lost canoe by Curtis Wehrfritz
The series lost canoe features an idyllic lake untouched by humans, save a lone, unmoored canoe. The pristine wilderness portrayed in Curtis Wehrfritz’s wet plate collodions suggests a timeless memory as old as the process by which he captures his images. Somehow familiar, this re-imagined landscape also seems to be haunted by the past.
We all carry an image of a lake in the woods, but for the most part something this pure resides only in our imagination. Whether we speak of the First Nations, the explorers they taught, or of a fond personal memory of summer camp, the canoe is imprinted on our collective imagination. Hand-crafted, unmanned, unmoored, and timeless, the canoe is our humble guide in our journey. There is a saying that every campfire you attend brings back the memory of another fire, so too with paddling a canoe.
The series was envisioned by chance, coming across a canoe adrift at sunset at the mouth of a river. Perfect and mysterious, the inspiration for this story began as the artist’s personal memory. For seven seasons, Wehrfritz has returned to the same location each Spring and Fall to recapture the same minimal image in new light.
In creating the series, it was a conscious choice to begin to work with wet plate collodion, a process that dates to the earliest recorded photo images. The plates are individually hand-poured, dipped in silver nitrate and exposed in a camera. The process is very much akin to a type of old-school Polaroid. The exposures must be made and developed while the plate is still wet, giving us a keen sense of a moment in time that the plate itself witnessed. Each unique, hand-polished plate acts as a machine for memory.