Monday, June 11, 2007
Pete Turner - Carried By Color
After pioneering analog color techniques in the 1950s and 1960s, Pete Turner has turned his attention to working with digital technology to create his most visually captivating images yet
Turner was watching the sun set over a hut, and it occurred to him that he could move the sun's sphere up or down the side of the hut by simply moving the camera. Designing content and enhancing color would be the trademarks of Turner's work.
“In the old days, companies like Kodak and Fuji would present us with color film,” says Turner. “When you got your film, that was the spectrum you were to play in. Scientists had already interpreted light and color and the way it should reproduce. The idea was to reproduce the colors we saw in nature. The spectrum couldn't be changed very easily.
“In the digital playground of color, we have what I call ‘digital film.' Companies like Lexar make the cards that go into digital cameras and give photographers a clean color palette. What's amazing is that everything is neutral, so if a photographer wants something warmer or colder, he has complete control. Digitally, I can actually create my own film spectrum.
“Weston Neff, curator of photography at the Getty Museum, calls me the Dr. No of color photography. We always enhanced colors. Almost accidentally, I found a great technique. I hated sending out originals—running the risk of losing or damaging them. So, I took the basic Repronar machine in my studio and rebuilt it. We actually changed the film body to a Nikon body and took out the lens and changed it to a macro Nikkor.
“Using this machine, I took my original Kodachrome work and re-photographed it—Kodachrome to Kodachrome, which became second generation—but for me it was my original. We had a filtration drawer below the stage where we were photographing the image. We could insert all kinds of filters.”
The Red Giraffe is an early example of how far Turner pushed saturation levels. To use colors that strong was considered heresy. It hadn't been done before and created quite a controversy.
Turner is a photographer who likes to be prepared for the unexpected. In 1973, he read an article in The New York Times about a volcanic eruption in Heimaey, Iceland. He flew to Iceland that evening. “It was like being in the center of a science-fiction novel!” says Turner. “The whole town was an active volcano.”
It was on this “ultimate reality trip” that Turner created New Dawn, the image that would steer his career toward conceptual photography. The wonderful arch of lava spewing into the sky was the “luck” of where he was standing; the color and composition were instinctive Turner.
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