David Prifti passed away on November 21st 2011. This marked the end of a renowned photographic career and 25 years of teaching at Concord-Carlisle Regional High School.
David Prifti's work was shown by and acquired by the Museum of Modern Art in the early 1990s. He transformed his photographic work twice. First he moved from the quasi-documentary reportage MoMA showed to an obsessive reprinting of black-and-white portraits of family members present and past on sculptural objects such as hubcaps, architectural fragments, and scraps of steel. This was the work for which Prifti was best known in recent years.
In 2005 he developed a new process, albeit one popular in the 19th century. Shooting with large-format wet-plate collodion emulsions on glass, Prifti made tintype portraits of students, friends, and acquaintances. In a statement, Prifti explained his attraction to these materials. "The fine detail and tonal beauty of the wet plate process allow me to describe my subjects in more powerful ways than I am able to achieve with contemporary materials," he wrote.
He applied this approach to several groups of portrait subjects, including students he taught at Concord-Carlisle Regional High School and a community of "suspension" people, whose decorations of their bodies with studs and piecings are sometimes the anchors for hanging themselves suspended in the air. In both series, Prifti and his subjects collaborated in sittings of up to two minutes. "That's the place it starts," he said. "There's a certain energy, a certain tension to get at some truth, some moment of psychological complexity."