James Gilmore's platinum/ palladium prints, were made from 8x10 negatives generated by a home-made pinhole camera. The negatives were developed in pyro-gallic chemistry.
James is a full time faculty photography instructor at the College of the Siskiyous in northern California, USA, teaching both analog and digital photography methodologies, along with visual literacy. He also has over twenty years of curatorial experience in various galleries and museums, and, until recently, ran a blog about cultural events in the region he lives in.
James says about his work:
"The phenomena of what happens physically when light passes through an aperture has been known since Neolithic times, and around 125 AD, Hadrian's architects incorporated an oculus in the Pantheon in Rome. Man's quest to mimic the ingenious physical aspects of the human eye remains an interesting anthropological area of study.
During the Renaissance, what has now become known as the pinhole was put to use by Da Vinci and others to demonstrate the idea of Western perspective. The basis for the photographic image as we currently know it was well understood by the 1400s, yet it would be another 400 years before the ability to 'fix' an image to a medium would usher in the Age of Photography.
These days, the technological refinement of the act of taking photographs has been simplified for the ease of recording images, evidenced by today's simplified cell phone cameras, and the like. In spite of, or perhaps in response to, the proliferation of digital imagery, the simple act of creating photographs without benefit of a glass lens has been experiencing a resurgence among visual artists since the 1980s.
While on sabbatical during the Spring of 2008, I decided I wanted to document some of the waterfalls of California by means of long, extended exposures, similar to the 19th century photographs of Timothy O'Sullivan and William Henry Jackson. Even the film cameras that I had available to me wouldn't suffice, for I wanted to make exposures that were often the length of a feature film. The only way I could achieve this was to build my own camera(s).
I settled on the 8x10 inch format as my main camera, and built the larger camera you see on display. Why 8x10? Simple - I wanted 8x10 prints. In homage to those 19th century photographers, I also wanted to experience making platinum-palladium prints, the benchmark of photographic print quality. One does not use an enlarger for this process, so the bigger the negative, the bigger the print. 8x10" seemed a realistic and affordable compromise.
I chose the smallest pinhole I could get away with, and made a tiny pinhole in a copper sheet that basically gave me an aperture (f-stop) of f270. I used slow film, and with the 'assistance' of a phenomena known as reciprocity failure, my longest exposure was 75 minutes (Hedge Creek Falls). While the exposure was being taken, I went for a hike with my dog, and generally killed time (an interesting choice of words). When I developed the film in pyro-gallic solution (another nod to 19th century photography), I was astonished at the quality of the negative. Finally, through the platinum printing process, I was able to get the beautiful tones you see in the prints.
Applying the same process to portraiture was trickier. No matter how still my subjects would try to keep, the simple act of breathing for even a five minute exposure caused the blurring you see in the one portrait in this exhibit. Notice that the background is still sharp!"
• Email: info (at) jamesgilmore.net