Where I began:

I took my first photograph almost 50 years ago and for many of the years since my creative life was almost entirely taken up with photography. I concentrated on the man made world of cities and industry and saw myself, when I thought about it at all, as a documentary photographer. I was working for most of that time as a planner and I used photography to record the changing world around me.

My move from photography to printmaking and painting was largely by chance. I began by restoring some faded slides from my student days. Some of these had deteriorated so much I ended up rebuilding large areas, for example repainting skies from scratch.

I soon realised that this was something that could be done for its own sake and started digitally manipulating my own and found images. At first these were manipulations of the whole image, but gradually as my skills developed I began combining images, working with layers and the manipulations became more and more sophisticated, especially when I got my first graphics tablet.

Digital Prints

I puzzled for a long time over what to call these manipulated images. Were they still photographs or were they something new - digital paintings perhaps? For a time I used the term ‘photopainting’ since in many cases elements of a photograph were used as a virtual brush, so that the resultant image combined aspects of both photography and painting. In the end I came to the conclusion that what they are called doesn’t matter. It is what they are that counts.

Around that time I wrote a statement for an open studio event I was taking part in. The extract below still represents how I feel about my digital work (which I now simply call digital prints)

Typically the photographic image is seen as a direct description of reality, not a representation of it. In practice of course the photographer has always selected from the world and the photographic image, defined as much by what is outside the frame as by what is included, is inevitably only an approximation of the real world it purports to capture.

Once this is accepted the photographer is freed from the tyranny of literal representation. If the apparent parallels between the image as captured and the world in front of the lens had not distracted us, this would have been obvious anyway, as photographers explored the use of differential focus, out of focus or otherwise distorted images, solarisation and grain. Some, like Man Ray or Angus McBean, pushed the boundaries to the limits but all of these techniques met some hostility from ‘traditionalists’ before being absorbed and accepted as a part of the aesthetic of photography.

Digital technologies now offer new opportunities and new ways of seeing the world. With a new and rapidly developing medium, there is no recognised aesthetic response to the characteristic feel of the digital image and it is exploring this aspect that most interests me.

I still work digitally, using my own and found images. Everything that has been done with film can be duplicated in digital form, but new tools are also being developed, offering new opportunities and new ways of seeing the world. The technology is still new and rapidly developing. Much of the art world has yet to meet and understand its potential. So far there is no commonly accepted aesthetic response to the characteristic feel of digital images and it is exploring this aspect that most interests me.

The end product for me is always a physical print, generally issued in open editions. It has always seemed to me that the essence of any photographic work is its repeatability and this applies equally to digital images. I have however had to bow to buyers and show organisers though, and have begun to produce range of Limited Edition Digital prints, in editions of between 20 and 50.

‘Handpulled’ prints

‘Handpulled’ prints is the rather clumsy term used, particularly on Etsy, to designate what might be called traditional printmaking – etching, engraving, linocut, screen print for example – in order to differentiate them from the reproductions that flood that site, all described simply as ‘prints’.

I came to making these by another chance encounter. I had my digital prints mounted and framed locally. The company I used also had a printmaking studio where they produced work for major galleries and artists of the likes of Howard Hodgkin and Gillian Ayres. Collecting some of my work I was given the opportunity to look around the print studio where I saw some Hodgkin prints in progress and examined some of Gillian Ayres’ plates waiting to be used.

I was immediately filled with the urge to do this for myself, so within days I enrolled on a printmaking workshop at my local college. I’ve been doing that for almost six years now and most of the ‘handpulled’ work in the web shop is made in that print studio, where I have access to top line equipment plus technical support whenever I need it.

I started by making collagraph prints and I would strongly recommend anyone new to printmaking to do the same. Since then I have also made monoprints, some drypoint and have dabbled in solar etching and screen printing.

I’ve now invested in my own press. That will enable my output to significantly increase and I will concentrate on screen printing and larger prints at the college studio.

Painting and Mixed Media

Painting is at the moment a sideline. I have produced very little that I think is worth keeping, but I enjoy the challenge of transferring ideas and themes from one medium to another. I am particularly interested in combining media.

This is beginning to show up in my work across the board. For example a recent screen print set used digitally processed sketches and drawings to create negatives that were then turned into stencils for the screen print.

In my dabbling with solar etching I again used digital prints to create the negative from which the etched plates were made.

Other work uses cut up monoprints in collage as well as combinations of silk screen with digital overprinting and digital reworking of scanned paintings or pastel.

Themes and concepts

Given my background it isn’t surprising that much of my work features landscape or urban scenes. As my work develops I find myself still making representational work, but increasingly abstracted. This parallels in fact the way in which my digital prints have developed.

I tend not to work from life when making these images. I use photographs, but increasingly I find myself attempting to capture memory. Associated with that is another obsession of mine, palimpsest. I suppose there is a link here to memory, since the layers of a traditional palimpsest represent a sort of history of what has gone before. This is reinforced in the way I work, building up layer after layer of colour, each one subtly shifting the image both in its colour and its geometry.

Find me here
My web site with blog and shop

Other stuff
View my photos at bighugelabs.com

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    brendadada says:

    "ibanda is that rare among photographers, a credible digital artist. His creations push the boundaries of how we percieve the old and the new, and his use of colour is remarkable. But it's his recreation of these deeply evocative monochromes of the shipyards and quaysides of the north east that really stay with me. A fascinating photostream."

    March 8th, 2006

Ian Bertram
January 2005
I am:
Male and Taken
Ian Bertram - artist