Rachel Portesi was nine years old when she took her first Polaroid of a Sunday morning cartoon on the television screen. At 16, she began taking photographs of people and places with a Pentax K1000. Nearly three decades later, she continues refining photography in her Vermont studio as a uniquely personal art form while adding new techniques such as wet plate collodion tintypes, film and 3D imagery to her multimedia art forms.
Portesi’s work in various media is featured in the exhibition, “Rachel Portesi: Looking Glass,” on view from January 15 through March 1 at The von Auersperg Gallery at Deerfield Academy, in Deerfield, Massachusetts.
Among her most notable, and now recognized work, are her hair portraits that use the early photographic method of collodion tintype, which she discovered after Polaroid film was no longer available. “It’s finicky, slow and time-consuming,” she said, but it results in wet plate photography that “holds the magic” of polaroid photography. “When the exposed and developed plate sits in the fixer, a negative image appears, then slowly shifts to a bluish cloud, then into a positive image like a surprising miracle,” she explained.