in 1950 in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, Patrick lived in various parts
of the United States until 1970 when he moved to Southern California
to attend California Institute of the Arts. He received a BFA
in 1972. Graduate school was completed in 1974 at UC Irvine with
a MFA in painting and photography. His first job was exhibition
design curator at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana. In 1976 he relocated
to his loft in downtown Los Angeles where he lived continuously
for over 25 years. In 2000, he and his wife Melissa moved to their
new house in Culver City which he designed and built.
Patrick has been photographing for over 32 years. His photography is represented by several
galleries around the country and he has exhibited his work extensively in both group and
one-man shows. His photographic work continues the tradition of large format black and
white photography, concentrating mostly on the platinum/palladium printing process. One
of the founding members of the Los Angeles League of Platinum Printers, he exhibited with
the group around the country until its demise in 1997.
He uses numerous large-format cameras to create his images, which include from 8"
x 10", the 12" x 20" banquet camera, and the 18" x 22" mammoth
plate camera. Some of Patricks cameras are up to 100 years old. Many of his images
are created using old antique lenses as well, giving a distinctive look to the final print.
The main body of his work deals with the nude in the landscape, and more recently with
rural and urban documentation. His work reflects the Pictorialist's sensibility and their
belief in Beauty as the prime source of image making. Patrick onced restored and refinished
old wooden large-format cameras, as well as manufacturing wooden large-format cameras
of his own design. He has currently embarked in a new direction in his work incorporating
photographic imagery into large scale constructions, paintings, and sculpture.
:: PLATINUM PRINTING HISTORY ::
The Pictorialists, a group of photographers
active between the years 1880 to 1920, worked using the Platinum process extensively because
of its delicacy and range of tones and its potential for expressing the characteristics
of more traditional art making methods such as drawing and etching. Championed by Alfred
Steiglitz and the Photo Secession, platinum was used by almost all of the great photographers
during this time, including Edward Weston, Edward Steichen, and Imogen Cunningham. The
process virtually disappeared during World War I when platinum, mined primarily in Russia,
was diverted to the war effort. Due to its scarcity, the cost of the metal became prohibitive,
and silver gelatin because of its ease of manufacturing, availability, and cost
became the dominant light sensitive material, a fact that continues to this day.
Where once there had been 20 commercial companies supplying platinum paper, by 1930 the
last company went out of business. The early 1980's saw a renewed interest in alternative
processes of image making of which platinum was only one of many. This has revitalized
the medium, producing a renaissance in this beautiful print making process. Today, an
estimated 400 people around the world are full-time platinum printers. A platinum print
is considered by many to be the quintessential black and white photograph.
:: A FEW WORDS ABOUT THE PROCESS
in 1873, platinum printing is one of the oldest photographic processes, noted for its
subtlety in rendering the tonalities of the middle grays and its almost 3-dimensional
depth. Like chess, platinum printing is easy to learn, yet takes years to master. It is
the most archival or long lasting of all photographs. Impervious to light fading and acid
damage, it is capable of lasting 1000 years without change. Platinum prints are contact
prints the photographs are the size of the negatives. They cannot be enlarged.
The final size of the print is achieved in one of two ways. Either the negative is enlarged
in the darkroom or enlarged digitallyor more commonly, a large camera is used, such
as 11x14- or 14x17-inch cameras. Each image is the result of an intricate series of steps.
The process begins with blank sheets of specialized paper. This paper is usually humidified
before being coated. Several different light sensitive compounds in water are mixed with
platinum and/or palladium, a closely related metal, and applied to the paper. Using a
brush or a glass rod, the solution is spread evenly over the paper. The paper is dried
and then rehumidified. The negative is placed on the paper and both are put into a contact
printing frame. Traditionally the sun was used for exposure. Now, UV light sources are
used. Exposure times range from eight minutes to two hours. The print is developed, cleared,
washed, and then dried. It generally takes over an hour to make one print. Different papers,
developers, developer temperatures, and other toners such as gold and even uranium allow
the artist to make images ranging from steely greys to warm sepias, producing a great
range of expressive qualities. Because of the number of variables involved, such as changes
of humidity, age of the chemistry, paper batch, and the position of the moon, platinum
printers must have a great deal of patience and forbearance. For these reasons, no two
prints are ever alike.
All text and images © Patrick Alt
Please visit his website at www.patrickalt.com