While everyone else had a real job I spent more than 25 years hiking and camping in south west Western Australia. With my trusty wooden field camera and a few sheets of film you can find me out on the coast, in the bush or climbing some peak.
I find landscapes inspiring, whether it be a grand scene or an intimate detail. The West has a unique and ancient landscape. Our quality of light is as hard as it is voluminous. It provides me with a continual challenge to reproduce that quality within the limitations of a photograph.
Since 1989 I have been photographing and publishing my landscape images of National Parks and Regional Reserves under my imprint Stormlight Publishing. I also provide images to other publishing houses for their publications.
My introduction to photography was in the era of film cameras and light sensitive photographic paper. I learnt to develop my film in a tank and print my photographs in a traditional wet darkroom. By today's standards it is neither fast nor easy. But it is a process I maintain to this day.
Why? Because a negative must be worthy of all the effort, decision making, darkroom time, use of rare materials and archival treatment that it takes in making the print. Working physically with silver halide materials provides a thread of continuity throughout my work. The pleasure is in viewing a successfully completed print with emotional substance. Consequently I find it immensely satisfying.
Reproduction of the 28 silver gelatin prints from “Dissociation”, Heathcote Gallery.
Starting with one lens and camera to publishing 1.5 million postcards later
Lost in suburbia is one of the largest regional parks just 10km from the Perth CBD
Hand Crafted Silver Gelatin Prints
My hand crafted prints are made on Czechoslovakian, Foma brand, silver gelatin fibre based photographic paper. There are only a few remaining manufacturers of this silver rich paper remain worldwide.
Fine art photographers and collectors worldwide consider fibre based baryta paper to be the pinnacle for black and white quality. They choose fibre based baryta paper for its greater detail and definition, extended tonal range and proven archival properties.
Print making begins with a film negative. Using an enlarger, the negative image is projected onto the photographic paper under darkroom conditions. To control image detail and contrast I employ tradition darkroom techniques. Such methods include dodging and or burning in. Dodging requires holding back exposure in some parts of the print. Burning in is the giving of additional exposure to some parts of the print. Dodging and burning is usually done by placing the hands or any object into the path of light. Burning and dodging steps have to be carried out repetitively and accurately. Because this is all done by hand it takes a great deal of skill. By its nature no two prints are exactly the same.
Once I have finished exposing the paper I develop the image. Under safelight conditions the paper is placed in a developer tray where the silver image appears. To arrest the development the paper is placed in a tray of stop bath. So that the photograph can be viewed in normal light all remaining unexposed silver halide must be removed. If not the print will eventually go black. To fix the image the print is placed briefly into acid fixer. This dissolves away the remaining light sensitive parts of the print.
Under wash water the fixer is removed and is inspected under normal room light. Further washing and a treatment in a hypo clearing agent removes residual fixer within the paper's fibre. It is then washed for a further 2 hours then air dried face down on plastic screen mesh.
To maximise their archival properties fibre based photographic papers are carefully washed and toned. I immerse the print briefly in selenium toner, replacing a thin layer of silver with more stable selenium metal. Further washing is applied before they are dried and mounted onto 100% cotton rag museum boards for exhibition.
I write in pencil the photograph’s title and my signature directly under each print on the museum board. On the rear of the boards I stamp my details including title, negative number, print date and signature.
My preference for exhibition prints is to place the matted print under a window mount behind glass within an aluminium frame.
The entire process to complete one print can take several days. To me a print crafted by the hand of the photographer provides a clearer signal of the depth of their vision. It demonstrates their original intention and interpretation of the subject more than any other print.
“I go for long walks in the bush or along the coast with my wooden field camera, a few sheets of film, a tripod and sometimes a tent and food. I like to take my time to absorb the environment, to rediscover and to reconnect. My direct involvement with the materials and techniques for making an expressive photographic print is of importance to me. I maintain a traditional darkroom, developing my films and hand printing all my black and white silver gelatin prints.” Read more