Joni Sternbach

Joni Sternbach was born in the Bronx, New York. She graduated from New York University/International Center of Photography (ICP) with an M.F.A. in Photography in 1987. She was part of the adjunct faculty at NYU for over 20 years, and is currently a faculty member at ICP teaching wet plate collodion, a process that dates back to the 1850s.

Sternbach became known through her inclusion in the Museum of Modern Art’s landmark exhibition Pleasures and Terrors of Domestic Comfort in 1991. In the years that followed, her focus shifted to landscape subjects. Sternbach uses the labor intensive technique of the wet-plate collodion process to explore the connection between the landscape and its inhabitants. The very nature of collodion is spontaneous and unpredictable. It is precisely the raw quality of the process that suits the subject matter, giving it a distinctive appearance and echoing important traditions of nineteenth-century anthropological photography.

08.07.04 #1 Abbey

SurfLand is an ongoing project of contemporary portraits of surfers created using the historic wet-plate collodion process. The photographs are a unique blending of subject matter and photographic technique. Part craft and part theatre, the instantaneous wet-plate collodion process allows Sternbach to create one-of-a-kind tintypes that are imbued with a feeling of ambiguity, timelessness and mystery.

08.08.04 #6 Ed

Sternbach shared this about her process: “I recently read Rebecca Solnit’s book entitled A Field Guide To Getting Lost. In her book, Solnit states, “That thing, the nature of which is totally unknown to you is what you need to find, and finding it is a matter of getting lost.” I loved the differences between the idea of being lost and getting lost. My own work relies on a similar premise, of losing oneself to the moment, to chance and spontaneity. My picture taking exists in a place where time is slowed down. My methods are deliberate, antiquated, out of date. I don’t compete with the speed of the digital world. In return, it affords me time; time to engage and interact with my subject and the world in a surprising way. Placing myself in unknown situations and different environments has been a cornerstone of my photographic practice for the last ten years. Often I am smack dab in the public eye, meeting a variety of people. One by one, I slowly begin to take their picture. When I ask people to pose, I typically make only one photograph. They often watch me process the picture on location in my portable darkbox and we all share in the magic moment as it emerges from the fixer, a rabbit out of the sorcerers hat.”

08.08.13 #8 Surfer Gals

Sternbach’s work is exhibited both nationally and internationally and held in many prominent private and public collections, including the Smithsonian National Museum of American History (Washington, D.C.), Bibliotheque Nationale (Paris, France), Museum of Fine Arts (Houston, TX) and the International Center of Photography (New York, NY).

Her SurfLand portfolio has been featured in publications around the world. Signed copies of the limited edition presentation of her monograph SurfLand are available in our bookstore.

07.08.29 #5 Matty and Ingrid

The Process: Sternbach uses the historic and instantaneous wet-plate collodion process (which dates back to the 1850s) to create one-of-a-kind tintype photographic plates. The 8×10″ aluminum plate is hand-coated and sensitized in a bath of silver nitrate just before being loaded in the artist’s 19th-century-style, wooden view camera. Sternbach uses a variety of antique brass and modern lenses. The entire process is done on location, with a portable darkroom. The tonal variations in the finished images reflect their hand-made character; the corners rubbed where they were held in the camera. The original, finished plates are later scanned to create these archival pigment print photographs.

10.02.08 #5 Hannah

Print Information: All images are produced under the artist’s supervision as archival pigment print photographs, and are available in two different print sizes/editions, as follows: 8×10″ image printed on 8.5×11″ paper (in a limited editon of fifteen prints), and 18.5×23″ image printed on 20×24″ paper (in a limited edition of eight prints, plus two Artist Proofs). Prints are signed, titled, dated and editioned by the artist in pencil au verso. Print prices are set by the artist and start at $550.00 (8.5×11″ prints) and $1,900.00 (20×24″ prints). Print prices increase as the edition sells out and are subject to change without prior notice.

Please inquire if you have other favorite images by this artist, as we can offer her entire portfolio of work for sale. Please contact us for complete information.

Click here to view our exhibition and sale, “SurfLand: Photographs by Joni Sternbach”.

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