Vaughn Wascovich

Professor of Photography at Texas A&M Commerce, Vaughn Wascovich shares the expressive capabilities of pinhole photography.

Welcome to the Hard Times: Photographs of East Texas

The idea of displacement and transience are central to this body of landscape photographs. Northeast Texas is a landscape with a rich and storied past, but also one of an uncertain and shifting future.Images of mobile homes, collapsed churches, abandoned farms and even earth-moving machinery all reiterate this idea of impermanence. But it is also the method of making the images themselves, the mark-making from its production, the uncertainty of composition as well as the push-pull of subject/object that forces the viewer to move beyond the temporal. 

These images are made using hand-made,curved-back, 8x20” paper-negative pinhole cameras. 

Exposures begin at four minutes in direct sun. Once exposed, the paper negative is developed in a traditional wet darkroom in very unconventional ways. The negative is then scanned and inverted.There is minimal digital manipulation involved other than making adjustments for contrast. The images are printed at three different sizes, 10x25”, 16x40”and 40x100”.

This project combines the primitive technology of pinhole cameras with the latest in digital scanning and printing, in an attempt to document the East Texas landscape with a poetic and unique vision.

About the Artist:

Vaughn Wascovich is an Associate Professor at Texas A&M University/ Commerce. He received his MFA at Columbia College and has more than twenty years experience as a commercial photographer as well as more than a dozen years teaching photography at the university level. He has participated in more than one hundred juried, group and solo exhibitions, and is currently a Visiting Scholar with the Harvard School of Public Health. He has won numerous awards in peer-reviewed exhibitions, was awarded the Gary B.Fritz Imagemaker Award for current research at the National Conference of the Society of Photographic Educators (SPE) in 2009, and in 2010 Professor Wascovich was awarded the Provost Award for Research and Creative Activity from Texas A&M University/Commerce.

I grew up in a dying steel town surrounded by hills. The steel mills were the lifeblood of the town… even as they were closing, family and friends would say it was a good life, a good living. By the time I would have been old enough to work there, I already knew I never would. I went on to college and studied art as an undergrad. No one could understand what sense that made, sometimes even me. Life in the mills would have been back-breaking, but to me art was always the hardest thing I could imagine doing.

When I stopped doing commercial work to concentrate on art, I reconnected with my interest in landscape and how it affects me. I wanted to see things for what they are and for what they were, I wanted to see the depth of a place. And I wanted to tell those stories.Within those stories of place, though, I know that I also take pictures because I want to find out where I am in the world… how I'm situated. I use my cameras to try and understand that.