Photographs by Robert E. Gillespie
Photography has been many things to me over the years, from childhood hobby to artistic exploration to full-blown technical obsession. It all started in 1959 when my parents bought a new camera and I inherited a 1933 Ansco pop-up film camera. I began by experimenting with astrophotography and using filters to enhance black and white pictures.
After those early years photographing the stars my relationship with photography has ebbed and flowed. In the 1960s I learned to develop my own film and prints. I loved the magical satisfaction of seeing my images suddenly appear in the chemical tray under the red glow of the safelight.
For many years I dabbled—still interested in photography enough to take photos of family, flowers, and occasionally landscapes. By chance I became reacquainted with the darkroom when my daughter became interested in photography in the early 1990s. We set up a darkroom in our basement and I dove in much deeper than ever before.
In 1994, I started producing one-of-a-kind photo postcards to send to my daughter at college (examples are in this exhibition). This marked the first time I considered how my photos would be received by an audience (an audience of one, but nevertheless). Over the last 22 years I’ve sent her over 1,200 postcards. Artistically, this arrangement means I can’t let myself go on autopilot or get stuck for too long—it’s a constant challenge, but an enjoyable one.
Through trial, error, and experimentation, I found myself drawn again and again to landscapes, still lifes, and nature photography. Eventually, my darkroom boasted three enlargers and color processing capability, and I continued to refine my production skills. I experimented with a wide range of photo papers, films, and chemicals. All of these variables allowed me to enhance the look and feel of my photographs.
In 1999 I purchased my dream camera: a Hasselblad Xpan 35mm panoramic. I used this camera for over 10 years and was challenged and inspired by the panoramic format. At this time, I focused heavily on landscapes which were perfectly suited to the format. I developed all my own film and prints in the darkroom. Sadly, the scarcity and expense of supplies eventually forced me to discontinue using this camera.
In early 2001 I took the plunge into the new field of digital photography. I purchased a 3 megapixel Sony Mavica Camera for about a thousand dollars and set out to master this new form. The digital revolution forced me to relearn the technical aspect of simply taking a picture along with digital post-production using Adobe Photoshop. This learning process continues today.
I’ve come full circle in a way—my early interest in astrophotography has resurfaced in my passion for photographing the Northern Lights in Alaska. The simple truth is that artistic tastes and styles evolve over time and I’m content to follow wherever my eye takes me.