Many people say that a picture is worth a thousand words. However, if this is true, what would a work of art created by a one-of-a-kind darkroom process be worth?
John Carroll senior Ben Hauser answers this question in his unique photography exhibit. Hauser titled his exhibit: “An Alchemist’s Light: One-of-a-Kind Darkroom Prints,” and it is composed of two pieces: “Epoch No. 17” and “Epoch No. 19.” Both works are currently hanging in John Carroll’s Dolan Center for Science and Technology on the first floor, west hallway, until the end of the semester.
“An Alchemist’s Light” is an entirely new type of exhibit, featuring pieces that were created with no camera or digital manipulation. To make his art, Hauser exposes color photographic paper to fluorescent and incandescent lights. This allows each work to develop and become exposed at the same time.
Interestingly, the pieces Hauser has created are not put into a glass frame, or even matted on the wall. Instead, they are surrounded by torn edges and exposed to the environment. In his artist statement, Hauser points out these creative decisions, saying, “Because these pieces are not behind glass, the colors will begin to shift over the course of the next 10-20 years. The image is forever within the photographic process; it is forever developing and transforming.”
Hauser stresses the individuality of his creations, pointing out that they are neither paintings nor digital abstractions, but unique expressions of photographic creativity.
Hauser first established a passion for photography in high school, while developing a roll of film. Sitting in the darkroom, he realized that you do not have to actually use film to create a picture. Hauser cited this as the moment he experienced a “photographic spark of excitement.”
Subsequently, Hauser built on his passion here at John Carroll as an art history major. He believes a background in history is very important for all young artists, because it teaches them what has been made before, how to be innovative and how to successfully communicate a message using subtle artistic techniques.
Regarding the exhibit itself, Hauser said, “It feels great to be sharing my imagery with the John Carroll community.” He went on to state that Dolan is the perfect location for his works, which blend creativity and technology, because they are displayed directly between the art history and science departments.
As for the future, Hauser stated, “I’d like to continue building a name for myself as an artist. Photography has led me to some neat ideas. I’d like to continue the journey and see what surprises lay in store.”
More of Hauser’s work can be found at benhauserphotography.com.
The Carroll News sat down with Ben Hauser and asked him a few questions.
The Carroll News: When did you first realize your passion for photography? Why?
Ben Hauser: I realized I had a passion for it part-way through my first high school photography class. One
morning, as I was developing a roll of film, I was suddenly struck by the notion that I don’t have
to send the film out in order for it to “become pictures”. The entire photographic process was
contained within this space, everything happened in this darkroom. Something about that really
got me. That was my first photographic spark of excitement.
CN: What most inspires you? Why?
Hauser: I think my motivation is to make something rich and lively. This might sound a bit funny
or trite, but think of all the movies, art, music, and books that you really like- what if the
artists chose not to make them? What images would be in your head? What lyrics would
you sing when you think no one’s around? What lines would you quote with your friends?
I guess you could say I like the idea of making something that really grabs the viewer and
shows them something creative.
CN: How did John Carroll help develop your passion? Are there any specific members of
staff who influenced you a great deal?
Hauser: I’m studying Art History and it’s so important to see what has been made over the course of
time. As an artist, it’s so valuable to see how different historical periods spawn new or varied
approaches to the arts- what qualifies as appropriate subject matter? What are the conventions of
the day? How do artist innovate? As a maker, it’s so important to have a strong understanding
of what has been made. It’s also fascinating to see how certain artists fall in and out of favor at
different points in history.
I’ve taken several English courses here at John Carroll and that has forced me to hone my
skills as a writer. Both English and Art History have shown me that you don’t have to shout in
order to be heard as an artist. People will pick up on your ideas if you have successfully worked
them into your piece.
I had Chris Roark for two courses. I wasn’t as close to him as some, but we chatted here and
there and I could tell he enjoyed the fact that I’m an artist. I was shocked when I learned that
he had passed away. His ability to analyze a text and discuss the underlying concepts was very
impressive; I really admired that about him. He was a professor who always demanded hard
work from you; that was his reputation and you need to have people like that.
CN: What concrete goals and more general hopes do you have for your photography career in
I’d like to continue building a name for myself as an artist. Since high-school, photography
has led me to some neat ideas and it has allowed me to meet some very interesting people. I’d
like to continue the journey and see what surprises lay in store.
CN: What advice would you give budding photographers on how to best achieve their dreamsand find success in a competitive market? Hauser: As far as being an artist- Find mentors. Follow your intuition. Use your imagination. Don’t beafraid to try crazy ideas. Don’t be afraid to reinvent yourself as an artist- don’t get caught up in the idea that you’re a particular kind of artist who produces a particular kind of image- when something clever comes along, don’t say to yourself, “that idea isn’t me.”
As far as building a career- understand that as a young artist, no one is going to come to you;
you have to go to them. The irony is that the more you make things happen, the more people
will begin to come to you- this interview being a perfect example. So seek out opportunities
and create others where possible. Before my work was on display, the Art History department
had a series of posters on the wall. It wasn’t an exhibition space per se, but I put forward a nice
proposal and we were able to switch things around.
CN: How do you feel about having your pictures displayed in Dolan? Do you have any
comments about the exhibit itself?
Hauser: It feels great to be able to share my imagery with the John Carroll community. As a medium,
photography is a unique combination of creativity and technology- what a stroke of luck that
the exhibit is in Dolan and just happens to be situated right between the Art History and Science
departments. I’ve displayed unmounted, unframed prints because my goal is to present the most
natural and direct photographic object I can. The flip side of this is that the work is just out there,
vulnerable, in the open. However, producing my work is very much about letting go of control
over the photographic process- I suppose trusting that the imagery will be fine is another level of