The film photography & darkroom work of David Kirby

Your New Favourite Person: Gary Geboy

Gary Geboy is a photographer I stumbled upon a few years ago on Flickr who immediately caught my eye.  Gary works with alternative processes, particularly wet plate and platinum/palladium and I find his work mesmerising.  Delicate yet strong, dark and moody yet light and airy.  It's hard to describe without looking at some of his images so let's do just that!

Amazing.  I'm smiling just from going through Gary's images again so as to write this post.  Gary has very kindly agreed to take part in an email interview as the next installment of my "Your Favourite Person" series.  Hopefully Gary's images and words will inspire you in some way in your own photography.

How long have you been into photography and why did you first start?

I have been into photography since the mid 70's so I've been around for awhile.  I have been lucky to see the metamorphosis from analog to digital, which has been really interesting.  I started in my 20's so I wasn't one of those kids working on school newspapers etc.  I just took a class and got hooked.

How would you describe your photographic style to those who aren't familiar with your work?

My style is very formal I guess, everything is planned out and the things I photograph have to meet certain criteria.  The planning also helps save on materials.  When I started I could get a roll of film for around 50 cents, now I don't even want to think about it!

When looking through your images it is clear that you enjoy alternative processes.  What are your favourite processes to work with and why?

My favorite process has to be platinum/palladium.  I love the tonal qualities, the softness of the image while still maintaining detail.  It's a beautiful thing.  Plus I don't have to work in the dark.

 Why do you still choose to use alternative processes in a digital age?

I think the main reason I use alternative processes are in the final print.  A PP print  has a 3D quality to it by the very nature of the process, the emulsion gets absorbed into the paper rather than sitting on top.  And it's a hands on process.  Most of the papers I use are Japanese hand made and combining that with the hand coating of the paper gives each print it's unique quality.  No two of my prints are exactly the same.  I think that has been one of the things lost in the digital age.  The final print has lost that feeling of something crafted.

Your platinum/palladium prints are exquisite.  For those not familiar with this process could you give us a quick summary of what is involved in making a platinum/palladium print?

PP printing is actually pretty easy these days.  PP printing got a reputation somewhere along the way of being a difficult process and I think that came about because of the negative.  Being a contact print method your negative is the size of the print.  And to make a print other than 4x5, 5x7, 8x10 etc. you had to make internegatives which was a major pain in the ass.  Now with digital printers you can make any size you want to and can tweak contrast or whatever, it's easier to make corrections to the negative than alter chemicals.  My prints are around 15x15 shot on full plate wet plate collodion or 4x5 film, so try doing that using internegs, yikes!  I know there are some purists out there and more power to them.  Any new technology that can save me a few bucks and a major headache, I'll make it fit for me.

I'm a big admirer of the textures you have in your still life's.  They really add to the depth of your images, as does the vignetting which we can see on many of your images; in particular the "organics" series.  Is this something you plan out prior to a shoot, a by-product of your processing or something you add later if you feel the image requires it?

All my textures come from backgrounds I create. Sometimes I'll shoot a background separately on wet plate or 4x5 and combine the two negs in Photoshop, or I'll shoot the image on the background I created on wet plate collodion and then scan that, resize for the negative I want and print.  Does that all that make sense?  It started out as a little complex bit of business, but I have been doing it so long I couldn't image doing it any other way.  Having 2 or 3 layers in each photo contributes to the depth you see.

What do you find to be the biggest challenge you face in creating your images?

The biggest challenge has to be the weather.  I shoot everything on my porch in natural light.  Luckily I live in the south so winters aren't too bad for shooting outside but the lack of light does increase exposure times. Some wet plates can be as long as a minute exposure.

We all have a favourite piece of equipment which we always seem to reach for.  What is your "go-to" bit of gear?

I really don't have a favorite piece of equipment.  Each camera I use has a specific purpose and frankly if I could get what's in my head on a piece of paper without a camera, I'd be a happy guy.

Are there any photographers which you feel have influenced your style, or any photographers who you admire for their work?

I started out doing street photography and then got into doing documentaries early on for the likes of Discovery and the Smithsonian Institution, so the guys I looked at where W. Eugene Smith, his printing was incredible; and the Maysles brothers.  Their style has been lost here in the states, but still very popular in Europe.

Do you have any advice for any photographer's out there who are wanting to get into alternative processes?

My advice for anybody wanting to do alternative processes is be prepared to get hooked and then spend the rest of your life breathing in those intoxicating images.

So, there is a very brief introduction to Gary Geboy and his work.  I strongly urge you all to take some time to absorb the superb imagery on his website and Flickr page (links below).  Hopefully it will inspire you to go forth and create.



That's it for now.  Until next time - happy printing!