Photographer Rachel Fein-Smolinski is a visual artist with a science-fiction heart. Saltonstall is her first residency, and her studio explodes with projects. A box of color slides discarded from the City College of San Francisco’s Astronomy Lab are becoming grainy, high-contrast black and white prints; a microscope borrowed from a friend in medical school is used to photograph dead bugs; a crayfish floats in a jar of liquid (part of a mail-order dissection kit); a beautiful purple crystal sits in another jar, grown from a kit purchased at Jo-Ann Fabric. Books read during this residency include Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about science fiction and how photography can exist in the science fiction genre,” she says. “Everyone keeps telling me these mediums aren’t suited to one other. But I don’t think I agree!” she says with a smile.
Highly magnified photographs of a fly’s eye are tacked on a wall, becoming an abstract collage. But Rachel points out the details, what looks like dozens of tiny human eyes. “Flys have hundreds of eyeballs,” she explains, but they can only be seen with this degree of magnification. “I think ‘knowability’ is really important,” she says. “People think they can’t know anything further about the world, and then it starts to feel really small. But being attuned to minor nuances can expand the world in such a significant way.”