Working along the beaches of the Pacific
Ocean near San Francisco, Meghann
Riepenhoff creates wondrous and
immersive cyanotypes. In her series
Littorial Drift—titled after the scientific
phenomenon of particles being eroded
and displaced by waves and the longshore
current—she creates images by standing
in the surf with light-sensitive paper and
registering the patterns of movement
made by the sand and water. Cyanotype,
a historical method of photographic
printing that renders deep blue and bluegreen
tones using iron compounds, only
temporarily captures the effects of light and
water on Riepenhoff’s paper, as the images
purposefully are not fixed. They are, rather,
slowly disappearing. She often embraces
this condition by exhibiting the fading
work and allowing the prints to continually
transform on display, like nature itself. In
her series Continua, however, she takes a
different approach—she photographs the
cyanotypes as they wane and change color,
creating a sequential set of stable prints
that document the image’s deterioration in
a vibrant, multipaneled record.
Riepenhoff’s experimental practice
illustrates her deep engagement with
photography and one of its attendant
illusions, the ability to capture time and
other ephemeral events. At a moment when
the use of analog and liquid processes
is declining in photography, Riepenhoff
embraces the organic and unstable nature
of these basic interactions among light,
chemicals, and water. Furthermore, by
accepting the unpredictability of the
weather conditions that actually dictate
her image making, Riepenhoff upends
the normally controlled use of chemicals
and water in photographic processes:
she leaves their effects mostly to chance.
Because they are made without a camera
or lens, her abstract cyanotype images
also eliminate the mechanical nature of
photography. Ultimately, by employing
extremely basic photographic methods
and materials—and removing many of the
medium’s hallmarks, such as representation
and precision—Riepenhoff reveals
some of photography’s most elemental
characteristics while continuing to reward
us with its magical allure.
Karen Irvine, Curator and Associate Director, Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College Chicago
Born in 1979 in Atlanta, Meghann Riepenhoff is a photographic artist based in Bainbridge Island, Washington, and San Francisco. She received a B.F.A. in photography from the University of Georgia, Athens, and a M.F.A. from the San Francisco Art Institute, where she is now a part of the visiting faculty.
She creates experimental “living” photographic prints involving a structured interaction between the canvas, the cyanotype medium, and the chance operation of flowing natural bodies such as drifting tides along a shoreline. She harnesses processes of classic nondigital photographic technology in order to focus on the materials at hand and on the physical elements of photographic image production.
Her work has been exhibited at the Memphis College of Art, Tennessee; High Museum of Art, Atlanta; Galerie du Monde, Hong Kong; SF Camerawork, San Francisco; University of Missouri, Columbia; Worcester Art Museum, Massachusetts; Higher Pictures, New York; Duncan Miller Gallery, Los Angeles; San Francisco Arts Commission Galleries; Foley Gallery, New York; Museo de la Ciudad, Querétaro, México; Photographic Center Northwest, Seattle; and Center for Fine Art Photography, Fort Collins, Colorado.
In 2014, Charlotte Cotton awarded Riepenhoff first place in the Camera Club of New York’s annual juried competition. She was also nominated for the Baum Award; received an honorable mention for the John Clarence Laughlin Award of the New Orleans Photo Alliance; and was selected as a Top 50 Photographer by Photolucida’s Critical Mass. In 2015, Riepenhoff was awarded a Fleishhacker Foundation grant for her upcoming solo exhibition at SF Camerawork in San Francisco, and she was selected for the FotoFest 2016 Biennial Discoveries of the Meeting Place in Houston by Karen Irvine, Associate Director, Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago.
Riepenhoff was an artist-in-residence in 2009 at the Rayko Photo Center in San Francisco, an artist-in-residence in 2008 and 2010 at Banff Centre for the Arts in Canada, and an affiliate artist in 2012–2015 at the Headlands Center for the Arts in Sausalito, California. She has been published in Harper’s Magazine, Aperture’s The PhotoBook Review, “Word Choice” in BOMB magazine, B&W + Color, The Seattle Times, and Zyzzyva. Her work is in many collections, including those of the High Museum of Art, Atlanta; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and Worcester Art Museum, Massachusetts.