Van Dyke Brown Rust

© Ellie Ivanova

Photography, or art in general, is not expected to reproduce reality literally. It does reflect it, but it only picks certain aspects to make a comment or interpret it. So the aspects of reality you choose to represent – and the characteristics of the medium you use – are not random, but very much part of that message.

So it’s not really random that your photograph is black & white, color or rusty looking, as the image above. 

Van Dyke Brown is an early photographic process, almost as old as the silver print we call today “traditional black & white”. While the silver gelatin print uses silver salts to produce an image, the Van Dyke print is based on ferric salts. That makes for a beautiful brown range of tonality. And though this process has nothing to do with the Flemish artist Van Dyke, it is named after him because it reminds of the signature browns of his paintings.

I would’ve called it “rusty”, because for me the reason to use the Van Dyke process instead of silver gelatin – besides the fact that I love earth colors, of course – is its almost palpable feel of rust. So when I pick that feel as part of my medium to make a photograph, it’s to honor the rustiness of a world past. The world of my memories and my grandparents, the one that is fading and peeling but is still warm and beautiful.

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One response to “Van Dyke Brown Rust

  1. Pingback: Some more live photo news | Parasol Photography

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