100 Mules

About AgH2O

Silver and water are vital resources to the story of the American West, with settlement and development following veins and wells, rivers and mines. In frontier politics, silver and water are power.

Los Angeles, like other settlements, emerged out of these resources. Through pipelines and aqueducts, with steam-engines and mule-trains, Los Angeles moved to secure these lifelines, extending its reach deep into the Sierra mountains.

At the same time, across the country, in Rochester, cameras were mass produced and the films of silver were developed in watery baths. Eastman Kodak began to produce photographic film, importing silver from the West to the Rochester factory and then sending it back, to feed the emerging Hollywood industry, the silver screen.

Since 2010, Lauren Bon and the Optics Division of Metabolic Studio have returned to the sources of silver and water. The Optics Division is interested in making analog photography from scratch. It was formed to assist Lauren Bon in her endeavor to make a single image of the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Factory on the shores of the Owens Dry Lake Bed, using developers scavenged from the landscape. Silver has been mined from the historic Cerro Gordo mine in the Inyo Mountains just above the dry lakebed. From the desiccated Owens Valley, to Rochester where the silver was turned into photographic material, to Manhattan and Washington DC, we trace the movement of silver and water through pipelines and bank accounts.

The Optics Division has built tools to explore photographic image making. The "Liminal Camera" is built from an empty shipping container. It can be transported on a truck, barge, or train. "Silo Camera" is made out of the ninety-foot by thirty-foot industrial silo, which is both the team's subject and its camera/object.

Through the eye of the "Liminal Camera," we record, in silver, these sites of silver. We scavenge a landscape of ruin to source the photographic materials of our future.