Where do you get your inspiration? More importantly and interestingly, where do inspiring people get their inspiration? Ellen Rogers shares photographic details about David Chow, a professional photographer who makes a living from doing analogue work.
I feel like a different human with a different mind. I am in a different place entirely since I last spoke to you. I won’t go into this now but I will share my mind, with those who care, on my blog in good time here but for now… in shifting times of honesty and admiration I want to open doors to my friends too.
I will start to ask questions to people who make a living from an alternative analogue lifestyle, in order to open minds up to new routes of photographic approaches and professions. I will call these ‘Open Doors’ for now, for want of a better name. I would like to begin here with a new and great friend of mine.
Please welcome David Chow, a dedicated and hardworking man out in the wilds of Cambridge in his immaculate studio.
I have been visiting here experimentally on my way to my more obscure and largely unseen photo shoots in Norfolk from Staffordshire where I now live. These days I drive more hours than I care to.
His keen eye and level of craftsmanship has lead to work with a broad range of photographic practitioners from leading fine artists to professional/commercial photographers in the country.
We began chatting on a chance email encounter after my book signing in London last month. Whilst quizzing him about his new approach to Platinum and Palladium printing we decided to do a few commissioned tests to see how my work would look in this style. I usually do my own printing in my darkroom but I was curious to see David’s take on my work. Here are the results…
Here is also an interview I conducted with David last week. I hope you find as much inspiration as I do when chatting candidly to David about this wonderful process.
David, I see you have a rare ability to capture flowers, in both their prime and their demise, beautifully. What is it about the subject matter that first captured your imagination?
I started taking photographs of flowers around 8 years when I was recovering from a broken jaw. My mother being a floral designer would bring me an endless supply of flowers for me to photograph, I used them to learn all I could about lighting, technique and composition and soon became passionate about photographing flower specimens both alive and in there final stages of life. At the time I was greatly was inspired by such photographers as Kenro Izu, Tom Baril and Imogen Cunningham who in the past had created stunning photographs of flowers.
How do you go about deciding how to frame and show your original prints? Do you think the choice of frame is an important one?
I think framing is very important, there is no point producing an excellent print only to spoil the result through a poor choice of frame. I have found that it pays to look around to find a good framer who understands your exact requirements and who can be relied upon to produce good quality products For prints that have been hand made, I find it a a good idea to use Anti-Reflective glass (AR). This can be expensive however I feel that this it is worth the extra cost.
How did you acquire the current techniques you use?
Ever since I saw my first platinum print nearly ten years ago I was determined to try and recreate the magic I saw in that print. I searched for any workshops in U.K that could give me a head start however could not find any after an exhaustive search. I was aware that platinum printing was an expensive process to learn so started working on my own with Cyanotype, the least expensive. I found the internet a good resource for advice on various alterative printing techniques. As my confidence grew I started to experiment with silver alternative processes such as Kalitype and Van-Dyke and then finally platinum. Along the way I have met other people interested in alternative processes who have helped me in my development as an alternative printer most notably Mike Ware and Ian Leake who are great printers themselves.
Even though you work from digital negatives, have you, in the past, used a purely analogue route to making larger (i.e. from 35mm or medium format film) Cyanotype or platinum/palladium prints?
Its something I only tried a few times, personally using a digital negative approach has given me a tremendous amount of control over the final print result which I like and personally could not do without. I do shoot medium format film for the majority of my personal work which is then scanned in.
What is it about these chosen forms of printing that so draws you to them? When I think of platinum/palladium printing I think of Irving Penn and his beautifully toned images, was he an inspiration?
In terms of platinum printing I really like the way it reproduces mid and highlight tones. One of the keys to successful platinum printing is identifying the strengths of the process and pairing it with images that will take advantage of these.
In relation to inspiration, I think most contemporary platinum printers would cite Penn and I am no different, he was an exceptional platinum printer. However I would have to say my first inspiration was when I saw a collection of platinum prints photographed by Sally Mann and printed by friend and master platinum printer Stan Klimek for 21st Editions, a publisher of original print photo books based in the U.S. The book contained 10 bound platinum prints and featured Mann’s early drapery studies. Viewing this book for the first time had a profound effect on me that I have carried with me to this day, I am fortunate enough now own a copy and it inspires me every time I view it.
When did you decide to make photographic printing and teaching a profession and how did you go about doing so?
I started teaching alternative printing process around five years ago when I realised that there was know one in the U.K. teaching alternative processes with digital negatives.
Soon I started receiving requests from photographers to create platinum prints for exhibitions and so quite organically my platinum editions company was formed called DC Editions. We have been fortunate enough to have worked with some of the finest and well known photographers in the country and I am looking forward to the future.
Do you have any exhibitions or books in the pipeline?
I have quite a number of projects on the go at the moment; those interested should check my blog.
Thank you! and please find out more about David’s tutition and process here. X