I've been a little quiet of late, partially because it's been winter (BOOO!) and also because my negative printer has died (double BOOO!) but also because an opportunity came my way.
I've had the chance to move my studio to the floor above where it is currently, to a space that can be fully sealed off. A light-fast room gives me the option of experimenting with many more photographic processes. That is once I'd built a wall, a ceiling, plumbed in water and have electric installed. It's not been a small job but I'm pleased to say it's nearly complete.
I'm going back to my roots for the first process I'm going to experiment with - good old wet printing - something I've not done since college. Fortunately I already had an enlarger and various bits still in my loft but I have also benefitted from the generosity of friends who have donated pretty much everything else I need.
Well anyone in fashion retail will know what that title signifies. Spring - Summer 2017.
Which means i've been helping my pals at Violet flamingo shoot their new range for the new season. It's a departure for both of us as we generally prefer a more 'muted' pallet to say the least, but we really enjoyed this splash of colour. I hope you do too.
I was fortunate enough to have my photography featured in the pages of Femme Rebelle Magazine, which in it's own words 'showcases the best in alternative fashion photography from the UK and abroad'.
This was all made possible thanks to a collaboration between Linsey James of Violet Flamingo, Martha Lyons Haywood - Model, Louise Riley - Hair and Chloe Louse Gorton - Makeup who were all simply brilliant and as always a joy to work with.
Christmas is coming and I'm trying to get into the studio to make a few more prints before the Ebor Studio Christmas show on the 3rd December. Today I was working in 6.5ºC temperatures, but you don't feel the cold when your engrossed in what you're doing.
This is my first large platinum print of my Trees in Mist image. This one was printed on Arches Platine paper and will be available in the Christmas show.
The Ballad Of British Folklore Exhibition at Christie's, South Kensington, London.
Well it finally happened. My platinum prints are now on display at Christie's auctoin house in London. They form part of The Museum Of British Folklore's exhibition 'The Ballad Of British Folklore'. The prints, which are from my Rushbearers series (and can be found on this site here and here), feature amongst a great many folklore artefacts and the work of fellow photographers including the excellent Homer Sykes and Sarah Hannant.
On the night of the private viewing we had attendance figures of around the 1,000 mark and were treated to a number of talks, live demonstrations and performances and I had the pleasure of discussing my work with a good number of people. It was superb fun and absolutely lovely to see the work in situ.
The exhibition runs from 25 July – 1 September 2016 at Christie's Auction House, South Kensington, London.
www.christies.com/exhibitions/2016/the-ballad-of-british-...If anyone should find themselves in London over the summer please try to pop by and give the museum (and me!) their support.
Talking of support I'd like to give thanks to the excellent Hahnemühle UK for allowing me to use its new Platinum Rag paper for the project. It produced excellent results and if your interested in trying it yourself then that's another good reason to visit Christie's to check it out. :)
Anyway here's some pictures from the official opening to give a little flavour of what went on.
My good friend and fellow Ebor Studio inhabitant, Lindsey James of Violet Flamingo clothing brand, liked my panorama of Hare Hill House and asked if I could do it again but this time as a brand-shoot for Violet Flamingo. So I did, but this time using added multiple exposures to include Martha the model in various locations. Always hard trying to replicate something you'd done previously but great fun.
I have a shiny (literally - it's silver) pack of the new Platinum Rag paper from those lovely people at Hahnemühle UK. I've been doing a little tweaking to fine-tune my workflow and ensure works optimally with this interesting new paper.
Ihope to have something to show very soon. Watch this space!
In the meantime yo can always take read up on it a little on the Hahnemühle Platinum Rag website here.
A little while ago my friend Mick came to visit me in the studio. We had a good old natter, drank a few cups of tea and did a little portrait session.
Now those who know me will know I consider portraits to be a tricky thing - and to be totally frank - I've never fully come to terms with the concept of a portrait. What is one supposed to achieve? Why are they so popular? A common belief seems to be that it can in some way reveal the inner nature of a person. Me I'm not entirely sure about that, but it intrigues me, which is why I keep doing portrait projects. You could say it's an itch I keep trying to scratch.
Never-the-less, and despite this dilemma, I was determined to deliver a picture that was true to Mick as I know him. However when it came to choosing a picture I thought summed Mick up I struggled. There were many good images but to me each was simply a frozen moment in time and conveyed little more. Then amongst all these images I spotted a sequence of images that seemed just right together. And so I decided, rather than a single image, my portrait of Mick should be a triptych. Sure it still doesn't convey the complexities of the human condition but I feel it gave a broader slice of Mick's personality - and what's more triptychs are fun!
This latest one measures about 16" wide and is on a 20" wide sheet of Arches Platine paper. I'm starting the push the envelope now as 23" square is as large as I can go with my current set up. I think given the cost of platinum it's probably big enough for for now.
Here's what it looks like on the sheet.
Hare Hill House is a local landmark I've know all my life. It is situated in historic Hare Hill Park in Littleborough Lancashire. It is currently being renovated by a group of volunteers in order that it can be of use to the community and prevent it falling into the hands of developers and being lost forever.
I'm slowly scaling up my operation. Something you don't just leap into when you're dealing with platinum as mistakes can be costly. However now I have a lovely new batch of Arches Platine paper to play with I thought it was time. This print is about nine inches square on a sheet that is roughly 12" x 16".
The image itself was taken on the Streets of Manchester (England) with a Rolleiflex 3.5F, medium format camera, scanned and enlarged onto a digital negative.
A handful of you out there may recognise the Captain Beefheart reference in the title.
I'm now avidly trying to get a picture of a squid eating dough in a polyethylene bag but you don't get many of those in the north west of England. ;o)
In my quest for studio perfection I decided I should like to upgrade my ultra violet exposure unit.
Those familiar with alternative photographic processes will be aware that a UV light box is a pretty common tool. It is used to expose whatever you're printing onto/with to UV light which when passed through a negative onto a pre-prepared light sensitive surface can produce an image.
My own UV box was okay. I built it myself and it had been slowly upgraded and tweaked over the last six months and did a decent enough job. It had a vacuum driven contact frame which I was very proud of and could hold a sheet of paper up to 600mm square. the only thing I wasn't happy with was the exposure times, which were a very lazy 25minutes that impacted upon my work-flow and rather stressed my vacuum pump.
With this in mind I began looking into how to improvements. My initial idea was to increase the amount of UV florescent tubes from 6 to 14 and increase power and efficiency by over-driving the tubes and using modern high efficiency ballasts. However before I did this a fairly new technological advance, namely ultraviolet LEDs caught my eye. Having found that you can buy them, ready-to-go, on a 5m long ribbon I decided to buy a length and jury-rig a test. The results from this rough test were surprising - a very good and even exposure in less than ten minutes. Hearted by this I shelved my UV tube ideas and set out to build an LED based unit.
I purchased an extra 5m of the LED ribbon and and set about cutting it and attaching it to a white foamex board.
Once finished I had a UV array consisting of in excess of 640 LEDsWhilst housing the new LED panel I took the opportunity to improve my existing UV unit box, slimming it down and generally tidying it up. I fitted out the inside with white foamex to more effectively reflect the light and moved the vacuum pump so it could be mounted externally to prevent heat soak into the vacuum frame and stop it blowing dust around inside the box.
For added ease of use I also integrated a timer unit, which allowed me to pre-select a time, hit the start button and let it go.
So how is it? ...
All in all I'm very pleased. It's a much neater set-up and a dream to use. It runs cool and uses less power. The only issue I've found is that the LEDs seem to be producing a slightly lower contrast image. I assume this is due to the longer wavelength of emitted by the LEDs compared to the UV tubes (405nm against 375nm), though I'm not sure of the physics involved, but I should be able to compensate for that.
Here's a little vid of it running.
UPDATE. Surprisingly the move from tubes to LED has meant that I have had to produce new Photoshop adjustment curves for the printing of my digital negatives. I can only put this down to the manner in which the longer wavelength UV light emmitted by the LEDs penetrates the film and ink of the printed negs. However once the adjustment has been made it is all working great.
As I progress with my platinum printing, I'm beginning to find that the longevity and rare nature of platinum is an attractive property that lends itself to reproducing images that are very dear to people's hearts. I suspect it is why I have already had a number of commission from people for plaitinotypes of images, of important events , loved-ones etc., despite only recently working in the medium. Some prints have been given as presents, some kept as memento's.
Perhaps in an age of digital imagery, and photo albums disappearing with the loss of a smartphone, it is more important than ever to preserve images of things that really matter to us in a tangible way that will last and we can hold in our hands and share with others.
Two of the three above images were mine however that didn't seem to matter. I still found a great deal of joy in trying to make the best print I possibly could, knowing how much it mattered to somebody now, and how much it could come to matter generations to come.
Well after going through six months of construction, testing, improvements and a lot of costly raw materials I have finally got my platinum printing studio up to a standard I'm (fairly) happy with. Suffice to say, if I'd know how much work was involved in doing it I may have never started.
To give a little recap. I have studio space at Ebor Studios in Littleborough, Lancashire. A lovely little creative hub which I am fortunate to share with a great bunch of fine artists and designers.
In order to produce platinum prints or platinotypes you do not need a darkroom as you do in traditional silver printing but you do need a great deal of related (and costly) equipment.
Firstly I decided to build my own sink.
Then I had to construct a ultra violet exposure unit - with a fully working vacuum driven contact frame (I'm very proud of this!)
I also had to build a print washer and stock up on all manner of other bits and pieces such as: pipettes, cutting mats, timers, brushes, specialist paper, distilled water, and not to forget the key (but expensive) chemicals imported from America.
After all that was done I had to then start to master the delicate art of the platinum print. That is a story in itself, which I shan't bore you with right now, just suffice the say it's a path with plenty of pitfalls. But all's well that ends well, I now have a fully working platinum printing studio, I know far more than I did when I started it and am greatly looking forward to what I can do with the medium and where it may take me.
I'm just working on revamping my website with a view to updating the content to include my platinum printing work. Something that has kept me so busy in the past year I've added absolutely nothing on my the site. So apologies if things seem to randomly move around from time to time - it's just me wrestling with the content.
It's not often I buy photo books, but today I bought a book that I will treasure. 'Todmorden People' is a book chronicling a bygone age in the small town or Todmorden, West Yorkshire though the photographs of Roger Birch and compiled by his son Daniel.
A lecturer, Roger Birch ran the graphic design course at Hopwood Hall College when I attended in the late eighties and it was through Roger that I was first introduced to photography and taught darkroom skills. Looking back I think it was a pivotal moment in my life as photography has been an abiding passion of mine ever since.
I hadn't seen Roger since leaving college though I did often wonder what he was up to and wished I could find his whereabouts so I could have a chat and thank him personally. However this was not to be as I learnt that Roger had passed away suddenly in 2013.
So today I did the next best thing. I met his son Daniel, bought the book, and told him how Roger had inspired me. I imagine I'm not the only one.
The book itself is full of wonderful images depicting scenes from different times and very tender portraits and I would rate Roger alongside of my favourite photographers. The contains a forward by Martin Parr who also knew Roger.
February 2013. "In summer, Venice is torrid, stuffed to the gills with the 18 million tourists who overwhelm it each year, clogging its bridges, swelling its vaporetti, vastly outnumbering the famously grouchy residents and making the city seem like one big floating Disneyland — a perverse metaphor for the future of Italy, if not all of Europe, a place that has staked its future on selling an image of its past and may yet be destroying itself in the process."
RACHEL DONADIO, The New York Times .
“In winter you wake up in this city, especially on Sundays, to the chiming of its innumerable bells, as though behind your gauze curtains a gigantic china teaset were vibrating on a silver tray in the pearl-gray sky [...] You fling the window open and the room is instantly flooded with this outer, peal-laden haze, which is part damp oxygen, part coffee and prayers.”
JOSEPH BRODSKY, Watermark.