Smith is fascinated with the idea of using simple materials as a conduit for expressing different qualities of light. It started when he was a photography student and was given a “white on white” assignment — shooting a white object on a white background — to demonstrate that a huge range of tones could be produced by harnessing light. Smith has since also studied light’s interaction with stone and ice.
Having worked for years printing photographs in darkrooms before going digital, part of this project is connected to his nostalgia for the manual parts of the process. “The draw is just the physical connection,” he said, “In the old days when you had a print in the developer, or you try to massage highlights to get details. … It’s a way to stay in touch with physical, tactile engagement with materials.”
The paper in this project, though, is simply a means to an end. Although he hasn’t thrown any of his paper pieces out (“I’m a little attached,” he said), he primarily hangs on to them to show viewers what his pieces are made of. His main goal is to create abstract images that remind the viewers of other objects or emotions. The most important thing in Smith’s eyes is not the paper, but the resulting photograph.