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Snow & Silver-Gelatin at The Banff Centre (Alberta, Canada)

From the top of Sulphur Mountain

Now and then, if you’re stupidly lucky, you get crazy opportunities to do absurdly fun things.
(I have to note that this is two times in a row for me, if you’ve been reading the other blog posts)

Since January 18th of this year I’ve had the pleasure to be one of the Artists in Residence in the photography department at The Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada. I found out I’d been accepted into the program last year, and I was doubly lucky enough to be supported by The Australia Council for the Arts to actually undertake my residency and the project I had proposed. Whoa!

Right now I’m perched on a little stool at 10:30 at night down in the basement, sitting outside of the enormous Special Process darkroom. I’ve just finished Selenium toning some prints and I’m waiting for them to finish washing so I can pop them on the drying racks and then scoot to bed. Luckily I have 24/7 access to everything, so sleep is a consistent afterthought – I’ll be back tomorrow morning, coffee in hand, to flatten them in the heat-mount presses.

My friend the 10×10″ Enlarger (which, at some point, I started calling “Gertie”)

The Special Process room houses an enormous DeVere 10×10″ colour enlarger, and an equally enormous magnetic wall, which you use with lots of magnets to hold your paper flat while you make ungodly huge enlargements. With this setup I can make silver-gelatin prints up to around 110x300cm in size. Nearby is a smaller, freestanding DeVere 504 colour enlarger which can be used for making slightly smaller prints. The whole room is tied together by a series of enormous stainless steel sinks, some incredible ventilation, and all of the most exciting toys. We have laser alignment tools for the enlargers, the finest focus scopes around, enormous Saunders four blade easels, drying screens, and a range of archival print washers. It’s unlike any darkroom I’ve seen in my entire life, and it means business.

And that’s just one of them.

There’s also three more smaller darkrooms, and three personal-sized colour darkrooms with a 30″ wide colour roll paper processor supporting them.

With these exceedingly gratuitous facilities, I get to play and make all kinds of excellent things. I have a 42″ wide, 100ft long roll of Ilford MGFB Classic paper that I’m steadily making my way through, and after nearly 4 weeks here I’ve shot thirty rolls of film.

The Bow River, partially frozen for winter

The Banff Centre is also nestled in Banff National Park, one of the first National Parks in the world, and Canada’s oldest. I’m sitting at around 1600m above sea level in the Canadian Rockies. Between snowfalls and melts, I’ve gone on some big day-long hikes into the surrounding area to continue my work with colonial landscapes, coming to terms with such things as trying to climb frozen paths, or, what do you do when there’s a giant Elk buck just kind of standing in the middle of the path? (It turns out you take another path)

I’ve also determined that I’m unnaturally excited about how cool squirrels are.

An enormous print made with Gertie

I’m here until the end of February, and while I think I’ve finished taking way more photos than I can possibly print while I’m here, I’m looking forward to the opportunity to continue to play and make things that I just couldn’t make anywhere else in the world. In the first few weeks I felt a lot of pressure to take advantage of all of the incredible opportunities and facilities available to me, but after a lot of long days in the darkroom I’ve settled into a routine of consistent production and experimentation. I’ve been turning my studio into a pinhole camera and re-visiting some ideas I haven’t mulled over in quite a few years, and re-incorporating them into my practice. I’ve also had the joy of meeting dozens of incredible artists from all around the world at the same time, and getting to know their practices as well. It’s been a very productive time – lots of applications, proposals and project outlines are getting written and lots of new work is being made. I think I’m doing it right.

Stay tuned for some more extensive documentation of the finished work as I start to wrap up the project, and begin wondering how on earth I’m going to get these giant prints home to Australia.