Back in 2012...
Dré and I went on an adventure to the Scotland District of Barbados to shoot a series of nudes before I headed back to the USA. Up until this point, Dré had assisted me on several nude shoots like this one, and so it was pretty easy to get things started.
We worked through midday....
This gave us great light for the images, but If you've spent 3 hours in the midday sun on Cattlewash beach you know it isn't easy!
Luckily we had the location - an inactive shale quarry in St. Andrew - to ourselves, so there was no rush or concern about prying eyes!
We got some incredible shots....
That to this day, I am happy with but other than Dré's use on his social media, the images never really got used until June 2021. I guess it's a good thing I try to never delete my photos!
Then April 2021 came around...
...and the La Soufriere volcano in St. Vincent began erupting, spewing tonnes of volcanic ash into the atmosphere, ravaging the landscape of northern St. Vincent, spewing toxic chemical flows down the mountainside and covering its residents in the ash, we in Barbados considered ourselves lucky while inches of the ash fell over several days. Though "Lucky" was by no means sweet.
A friend and neighbour...
...Patrick Foster came to my apartment asking for an opinion on one of his latest paintings that he was hoping to submit for an exhibition called "One Heart Caribbean" curated by Lois Crawford and hosted by Artsplash Center, with the deadline for submission being the next week!
I'd been promising myself...
...for months, if not years to get back into printing using historic photographic process like gum bichromate, cyanotype or platinum-palladium; which all use chemicals, negatives, UV light and A LOT OF PATIENCE. I was first exposed to these printing methods by photographer Bob Kiss, and luckily had the chance to practice them while doing my BFA at SCAD with the late, great Pete Christman, but never really allowed myself the time to focus on them again.
That I would take this as an opportunity to fulfil a promise to myself and create at least one print using gum bichromate, but how? Since my time in the south of France, I'd dreamed of making prints using natural pigments as opposed to using watercolour paints, particularly the ochers that were mined in a nearby village called Roussillon. Perhaps I'll need to make another post talking about the gum bichromate process, I don't want to make this one TOO long.
First I needed a negative
Luckily nowadays I don't need an 8x10 camera, or an enlarger to produce large negatives for contact printing, I can produce one in photoshop and print it out on transparency film!
Can take quite a bit of trial and error to get right. This is because the range of value that a digital image is capable of representing is much greater than the range of value that a gum bichromate or cyanotype print can show. In other words, it can be a challenge to make the images appear "normal" after printing.
Isn't something you'll find at iMart, or anywhere in Barbados for that matter. All my darkroom equipment had to be imported from the USA. The chemicals used for this print were potassium bichromate and gum arabic. The chemicals are mixed with the pigment, evenly brushed onto a piece of paper and left to dry.
Using the volcanic ash
I separated the magnetic material called "magnetite" from the volcanic ash that fell in Barbados during the 2021 eruptions. It took a bit of patience, but once the black material was separated using a magnet, it was left to dry for about 24 hours.
Using UV light
The chemicals used in this process are sensitive to UV light, once the emulsion is added to the paper and dried, the negative and sensitized paper are sandwiched together between two panes of glass and put in the UV "oven" for exposure.
Modifying the prints
Once the print is exposed and left to develop in distilled (or slightly acidified) water, the print itself is so delicate that the black areas can be removed with a paintbrush. I used this technique to modify the highlights somewhat and give a bit more dimension to Dré's body.
Test, print, wash, clear, repeat...
It's a slow process making these prints. Most exposure times were about 12 minutes and then waiting for them to dry took another 30 minutes or so. Definitely not the kind of work that can be rushed! Here you can see four different stages of the process. From left to right you'll see my exposure test print, where I exposed the same image for different durations to get an idea of the ideal exposure; then you will see a successfully exposed and developed first-layer; next you'll see a successfully exposed print with two print layers (that means I sensitized, exposed and developed the same print twice), and finally, down at the bottom you'll see a print being developed.
Nearly 10 years...
... since the original photograph was taken, it finally had it's day in a gallery. It sold too, and I'm happy to report that 60% of the price was donated to the St. Vincent relief effort through "One Heart Caribbean".
The Final Print
You'll notice the border....
This is part of the image itself, where the light-sensitive material was hand-brushed onto the paper before exposure. Oftentimes alternative-process printers try to avoid showing these brush strokes in their work, but I love the way that they show my hand in the process.
Why "Rhapsody in Bloom"?
Maybe it's a strange name, but it's a play on the title of a piece of music by George Gershwin called "Rhapsody in Blue". I wanted to use the name to play with the idea of a rhapsody following such a devastating natural disaster, as well as pay homage to the original reason for the photograph being taken. The word rhapsody means "an effusively enthusiastic or ecstatic expression of feeling", and it is my hope that the print communicates a kind of rhapsodic visual rhapsody to its owner, and whoever views it.
About Logan C Thomas
Logan C Thomas typically labels himself a commercial photographer but occasionally puts on his "Fine Artist" hat. A fine artist at heart, who likes to imagine he does commercial work to "pay the bills", he has exhibited his photography locally and internationally, In the USA, England, The Netherlands, Scotland, France and China. He hopes to continue producing his fine artwork (his real passion projects) during his free time.
You might have seen his recent work up in The Artsplash Centre, Frank Collymore Hall, or somewhere on the web. If you are interested in Logan C Thomas' fine art work please don't hesitate to get in touch!