About the Process
My still-life photographs are produced entirely in my studio using the large format film camera, and are printed on traditional silver gelatin paper in the wet darkroom. I also do all of my own post printing processes, including mounting, spotting, matting and framing for exhibition.
My current work stems from the melding of many interests, including the structure of found objects and the surface patina caused by the effects of weather, age or use. I am drawn to nature's detritus and other natural relics found in the environment, including botanical specimens.
Medical instruments and other paraphernalia, suggesting scientific inquiry or faux scientific experimentation, have also been used in some of my pieces. In other still life constructions, I have included vintage dolls or other toys to introduce a feeling of a human presence –perhaps to connect with the whimsy of my inner child or to explore fears and vulnerabilities.
As an artist and longtime art teacher, I am concerned with the formal aspects of visual art. Formal elements and principles act as a structure to help the artist organize and transpose their creative ideas into a successful work. Although the lexicon will vary with other art forms, such as the time arts like theatre and film, or literature, they frequently include line, shape, texture, form and pattern, among others. Having come from a filmmaking background, I often explore the concepts of light, time, space, and motion.
The word photography has its origin in the Greek language; photo, meaning light and graphe, meaning to draw. This concept of drawing with light has informed and influenced how I view my own work.
Controlling light is vital in my creative process. Light therefore is not simply a means for illuminating, the light itself is treated as subject matter. Shadow, and the gradient values of darkness, coupled the deep blacks that result when light wraps around the solid form, are equally important, and treated as integral, meaningful content. My interest in the nature of “light” in all its variant forms, including its ability to be redirected in countless ways, has led me on a journey of exploration, invention and inspired discovery. Photographers such as Minor White, Laszlo Maholy-Nage, Josef Sudek and Man Ray, among others, have all had a profound impact on me and the way I perceive light as a key element in my work.
Working in my studio, I often combine instantaneous lighting with continuous lighting. I also use mirrors, condenser lenses and prisms to modify the light to create mysterious globes of illumination, inexplicable shadow light trails, and other gradient forms.
Because I am not in the digital realm, I do not have the benefit of immediate feedback while I am shooting. I often rely on intuition and experience to get the exposures right. One negative can sometimes involve six or more flash exposures to get the depth of field needed, as well as minutes of burning-in with continuous lighting and even light painting with a small penlight. This is all accomplished while working in the darkened studio. Aperture settings may be varied during the multiple exposure sequence, all on a single sheet of film. Taking copious notes during the whole process is vital to perfecting these techniques. Not all of my photographs are this involved, but many are.
During a printmaking session, I may make slight, but deliberate changes in emphasis between one print and the next while I explore alternative interpretations of the negative. Ansel Adams, the master teacher, photographer, and classically trained pianist, would frequently impart his
wisdom to his workshop students: “The negative is the score, the print the performance.” While the negative may be set, the printing process allows for wide latitudes of creative interpretations.
I use only premium quality, high silver content, double-weight fiber-base photo papers. All prints are processed to archival, museum exhibition standards. Prints are always mounted and over-matted using 100% acid-free and lignin-free museum rag board made of cotton fiber. My
prints, if properly cared for can last for generations.
Specific tools and materials that I use:
Cameras: Deardorff 8/10 and other formats
Lens: Schneider Kreuznach various focal lengths
Film: Ilford Delta 100 @ ISO 64, 8x10 Panchromatic film
Paper: Ilford Multigrade Warm and Neutral tone 16x20 and 20x24
Lighting: Tungsten hot lights/ strobes /penlights for light painting
Film chemistry: Bostic and Sullivan's Rollo Pyro
Print chemistry: Photographers' Formulary F130 and BW-65 and Clayton”s P20 neutral tone
Dry-mounting materials: 4-ply Rising Museum Board for both dry-mount and over-mat
Mounting Tissue: Bienfang “RagMount” Dry Mount Adhesive with Cotton Rag Carrier.
Other Tools: Durst Enlargers equipped with Rodenstock lenses, Unsharp Masking System
made by Alistair Inglis