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River Wilder

SALT, SILVER, AND GOLD – This body of work is a collection of my daydreams

River Wilder is a photographer and artist based in Mendocino County. She shoots a diverse range of subjects using digital as well as fine art film techniques, all with a unique and elegant aesthetic.

This body of work is a collection of my daydreams – the beginnings of stories not yet written; open doorways to memories, aspirations, fairy tales, and flights of fancy; still moments of light and shadow. 

 The title “Salt, Silver, and Gold” references the method I used to create these one-of-a-kind original photographs that mark my return to film photography and old-world dark room techniques.

These images were first captured on medium format film using a simple, no-frills Holga camera.  The simplicity of the camera frees me from overthinking how to affect the image, leaving me open to how the image affects me instead.

Applying a technique from the 1830s, I hand coat each sheet of watercolor paper with sea salt and silver nitrate before affixing a contact negative and exposing it to sunlight. I am filled with wonderment every time I watch an image emerging through the negative as the sunlight activates the salt and silver. The resulting salt print is then washed and toned in gold for longevity. 

 The alchemy of salt, silver, gold, and sunlight may be more chemistry than sorcery, but I still feel like a magician every time I watch an image materialize onto a blank sheet of paper.