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StoriesDaniel Baird-Miller ’14

Taking 'Valuable Risks' in Photography

A fascination with the handmade and a dedication to experimentation characterize this photographic artist's work.

“I tend to gravitate toward experimentation and trial by fire,” says Daniel Baird-Miller, a graduate of the MFA in Photography & Integrated Media program’s second class. “Much like wine, film has a shelf life. I appreciate when film goes out of date, because the typical results shift, change, and sometimes become more fascinating to me.”

Though Daniel has never fully transitioned to digital, the photographic artist defiantly resists the title of Luddite. He produces prints in the darkroom and digitally, but his core practice remains steadfastly based in film.

“I can wax-poetic about the intricacies of film and how it may be ‘better’ or ‘worse’ that digital technology,” remarks Daniel. “The fact is, I enjoy making things with my hands. Whether it’s with a handmade camera, a luxurious medium-format camera, or a toy camera, the materiality of light-sensitive material is metaphorically—and sometimes literally—intoxicating.”

Work by Daniel Baird-Miller
Work by Daniel Baird-Miller

A common theme in Daniel’s work is unpredictability—more specifically, the thin line between success and failure when using material as sensitive as film. His pieces are a testament to the innate risk that comes with working in a variety of film-based media or shooting using temperamental, self-designed instruments.

His piece "A Valuable Risk" was featured in the 3rd edition of The Book of Alternative Processes, a pioneering text by program director Christopher James. It was this work that started Daniel down the road to exploring the ways in which physical interaction with film can influence the process of image making.

“I had become really interested in the space between the camera lens and the film inside of a camera,” recalls Daniel. “I created a camera that I could wear and interrupt the image being created, basically experiencing the image take shape.”

Today, the artist is embarking on a more realistic body of work in contrast the abstractions he was producing during his time in the MFA in program. However, the theme of his work remains the same: chance, experimentation, and searching. He credits his MFA experience for the continued motivation and discipline needed to keep creating new work.

“At the College of Art and Design, the classroom was an intensified experience of art making, thinking, and responding,” says Daniel. “This model of creating and articulating has helped me to hash through many ideas and problems as I moved out of the coziness of grad school into ‘the real world.’"

Read More About Photography at Lesley