Events photography

Lots on his (wet) plate: photography by Kary Janousek

Arts | January 20, 2022

By John Showalter

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It seems that technological progress is accelerating more and more. There’s something new, faster, 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 revert to 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. Before getting into photography, she ran an online millinery and hat restoration business called High Hat Couture for 13 years, which had a global clientele. His interest in wet plate photography was first piqued by reading books on the subject. This, coupled with her desire to cross-market and promote herself, eventually led her to commission wet plate photography with another well-known North Dakota wet plate photographer, Shane Balkowitsch, where she acted as a role model. It turned into spinning under him until she was ready to strike out on her own as a photographer.

From there, Janousek opened a studio in the old schoolhouse in Mapleton. She made her first ambrotype plate (black glass) in September 2019. Of course everyone knows what happened in the first months of 2020 with the COVID pandemic. That didn’t stop Janousek, however. “I started focusing on photography,” she said. “It accelerated my progress as a photographer.” An Arts Partnership art grant helped her buy more equipment and plates to pursue this burgeoning passion that turned into a career.

Janousek’s first solo reception, titled “Duality,” kicked off at the Spirit Room in December. Those who were unable to attend this exhibit need not worry, as select pieces will be on display by the artist in the Valley Showcase at the Bonanzaville Cass County Historical Museum in West Fargo. This exhibition will be presented from January 17 to March 14. He will also feature pieces from his new “Femininity” short series, featuring female models on blue, red and clear glass plates instead of his usual use of pewter types and black stained glass.

In July, Janousek moved his studio to the top floor of the Historical Dakota Business College. She organizes walk-in portrait days there twice a month or as advertised on her social media, as well as commissions. She also hopes to host non-photography related events at the studio.

“I plan to continue to organize collaborative events,” Janousek said. “My goal is to continue working with local artists.

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YOU SHOULD KNOW

Website: HighHatPortraiture.com

Instagram: @oldschoolcollodion