Since making his first photograph at age 14, Bill Westheimer has been fascinated with alternative processes including high school experiments in holography, solarization, and high contrast imagery . At Union College Bill studied with noted painter and educator Arnold Bittelman. He continued with his experiments in photography and experimental image making while completing college.
Later Westheimer studied with Jerry Burchfield who introduced him to color photo graMs and Cibachrome (now Ilfochrome) printing. Bill went on to teach Cibachrome printing at Colorado Mountain College in Aspen. Early in this millennium he learned the 19th century technique of collodion glass plate photography from the leading experts in the field: France Scully and Mark Osterman.
Recent work includes photograms made on collodion glass plates, Ilfochrome and gelatin silver media. He has been collaborating on a camera obscura project with Charles Schwartz documenting the city of New York, and recently published a book MANUAL – The Personalities of Hands and CRICKETS a handmade book created in collaboration with Leonard Seastone. His works are exhibited in galleries and museums worldwide.
Bill lives and works in West Orange, New Jersey in a converted 1885 carriage house that includes a modern darkroom and digital printing studio.
I believe art should ask questions, not provide answers. The problem with photography is that it shows you what exists. It is much too literal for my taste. My challenge is to take the familiar and make it unfamiliar; to ask a question and begin a dialogue with the viewer. W.H. Auden said: ”Knowledge may have its purposes, but guessing is always more fun than knowing.”
I don’t capture what is there, but rather I liberate what I see. When my photograph of something familiar makes the viewer see it in a new and different way and use their imagination then I have succeeded. I love to photogram the small things that we often overlook: a weed, or a broken piece of glass. I pursue those things that are rejected, the trash and the detritus, because I enjoy the challenge of finding something exquisite in the ugliest garbage. Like the ancient Japanese Zen monks’ tradition of wabi-sabi - which venerated the ephemeral complexity and beauty of nature’s imperfections - I pursue my fascination with the art of impermanence.
I use the objects with the photogram technique to make one-of-a-kind pictures. Without the interference of film and lens I reveal the fundamental nature of the entity itself. Taking the objects into the darkroom, I use their shapes, shadows and their essences to expose conventional photographic paper or old fashioned glass plate negatives that can then be enlarged and reproduced using digital technology and a pigment printer.
My personal dialogue with the objects provokes the questions expressed in my pictures. All I ask of the viewer is to join me in my pursuit of the investigation.