At first glance, the subject of this photograph is difficult to identify, but the pattern of holes arranged in concentric circles gives it away. To emphasize the deteriorated state of this kitchen sieve, Edmund Teske combined several experimental darkroom techniques to make this one-of-a-kind print.
Teske employed solarization-a process by which some black and white tones are reversed by exposure to light during the development process-and chemical staining, in which the exposed print is alternately developed and exposed to light. The solarization enhances the sieve's unique patterning as well as the blocks of light that draw attention to its form and the blades of grass poking through its eroded bottom. The print's chemical stains and streaks, ranging from reddish-browns to vivid blues, create streaks and colors that evoke the rusting and cracking of the sieve.
Teske made this negative in Chicago in 1939 and returned to it many years later to make the print. He did not use traditional toners in his photography. Instead he devised his own duotone solarization technique in the late 1950s, which he applied here. For him, this style of darkroom manipulation resulted in a more organic look in keeping with his philosophy of life. Through his study of Vedantic Hinduism and the influence of Frank Lloyd Wright, Teske felt a strong connection to nature. By choosing a decaying object as his subject and by reworking an old negative, Teske underscored his belief in the cyclical nature of time; that life-forms go through periods of disintegration and rebirth.