Monday, September 20, 2010

Bobby Bashir's lumens

Bashir, Wasting, 2010

Bashir, Lasting, 2010

Bashir, Holding, 2010

Bashir, Feeling, 2010

Roberto "Bobby" Bashir is a young man living in the valley below my mountain cabin on the Monterey Peninsula. He works as a seafood cook, and when he's not inspecting new shipments of squid or salmon or arranging things on a plate, he likes to make lumen prints, which he does out back behind the restaurant. He uses the bounteous wildflowers of the region, grasses, leaves, and more recently the leftover food from customer plates, trimmings, and kitchen scraps. He picked up the technique down the coast in Ventura, and does it to amuse himself.

Bobby mostly uses Foma FB paper from Croatia, which he gets from Freestyle. He likes the reds and earthy oranges, and the delicate feel of it as it dries. He exposes for 20-30 minutes (we're in California mind you), fixes in ammonium thiosulfate for maybe a minute or two, washes ("have to do it, but I lose the great deep blues and cyans from the fixer"), then usually soaks it in Kodak Rapid Selenium toner until he's satisfied. Then a final wash, and dry. And yes, he wears gloves and is very careful not to contaminate the kitchen, but he asks us not to reveal the name of his restaurant. Just in case.

What I love about his process is his use of juices and teas as a thin bath for the plants or foods on the paper. As these liquids dry, they lightly develop a trail on the paper, creating an illusion of depth or shadow which goes well with the quiet lyricism of his work. He favors the multifruit concoctions so prevalent nowadays like orange-pineapple-mango, and the unsweetened iced teas. Another advantage of using liquids where plant meets paper is that you reduce the problem of things sticking to the paper, a problem common in lumen printing, particularly in long exposures. Jalo Porkkala's excellent Finnish site 'vedos' discusses these and many other issues in lumen printing in a fairly thorough way; interested artists should consult it. I also recommend spending time looking at the late Jerry Burchfield's work, both his pictures and his articles on lumen printing. Meanwhile, back to the kitchen with Bobby Bashir.


  1. I can't get over how lovely these lumens are. I've been looking at them for 3 years and they're always new for me. Such restraint, and to make such beauty out of it.

    1. Yes, they affect me the same. The process isn't hard but it's the handling, the arrangement, the small choices that make all the difference. Bobby's a very special artist.