On the occasion of the 14th anniversary of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York we are honoured to publish a guest article on an image of personal and world history written by Robert Dutruch, photographer and printer at Lost Hills Studio in New Orleans, USA.
In 1987, I was a young and struggling photographer in New York. I was working in a studio on lower Broadway down in the SoHo district. I had recently purchased a new lens for my 4×5 inch view camera and wanted to do a quick test for sharpness using Polaroid Type 55 positive/negative film. I happened to glance out of the studio window and saw a beautiful view of the rooftops of lower Manhattan with sun disappearing below the horizon. I wheeled the camera around on the tripod, pointed it out of the window and made one quick exposure … guessing at the f-stop and shutter speed. The negative was tack sharp and as we so often did, I tossed the negative in the trash, coated the positive, and when dry, stuck it into my journal on my way home.
As we fast forward 28 years, I am cleaning out some old file boxes and come across my studio journal from 1987. As I am flipping through it, I come across the Polaroid that I had created that early March evening of the roof tops of lower Manhattan. And there, to my amazement were the Twin Towers in all of their glory. It was one of those moments in life that somehow manages to take your breath away and make your heart skip a beat. I could never have imagined at the time, that a simple lens test would produce such an important and moving image for me 28 years later.
I decided that this image had to be made into a heliogravure not only for its preservation, but to also allow me the opportunity to once again work with it after all of these years.
Here at Lost Hills Studio in New Orleans we utilize a 1974 30×50 inch Charles Brand Etching Press that fittingly was manufactured in Brooklyn, New York. We rescued the press after being under 10 feet of salt water during Hurricane Katrina here in New Orleans. She was an absolute mess and all of the machine shops that we approached to refurbish her told us we were insane to even try. I finally found an old welder and machinist that looked long and hard at the photographs, and said… “if you’re not in a hurry… I’ll give it a try. But no promises…” And it was a good thing we were not in a hurry, as it took almost 13 months for the restoration to be completed. It was definitely worth the wait as this beautiful etching press was now pristinely reborn and back in service making wonderful art again.
Here at Lost Hills Studio we utilize the photopolymer ImagOn to make our etching plates along with a proprietary process of creating the inter-positive developed by the master printer Don Messec at Boyfish Press in Santa Fe. We exclusively use Hahnemühle Copperplate etching paper for all of heliogravures. It possesses that wonderful warm tone and lush softness in the final print that allows us to bring out and capture the look and feel of the Pictorialists, an international style and aesthetic movement that dominated photography during the later 19th and early 20th centuries. Hahnemühle Copperplate paper in conjunction with a proprietary studio mixture of Akua inks, allows us to create images that bring to mind the wonderful age of Pictorialism and the nostalgic feel and emotion of the very early 20th century.
Robert David Dutruch, Winner of the Artistic Merit Award
Lost Hills Studios