The last time we talked to visual artist Max van der Wal was about his artistic studies on the film negative in the series The Reality of Our Illusions. His pervading enthusiasm to question and analyze the material make-up of the film negative continues on. A curious question on why silver does not exist in the final product of color negatives has made him take on the alternative photographic process, mordançage. The process is known to create a "degraded effect" on the images, particularly with black and white photos. He tries the process with color film, making him one of the first to attempt mordançage in color. Learn more about his project through this interview.
Hi Max! Welcome back to Lomography. Please tell us how you got inspired to make this new series.
For me it started off with a question, actually. Why is no one doing mordançage in color? Why are all works made in black and white? It actually took me quite a while to figure out that it is because there is no silver in the final product of a color film. However, once I had enough knowledge about the chemical reactions involved, it didn’t take very long to figure out how to do it in color. So, I was inspired to make this series because I had discovered a little theoretical secret, which I needed to experiment with in real life.
You mentioned that mordançage was among the processes you used in our last feature, "The Reality Of Our Illusions". For you, what's different with this series?
“The Reality Of Our Illusions” was mostly focused on highlighting the materiality of film through various forms of destruction, whereas here I’m taking this one process from that series and am trying to explore it more in-depth. Seeing where it can take me, and what I can do that I couldn’t do before.
We're really impressed with the abstractions of the images! As you have names for each image, what was the thought process behind giving each image a title? Overall, what did this series make you think of?
The thought process behind the images fluctuates quite a lot. They can refer to the specific moment of making the photo, or to something abstract which the new images give me. However, one thing which really stands out for me, maybe not for the viewer, is how these manipulations show how memory, specifically my memory, degrades over time. How an image itself triggers not even a memory of a memory, but how over time the memory of the image actually becomes stronger than the actual memory of the moment.
You've said that this series is one of the first ones in the world to use mordancage process on color film. What were the challenges you faced when you were working with this?
There has been a lot of guessing in this process since there isn’t really a clear guide to be found online. This made it quite difficult to figure out if what I was doing was correct, or if it would be successful. Luckily, I was.
What was the most rewarding thing/experience you had when you worked on this new series?
The most rewarding moment was when I saw the outcome of Direction. How the red filaments followed the outline of the flower so well. It was at that moment that I realized the potential this technique has for me. How it will enable me to change the content of my photographs away from solely textured photographs towards a more subject-based photography. In The Reality Of Our Illusions, I was very hesitant to use clear subjects in my photographs because I felt that the processes I used wouldn’t blend well with clear subjects. With the mordançage in color, I see I won’t have that problem.
Any tips or words of advice when it comes to experimenting with images?
Well firstly, If you wonder about what something might do, just do it. Do some tests, see what they look like. Really try to analyze everything that happened. Then do it again, see if the effect is the same, or different, or maybe you want to change something.
Secondly, don’t try to start too much with an idea of what the final result will be like because if you do, you will probably be disappointed. It will never be the way you expect it to be, so you need to be open to whatever happens.
Lastly, what's next for Max?
I’ll be definitely be making more work with this technique soon and I’m going to experiment a lot with different subjects. I’ve recently acquired an old 4x5 camera which is really been pushing me to make more and bigger work. Also, I’m going to start working more with prints, and maybe even start selling them, because that is really where the 4x5 camera can excel.