Eight years ago, when I decided to turn my full attention to photography, I was disillusioned about photography in general because some of my earlier work (25 years old) was already beginning to show signs of deterioration. I did not want to be spending my time working in an art form that was self destructive. Since the 1850's it has been well known that a silver photographic image has serious permanence problems.
Living in Tucson, I availed myself of the work at the University of Arizona's Center for Creative Photography, researching how one could make permanent photographs. There was a cyanotype, an iron process; a carbon print, using graphite; and the platinum print. Examples of each were available and I quickly fell in love with the platinotype. It is warm toned, has great tonal scale, and is sharp as a tack (because all three require a negative the size of the image), and yet the platinotype is softened because the image is made on watercolor paper. Since the emulsion has to be handcoated, there is a very organic feeling about completing the print to the finished product.
In looking at early images, I was drawn to two photographers in particular: Edward Steichen and Edward Curtis. Both produced portraits of people that, for me, captured a soul within them.
So off I went. Learning to print on 2-1/4 negatives that I had from my many years of working with a Hasselblad, while watching my kids play. It was terrific, no darkrooms were necessary, no more chemical smell. Hand coating on the kitchen table and printing outside in the sun, I had the feeling of a pioneer photographer. I felt liberated from the darkroom. I knew then that I loved the process and the look. But my negatives were small.
I worked with enlarging negatives, but could not get the look of the images I saw photographed on larger format. So I began the process of moving up in formats. That worked well because there was a slight learning curve to hand-coating larger images, 4x5, 5x7, 8x10, and ultimately a used Wisner 11x14. Portraiture was going to be my specialty. Large format platinum portraiture, made to last 500 to a thousand years. Truly archival. Heirloom. Less than 30 people in the world are working in this medium in portraiture. And so here I am, working to educate a public that knows very little about platinum photography, and the platinotype. I hope you enjoy my images presented.
photo by G. Kirk Davis. Gary Auerbach demonstrates large format view camera
during portrait session with Walter Cronkite.]