Artist Profile: Maurine Sutter
Maurine Sutter first traversed the Province Lands dunes in 1998, embarking from the tiny lot opposite Snail Road, trudging up and clearing that first big dune, lugging her cameras along the Dune Shack Trail into the area locally known as the Backshore. That day trip, despite the effort, was not an influential milestone in her artistic career. But four years later, during a residency awarded by the Peaked Hill Bars Historic District in the Margo-Gelb dune shack, Sutter’s creativity burst forth. But not right away.
She prepped for her two-week stay in the dunes by packing 38 rolls of black-and-white infrared film for a preconceived project, and a few extra rolls of Fujichrome 100 color slide film. But the first week was overcast and rainy, giving Sutter horribly flat lighting for all of that infrared film that demanded sunshine. Weary of the earth tones she was getting from the overcast sky, out of sheer desperation she loaded a roll of the color film in her camera and walked the shoreline.
That’s when she saw it: the thing that was going to change her creative life forever.
Off in the distance she spied a bit of bright color. Before long she could see that it was a tangle of balloons and some ribbon the waves had washed ashore. Starved as she was for subject matter, she photographed the found still life and moved on, and photographed several more vignettes before it started to rain and she had to return to her shack.
This was the beginning of Sutter’s series on beach trash, still occupying her to this day, focusing on the ever-increasing amounts of plastic washing up on the National Seashore. “Tangled by the sea and tossed ashore, these party balloons, ribbons, and discarded objects are photographed exactly as found on the backshore beaches of Provincetown,” she has written in an artistic statement on Beachtrash. “My objective is to attract the viewer’s attention by making aesthetically appealing images that might be considered ‘pretty pictures’ of an ugly reality.”
In a second series, Provincetown Dunes, Sutter continues to use infrared film to portray what may best be called the Cape at its most mysterious. Because the film is exposed to infrared light and not the visible spectrum, the resulting images depict a Cape that is dramatically otherworldly.
Sutter says the moment she stepped into a darkroom she was smitten. “I was drawn to the medium of photography as if by instinct,” she says. She studied with the legendary photographers Harold Feinstein and Jerome Liebling, becoming a proficient printer, describing her education as “learning to wrestle the print to the ground.” When the photographic world moved to digital, she carried over her skills using post-production software as she would a darkroom. “I don’t Photoshop any of my work,” she explains, “I use software like I’d use a wet darkroom, to adjust contrast and exposure and clean off dust. I do not manipulate anything other than the photograph that was made in a split second.” –
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