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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Al Satterwhite - Fields Of Color

Al Satterwhite made his mark with saturated color design. His refusal to be categorized has allowed him to leave it virtually everywhere.

“I live 6,000 feet up in the mountains, and I took a print I made digitally with Lyson's Fotonic dye-based ink and blocked off half the print, then stuck it up in my window, which gets intense direct sunlight about half the day. I left it there for about a month, figuring it would disappear—and I could barely, barely tell the difference between the two sides of the print. I know if I put one of my C-prints in that window under those conditions, it would be gone.”

According to Satterwhite, the difference between dye (e.g., Lyson Fotonic) and pigmented inks (e.g., Lyson Cave­Paint, Epson Ultra-Chrome) is that dyes are all more vibrant. So with the Lyson dye-based ink, he has been able to make strides toward achieving the saturated color effect he liked in the now-discontinued Kodachrome 25.

In many cases, Satterwhite says that digital prints are superior to tradi­tional ones.

“I had a client buy a couple of black-and-white prints, and he wanted silver prints, so I took them down to the lab and they made some silver prints for me,” he says. “A year later, he wanted to buy several more copies of the same image. I knew what I could do with it in the lab, but I had wanted to fiddle with it digitally, so I made some prints until I got to the point where I was really happy with it. Then I had one printed in the lab at the same size, 11x14 inches. I put it side by side and the difference is night and day—I got much better shadow detail and bolder highlights on the digital print. I took it into the lab and asked why they couldn't do this. They acknowledged that there are some things they can't do; so in some cases, it's clear to me that you can do better prints digitally.”

As photographers become more comfortable with digital print technol­ogy—and more familiar with the developments in digital inks and in papers—Satterwhite expects them to take over the printmaking task in a big way.

“They'll save time, make more money and have their visions realized more precisely,” he concludes. “So why wouldn't they do this?”

When Butterflies Floated Free

Aside from his use of saturated color, Al Satterwhite may be best known for his work with legendary sports personalities, much of it in black-and-white and early in his career. Contrary to the difficulties many associate with working with such high-profile figures, Satterwhite found his time with larger-than-life figures relatively stress-free, especially with the biggest icon of them all: Muhammad Ali.

“Maybe because I worked with these people before they were so heavily ‘handled' by others, I found it easy to see them—and work with them—as individuals, who they were to themselves, not the personas the media had created for the public,” he says. “Ali was so natural, he was an ideal subject. I'd hang out at the gym in Miami and see him when the heavy crush of media wasn't around. We'd go out to lunch, have normal conversations like normal people. I think that kind of relationship made it easy for him to be in my lens—though, obviously, he felt pretty much at ease before anyone's camera.”

Satterwhite's time shooting Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was first catching the public's eye as a bodybuilder, was also a good one.

“Arnold was a great guy,” he says. “His accent was a bit thicker at the time, but even then you could tell how smart a businessman he was—and that he was going on to much bigger things.”

To see more of Al Satterwhite's photography, visit www.alsatterwhite.com.



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