- Written by Roy Hammans
All of the photographs displayed in this gallery have been made on film, using formats from 35mm to 10 x 8 inches, in a variety of cameras. They date from the 1970s to the present day.
All are scans of prints made in my own darkroom exclusively on fibre-based photographic papers. In each case, the scans are in in colour in an attempt to convey the subtle variations in the black and white image that can result from the use of different papers, chemicals and techniques.
Many of these prints will have been toned using selenium to enhance and deepen the shadow detail and create a richness unequalled by anything an inkjet printer can produce. In fact, it is this unique quality of depth in silver-based printing that draws me to continue using the process.
There is something about the surface of a photograph, whether it be silver or ink-based, that acts as a barrier between the viewer and the photographer's intent. This barrier is re-inforced by reproduction in print or here on the web. I tend to subscribe to the art critic Brian Sewell's view that photography cannot be considered 'true art' for this very reason, although that debate has been going on since the first photographs were produced.
Here's what Sewell has to say in a recent review he gave of a photographic exhibition:
Vulgarity is, indeed, the almost common factor among these present-day photographers (most of them fiftyish or so) — the vulgarity of the commonplace subject, the vulgarity of colour, the vulgarity of scale (now common in every current form of art) and the vulgarity of surface, too often utterly repellent. Craigie Horsfield is alone in expressing a dislike of the photographic surface that is as intense as mine — “I did not like the presence of the great majority of photographs,” he said of another exhibition: “The surface of a photograph does not act; the surface of a painting does, but the surface of the photograph is redundant, it is not engaged by the artist.” I must go further and argue that the surface is as much a barrier to the image as a varnish thick as treacle on a painting.1
Given the constraint of surface and the 'mechanical' nature of photography, one can only strive to create prints that minimise this barrier and attempt to leave the image to speak for itself. The traditional silver-based print, executed to the highest achievable standard, has a certain quality, or 'soul', that embodies the hours spent in its creation.
1 Seduced by Art: Photography Past and Present, National Gallery. London Evening Standard, 1 November 2012.