I have been a book designer, art director and photographer for several decades. I primarily designed photography or illustrated books and have become intimately familiar with the work of many photographers, whose work has influenced my own photography in both conscious and unconscious ways.
“Luminous” is a word that best describes Christopher Burkett’s photographs. Burkett is an American landscape photographer and a master of colour and printing. He lives in Oregon with his wife Ruth. I purchased a book of his photographs, Intimations of Paradise, a number of years ago, and have returned to it often for his perception of the natural world and his ability to show an incredible light and beauty that many of us miss.
For much of my career, I was a book designer at the Smithsonian Institution. It was a wonderful job and an extraordinary place to work. One of the books that I designed was about Farm Security photographer Jack Delano and his images of Puerto Rico. The photographs were a series of portraits from the 1940s and from the 1980’s —arranged side by side across each spread. It was an excellent way to show the dramatic changes in Puerto Rico over a 40-year period. All the images in the book were printed as duotones by Stinehour Press, a superb printer of art books, located in Lunenburg, Vermont, at the time. When I went to Vermont for the press check, I was told that Christopher Burkett had trained the staff to scan and print the images but was on a photographic journey with his wife Ruth at the time. I’m sorry that I missed the opportunity to meet him. I recently read that at that time, Christopher and his wife Ruth were on an exhausting, 15,000-mile car trip that had taken them throughout the United States. One article states that as a result of this trip, Burkett’s photographs were more subtle than they had been before. “Prior to that, his photographs have a rugged, Western feel, stemming from the subjects: rock faces, mountains and canyons. If Ansel Adams had shot in colour, this is what the pictures would look like.”1 The experience of being able to photograph in different environments changes the view of the photographer. All destinations have their own feeling, light, and energy — sometimes incredibly soft and gentle; other times rougher, more angular. Every different place creates a unique awareness for the photographer.
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