This is the online gallery of Susan Huber, fine art photographer. Many of the images on the site are for sale as prints or digital licensing; please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
All images ©Susan Huber
I work to capture the mysteries inherent in all landscapes. My camera seeks out the quirky undertones: I look for subjects that are less guarded, closer to nature, and still agreeable to the idea of magic.
I am inspired by large format photography and 19th Century processes in the work of Eugene Atget, Eduoard Baldus, and Charles Marville. I use Platinum/Palladium as it evokes depth and warmth for me, more so than with silver gelatin process. Initially, I gravitated towards silver chloride Printing-Out Papers such as AZO and POP. I had camera-maker R.H. Phillips construct a large format camera which remains my primary camera to this day.
I have worked with renowned California photographer Robert Dawson; our collaboration provided the groundwork for my lifelong involvement with traditional and alternative processes with a view towards documentary projects. With Dawson, I was part of a group who documented Mono Lake, then under threat by the Los Angeles Power Authority: the lake was later protected by the Supreme Court based on public outcry following our exhibit. Thus I learned the power of documentary fine art photography.
I am drawn toward the paradoxical relationships between indigenous peoples and European settlers as reflected in the lands where they lived and died, and where their presence still abides. I am mindful of the poignancy of absences, and the raw sophistication in the geometries of the built environment. The ghosts of complex histories and uncertain futures wander through my frames.
My work can be found in private collections in Europe, North America, South America and Russia.
SUSAN HUBER, Photographer
Susan Huber is a Canadian photographer who travels in the present while keeping an eye on the past. Using a large camera and 19th century processes her work portrays visions of historical relationships between indigenous peoples and European settlers on lands in which they lived. In the present exhibit Susan shows a series of places that are irretrievable changed due to environmental or to human habitation. These places are changed forever but remain in memory due to her photographs taken the past 20 years in Western North America. Many of these places are in remote lands and some are in small population centres.
TECHNIQUES · EQUIPMENT · MATERIALS
I go out in the field on photographic journeys, searching for original landscapes, architecture, and characters. I generally travel with two or three cameras: see equipment page for a run-down of what I use. Each day I choose just one camera and plan what to shoot, with what equipment, based on my experiences, the fluxuations in weather, and the quality of seasonal light. I travel with a Harrison Original tent, made for cinematographers, which allows me to change my film every day in my 'mobile studio' in the back of my VW camper.
I use Ilford HP-5 film I shoot exclusively in black and white. I use a one degree Pentax digital spot light meter, employing a modified zone system. I use the readings to help determine the exposure and aperture. With such small apertures, I adjust the speed of film to my liking, changing 400 speed to 320 ASA, for instance. I can expose film for as long as two minutes: very long exposures are a trademark. I use a 5x Pentax loop and reading glasses with Prism to set focus. I tend to shoot two versions of every image.
I return to my studio and develop the images one by one using contact printing. In the darkroom, I use PMK—Pyro-Metol-Kodalk. The colours that emerge result from the type of water used: I find distilled water results in a very sharp negative. Colours range from greens to browns. PMK restrains highlights and lightens the shadows, preventing overexposure and exposing subtleties in the shadows and highlights.
I view my images on a light table and make a contact print using resin-coated paper. Then, I determine which alternative processes to employ to develop prints.
Now for the fun part. Every single print I make is going to be different: even if I use the same measurements, the changes in the weather, light conditions, and humidity will make for subtle differentiations in the outcomes, making this a truly organic process.
First of all, I set up 6-7 sheets of paper which tends to be the maximum number of prints I can make. The humidity in my studio is up to 93% so I put on my sauna gear. Humidity is really important in the darkroom process: I keep my space within 50-70% relative humidity using a de-humidifier.
First, I ready my droppers with each chemical that I will need: Platinum, Palladium, and Ferric Oxalates 1 and 2. Next, I will humidify a sheet of paper. The paper I work on is always 11x15 inches. I humidify both sides, until it is fully pliable.
I put all the drops, drop by drop, into a shot glass. I mix all of my solutions using reverse osmosis water: pure water is crucial to avoid deterioration. I pour it quickly but gently onto the paper. Each image has a different tonality. If I want cooler tones, I add more Platinum, mindful that it increases grain and can be overdone. Palladium leads to warmer tones: I tend always to go towards warmth. Too much Palladium gets grainy and rather cold.
Next, I brush the chemicals across the paper so that the solutions smoothly cover at least an 8x10 inch area, equivalent to the size of the negative. I coat all 6-7 papers at once, working by a small buglight. I hang the prints up to dry under a low, cool fan.
Once almost dry, I put the prints in a box to keep them out of the light. I remove paper sheets one at a time and re-humidify them. I carefully put the negative face-down on the damp paper. Then I place them in a handmade splitback printing frame. I place this into an artificial UVL printer, because we do not have consistent sunlight in the Pacific Northwest. I use an iPhone as a stopwatch. I gauge the image readiness at 5 minute intervals.
When I see that there is enough shadow detail — and I go for deeper shadow detail because I want deep, rich shadows — I take it out of the printing frame and into a series four different very large trays (16x20 inch). The first one will be ready to receive the print, on an angle, so that I can pour hot potassium oxalate over the image, bringing up the image immediately. It's like magic.
Finally, I rinse the print in well water. Each print goes through 3 successive clearing baths of 5 minutes each. The print is then placed on a special screen to dry. After a few hours I will hang them in a clothes-press. I leave the de-humidifier on to bring the humidity in the darkroom back down to 30%.
I write the formulas I have used (drop count, time, date, and the type of paper) on the back of each print.
PHILLIPS EXPLORER: I use an 8 X 10 inch large format field camera. The Phillips Explorer is a numbered, horizontal view camera custom made for me in 1994 by Richard Phillips. My primary lens is a Schneider 240 mm G-Claron copy lens. My preferred tripod for this camera is a Berlebach Report 8023 Series with centre post. I also use a Manfrotto Quick Release OO8RCA Series three-way head to hold the camera stable. I use F Stop Gear, Loka Series, to transport the camera and accessory equipment.
FUJI GX 617: The newer version Fuji is considered to be truly panoramic, with a 3:1 aspect. It is a 6 X 17 cm (2 1/4 X 3 1/4 inch negative) which is medium format using four exposures developed on 120 film. I use a 90 mm interchangeable lens with separate optical viewfinder specific to the lens. Only three lenses exist for this camera. The 180 and 300 mm lenses are often available on ebay. I use a Mountaineer Series Gitzo tripod with no centre post and an Acratech quick-release ball head with a Really Right Stuff camera plate specific to the Fuji camera.
HORSEMAN 612: Not pictured here, the Horseman is not considered a true panoramic camera but is very wide angle depending on the lenses used. It is a 6 X 12 cm (2 1/4 X 2 3/4 inch negative) which is medium format using six exposures on 120 film. I use a Rodenstock 55 mm lens with its specific optical viewfinder.
FILM: I use Ilford HP5 in 120 roll film and 8 X 10 inch sheet film -- 25 sheets per box. My PMK (Pyro) developer is adjusted for my images. Exposures are made according to a zone system modified for my vision.
ACCESSORIES: Pentax digital spot meter; Pentax 5 X power Loupe; desktop version of Quiet Works Black Jacket; hybrid design for dark cloth used on large format camera, which is wind and water-proof and attached to the camera with a draw-string (it can be used as a hoodie); Harrison changing bag of the original size; Lowepro equipment bags.
BRUSHWORK ON PLATINUM PALLADIUM
RICHESON WATERCOLOUR BRUSHES
BRUSHWORK ON PLATINUM PALLADIUM
PAPER · TOOLS · CHEMICALS
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OTHER PAPERS, TOOLS, and CHEMICALS