Richard Calvo Photography
What is a gelatin silver print?
Before the advent of digital technology at the end of the twentieth century, the gelatin silver process had been the most commonly used method of making black and white prints since the 1890s. A negative image is transferred to light-sensitive paper that has four layers: a paper base, a white opaque coating of gelatin and barium sulfate that creates a smooth surface, the gelatin layer that holds the silver grains of the photographic image, and a protective gelatin overcoat. Properly exposed gelatin silver prints are quite stable if exhibited under controlled light conditions.
Until the 1970s, art photographers used this process almost exclusively to create high-quality black and white prints. Color photography was considered a commercial medium, not suited to serious artistic expression. Today, as fewer and fewer photographers are working in darkrooms, gelatin silver printing is quickly becoming an antiquated, historic process.
I wish I knew what it is that draws me to these scenes. Perhaps, it's a sadness that this period is ending and that someday soon no one will be left who remembers the beauty of our time. To farmers here, these barns are now unfortunate eyesores: they've lost their usefulness and have since been replaced with newer structures of steel and aluminum. The farmers let the old wood rot and then bull-doze it into the ground as compost. The charm of the weathered wood and flaking red paint are useless things left only for the lofty impracticality of artists.
These photo compositions are classical and painterly. Balanced and geometrical, they, in themselves, draw little attention, allowing the lighting and the subject to become the primary concerns. The light sets the mood and the light in these photos gives the subjects much more importance than does the rest of the world. The rotting buildings have a sense of stature, of grandeur, of importance. They are lit with the same respect that one would use to light the Parthenon, the Lincoln Memorial, the Grand Canyon. It's "heroic" lighting: gentle but strong, bold but subtle, full of life but dying away.
There's melancholy involved here: the yearning to keep what's already been lost.
And there's hope: for those who pass, they will look more closely.
And there's elegance: in all these things that were once made by man to last forever. - Richard Calvo
It is fitting that most of his photography was from New York City and Long Island – of course, it is. He spent most of his life in these places. But he did believe that one need not travel very far to find an inspiring scene and a resulting beautiful photograph. He could express his artistic sensibilities in a photograph of just about anything. He could make anything feel beautiful – look beautiful – be beautiful. Things that are still here, things that are disappearing, things that are gone. - Lori Calvo
The Customer Isn’t Always Right
So, one day we were doing an outdoor art show in Greenwich, CT. A woman came into Richard’s exhibit and appeared to be thoroughly enjoying the work. She seemed to be spending the most time looking at his New York City shots. A brief conversation with her revealed a few things – she loved NYC images. She really, however, disliked photos with people in them. And she disliked buildings. So Richard, needing some clarification, said “Just so I understand, you want NYC shots, but without people and without buildings?” She said “Yes”. I can still see the look that he and I exchanged following that moment.
I think he sold an image of a horse in Central Park eating from a feed bag with some pigeon footprints on the ground next to the bag. It came to be titled “The Feeding” - Lori Calvo
With the advent of digital photography and enhanced computer capabilities, it seemed natural to start to produce color images. Richard’s color photographs, for the most part, also translate well to black and white, as he believed that the color should never be the reason for the visual impact of any photograph. - Lori Calvo
What can be more evocative of the spirit of London than the sights and sounds of taxis and double-decker buses on a rainy December evening on Regent Street? Holiday shoppers hustling to complete their lists into the darkening evening on a surreal canvas through the eyes of a sensitive photographer. – P. Zoll
The sun just broke over the house and lit up the back yard. It's 60 degrees at 6:30 am. The outdoor cat is having his second breakfast. He had his first at 5. I couldn't return to sleep after waking up too early and was caught in the cat's death stare through the window. It said, "don't make me have to kill something." So I put out his food. And he's finished now and now he's gone into the woods to play cat again. What does he do in those woods all day? They're dark woods and wet because of a stream that runs through them. There are snakes, snapping turtles, and other
reptiles that I've never been comfortable with in there. I only go in there in the winter when it snows because it can be beautiful then ... and I think the snakes and things are hibernating, dormant, inactive, not going to attack a city boy, I guess. After Vietnam, it took little time to get used to real pavement again and now I really do prefer it. Concrete. You can clean it off with a hose. Dirt is just dry mud, but it's OK when grass covers it and makes it look calmer and more pastoral. But there are always ticks and mosquitoes and sometimes those snakes from the woods in that grass, so one still has to be careful. My wife just peeked out to ask if I'm OK (I don't generally get up this early). My mornings start shortly before noon on most days. I told her I was OK and she went back to bed, I think. The sun is getting brighter. Too bright now. I'll wait a little longer before putting out the awnings, but I'm off to make some coffee now that I can sip out back, on the screen porch, and watch the squirrels raid the bird feeders again. I've got to get out, take pictures. Soon. Or I'll go crazy. - Richard Calvo