As another nice plus, Alex personalized it to me. I’m one of the credited backers in the afterword. I’ve had the great fortune to know Alex through online photography forums like APUG and Facebook, and watch this body of work grow and evolve over time, and now I’m thrilled to have his book in my collection.
Another artist interview from the Alt Process Revolution series – this one with Philip Jessup, another Canadian photographer. One of the great things about this touring show is that it brings greater visibility of Canadian photographers to the US audience – I think many US photographers are aware of many other photographers from their own country, but with the possible exception of Yusuf Karsh, most could not name a single Canadian photographer living or dead.
Tell us a bit about your photographic work:
- How did you get interested in photography?
My landscape photography is an extension of my professional work over the years advocating solutions to climate change. Many of the effects of climate change—rising sea levels, warming global temperatures, increasingly erratic precipitation patterns—are placing wilderness and communities that depend on them under unbearable stress. Many of these areas are likely to vanish, like low-lying atolls in the Pacific. I see my job as documenting such areas, so that if they do vanish or change in some unrecognizable way, humankind will remember them.
- Do you feel your work is influenced by other media/periods/genres? If so, which ones, and why?
I’ve been influenced stylistically by other landscape photographers whose work I love. Eliot Porter, who was the first landscape photographer to work extensively in color, has always inspired me, his ability to find the abstract in the real. Other photographers who work I admire include: Fay Godwin, Harry Callahan, Brett Weston, Toshio Shibata, Wynn Bullock, and the Canadian Edward Burtynski, who has taught us to find beauty even in the devastation being inflicted on the environment.
- What is your experience with analog photography? Digital photography?
All of my early work dating from 2003 was shot with medium format film, Fujifilm’s Velvia 50. I love its wide color gamut and detail. From the start, however, I had my reversal film images scanned at high resolution and then printed on a Lambda using Cibachrome and later Fujiflex media. Today I shoot with a digital camera, process the images myself, and print on my own Epson P7000. I’ve been able to achieve rich, long lasting color prints this way. I would go back to Cibachrome if the media were available. Today, I occasionally shoot using film just for the pleasure and self-discipline, but in Canada availability and processing is limited and quite expensive.
- What brought you to participate in the APR show?
I’m always interested in exploring new ways to create an image that deepens the experience of my work with the viewer. Multiple gum over palladium produces a highly subjective final print that feels to me like a memory or a remembrance of something that is past or lost. The theme of my own work, which is trying to capture the beauty of landscapes and communities that may vanish, is a good match for this process. I also like the extreme longevity of these images. Again, it is a good match for my own goal, which is to memorialize imperiled landscapes so future generations won’t forget.
- Do you see a continuing role in your photography practice for alternative processes?
I’m keen to explore the potential of alt processes to emotionally charge the images I place in front of the viewer. The exhibit at Glen Echo is the first step.
What do you do at 2:30 AM when you’re stricken with a bout of insomnia? Why you tackle a prototype matting job for a very large triptych (3x 10×13 images in a 20×40 mat/frame). Which of course you mis-measure the windows in the horizontal dimension, ending up cutting them 1/4″ too wide.
At least I didn’t screw it up prototyping with 8 ply mat board (which I’ve been known to do before). I think the sequence and the tonal values works for the series, which I’m titling “Head, Heart, Hand”. Or something to that effect.
I think sometimes (perhaps most of the time? All of the time?) presentation can make or break an image. Its success is the culmination of many decisions that begin with the decision of what camera and film to pick up before heading out the door in the morning, following through to what to point the camera at, on to what developer, paper, process, cropping… it doesn’t end until the framed print is hung on a wall, sequenced with the rest of the prints in the show. They all build on each other.
What do you all think of the sequencing of this triptych? Head, Heart, Hand, or the other way round? Any other critique/feedback is welcome.
All three images were shot on Kodak Tri-X, in my 1956 Rolleiflex 2.8E. Film developed in Pyrocat HD, printed on Ilford Warmtone MG fiber paper processed using Ilford Warmtone developer.
When doing enlarging of silver gelatin prints, it is often a prerequisite to a finished print that you do some burning and dodging to get the finished image exactly the way you envisioned it. And to compound the challenge, the area you want to burn or dodge is seldom neatly covered by an out-of-the-box tool like an oval, circle, or a straight line. That’s when you have to get creative and make some custom burn cards. This image I made was a perfect example. In a straight print, the sky is merely gray, and has a wisp of cloud on the right side that unless burned in looks like a bad printing mistake.
To get the sky burned in, without losing details in the roof, I had to make a custom burn card. I took a stack of paper boxes, placed them on the easel, then my burn card on top. I projected the negative onto the card, traced my outline, then cut it out. When doing my burning passes, I held the card at approximately the same height as it was when I cut it. You can see it in the second photo in action. The only way to get more precise with burning and dodging is to make a contrast mask and sandwich it with the negative in the carrier during exposure. That technique presents a whole new set of challenges because you have to get the mask in absolute register with the negative, and deal with dust on four surfaces, not to mention the possibility of newton rings.
I recently completed a one-on-one private tutorial in Platinum/Palladium printing with Mat Marrash, who you may know of if you listen to The Film Photography Podcast. I’ve known Mat for several years now, having met him at Photostock in 2013. He’s an extremely gifted photographer who mostly works with an 8×10 view camera, and does a lot of work with infrared film. Mat knows a lot of the same folks I know in the alternative process field, including people I’ve learned from, so I was deeply flattered that he chose me to learn from.
Yes, Mat is a very talented photographer in his own right so a lot of what we did in this session was easy for him. BUT, he did make it challenging by starting off working from 8×10 inch negatives, instead of starting with 5×7 (the smaller size is easier to coat evenly when you’re new to the process, and costs 50% less per print). I want to show this as this was his first ever (!!!!) palladium print. We hit the first one dead on, out-of-the-ballpark, ready to frame and go up on the wall. This extremely beautiful process is quite easy to learn and should not be intimidating to anyone interested.
And here is his second ever print, which added another wrinkle – the negative he used was one he had previously shot, not planning to make a palladium print with it. We developed all his film, the negatives we made that weekend along with some other negatives he had made previously, using the development regimen I use for my work, and we were able to produce some excellent prints even from those other negatives.
Private one-on-one tutoring can be arranged at any mutually convenient time, and can cover a wide range of topics either specialized for fine-tuning your process or just a deep hands-on introduction to the process. Contact me for details on pricing and scheduling – as this is an a-la-carte arrangement, I need to know what you are looking for in order to give a quote. Tuition will include your own set of chemistry and any paper we use in the class.
I’m offering my group class at Glen Echo Photoworks next weekend, December 10-11, if you are interested in getting your feet wet without committing to a one-on-one workshop, This is the perfect opportunity. Tuition is a very modest $250 plus $50 materials fee (chemistry, paper, and all instructional materials). The class runs from 10 AM – 4 PM Saturday and Sunday. You can register here at the Glen Echo Park website.
Here are the first two from my visit to Hampton National Historic Site, in Towson, Maryland (just north of Baltimore). More will be forthcoming, but I wanted to get these two posted right away. Hampton was at its peak, a several thousand acre estate. It was built as the country home for the Ridgely family, who made their early wealth through ironworks. One Ridgely would be governor of Maryland. The house itself was famous for being a centerpiece of entertainment and gracious living, having greenhouses and a subterranean icehouse on the property, providing the Ridgelys and their guests with seasonal fruits, ice water and chilled beverages year-round, an extreme rarity in 1790 when the house was built. The main house has thirteen bedrooms on three floors, a sitting room, great hall, dining room, parlor, library/music room, kitchen and laundry.
This octagonal garden, roughly 8 feet on a side, is built inside the foundations of the house slave quarters. It was a two-story structure, and some three families of house servants shared it. While the US Park Service guides (who give outstanding tours of the property) tell you explicitly about the structure and its purpose, no marker in the garden indicates its history.
Today, Hampton Lane divides the Hampton historical site. What is remarkable about the property is that so many of the farm structures remain – the dairy with its spring-water-fed cold water bath for the milk and butter, the horse stables (the Ridgelys were big horse racing fans, and kept the stables within eyesight of the mansion, another unusual feature, as well as a no-longer-surviving racetrack of their own), the overseer’s house and slave quarters for the skilled labor (stable hands, dairy workers, etc).
You can see the overseer’s house inside the white picket fence to the right of the scene. Hampton is open as a public park, and many people come there to ride their bikes and exercise their dogs. Today it is a beautifully maintained pastoral landscape in suburban Baltimore. While again, the Park Service does yeoman’s work in interpreting the space, and has provided outstanding documentation on the website for Hampton, the interpretation of the site requires you to actually go inside the structures and talk to the park service guides. It is possible to visit, and if you don’t engage, be completely oblivious to the fact that the parkland you are walking through exists by and for slave labor.
Just a real quick video of an exposed print being developed. This is what a develop-out print looks like, and how quickly the developer works. The print is almost fully realized in the first twenty seconds of the development cycle, but you still need to give the full two minutes to let the highlights fully develop.
This is what the raw, unexposed double-coated emulsion looks like. I double-coat to get better shadow depth and highlight separation. You can see the two coatings on the lower left. The reason I’m willing to double-coat is that I’m making such small prints that the extra cost isn’t prohibitive.