When Lidija Ivanek takes a photo, she is surprised by her work in a way very few photographers give themselves the chance to be these days. Ivanek resurrects old development methods in lieu of relying on her DSLR for every project, and so instead of sifting through and deleting several versions of the same shot, she never knows what her photos will reveal to her until she’s through with the development process.
“Did you know that there were at least 400 different developing techniques before and we lost almost all memory of them?” the Croatian photographer asks. “We lost knowledge about them before we had the chance to explore them. I love to think of myself (in small part) as a keeper of that knowledge. I use an old knowledge and combine it with new.” Ivanek taught herself to move beyond digital by researching nineteenth century processes. Recently, she’s been using methods like palladium, Van Dyke Brown, gum oil, and gum bichromate. She says the process, to her, is as important as the final product.
“Til all steps are finished, I really don’t know where I will end up with my photograph,” she says. “The process carries a bit of mystery and surprise for me as a creator.” Lately, she uses watercolours and gum arabic to create her artwork.While she is comfortable creating digital photographs as well, she prefers a more hands-on relationship with her work. She used to focus more on painting as a form of expression, and so those are the methods that make sense to her. “Digital, for me, is too cold, impersonal, unrelated, irrelevant … I create from my own experience, and I need something personal, involved, a bit messy, untidy, imperfect.”
The “Comely” series, taken in Croatia, is meant to reflect the economic hardships of that place. But she has recently moved to Ireland, and while the darkness persists in some of her latest works, others are bright and uplifted.
Ivanek says her spirits have been more buoyant living in Ireland. She says she found “peaceful enjoyment” and “playfulness” there, and her mood is reflected in the ongoing series. “I could say that I photograph landscape, but the subject in my pieces is me,” she says.