Back to Basics: Early Techniques in Photography

March 28, 2006 - May 14, 2006
Central Library, Grand Lobby
Back to Basics: Early Techniques in Photography

Photographs by Michel Bayard, Patrick Barrett and Doug Schwab


Three Brooklyn photographers return to various historical photographic techniques in this group exhibition. Each photographer explores his own specialty, including Michel Bayard's use of pinhole photography, which was used as early as the fifteenth century by Leonardo da Vinci and other painters to help with perspective. Patrick Barrett utilizes the mid-nineteenth century method of Van Dyke printing, and Doug Schwab works with the gum bichromate process and palladium/platinum printing, an artistic style also developed in the nineteenth century.

From their "back to basics" approach, these photographers have created beautiful images of Brooklyn's famous landmarks and architectural details, and moving portraits of local residents.

Learn about the process of creating these historic photographs from the photographers themselves at the companion exhibition Back to Basics: The Process in the Foyer Gallery Cases in front of the Grand Lobby.


Artist Statements

BPL Exhibition, Michel BayardMichel Bayard
Pinhole Photographs

Michel Bayard is a self-taught pinhole photographer originally from Montreal. He has lived in Park Slope, Brooklyn, for the last 13 years. Upon arriving in New York City, he fell in love with New York architecture, especially the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges for their sensuous lines.

Patrick Barrett
Van Dyke Prints

Living in Brooklyn I've been drawn to the elements of living history present in the old buildings and structures that retain their stamp on a neighborhood, regardless of the shine or fast pace represented by their newcomer neighbors. My photo journaling of these landmarks and architectural oddities inspired me to explore techniques that held a compelling place in the present, despite their origins in another era.

Creating Van Dyke prints of these Brooklyn images was a way to return these structures to their heyday. Many of the places photographed were being built or used when the technique was developed in the late nineteenth century. The Van Dyke process is deceptively simple, needing only water and sunlight to develop. It represents a time when photography was coming into its own, and when a previously unknown pace of city living was taking hold of New York.

Patrick Barrett is a photography artist who concentrates on historic or alternative printing processes, often using low-tech and handmade cameras. His work primarily includes Van Dyke prints, Polaroid film image transfers and manipulations, and pinhole camera work. He recently had a solo exhibition at Shakespeare's Sister in Cobble Hill and at Southpaw in Park Slope. Mr. Barrett lives and makes photographic prints in Brooklyn and participates in the annual Gowanus Artists Studio Tour.

BPL Exhibition, Doug SchwabDoug Schwab
Platinum/Palladium Printing and the Gum Bichromate Process

This collection of portraits taken between 2001 and the present is the result of two creative forces, one being my fondness of photographing people. Since these are not commissioned portraits, my sitters were asked to pose, usually quite spontaneously. Whenever possible I used natural light, and because the pictures were taken in different studios and at different times of day, the effect of the light differs from picture to picture.

The second force that drove this project is my passion for the slow, craft laden historical processes of platinum/palladium printing and the gum bichromate process. These two printing methods each produce a print that becomes an object of art. The technical demands posed by such printing techniques led me to use an old-fashioned 8 x 10 view camera. This large cumbersome camera has its own technical restraints, which further influenced the way I worked in the studio.

Doug Schwab studied photography at the School of Visual Arts and at The New School, where he studied with George Tice and Lisette Model. He studied figure drawing at the Art Students League, and painting, sculpture and printmaking at Brooklyn College where he earned his B.A. in art and an M.F.A., and developed his interest in historical photographic processes. Mr. Schwab has taught photojournalism at Kingsborough Community College and now teaches at Pratt Institute and Adelphi University.

Contact Doug Schwab |

Photo Credits
Michel Bayard © Michel Bayard
Patrick Barrett © Alessandra Gregory
Doug Schwab © Eva Ulrich