By John Showalter
It seems like technological advancement accelerates more and more. There’s something newer, quicker, and sleeker every year, every month, every week. But even in this society where smartphones are ubiquitous and virtually everyone has a camera in their pocket, there are still people who hearken back to the analog methods. Kary Janousek is one of those people.
Janousek, a 17-year resident of Fargo, is one of four active wet plate photography practitioners in the state of North Dakota. Prior to her pursuit of photography, she ran an online millinery and hat restoration business called High Hat Couture for 13 years, which boasted a worldwide customer base. Her interest in wet plate photography was first piqued while reading books on the subject. This, coupled with her drive to cross-market and self-promote, eventually led her to commission wet plate photographs with another well-known North Dakota wet plate photographer, Shane Balkowitsch, where she acted as a model. This developed into shadowing under him until she was ready to strike out on her own as a photographer.
From there, Janousek opened a studio at the old schoolhouse in Mapleton. She made her first ambrotype (black glass) plate in September 2019. Of course, everyone is familiar with what happened in the early months of 2020 with the COVID pandemic. This didn’t stop Janousek, however. “I started focusing on photography,” she said. “It accelerated my progress as a photographer.” An art grant from the Arts Partnership helped her purchase more equipment and plates in order to pursue this rapidly blooming passion turned career.
Janousek’s first solo reception, titled “Duality,” opened at the Spirit Room in December. Those who were unable to attend that exhibition need not worry, however, as select pieces will be on display at the Artist in the Valley Showcase at Bonanzaville Cass County Historical Museum in West Fargo. This exhibition will be on display from January 17th to March 14th. It will also feature pieces from her new short series “Femininity,” featuring female models on blue, red, and clear glass plates instead of her usual usage of tin types and black-stained glass.
In July Janousek moved her studio to the top floor of the Historical Dakota Business College. There she hosts walk-in days for portraits twice a month or as announced on her social media, as well as taking commissions. She also hopes to host non-photography related events at the studio as well.
“I plan to keep going forward with collaborative events,” said Janousek. “My goal is to continue to work with local artists.”
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