Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Jeff Robinson does it his way

Last March I did a demo of the chemigram process for an alt-photo class of Martha Casanave's at Monterey Peninsula College in California.  It was a big, enthusiastic class that day - Martha knew how to pump up the excitement level - and one of the students, although I didn't know it then, was a talented young artist named Jeff Robinson, an adept of cyanotypes and Van Dyck Browns and most things alternative.  I returned to NY and heard no more.  Then last month Martha phoned me and said, "You've gotta see what one of the students, Jeff, has done with the process.  I think you'll like it."  I asked her to have him send me some pictures.  He fired up his scanner and sent me these:

Robinson, untitled, 2010
Robinson, untitled, 2010
I was definitely impressed.  I called to ask him about his methods.  He told me first of all that he washes for 45 minutes to an hour, and uses no fixer bath.  OK - I was listening now.  What else?

Robinson, untitled, 2010
"I use 11x14" or larger - I've got these big trays - and always FB paper, some of it discontinued stuff like Ilford G3 and G4."  The G3 and 4 are noted for what some believe is an antifogging emulsion, which contributes to the extreme whiteness of the base paper.  "I use Dektol straight, no dilution, but I don't use a developer tray either - I just swab on Dektol where I want it dark and fixer where I want it light.  Then I throw on some stabilizer and activator, both at 1:3, and take it outside to let it cook a few minutes in the sun."  He doesn't spell this out, but the photolytic events that take place there may be enhanced by the solar spectrum, encompassing the full range of electromagenetic radiation: the effects could be quite different from those produced by the reduced spectra of actinic light.  In any case, the paper next gets that long wash, during which additional color changes may occur.  But once dry, Jeff has observed no color instability.

Robinson, untitled, 2010

As my colleague Rich Turnbull said on first seeing these chemigrams, Jeff's work is seriously beautiful.  Almost uncannily so.

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