Lucinda Bunnen has been a force in Atlanta’s art scene for decades – as both an artist and philanthropist. She is an avid collector, amassing a well-regarded collection and donating over 650 works to the High Museum of Art, where a gallery is named in her honor. Now 85, she is busier than ever. This show, titled Weathered Chromes, was the third and final installment in a series called Lucinda’s World that has appeared in several Atlanta galleries this year.
Bunnen has embraced changes in photography over the years, moving from a straight documentary style to near abstractions of color and pattern, and now these “Weathered Chromes,” vibrant images that seem artificially colored or digitally enhanced, but aren’t.
Weathered Chromes began as an accident, when two of Bunnen’s slides were affected by water damage that broke down the layers of emulsion while leaving a recognizable image. The intriguing results led Bunnen to experiment with intentional degradation of old chromes, leaving to the elements a selection of slides from six decades worth of work. Many of the photos were taken on Bunnen’s travels to Cuba, India, and Burkina Faso, as well as throughout the South.
The photos are obfuscated to varying degrees. The slides of Cloud and Ice are so degraded that there is no discernible subject in the resulting prints. Some – such as Swing Set, with its frothy starburst patterns – take on an almost mystical air.
Bunnen’s reach into her personal archives must’ve provided a long walk down memory lane, and the results of her weathering process suggest the imperfection of memories, the hazy recollections that accumulate with time.
These works are about the physicality of photography. Younger artists – Matthew Brandt and Randy Taylor among them – have made entire careers investigating these processes. The ability to turn a mishap into an opportunity, to see potential in failure, is what propels us forward. It is Bunnen’s curious mind and photographic agility that keeps her at the forefront of contemporary photography.