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Heather J. M. Siple



Established Professional
Visual Arts: Photography

By Christopher Yasiejko

When Heather Siple was a girl, she says, concepts appeared as glowing balls she could rotate in her mind, examining them as if spinning a globe.

Among the full-time mother of two’s latest artistic passions is her use of a home-built lens coupled with a traditional lens to create, as the Wilmington resident says, “floating spheres in space.”

Winter Tree, February, 2010; gelatin silver print; 14" x 14"
Winter Tree, February, 2010; gelatin silver print; 14″ x 14″

“Fifteen dollars’ worth of hardware-store glass on what was originally a thousand-dollar camera,” says Siple, 38. “It’s just a matter of poking around the hardware store and finding something that’ll bend the light to 180 degrees.”

The photographs she submitted in earning her fellowship are gelatin silver prints – 14-by-14-inch squares of black, each centered by what alternately could be described as a glowing orb or a fish-eye view from the perspective of an insect.

People who have looked at her work have asked whether Siple had photographed, say, a Victorian gazing ball, or a door’s peephole, or a crystal ball.

Siple’s father and grandfather were photographers. Until about 10 years ago, she was still using her grandfather’s enlarger.

Red Earth Romp, March, 2010; Digital Print; 14" x 14"
Red Earth Romp, March, 2010; Digital Print; 14″ x 14″

“The great value is in playing in the darkroom and thinking back to when my dad and I would sit in the bathroom together – we would use the bathroom sink and the bathtub for washing prints, set the enlarger on the toilet,” she says. “I’ve always been a photographer. I got my first 110[mm] camera when I was in elementary school. Before that I had a Fisher Price toy thing that had a slide viewer on one side and a little viewfinder for looking at the rest of the world on the other side. And I never looked at the slide viewer. I was always looking through the viewfinder. I was always pretending to save whatever I was looking at, pressing an imaginary button.”

The grant has helped her to build a stock of developing paper, a growing concern as paper companies close, and to purchase spare parts for her cameras. Most of it, however, has gone toward producing a book, “Through the Crystal Ball,” that will be released at her fellowship show in June.

Wendall's Back Yard, March, 2010; gelatin silver print; 14" x 14"
Wendall’s Back Yard, March, 2010; gelatin silver print; 14″ x 14″

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