Dan Peyton, born 1958 in England, currently works in Jersey City, NJ and upstate New York, is an artist photographer who specializes in outdated photographic techniques and other disciplines and explores how their decline in popular usage has imbued them with historical permutations that relate to ideas about the passage of time and implications of creating hand made imagery.
Dan has shown work in the US and Europe. His ambrotype of Matthew Day Jackson was included in the Maurizio Cattelan curated Wrong Gallery installation at the 2006 Whitney Biennial. He has shown at GV Art London, Wave Hill, the public garden and cultural center overlooking the Hudson River, SITE Santa Fe, the International Print Center New York, Kathleen Cullen Gallery, the RE Institute in Millerton, NY and Exit Art among others. His work has also been shown in London, Brighton, Amsterdam, Paris, Miami and New York at art fairs. He has also donated artwork to arts non-profits including FreeArts NYC with auctions on Paddle8 and DieuDonne Papermill, Momenta Art and the Rema Hort Mann Foundation. Collections include The Smithsonian Institution and the Hess Petroleum Collection.
Self taught in the use of cyanotype (discovered by Sir John Herschel in 1842), ambrotype (1854) and other superseded photographic techniques, Dan acknowledges the temporal aspect embedded in every image he makes. The image is a record of the time in which it is taken but also a record of the time taken to make the image.
Identified by the Swiss art portal Widewalls as ‘one of the cyanotype process purists’, the work hovers between the startlingly simple and the procedurally complex. It is also guided by two implacable principles. First, that photography is chemistry. The action of ultra violet frequencies on light sensitive materials is key. To initiate this process by the formulation of chemicals and then to implement a choreographed image taking sequence followed by a measured chemical reaction that may or may not reflect the imagined outcome. It is this space between intention and expectation that fascinates and makes images that transcend the methodical or automatic.
The second guiding principle is that our ability to understand our reality, particularly with the use of photography, is limited by the very nature of the technology we happen to be using to capture or describe our reality. Our understanding of major world events, the Crimean War and the US Civil War, for example, is permanently colored by the technology, wet plate collodion, that was used to record the events taking place in the theatre of conflict. The fact that ambrotype only reads the blue light in the visible spectrum and that the images are unique, one of a kind, under-developed images informs our understanding of the era and the events themselves. Exposure times were so lengthy due to the chemistry that the photographers, Matthew Brady in the US and Roger Fenton in the Crimea, focused more on the still dead bodies on the battlefield. This altered how the public saw war and helped change the patriotic view that war was a noble and glorious pursuit. The manner of creating an image is made of equal parts history, technology and art.
Recent work also involves the introduction of other less universal, low tech or formerly quotidian techniques. Felt making, dyeing, silk screen, basket weaving, origami and paper folding are all being used to help focus on changes to historical attitudes about what constitutes art and also on concepts of ‘universal creativity’ including societal attitudes to less valued creative pursuits including occupational therapy and ‘playtime’.