In 2007 Alison Rossiter purchased a battered box of silver gelatin print paper, stamped with an expiration date of May 1, 1946. Intending to make photograms, she headed into the darkroom. She describes what emerged on the paper as she moved it through the developer, stop, and fix as something like a graphite drawing found in the paper’s tired coating. “The silver halides could not maintain their light-sensitive capacity,” she says. “I knew then that there was something to go and find in the midst of the deterioration and failure of the paper.” Within a year the shelves of her studio were lined with thousands of packages of expired paper purchased on eBay.
Rossiter has subsequently divided the processes with which she processes these expired materials into a few groups. She refers to the specific process making up the works in Light Sensitive as a pour: an open-ended exercise that involves dipping and pouring chemistry in the darkroom, allowing the liquid photo-processing chemicals to make marks and shapes that are also, in part, dictated by the remaining capacities of the expired paper.
Each piece is carefully labeled with the brand name and expiration date of the paper and the date the new work was made, remarking on obsolescence, and reminding us of the passage of time. A package of paper, made in the early 1900s, arrives in Rossiter’s studio over one hundred years later to offer what is left of its light sensitive capacity to the artist.