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Meet London Amara

Today we’d like to introduce you to London Amara.

Thanks for sharing your story with us London. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I was born in Columbus, Ohio, in 1977, and currently live and work there and in Bonita Springs, Florida. I was raised by an art educator and builder on what felt like an infinite number of wildly forested acres in a remote area Ohio. In 1995, I was granted a full scholarship to study painting, sculpture, and photography at Columbus College of Art and Design, and in 1999, I relocated to Naples, Florida. There, in addition to making and exhibiting my work, I began teaching courses in the creative use of polymer resins, metals, and oxidation processes, and on the psychology of art making.

Following a car accident in 2009, I began moving away from biomorphic and gestural abstraction—and occasional use of handwritten text—that characterize my early work, instead of producing drawings, paintings, metal sculptures, and prints that focus on the human body as form and metaphor. Currently, I am pursuing large-format collodion wet plate photography, creating intimate portraits and haunting images of the wooded landscapes of Florida, Ohio, Colorado, Montana, New York, Connecticut, California, and British Columbia. Fascinated by the formal and symbolic complexities of the body as a metaphor, symbol, and living document, my imagery is now fully aligned with the wordless speech of the organic world.

My paintings, sculptures, and photographs have been shown in solo and group exhibitions at venues including the Columbus Conservatory (1998), Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center, Fort Myers, Florida (2009, 2013, and 2018), and Tampa Museum of Art (2016). I have also undertaken private and public commissions for clients including the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey team, and was the recipient of the 2013 Vincent LeCavalier Commemorative Commission.

“Ethos: The Alchemy of Spirit and Light” is the title of my current exhibition of large-scale alternative process photographic prints, on a national museum tour beginning in 2021. It represents a selection of work from the past two years, an interval during which my practice has shifted into exciting new areas. These striking and sensitive images are the fruits of an aesthetic that is both experimental and informed by the histories of their subject and medium.

Photography has a long and complex relationship with the great American wilderness, and technical and theoretical approaches have varied widely. But as my work reinforces, there remain discoveries to be made. By immersing viewers in the densely wooded landscapes of Florida, California, and British Columbia, I have established a visual language that is at once timeless and utterly in tune with current critical discourse.

In large-format collodion wet plate photography, an unwieldy and demanding process invented in 1851 to replace the daguerreotype, I have identified the perfect vehicle for my aesthetic and conceptual preoccupations. I also use a collapsible ice-fishing tent as a mobile darkroom, allowing for direct exploration of the people and places that preoccupy my current intrigue. This process also functions to augment my work’s material richness.

In my work, immersion in the visually marked cycles of biological life is contrasted and combined with an open romanticism. But while there’s a consistent sense of longing to it, I purposely avoid sentimentality. I take great pleasure in locating the human body in physical and psychological sites that are at once picturesque and occasionally disturbing, just wild enough to still contain the occasional untamed surprise.

Has it been a smooth road?
It has been a melange of blissful, welcome surprises peppered with absolute chaos. Anything that can go wrong has. The collodion photographic process begins with hydrometers, graduated cylinders, and raw chemistry that I hand mix just before each shoot. There is very little room for error, and the chemistry is extremely sensitive to time, temperature and humidity. Because I shoot en plein air and each image takes approximately 30 minutes, all sorts of organic, uncontrollable things happen. Semi trucks blast dust particles onto my wet plates on the side of the road, the sun will duck behind the clouds and skew my exposure mid shot, wind and rain appear suddenly, feathering the collodion plate or drenching the lens. This is a large part why I am so smitten with the process. It is an ongoing, co-creative rhythm of controlled chaos and a perfect balance between my intentions and what actually happens during exposure and development. It is the same wild freedom I fell in love with through my fire painting and oxidative sculpture work.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
London Amara Studios is the name of my business as an artist. I sell my paintings, sculptures and collodion photographs. I work from two studios, one in Florida, the second in Ohio and am currently pursuing a third in an undisclosed mountain region. I am known for large scale, abstract, figurative and gestural painting, sculpture and photography. My work is often described as beautiful and mysterious, even haunting. Although I do not intentionally seek the mysterious or haunting-ness, I believe this is reflected as such because it is powerful, and often strips away our everyday veils, stirring and inspiring an innate, universal, bond of humanity and sense of place in us. I take pride in living and creating a life and work that is authentic, distilled and deeply compelling. Collodion photography is an exceptional vehicle for this expression. It is such a labor intensive, sensitive, complex and somewhat difficult medium to work with that only a small handful of people around the world attempt to become fluent in it.

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
I adore South Florida. The weather is phenomenal, and I enjoy being able to swim and paddleboard 365 days per year, plus we have so much natural beauty. All of these factors draw an incredibly diverse, affluent crowd of folks from all around the world that wholeheartedly support the arts.

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