Toronto-based Marco Buonocore is a self-taught photographer who most often works within the black and white photography tradition. Previous bodies of work find him taking cues from the practices of photographers like Andre Kertesz and Lee Friedlander. Since 2007, he has been documenting streetscapes in the neighbourhoods of major Canadian cities, as well as Cuba, India and Costa Rica, in richly textured images that capture the patterns and rhythms of modern life.
In his most recent body of work, however, Buonocore turns his attention to tools historically used in the darkroom. The series featured here, Testnegativ (2015), is a collection of photographic test negatives from the late-1940s through the 1990s that were used in the analog era to help photographers calibrate darkroom enlargers so they could achieve peak optimal sharpness in their prints. They could also be used as camera focusing aids; for example, it was very easy to tell when looking through the camera lens if the hypnotic circles, called Siemens Stars, were in or out of focus. Colour versions to assist in aligning slide projectors were also produced. Most of the test negatives that Buonocore has been able to obtain (on eBay, at camera shows or by asking acquaintances who have darkrooms whether they had any lying around) were produced by American companies like Kodak, though several in his collection come from Germany and the Czech Republic.
Looking at the elaborate and dizzying patterns of swirls and grids brings to mind works by Bauhaus, De Stijl or Supremativist painters, or the Op Art canvases of Bridget Riley. For Buonocore, however, the test negatives embody the level of craftsmanship, technical finesse and knowledge that photographers once had to exercise in the darkroom, and reflect how the rapid digitization of photography has rendered over 100 years of photographic innovation almost obsolete.
Marco Buonocore’s work has been exhibited as part of the Contact Photography festival and at Gallery 44 Centre for Contemporary Photography, as well as the Department of Canadian Heritage.