by Marianne Bernstein
If you haven't met the two K's of Silicon Gallery yet, you're missing out on a big treat. Don't be fooled by their age (20's) or total adorableness--they are the backbone of this esteemed digital printmaking studio, a Mecca for Philadelphia artists and printmakers. Kaitlin Mosley and Katie Tackman are also excellent photographers and, like horses at a racetrack, are pawing at the gate ready for a big breakout. I've watched their evolution over the years, first at Silicon, marveling at their patience and printing expertise, and more recently as artists and friends. I believe they have discovered recently what many of us mid-career artists slowly figure out-- that encouraging one's friends and contemporaries oftentimes is exactly what's needed to take oneself as an artist more seriously, to be less self-critical, while moving forward...
Kaitlin and KT's photographs share many qualities. They both shoot film. Mostly set in natural settings, with water nearby, each image can be read as both a portrait and a landscape. They are serene, timeless, and nostalgic. The viewer often feels as if they have stumbled upon a private moment, a Cartier-Bresson "decisive moment" of harmony and balance, which a second later will change completely.
For Summer Solstice, Kaitlin contributed "Ship" a haunting image of a sailboat adrift in the fog, where water and sky are almost indistinguishable. KT created a stunning body of work while traveling recently in the Czech Republic, using only a Holga camera, of families on a lakeside vacation. "Olomouc", her contribution to Solstice is perfectly composed and intensely felt; a family outing so familiar, sad, haunting, and lovely, it takes my breath away.
Recently I spoke with them about their work:
MB: When did you first pick up a camera and why? What did you photograph?
KAITLIN: I don’t remember the first picture I ever took, but guessing by the age of my siblings in the photos I must have been around 7. I still have copies of the photos I took of my sisters standing on my bed posing for glamour shots that I styled. They couldn’t have been more than 5. My mom was always photographing us (I am one of 5 kids, have a twin brother, two sisters who are 1 and ½ years younger than me and then a single sister who is 6 years younger than me.) and one of our favorite things to do would be to sit on the couch and look at photo albums with my mom as she would point us out in the pictures, younger versions of ourselves. My first camera was either my pink Vivitar (110 film!) or the Kodak instamatic (210 film), then I moved on and learned how to load actual film myself.
KT: I started photographing in high school because I was kind of an outsider. Growing up in Connecticut was very different than my life is now. I was surrounded by people who were more concerned with money and a certain social status, which made me want to escape. But the amazing thing about growing up in New England was nature is always around you. I would escape to the water or the woods and photograph my observations. Some of my first Polaroid’s were taken in Connecticut and I still remember every scene from that day because taking photos widens my senses making me super aware of details.
MB: What do you photograph now- and why?
KAITLIN: I photograph my loved ones and the places we go, or the places I go. I prefer to shoot with my cameras, which are a Minolta x700 and my Yashika for medium format. It’s just what I know, and what I like and enjoy.
KT: I photograph now because it is one of the only things that excites me about life. I am a very quiet person so I think my photography gives me a platform to speak through my eyes. I also use photography as a way of meeting people when searching along the Schuylkill for subjects to photograph. I mainly use Polaroid and instant film because I love the immediacy and the colors it produces. I have started using sepia toned Polaroid and experimental film made by the Impossible Project, which is fun to experiment with and get a different effect each time.
MB: Which photographers have influenced you?
KAITLIN: Francesca Woodman, and Wynn Bullock.
KT: Hellen van Meene, Man Ray, and William Eggleston
MB: What are your other interests? Do they affect your photographs in any way?
KAITLIN: My interests are nature, family, and friends. I like getting out of the city and I like camping a whole lot. I like being with the people I care about. I wouldn’t be able to photograph strangers the way some people do.
KT: My two passions are photography and sailing which both give me a sense of freedom. I grew up sailing and worked on a Tall Ship for a year after graduating college. The ocean both excites and scares me at the same time. I would like to explore that idea through my photographs someday. I have also been known to rip it up on the basketball court, which really has nothing to do with photography but it is just as fun!
MB: How has working at Silicon affected your photography? Have you influenced one another?
KAITLIN: I have grown fond of color since I have been at Silicon. I was primarily into black and white, in the darkroom in college and working here has definitely influenced my appreciation of color. I think you could say that I am sensitive to color, which makes me a careful and good printer for others. I also care about others and what they want to achieve with their art, so I try to let myself be a bridge for them into this process.
KT: When I started working at Silicon I became immersed in the art scene in Philly. I have met so many artists but more importantly created relationships with them outside of work. We try to support all the artists who come into the shop and in turn they support all of our work. Kaitlin, Steven, Gus and I all go to each other’s shows and we are constantly talking about our ideas and our experiences creating art. Kaitlin and I look at each other’s work and give each other advice or tell each other about shows. I think it is interesting that we have a similar style of photography but before we even knew each other. Not really in subject or technique but in feeling. I try to make my photos look timeless and I think Kaitlin just does that naturally. I admire her for that and for the personal content in her work.
MB: If the sky were the limit, what would you be doing now?
KAITLIN: I would be camping, with my loved ones, preferably on the beach. And I would be taking pictures.
KT: I would like to be traveling, exploring in the Czech Republic. In college I studied abroad in Prague and traveled throughout the country. The escape from the regular academic lifestyle and traveling allowed me to photograph for fun again. I came back with some amazing photos, which I did not pre-visualize; they just came out of me while I was exploring the pools and lakes in the country. Now I try to recreate that same imagery that I saw there.
MB: Why is Silicon special to the Philadelphia print community? What is it that Silicon offers that you can't find elsewhere here?
KAITLIN: Silicon is the information Hub for the art scene in Philadelphia. We are involved with most projects and support most artists. We do our best to be accessible to all who have an interest and we help spread the word of what is going on to those new to the city who are interested in getting more involved in the arts. There is always a dialogue here and it is always about helping others achieve their goals and meet their challenges. I think we make a lot of people happy with what we do. We print for so many people from all around, from printing paintings from William Egglestons’s cousin somewhere outside of Memphis, Tennessee who was very happy to be working with a “Kaitlin, a good southern name”, to the local and fabulous Zoë Strauss, to whom I must say 143…
KT: I think Silicon is a place where artists can get high quality digital prints and work with people who actually care about the end product. We are all artists so we know how much work our customers put into their work, so we try to give the same amount. This shop is important to the Philly art community because it connects so many people. Rick does projects with Philagrafika, Fresh Artists, Cindy Ettinger, and many other local non-profits, usually as a favor or just to help support their causes. I admire that about this company and feel good about helping out other artists in the community. Also the late Dog was what made this shop different from others. He was our mascot and friend; we will miss him dearly!
Check them out. And thank you so much, Rick DeCoyte, Silicon Gallery and Fine Art Prints for all that you have done for the Philadelphia art community and for Philagrafika!