Marky Kauffmann :: Photography
spacer spacer





image spacer

The 2016 presidential election season took its toll on many people. Especially on women like me, who claim the mantle of feminism with pride, and who had high hopes that Hillary Clinton would finally break the ultimate glass ceiling. Somewhere along the way, however, things got ugly and the Republican nominee’s misogynistic parlance felt like a daily onslaught. Vicious attacks against the physical appearance of women were commonplace. Rosie O’Donnell, Carly Fiorina, and Heidi Cruz were just a few of Trump’s targets. Worse still were the claims of Trump’s sexual assaults against Jessica Leeds (on an airplane in 1980), Rachel Crooks (at Trump Tower in NYC), and Mindy McGillivray (at Mar-a-Lago in 2003), to name a few.

In response to all the ugliness, I began creating chemigram dresses. The making of these “dresses” has helped me deal with the political climate. The hands-on activity of creating these in the darkroom has soothed me — somewhat like a dressing soothes a wound. And I am celebrating all things female, like the dress, a wonderful, feminine garment.



Hurricane spacer I have always been in love with photography. As a girl, I was completely spellbound by the images in magazines such as National Geographic, Life and Look. They inspired my love of the natural world and especially for the landscape. In my quest to become a fine-art photographer, I have discovered that I can speak about my life — the good and the bad — through the making of pictures.

The story of the Prayer Images begins with my maternal grandmother, Ellen Gordon Allen, who studied the art of ikebana flower arranging while living in Japan at the end of World War II. She was founder of Ikebana International, an organization dedicated to the promotion and appreciation of ikebana flower arranging and Japanese culture. Ikebana is an ancient Asian art form whose origins can be traced back to the sixth century AD when it appeared in Buddhist temples. As a child, I was completely captivated by my grandmotherís flower arrangements. Her use of line, shape, pattern, texture, color, symmetry and asymmetry mesmerized me. And so, as an adult, I too became an arranger, as are all photographers.

Just as the natural world was a source of inspiration for my grandmother, so, too, it is for me. In the landscape I find peace, harmony and order, but also tension, destruction and chaos.

The Prayer Images are made for family and friends who have been diagnosed with cancer. Although these are Iris inkjet prints images in their final form, traditional materials are very much a part of the process. Silver paper, liquid emulsion, toners, potassium ferricyanide, SpotTone and Kodak Opaque paint are all part of the alchemy in these pictures. In some of these works, I have created a tumor - a random shape painted in the dark with liquid emulsion on watercolor paper. On or near the tumor, I print a scene from the natural world, the place I go to pray for health and healing. The Asian letters reference my grandmotherís connection to the artistic traditions of those cultures. The digital process allows me to collage all the elements together.

Some of those for whom these pictures were made have succumbed to the disease. Others are valiant, courageous survivors. I see the images as tributes to, and prayers, for both.

Lost Beauty

Lost Beauty spacer This work is about women and aging. Time and gravity can wreak havoc on a face. What can be done to stop it? Today, women resort to a myriad of treatments, from Botox to expensive creams to deep plane facelifts in a vain attempt (in both meanings of the word) to stop the aging process. As a woman, I am both fascinated by and revolted by the steps women take to combat and even reverse aging. Why do women succumb to the knife, the chemical, the poison, to attempt to change what is inevitable? Whatever happened to the notion of a woman whose every facial line, every wrinkle, had behind it a story of struggle, suffering, fortitude, survival, even triumph?


Prayer Pieces

Magnolia spacer Why do I make landscapes? The answer is twofold. In part, I make landscapes because the outside world always seemed less dangerous than the inside world of my childhood. If I ever felt safe, it was outside. And partially, it’s because my grandmother created “landscapes” of a sort — beautiful flower arrangements — that captured my young imagination.

In an interview with author Krista Tippett, the poet Mary Oliver, describes her childhood by saying, “It was a very bad childhood for everybody, every member of the household, not just myself I think. And I escaped it, barely…I got saved by the beauty of the natural world." Oliver goes on to describe skipping school to spend her days in the forest near her home, reading books and writing poems.

I, too, had a “bad childhood,” to quote Oliver, although I grew up in an elegant house, in a fancy suburb. Being outside offered me an escape from family difficulties. In the local woods, I found solace, something I rarely found at home.

The story of these landscapes can also be attributed to my maternal grandmother, Ellen Gordon Allen, who lived in Japan at the end of World War II. While in Japan, she became a skilled practitioner of Ikebana flower arranging, and upon returning to the US, founded Ikebana International, an organization that promotes Japanese flower arranging and Japanese culture. As a child, I was completely captivated by the Asian art in my grandmother’s home, and by her flower arrangements. The combination of flowers, branches, leaves, and rocks that she used to create her “landscapes” somehow made sense to me. And her use of line, shape, pattern, texture, color, symmetry and asymmetry mesmerized me.  

So I, too, make landscapes of a sort. These images begin as silver prints that I bleach with potassium ferricyanide, utilizing various tools such as brushes and funnels. The bleach allows me to create a unique world. Within these landscapes, I find peace, and great comfort.