Fine Art Photography

24 Jul

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What is fine art photography? There are a number of different answers to that question, but in my case, I’m talking about photographs that I have personally created. To be truly fine art, the final presentation is the deciding factor. You could take a discolored Deguerreotype from the 1840s and mount it on archival matt board in a gallery frame behind glass, and it would be fine art, as would be a 120 color film print from the 1960s taken with a Kodak Brownie. The same goes for hand printed platinum and palladium photographs, along with silver nitrate based prints enlarged from negatives ranging in size from 110 to 8 x 10.

I tried to create my own look, that combined the psychedelic loud colors of the 1960s and early 1970s, that my creativity was most effected by. As my photographic enthusiasm ebbed and flowed over the decades, I found myself photographing a variety of subjects, and as I did so I tried to present my images in a unique manner. One of my favorite creative techniques became the process known as hand coloring. It was originally created to colorize black and white photography before color film was invented, and even afterwards when it was expensive and technically inferior to b&w.

By the 1980s, hand coloring had fallen by the wayside, until some photographers began to apply a minimalist look to their photos with only a small area colored. At that time I was hanging out at a camera store in Downtown Salem, whose name I have forgotten, that rented out color and black and white dark rooms, and had all the supplies I needed. They had a sale on hand coloring oil, so I bought the basic red, blue, green, and yellow. The first thing that I hand colored was a collage that I made of Bob Dylan photos that I took in 1987. I loved Bob Dylan and after I developed the photos I took, I printed them in my dark room at home and then began to experiment with hand coloring and cut-up, collage techniques. I entered the Dylan hand colored collage at the Oregon Salon of Photography in 1988, at the State Fair, and won an Honorable mention for it, so I knew that I was on the right track. Later that year I hung the framed image at the library with a $100.00, price tag on it and sold it in a week.Β  Now I realize that I didn’t ask enough, since I’ve sold some of my hand colored prints and collages for $400.00 to $500.00. They are one of a kind, and as I get older, the possibility of me ever doing my own dark room work again and hand coloring any images are very slim. Therefore, I should place a $1,000.00 price tag on all hand colored images, since they are one of a kind original images.

I did most of my hand coloring between 1996 and 2006 and really got into it. My techniques evolved and combined masking techniques, experimental films, and altering the developing process, along with adding water colors to the oil based paints. After using infra-red black & white film to increase grain and lighten dark areas, the negative would be printed onto absorbent matt paper, without using hardener in the fix bath, using masks that simulated paint brush strokes. Then the fixed and washed print would be toned if desired, dried and subjected to rubber masking and as many immersions with new rubber masking as colors were needed. Then the finished and dried print would be mounted on acid free foam core and hand colored with photo oils. The entire process would take anywhere from one to two weeks to complete and have it framed. I included a variety of my work in this post to let you see what I’m talking about, from the first Dylan collage that I photographed before I sold it, to the U2 image that I sold for $325.00, with some others as well.

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