Image from "Nightfall"

. . . the image or the process?  Tonight, I attended the wonderful opening of the Silver Images photography show, in which I am displaying two of the images that have emerged from the Holga 120S camera I’ve been playing with over the last few months. 

I don’t count myself a photographer.  I’m just a person who likes to take pictures.  I have a very low-tech approach to photography, and a clear vision in my mind of the kind of images I want to produce.  I’m most interested in the pulling, and the pushing and the transferring and processing into mixed media art that delivers me images full of mist and mystery to use in my books and collage works.  Out of those, every year, I try to pull a couple of images that have captured me the most for participation in this show.  

Tonight, reading the artist’s statements and viewing the many varied film treatments utilised, I found myself musing over their process, why they choose what they do, and why I choose what I do.  To some, there is a distinct attraction in mastering a process, in rising to the challenge of the interaction between film, equipment and light.  The more technical and rarified, the better.  For others, the image is everything, and how you get it is secondary.  I fall squarely in this camp.  The vision resides within my mind’s eye, and I am prepared to play and try anything to produce images that correlate with that personal vision.  Imagine, therefore, my thirst to view images with the most unbelievable quality of light, tone and . . .  otherness . . . by a visiting artist from British Columbia.  The photographs were processed using the platinum processing method.  The images are a stunning combination of ethereal and real, incredible sharpness and detail in the areas of focus, suffused with a beautiful amber light on a matt surface that seems to have soaked right into the paper.  Wikipedia describes it this way:   

“Platinum prints, also called platinotypes, are photographic prints made by a monochrome printing process that provides the greatest tonal range of any printing method using chemical development.
Unlike the silver print process, platinum lies on the paper surface, while silver lies in a gelatin or albumen emulsion that coats the paper. As a result, since no gelatin emulsion is used, the final platinum image is absolutely matte with a deposit of platinum (and/or palladium, its sister element which is also used in most platinum photographs) absorbed slightly into the paper.”

There is an almost indescribable quality to these images I am instantly greedy to try.  I stood looking at those prints and seeing my personal vision reflected in the glass.  I am advised by my wiser and more experienced photographer pals that the process is a magnificently expensive one that fell by the way when silver gelatine printing and then modern processes took over in a more affordable way.   My question to myself is:   If I’m only going to print a couple a year, couldn’t I justify $200 a print? 

Maybe I’d best stick with pushing the capabilities of my little Holga and dream.  The trouble is, I just can’t get the vision out of my mind . . . . . I think it’s love.

(Photo by Ray Bidegain)

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