Cemetery Shadow, 2012
A few years ago, Walgreens launched a clever promotion for a reusable film camera in a world full of digital devices. The cheap plastic cameras, which retailed for about ten dollars, advertised “free film for life” in big letters. The catch was that you had to have the film processed at Walgreens, but it seemed like an opportunity to Lina Tharsing, a young painter and photographer from Lexington, Kentucky.
Lina Tharsing is best known as a painter but has been making photographs since she was a child. According to Tharsing, “I remember my first roll of film exactly. I was only eleven, and in an effort to amuse a bored child, my mother handed me a camera and told me to go out into the yard and take some pictures. At that moment, my view of the world changed, the lens revealed something my eyes hadn’t seen before. It was the ability to capture a fleeting moment and freeze it forever, to frame a scene.” Tharsing carries a camera with her everywhere she goes in a relentless pursuit of light and a self-described “singular moment where reality and fiction intersect.” She seeks out the brightly lit tree in the middle of a forest or the deep shadow that forms a portal into some other dimension. The resulting images of figures, interiors, suburban scenes, and natural landscapes challenge our perception of truth, offering a composed tension of multiple realities that would otherwise be forever lost.
Portal Light, 2012
Leaf Monster, 2011
Ceiling Petals, 2013
Tharsing’s photographs, occasionally used as source material for her paintings, have long transcended the role of secondary material and have become an important aspect of her artistic practice. They recall a slower time where instant gratification and the ubiquitous cellphone camera was not the norm. Tharsing is pointedly not a Luddite, but admits that in our digital age, she is increasingly “drawn to traditional cameras and film, and most especially to the Walgreens camera.” Like most toy cameras, its plastic lens and flimsy body allow for light leaks, blurring, and other visual distortions that are completely unpredictable. These uncontrollable variables and the film’s unique color balance create the perfect conditions for a painter who is used to “working with mistakes, allowing the medium to show itself or dictate how a piece will be made.” It is a delicate dance, but Tharsing has found a way to coax balanced images from a machine that is, at best, imprecise.
The Walgreens camera has become a staple of Tharsing’s photographic tool kit, but the drugstore chain finally discontinued the product without any announcement or fanfare earlier this year. They do, however, continue to honor the “free film for life” promise printed on the camera’s packing. Unfortunately, the aforementioned life refers to the camera and not the individual (see reverse side for details).
Light Blur, 2011
Water Dog, 2012
Gold Leaves, 2011
White Light, 2012
All images are courtesy of photographer Lina Tharsing.