Vaune Trachtman

Vaune Trachtman

Artist Statement

The works in this lovely journal come from two series: ROAMING and NOW IS ALWAYS. They are all photogravures toned with a surface roll. The prints use soy-based inks and are printed on shiramine paper. They range in size from 15” x 19” to 28” x 34”.


ROAMING is informed by my exploration of what it feels like to have lost my parents at an early age. I was pretty much on my own after that, and for many years the view out a car or train window felt more like home than wherever I was living. Bridges and highways, trestles and roofs, the husks of industrial towns racing by at two or three in the morning—ROAMING is about my brief inhabitations of these places, my evanescent homes. In these self-portraits as landscapes, I’m seeking a convergence of longing and the land, absence and fullness, stillness and movement, the physical world and the dream state.


In NOW IS ALWAYS, I’ve added people to these locations. They come from images my father shot in Depression-era Philadelphia, near his father’s drugstore. Nearly 90 years after he took the pictures, I was given the negatives, which I combined with my own images. In this work, I want to create a sense of collapsed-yet-expanded time. Yes, I want to see what my father saw, and yes, I want him to see what I see—but I also want the viewer to look at the past, and I want the past to look right back. And by combining images taken almost a century apart, I also want to integrate layers of technology and image-making history: his 1930’s point-and-shoot, my iPhone, his silver-gelatin negatives, my Photoshop files, and the traditions of ink, elbow grease, and an intaglio press.


NOW IS ALWAYS is supported by the the National Endowment for the Arts and the Vermont Arts Council.

From The Art Editor

The photographic image is so ubiquitous a medium in our cultural vernacular as to be rendered nearly invisible, hidden in plain sight. Appreciation of imagery, and photography in particular is complicated further by the troubling proliferation of hyper-saturated, smooth AI imagery (however one feels about it), making us ever-more the cynic when presented with something seemingly or truly beautiful; “Can I trust it? Is this real?”

So, the work of a photographer is fraught. How and why to make more images? What will the treatment of those images in the material realm do to compound or complicate our experience of them? What kind of collective unconscious visions are these images competing with, and subtly being compared to? What reality do they depict, evoke, inspire? Can they even be noticed, in the white noise of all other images vying for our attention?

Somehow, the images in this issue are unconcerned with these ‘problems.’ They aren’t trying to sell us something, they exist in terms of their own ontological reality, and they are sometimes ambiguous, but not ambivalent—they are offering a gauzy poignancy. They are arresting, and I find that they stick with me— full of textures from other eras and from the here and now, simultaneously. Textures picked up by the original photographic negatives and textures augmented by the printmaking process of photogravure.
This is like the work of words, and the words of poets. What to say, and how to say it. The concrete and the transcendent collaborating to make meaning feel accessible even as pinpointing that meaning escapes us.

Vaune Trachtman is both a photographer— a maker of images and a curator of views, familiar with the love language between light and shadow— and a printmaker whose hands and nostrils are familiar with ink, paper, and solvent. Her images are full of borrowed, found, inherited and discovered subjects, either through her family lineage, or through the lineage of the photographic medium itself. Her decision to develop and redevelop as well as double expose, and process them through the dreamy, beautiful lens of photogravure, makes them both more mysterious and more accessible— they are surreal and magical, but grounded in her processes one can feel assured of the humanity of their vantage. You see, and feel, the eye and the hand of the artist(s).

The composite nature of her work meddles with time, and with space. It gives the viewer access to their own memories through these light and shadow imprints of memories from the other, and the ether. Again, this is like the work of poetry; one cannot know the meaning, but can come into relationship with the words that conspire to represent it. That dialogue with meaning through image or language is an important one—a conversation we must keep having over and over again, and never fully resolve.
What a pleasure it is to have Vaune’s work in our pages this issue, interspersed with many translations making the courageous attempt to convey in new language the power and presence of what was once said in another, much like a photograph evokes but cannot transport us fully to the moment it shows us. I invite you to enjoy the romance of these multitudinous longings: the fact of what we see before us, and the evocation of what we cannot.

About the Artist

Picture of Vaune Trachtman

Vaune Trachtman is a photographer and printmaker whose work honors historic processes, but without using toxic chemicals. Formerly a master printer of silver-gelatin prints and asphaltum-based photogravures, she began to feel that her immune-system was being compromised by those processes. She now makes gravures using a non-toxic process that involves little more than light and water. She received her BA from Marlboro College and her MA from New York University and the International Center for Photography. She was born in Philadelphia and now lives in Brattleboro, Vermont.

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