The Light Farm

2. Pictorialism and Color — Handcoloring with Colored Pencils

I love pictorialism. Any art gallery I step into, my eyes start to search for the pictorialist painters. I love photography. I love the endless innovations in techniques that in turn allow endless innovations in style. But, for as much as I value my digital camera, and as much as I admire the current crop of landscape photographers and their beautiful-beyond-belief images, my heart lives in that special place between the 19th and 20th centuries. I love pictorialist photography.

Pictorialism in photography was much maligned about the time I got started in photography. I didn't give it much thought at the time. I was as obsessed as the next photographer with my view camera and fine grain black & white film. In truth, those were wonderful times. The goals of photography seemed much more straight-forward than today — make beautiful prints and get into as many juried shows and good galleries as possible. With luck, you might even get featured in one of the countless photography magazines lining the shelves of every bookstore. Do I sound nostalgic? In truth, I am. A bit.

There is one aspect of the 70s through 90s I don't miss. The straitjacket. Those "straight-forward" goals were also at times an invisible cage. Certainly, there were photographers brave enough go their own way, but most of us didn't. I didn't. When I got bored with trying to be Ansel Adams, I became a botanist. As much as I loved pictorialism, I "knew" that it was no longer accepted in photography. Those times are long gone, and for the most part, I'm glad. Of course, there are still gatekeepers trying to set arbitrary rules, but I hope today most of us are aware and resistant.

Far left: 35mm negative, 'X2Ag' film

Near left: crop of the negative — scanned, inverted, auto-contrast applied in Photoshop

Below three images: a full-size print from a 35mm negative, with two successive crops

By the end of last summer, I'd run three kinds of handmade film through most of my dozens of film cameras (Curses, ebay!!) Long story short, I found that I loved 'X2Ag' in a 35mm camera. The grain is just right to become very pictorialist in a 6" x 9" print. My plans for the summer of 2020 were to travel and photograph — kinda street photography meets pictorialism. Of course, no travel in the summer of 2020.

I live in a tourist town. Like all locals in such places, I usually have a love/hate relationship with the hoards of tourists that can descend on "my" town. This summer, I just plain missed them. I missed the busy, crowded, happy hubbub and the funky joy of people who prefer chilly, foggy beach towns over sunny tropical beaches, mountains, or Vegas. We still had tourists, probably too many to be safe, especially because so many went unmasked, so I mostly stayed smart and stayed home.

I was searching my old negatives for one in particular when a realization slapped me upside the head. Color. For years I've hand-colored silver gelatin prints with dyes, first on Ilford Multigrade and now on my own paper, but that's a slow process. I was feeling too impatient for slow. Applying colored pencils to matte paper inkjet prints was perfect. The process has been a little addictive. It is not mentally taxing (to say the least!) so it fits well with Audible books. Playing with colored pencils (crayons for grownups) has turned out to be my best version of Covid mental health.

The collection so far: here

< Home       >

Copyright © The Light Farm