I believe art should ask questions, not provide answers. The problem with photography is that it shows you what exists. It is much too literal for my taste. My challenge is to take the familiar and make it unfamiliar; to ask a question and begin a dialogue with the viewer. W.H. Auden said: ”Knowledge may have its purposes, but guessing is always more fun than knowing.”
I don’t capture what is there, but rather I liberate what I see. When my photograph of something familiar makes the viewer see it in a new and different way and use their imagination then I have succeeded. I love to photogram the small things that we often overlook: a weed, or a broken piece of glass. I pursue those things that are rejected, the trash and the detritus, because I enjoy the challenge of finding something exquisite in the ugliest garbage. Like the ancient Japanese Zen monks’ tradition of wabi-sabi – which venerated the ephemeral complexity and beauty of nature’s imperfections – I pursue my fascination with the art of impermanence.
I use the objects with the photogram technique to make one-of-a-kind pictures. Without the interference of film and lens I reveal the fundamental nature of the entity itself. Taking the objects into the darkroom, I use their shapes, shadows and their essences to expose conventional photographic paper or old fashioned glass plate negatives that can then be enlarged and reproduced using digital technology and a pigment printer.
My personal dialogue with the objects provokes the questions expressed in my pictures. All I ask of the viewer is to join me in my pursuit of the investigation.
Beginning with a darkroom in a 3rd floor bathroom, Bill mastered developing and printing black and white photographs in his teens. He experimented with making 3-D holograms before he could drive. Bill also explored high contrast image making, solarization, and other alternative processes in those early years.
While still in high school Bill and 3 partners operated a lightshow business that accompanied nationally known rock and roll bands. Their FlavorScope lightshow company became the house lightshow at Cincinnati’s premier concert hall – the Ludlow Garage – and worked with bands such as The Grateful Dead, The Allman Brothers, BB King, The MC5, Vanilla Fudge, Bitter Blood Street Theater, and many other marquee name bands of the era. The lightshow tapped into Bill’s love of alternative processes and experimental image making. He created abstract slide shows, hand drawn 16mm film loops, and other experimental background lighting image making techniques.
At Union College Bill studied philosophy and art. He studied with noted painter and educator Arnold Bittelman. Westheimer also studied scientific photography techniques while at Union. He continued with his experiments in photography while completing college.
Later Westheimer studied with Jerry Burchfield who introduced him to color photograMs and Cibachrome (now Ilfochrome) printing. Bill went on to teach Cibachrome printing at Colorado Mountain College in Aspen. Early in this millennium he learned the 19th century technique of collodion glass plate photography from the leading experts in the field: France Scully and Mark Osterman.
Recent work includes photograms made on collodion glass plates, Ilfochrome and gelatin silver media. He collaborated on a camera obscura project with Charles Schwartz documenting the city of New York, and has recently published several books: Momento, Oddyssey – The Billiad, Manual – The Personalities of Hands and Crickets a collaboration with Leonard Seastone of Tideline Press. Bill’s works are exhibited in galleries and museums worldwide and his artists books are in numerous library collections.
Creative Chronology and Project Timeline (under construction)