Philadelphia, USA

PETER CROTEAU (Philadelphia, USA)



Peter Croteau was born in Boston, MA in 1988. Moving many times through various tract house suburbs as a youth gave him a further understanding of the differences and similarities in the landscape across the USA. He became most interested in the concepts of the in-between and the sublime in the landscape and how the two may intersect. He considers himself to be an explorer of mundane spaces looking to transform the everyday into something otherworldly through the use of 8×10 and 4×5 view cameras.

Peter received his Masters of Fine Arts in Photography from Rhode Island School of Design in 2012 and his Bachelors of Science in Photography from Drexel University in 2010. He currently lives in Philadelphia, PA.

Artist Statement:

An interglacial period is one of warming after an ice age. The current geological epoch, known as the Holocene, is an interglacial period that began about 11,700 years ago. The photographs in this series explore a single space that evolves over the course of one winter. The changes that occur from photograph to photograph function as visual metaphors for global warming and the effect this warming has upon the frozen landscape.

​Through the burning of coal and fossil fuels that intensify the greenhouse effect, Humans have accelerated this rate of warming. Some have even suggested we are living in a new era, the Anthropocene, an epoch that has been proposed to have began in the mid 20th century with a significant increase in human impact upon Earth’s climate. The latter part of this series seeks to show a transition from a natural warming state into one that has been deeply affected by human influence. The snow becomes blackened and from its melted depths the remnants of waste become visible.

Practice Statement: How does photographing on film (or using your material photographic process of predilection) inform your artistic practice?

Photographing using 4×5 and 8×10 film with a view camera is essential to my process. My decision to use a view camera began 11 years ago when I took a class in large format photography and has since become a longstanding commitment. Using the camera changed the way I thought about and wanted to produce photographs. I was drawn to the act of slowing down to think about putting together a photograph. I actually found the view camera, as cumbersome as it is, to be both simplifying and enlightening. Seeing the image projected upside down on ground glass (as in a camera obscura) made me realize that through the mechanism of the camera I could control the image.
Using a view camera requires a different way of seeing. The photographic process begins before the camera comes out of the bag, when I attempt to conceptualize how my frame may exist in the world. Getting under the dark cloth and seeing an image projected upside down on the ground glass is a dissociating experience where I can remove myself from the outside world and think about the relationship of forms and the juxtaposition of objects in my frame. I consider how I can use the camera to construct space, as a landscape painter would, to create dimension through multiple receding layers of earth and sky. I consciously employ cross-angles into my compositions. I feel they produce more dynamic compositions that lead the eye through the space and help generate an effect of deep, layered space.
Pressing the shutter on a view camera lens requires another level of visualization. Henri Cartier Bresson used the term “decisive moment” to describe a philosophy of photography where ones mind becomes so in tune with a small camera that one is able to capture a specific moment of brilliance with speed and clarity. This, however, does not apply to the view camera because one cannot look through the camera when one presses the shutter release. What I employ is instead what Richard Misrach calls the “anticipated moment.” Once one looks away from the ground glass there is still a need to visualize the frame in order to understand all the elements that fall within it. The photographer must continue to stand with the camera, looking out over the scene with a frame in mind watching the clouds moving, the light shifting, the wind in the trees, cars driving and any other object that may shift in the space. When all the elements come together the shutter release is pressed and an exposure is made. The anticipated moment has always made me feel more focused and precise about the photographs I make than the decisive moment. Attempting to make all the elements come together in one photograph is no simple task. It is this process of anticipation that excites me the most when I am taking pictures.
For my Interglacial series, I use the camera to confuse subject matter and scale in order to create a sense of ambiguity. The camera acts as an apparatus, where I can put in and leave out elements wherever I choose. The amount of detail I decide to let into the frame effects the kind of relationship the viewer has to the photograph. The more I leave out of the frame, the more ambiguous the scale becomes. This ambiguity draws the viewer in and asks them to define both what they are looking at and how it exists in relation to the landscape around it outside the frame. This questioning causes the viewer to become aware of mundane spaces and see them differently in his or her every day life.