper make it seem more permanent?
PC: It's a new world. Just ask Eastman Kodak. They don't even make the film we used to use anymore. But after losing nearly all of my work, when a computer died, nearly a year ago, I thought, OK, I have prints of most of them. Of course, the one thing I never printed is gone. I'm much more careful about backing things up now. The same thing happened to Ansel Adams, when he lost his studio, and he had to start over, too.
Sounds like you took it pretty calmly.
PC: Well, I'd like to think that everything happens for a reason. What can you do?
Pinque Clark's work is featured in Camera USA's 2016 National Photography Awards Exhibition. In addition to her shows in Colorado and other U.S. states, she has also exhibited in Europe and published two books, The Car Guy Tour, Italy, and My Colorado.
To see more of her work, visit PhotosByPinque.com.
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