Esrig Thesis: Exploring the Duality of Aesthetics

By Purnell T. Cropper | June 8, 2010

By Sarah R. Schwartz ’10

Photography major Chad Esrig ’10 created seven 5″ x 6.5″ prints that were on display for thesis night. “The collection is a series of figure studies illustrative of certain universal concepts and themes—death, lust, decay and isolation,” says Esrig. In many of his photographs he often uses disquieting images to portray human propensities. One print centers on a fishhook piercing a man’s neck. He explains, “It is about addiction and recidivism. I’ve watched certain people in my life struggle with addictions, and many times I’ve let myself relapse into my own destructive tendencies.”

For his project, Esrig strived to combine an archaic process and appearance with modern and contemporary subject matter. He explains that the prints are Van dyke brown prints rather than the traditional black and white silver gelatin prints. By using watercolor paper, coating the sensitizer with a brush and allowing it to dry, he then placed the negative directly onto the paper while exposing the medium to a bright ultraviolet light. The process resulted in a series of images that are rich in character—a striking departure from standard black and white photography.

“My goal was to present these darker and disturbing themes in as beautiful a manner as possible, so a great deal of care and attention went into photographing and printing,” he says. “The reason for this goes beyond simple juxtaposition but rather to show a kind of duality, that there can be an exquisiteness and a grace in the ugliest of things.”