The images Douglas Berquist is displaying in this months Exposure Photography Festival are a group of B&W images that span a period from 1983-86. At the time he was working with Black and white Panatonic negative film. This film has a very low ASA rating and thus produces quite fine grain. He had been also dealing with motion picture film stocks of the same grain structure and knew that the labs can process this emulsion as reversal film (like black and white slides). He decided to take the same approach to still images and shot various subject matter through this process. He tells us I’ started with a large format camera and 120 film and eventually used 35mm panatonic negative processed as reversal. Instead of shooting these at the recommended Kodak ASA of 32, I shot them as though the film was 3200 ASA. I started using the 120 film (Hasselblad camera and lenses) for landscapes and then moved onto 35mm (Pentax, Nikon) for human subjects and eventually more abstract subject matter while collaborating with performance artist Marcella Bienvenue.”
Most of the images in this exhibition were used as visuals projected within Marcella’s live performances, except the portrait of William Burroughs which was taken as he was doing a performance reading at The Pleiades Theatre. The Burroughs image also became the cover of an early Calgary Arts Magazine know as Release Magazine published my Alexandra Jurisic (1983-85). This was a magazine in which Douglas was the photo editor of for a short period of its life.
“What was interesting about this reverse process using B&W negative film was what happened when printing them. The beautiful rich deep blacks and high contrast made for quite interesting images.”
I have never participated in the Exposure Festival before but these images were exhibited in live performance at the following Galleries;
Performance Art and Multi-media Art installations, photography, audio and stage designed by D Berquist, performance by Marcella Bienvenue. Art installations were curated and staged at the following Galleries and Arts Institutions;
Los Angeles at the Women’s Building, Pleiades Theatre in Calgary
Walter Phillips Gallery in Banff/Alberta Off Centre Gallery in Calgary
Museum of Man, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Chinook Theatre, Edmonton,
Alberta College of Art, Calgary International Inter-media Perf. Festival, Winnipeg,
Betty Mitchell Theatre, Calgary Women in Focus, Vancouver
Nichol Arts Museum, Calgary The Glenbow Museum
Women in Politics project, Saskatoon
When asked if he prefers analogue over digital, Douglas told us, “To tell you the truth they are just different media to me. I like the quick convenience of Digital for sure but the techniques and skills required to shoot a good photograph on film is a lot less forgiving than the digital technologies.”
The photo processing of digital is great for effects and fixes but with film Douglas says he will have captured what he needs in camera, and following an analogue process through printing requires just as much skilled to get a good print, like working in the dark.
“Film is far more of an artists craft than Digital in my opinion. Digital has been great because it has put the access to photography in millions of people’s hands. I guess the bottom line will always be the eye to compose, artist process and intent. A camera in the hands of some with the intention of creating art or just shooting pictures. Digital makes it harder to differentiate those key factors as it is in the hands of so many as is the automated processes available to them that great artists pioneered before them.”
Douglas has been shooting photographs since he was 12 years old, essentially using a primitive pinhole style box camera. He praises his grade 7 teacher for getting him hooked on photography and the darkroom process of image creation. Coming from a relatively poor family Douglas didn’t get my first real camera, a Pentax 1000 SLR, until he was 16. “I thought I had died and gone to heaven” he expresses. “At the same time, I also started borrowing super 8 cameras and shooting film. My craving for all things image capture grew exponentially. One of the most exciting things for me at that early stage was understanding light and shadow, I realized I had to understand it and its relationship to the mediums I was using.”
Inspiration has come from many great artists over time, starting with Ansel Adams and then the Post impressionist painters who used pointillism. “I have always thought they were visionaries of the future and had tapped into what we now recognise as pixels and dots per square inch.” Douglas tells us, “Our cameras use the process our screens and printers. How they manipulated the impression of light and shadow using dots of color just amazed me. I tried to work with that starting with a limited scale of white through grey to black.”
His latest work revolves around printing photographs on alternative mediums, in which he has created a series of high contrast color images printed directly onto acrylic panels.
“Photo processing software is a great thing and has become a mainstay if one is to have images printed at today’s labs. Negative is very much a limited Artist medium as far as most labs are concerned. The ability to fix, alter and manipulate images opens up many new possibilities to artists who chose to use it, and not get caught in its seductive web.”
One of the accomplishments Douglas is most proud of is series of photographer/cinematographer images he shot of three abstract Art films (one in B&W). These films were acquired by the Museum of Modern Art in Auckland New Zealand and are now part of their permanent collection.
To see more of Douglas’s images visit http://www.sqrlzinc.com/d-berquist-photography.html