WORK FROM TWO ROOMS
Learoyd’s landscapes were inspired in part by Carleton Watkins, whose 19th-century views of Yosemite gave rise to the 1864 bill protecting the valley, which then served as a blueprint for the foundation of the National Park Service in 1916. Watkins’ breakthrough work was made with the largest camera known to exist at the time: a mammoth plate camera producing contact-printed images measuring approximately 16×21 inches. More than 150 years later, Learoyd photographed the park using a structure measuring 8 feet square, creating 4×6-foot contact prints. Working this summer, Learoyd captured the grandeur of the valley two weeks before the Ferguson Fire burned nearly 100,000 acres in the area. The exhibition also includes two large-scale works made in Big Sur, a landscape with a rich history for photographers including Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, and others.
Learoyd’s “extended” portraits were made in his London studio, where he uses a room-sized camera built to expose photographic paper directly to light. The resulting photographs—grainless, unique works on Ilfochrome paper, stockpiled before it was discontinued in 2011—explore subjects over repeated sittings, sometimes spanning years. Working in the studio, Learoyd notes, one learns “the qualities and restrictions of the process you have chosen. Making photographs with a large camera is incredibly restrictive.” The limitations, he says, “alter the way I think and feel about the things I choose to photograph.”