With 2009 marking the UN proclaimed International Year of Astronomy (IYA), Harman technology is set to play its own inimitable part in celebrations commemorating 400 years since Galileo first looked through a telescope. The leading photo-imaging company is supplying materials from its Ilford Photo range of analogue products for a touring exhibition by Lucinda Douglas-Menzies, featuring portraits of famous astronomers from the last five decades.
A professional photographer since 1986, Lucinda already has several exhibitions under her belt as well as numerous commissions for clients such as The Daily Telegraph, Veuve Clicquot, Harpers, the Guggenheim Museum New York and the Royal Society of Literature. She was inspired to undertake her latest project - dubbed simply ‘Portraits of Astronomers’ and due to appear at various venues throughout the year – after reading an article on Sir Patrick Moore and discovering the imminence of IYA2009.
Having used Ilford analogue products for the last 30 years, she was keen for the brand to play a part in the event and this sentiment was intensified when she learnt of the Ilford Phoot ‘Defend the Darkroom’ campaign. Launched in 2007, Defend the Darkroom aims to promote the co-existence of analogue and digital photography in an increasgly digital age – a notion Lucinda thoroughly advocates.
She explains: “I shoot both analogue and digital and both certainly have their merits. But for an exhibition of this type, which has historical significance, I knew that analogue was by far the better option. The archival properties of traditional, darkroom developed prints are unsurpassed and this can be seen in the fact that prints have survived to this day from the earliest days of photography in the mid 19th century. I’m not confident digital media offers the same longevity or that digitally printed photographs from today will still be around in 100 years time.
“Another key benefit is the increased ease and peace of mind that comes from filing negatives as opposed to storing digital files on a computer. There’s none of the risk of data corruption or of inadvertently deleting something. Instead, you just go straight to the year and index and there they are.
In particular, Lucinda used Ilford HP5 Plus 120 film, Ilford Multigrade IV FB Fiber paper and Ilford chemistry that consisted of Ilfostop stop bath and Ilford Hypam Fixer. She combined this with the film processing capabilities of Klaus Kalde Studios and the comprehensive facilities, including a flat bed dryer, of the Four Corners darkroom, both located near her studio in London E1.
In total 38 images, depicting sitters that included Bernard Lovell, Martin Rees, Patrick Moore and Stephen Hawking, were produced as 16 by 20 inch prints. A full set of these prints has already been purchased by The Science Museum whilst three of Scottish astronomers have been bought by the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and 10 have been bought by the National Portrait Gallery in London. The exhibition series will commence at The Royal Astronomical Society before going on to appear at various nationwide science festivals and universities, as well as The Royal Society and the Armagh County Museum.
Lucinda adds: “I’m delighted to be involved in celebrations to mark such a defining moment in scientific history and arguably, human existence. It’s also a pleasure to showcase the benefits of analogue photography and to illustrate its continuing importance - even with the increasing prevalence of digital. Analogue photography needed a champion and Ilford Photo has certainly picked up that baton.
Her views were echoed by Howard Hopwood, Chairman of HARMAN technology, who said: “With the convenience of digital photography, it’s easy to forget there are still reasons to shoot film. Aside from its archival benefits and its ability to help people learn the fundamentals of photography such as the effects of aperture setting and of shutter speed, it’s an art, a craft - and much like other traditional crafts, it needs to be preserved. To let it disappear is totally unthinkable.
Full information on the Portrait of Astronomers exhibition, including details of dates, venues and a corresponding book, can be found on the Douglas Menzies