William Blunt makes photographs with traditional methods and subjects
close to home
Blunt patiently and carefully sets up an 8-inch by 10-inch view camera
to make a photograph.
William Blunt stands out like
a sore thumb on the deserted sidewalk of the central-Missouri town of
With his head covered by what
looks like a black cape, Blunt stands behind a large wooden tripod. A
moment later he emerges from darkcloth, grabs a camera shutter release
and takes a picture. In the time it takes most people to shoot an entire
roll of film, Blunt makes three or four photographs of an old storefront.
In the age of digital cameras
and instant images, Blunt and his bulky view camera seem old fashioned.
In fact, nearly everything Blunt uses to make a photograph is dated, from
the camera to his printmaking techniques, which were developed more than
a century ago.
Blunt is a member of a small
group of large format art photographers who keep alive traditional methods
of making black and white pictures using film, photographic paper and
chemicals rather than digital images stored in computers and spit out
of ink jet printers. After more than 30 years taking pictures, hes
not about to change now.
I know digital is here
and there is nothing you can do about that, says Blunt, but
I enjoy the old processes and way of doing things.
Blunt makes platinum and palladium
prints using techniques developed by masters of art photography in the
late 1800s. Rather than prints made on photographic paper coated with
light-sensitive silver particles, Blunt makes his own photographic paper
by mixing solutions containing platinum, palladium, or a combination of
both, with a chemical containing a light-sensitive iron compound. He brushes
this photographic emulsion onto a piece of paper.
Collectors value platinum and
palladium for their beautiful tones and ability to maintain subtle details
lost in modern photographic papers.
Blunt, 53, began taking black
and white pictures with a 35mm camera in the late 1960s while in the Navy.
As many American servicemen did, Blunt bought his first 35mm camera in
Japan while stationed there. Blunt got out of the Navy in 1972 and returned
home to St. James where he went to work as a civilian welder at nearby
Fort Leonard Wood, a job hes held ever since. Over time Blunt became
more and more involved with photography, eventually buying equipment to
develop black and white film and print pictures.
That was a turning point in
brush strokes on some of Blunt's pictures come from the emulsion
he mixes and applies himself.
Once I saw that first
photograph come up in the developer, I guess that did it for me,
An avid reader of photography books and magazines, Blunt studied the benefits
of making photos from negatives larger than 35mm. While at a St. Louis
photography swap meet he bought an old Burke & James 4x5 view camera
for $75 and he began taking large format photographs.
The Burke & James uses
film that creates a negative 4 inches by 5 inches in size, several times
larger than a 35mm negative. Because of its size, a 4x5 negative produces
photographs of higher clarity because it doesnt have to be enlarged
as much as a 35mm negative.
Next, Blunt began attending
workshops and meeting the photographers whose work he studied in books
You meet these people
and learn their attitude and it makes an impression on you, says
Another turning point for Blunt
occured when he sent a portfolio of his pictures to nationally known large
format photographer Fred Picker, who offered to critique the pictures
of subscribers to his newsletter. Blunt says he had nothing to lose.
Picker is very opinionated
in his writings, but I thought whats the worse that can happen,
Blunt says. He had nothing but good things to say.
Blunt also traveled in the
western United States shooting pictures. Despite many trips west, Blunt
says his most meaningful pictures are those he finds back home. He began
to realize that by taking pictures of well-known western scenes, such
as Chaco Canyon in New Mexico.
I came home and decided
thats not my place out there. I think Ive been forcing myself
on this other stuff its got to be good because everybodys
photographed Chaco Canyon. But around here I can get up early and go down
to the Meramec when the fogs coming up and do a lot better.
One Missouri scene Blunt photographed
was the old St. James grade school. He printed several portfolios of platinum
prints of the school and advertised the portfolios in a photography newsletter.
A gallery owner in Monterey, Calif., bought one of the picture sets.
He was hanging the pictures
in his gallery and a woman bought one. I ended up sending him several
photographs and he sold several of the portfolios and individual prints.
Today, Blunt spends much of
his free time traveling around rural Missouri photographing churches,
cemeteries, old mills and nature.
Blunt has had photographs exhibited
throughout the United States and in Great Britain. Though he has had only
modest financial success (sales dont even cover film and darkroom
supplies), Blunt says he doesnt take pictures for money.
I just enjoy it. I dont
take pictures to sell. If they sell, fine, but if they dont Im
still going to do the same thing Im doing now.
To see Blunts photographs
visit Legacy Art & BookWorks at 1010 E. Broadway in Columbia, or view
his pictures on line at www.legacyart.com.
Contact Blunt at (573) 265-8874 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.