Tressa Pack shot the series Wanderers in a Sea of Fog over the course of a year, on foggy days on San Francisco’s Ocean Beach. Eschewing modern technology, Pack used an old fashioned 8×10 camera (on a tripod, with 8×10-inch negatives), which, because of its bulk, cannot move in response to a subject. The artist would, therefore, set up camp and wait for figures to enter the camera’s range of view, photographing them as they emerged from invisibility into visibility. Whereas most art sets figures in front of a background, here the background is a material atmosphere that so completely envelops the figures that it is actually between the photographer and the subject, pushing the subject into the background.
When it comes time to print, Pack maintains this ambiguity between subject and ground, between humans and nature, by working in a very narrow tonal range. This work is so subtle that, to some, it appears at first as a blank sheet. But once the image starts to register, it pulls its viewer in, demanding a kind of focused looking that is rare in our hectic screen-based lives, and invites one to a quiet meditative space.
Tressa Pack shot the series Edges of Woods over the course of few years, traveling across California to find places where the landscape shift into wood areas. The resulting Edges of Woods series of six photographs explores the liminal boundaries between the manmade environment as it gives way to natural tree growth. Using a rigid system that places the viewer within the manmade, the woods become a subject that both obscures and reveals our view into the landscape, thus pushing at the tenuous boundaries between the two environments.
In her most recent series Fictions, Tressa exposes the tools of photographic fiction (lights, stands, silks, clamps, power packs) in an impassive landscape. The landscapes vary, as does the placement and organization of the equipment. However, in each image the lights denote the presence of an absent subject, as well as the presence of the maker. The quiet, unresponsive landscapes are an equal subject to the lights. Shot in remote locations on overcast days, the landscapes imply an ambiguous set of narrative parameters. Easily anthropomorphized, the lights seem to be an extension of myself where I might naturally be found – in a reality divorced from this one. Within the mute landscape it is the lights that offer us a place – a fiction, to reside in.
Tressa Pack graduated with a BFA in Art from Art Center College of Design and a MFA from Mills College. She has taught photography at UC Davis, served as an affiliate artist at the Headlands Center for the Arts, and was recently nominated for a SECA award. Her work has been displayed widely in the Bay Area, including ProArts, Headlands Center for the Arts, and the Berkeley Art Center. She is represented by SLATE contemporary in Oakland, CA.