Linda Grashoff

Photography, Drawing, and Embroidery
Honoring the Physical World

especially the iron bacterium Leptothrix discophora



Rusted iron . . . rust stains on cloth . . . rocks . . .  Usually we consider these features of the material world unremarkable. But look closely at the mundane, and you may find, as I do, that isolating or focusing on common objects can move them from unremarkable to extraordinary. By concentrating my art making on the commonplace I mean to call attention to its formal qualities—such as shape, color, tone, line, and texture—and thus to illuminate the substance of matter. My most recent work engages photography to exploit the physical properties of benign bacteria that act on iron in water—and in the process create colorful biofilms and deposits.

Ever-changing outdoor light, as well as the seasons, teaches love of the moment and love of the physical world. I use photography to discover and document the uniqueness of time and place. I also practice photography to participate in a process where a product emerges from corporeal fact—as light reflects off matter to make impressions on chemical emulsion or digital sensors. I’m in love with physical reality.

Because of my love of what is, I don’t make major alterations to the photographs I print on paper or post online. I usually download my photos the same day I take them, and I adjust the color—if I need to—to correspond to my visual memory of the subject, rather than let the camera or processing software make all the decisions. Sometimes I eliminate noise (graininess) in an image, and sometimes I crop the image to enhance the composition. I never pose the elements in a photograph. If I don't like the way a leaf or a twig is positioned, I move my position to see if I can get a good shot. If I can’t get what I want by moving my body, I move on.
Photography alone is not sufficient to satisfy my desire to make art or to share my excitement about nature. To become more physically and creatively engaged with the images I take—and to spend more time with them—I alter the photographs when I print them onto cloth and stitch into them. For my photo-drawings  I print part of a photograph on paper and complete a composition with colored pencils. Or I print separate photographs, transfer them with gel medium to paper, and finish with drawing. Lately I’ve been exploring how to make intaglio prints from my photographic images, sometimes manipulating the images in the process.
Expanding on a chapter I wrote for Living in the Vermilion River Watershed, “Finding Beauty in Bacteria,” I have written a book (yet unpublished) that explores the biology and environment of the fascinating iron-breathing microbes and presents my artistic responses to them.