The practice and potential of Photo Therapy is something that has long interested Rachel Louise Brown, so during the pandemic lockdowns, she decided to explore for herself, photography’s power to heal. Building a small studio set in her living room, she used the performative nature of self-portraiture as a tool to cope with her grief, frustration and fear, instinctively gravitating towards clowns as a subject.
Alongside conjuring clown characters, having hired archival and historical outfits from the National Theatre & Clown Museum and attempted the art of clown make up, Brown was keen to learn new analogue techniques – particularly some of the earliest ones that have led to the world of photography as we know it today. Using an ex-police dept Graflex 5×4 camera found online & a pneumatic air shutter release cable, she shot the clowns onto paper negatives & developed them in her bathroom.
Since lockdowns have lifted, Brown has attempted to master the historical alchemical process of salt printing. Invented by William Henry Fox Talbot in the mid-1830s, salt printing was the earliest photographic method capable of fixing a negative to positive image on paper. Using salt water, silver nitrate and UV light as the main ingredients, Brown has created unique salt prints of her Salty Clowns. Because of the alchemical reactions that occur at every stage of this lengthy, laborious yet meditative process, no two images are the same. Each clown is toned with selenium to ensure permanence and waxed with beeswax and lavender for protection.