Professor Michael Teres' office in Brodie is cluttered with papers and framed photographs. The photographs lie on the floor, leaning against walls or whatever else is around to support their weight. These are the unfortunate works of art that did not make the cut for his current exhibition "40 Years of Excellence." The disorganized office is evidence of an artist who spends his time on more fruitful endeavors than neatening up his paperwork.
The exhibition is currently being held in the Lederer Gallery of Brodie, the Lockhart Gallery on Main Street, and in the Milne Library Gallery. The sheer scope of the event reveals a vast amount of work that Teres has accumulated over his prolific career in experimenting with photography. As he begins walking through the Lederer Gallery, he explained his apparently favorite technique of reticulation. "I went and used the University's dark room which, in spite of the fact that I had taught photography, I had never used personally before and was not aware that there was a hot water problem. The hot water problem accidentally melted the film that I was working on. It looked okay. I hung it up, but when I went to get it down and I touched it, it started to come off on my fingers. It had melted but still stayed attached to the film base." This accident started Teres on what would become a lifelong journey into the possibilities of photography beyond what one might consider standard point-and-click.
He went on to explain the process of reticulation and how he came to master it. "It became something I started to work on at Geneseo. I had a grant from Geneseo to work on the reticulation process and investigate it. Reticulation is a melting, usually accidental, of the film emulsion. In its worst situation, the film is totally destroyed. In its not-so-bad situation, it texturizes and patternizes an image. So I experimented with that and, after I got everything all done at the end of the grant and written up, Kodak changed their film base formulas.
Teres' continued, "Consequently, everything that I had learned about it became almost untrue. Then I began to experiment with different chemistry to enhance the ability for the film to reticulate, and that opened up a whole new group of opportunities for the film." As he moved through the gallery, the photographs become increasingly abstract with the textures and patterns of reticulation. Teres' said his early career began with photographing nude models in a studio setting. This produced what he terms more "traditional" results without many abstractions or texture variations.
Eventually he drifted toward landscape work, which he considers ironic as he is originally from Brooklyn. This led to the mixing of models and landscapes, which produced more diverse images. Teres paused to describe one particular work, it appeared to be something involving a person running and trees. "It essentially causes one to start to think about what it is that you're looking at. You recognize, in some cases, the landscape elements, the figure. And at the same time, you don't easily recognize any relationship between the two of them: where one is relative to the other, where the space is. The space begins to dissolve as well as the image." He moved on through the gallery.
Once Teres gained a handle on reticulation, he felt the need to take the process further. He credits himself, certainly correctly, for pushing boundaries throughout his career. "I developed, discovered, perfected, whatever you want to call it, what's referred to as 'differential reticulation.' That is where I can control some of the areas so that it doesn't get reticulated, and then allow other things to become very reticulated around it. So it begins to change the material. My interest was just that: how far can you push a process and still have it be the process. There were people who didn't think what I did was photography." The images we pass during this explanation become more abstract. If it were not for titles like "Nude in Interior," the subjects of the photographs would be extremely elusive. Even with titles many works seem more like beautifully formless color than photographs of models and landscapes.
Teres stoped at a photograph that had been reticulated but is clearly recognizable as the clock tower of Sturges Hall. Due to the process, the image has few colors and has a pixilated texture. The picture has been given as a gift from the college to all retiring faculty over the past three years. Teres explains the artistic significance of using reticulation in this particular case. "Again, we are looking at something that is dissolving in some way, it's not the real thing but it's based on the realities you see. But at the same time, as memory has it when we look back on things, there are things that are clearer, things less clear. We were in a constant changing environment because of the expansion of the college. So all of those factors are built into the image and the process that has created that image."
Around the next corner is a seemingly incongruous piece mounted on the wall. Teres tells of how the emergence of computer technology changed photography and his approach to it. The piece on the wall, he reveals, is a sculpture made of black floppy disk with white roadways running across it. The theme of transition is an idea that Teres certainly believes lends itself perfectly to the art of photography. The next group of images incorporate a more precise use of color than what we had previously passed. To create these images, Teres used computer technology to shrink and enlarge images before adding color by hand. He commented, "When I was at RIT doing courses, they use to kid me cause I made 'coloring books. You click and fill it in with color.'"
One particular piece in this area is called the "7 Million Dollar Print." Teres had an anecdote that accompanied the photograph and its title. "In order to use them [computers at RIT], you had to take four introductory courses, which I did do. And then the RIT faculty complained what was this Geneseo person doing using this $7 million computer and they weren't allowed to. And the dean's response was, 'Did you take the four prerequisites?' The answer was always, 'No.'"