Centre for Fine Print Research University of the West of England Centre for Fine Print Research
  The British Channel Seen from the Dorsetshire Cliffs (detail) 1871

Portraiture and early photographic printing: surface,
tonality and authorial gesture.

Peter Moseley
Completeded: PhD, October 2016
Thesis title: Photographic portraiture and the meaning and crafting of ‘style’: the aesthetics and syntax of photomechanical processes for the production of continuous-tone ‘fine-prints’.
download as a PDF: Peter Moseley Case Study
Supervisory Team: DOS Steve Hoskins, Dr Shawn Sobers

Peter is now a visiting research fellow at CFPR

My professional career has been as an education manager, but since retirement I’ve had the opportunity to return to my life-long interest in portraiture and photography. I completed an HNC in Photography, followed by a MA in Printmaking at Brighton University and I am now nearly two years into my PhD research at the Centre for Fine Print Research.

The research project
My research project investigates the image as artefact, in particular the print surface, as produced by early photographic printing techniques and considers how these process characteristics mediate the readings that the artefacts evoke.

This research project is primarily concerned with the:

• materiality/physicality of the print, its surface characteristics and what makes it ‘work’ for the author and viewer,
• potential contribution of modern digital technologies to analogue early-photographic printing processes in relation to the preparation of negatives and control of exposure, acutance and tonality,
• portraiture and the development of personal practice, in this case in the representation of the aged and aging body.

My project draws upon research from a range of disciplines and perspectives; workshop experimentation on surface attributes is informed by cultural and technical histories of photography and printmaking and by recent industry developments of materials and digital technologies. My theoretical appreciations are shaped by cultural analyses of the production and inscription of meaning and by art history discourse on portraiture and representation of the (aged) body. I hope, through my practice as a hotographer/printmaker, to articulate an imaginative and technically innovative exploitation of the potential of these early photographic processes.

This practice-based strand of my research is focused on the exploration of the textural and tonal characteristics of early photographic printmaking processes, in combination with digital technologies, for the representations of the body and the portraiture of older sitters. Given the centrality of print surface and texture to this project, the choice of mature and older subjects for portraiture and representation of the body seems appropriate. Skin, the face and the body offer an unparalleled generosity of texture and interpretation and provide ample opportunity for the exploration of affectively and aesthetically nuanced printmaking.

Centre for Fine Print Research

There has been a resurgence of artistic interest over the last decade in photography-based methods of printmaking using nineteenth century processes. The chemistry, materials and handling of the techniques are capable of realising unique qualities of tone, texture, definition, density and presence. The processes of choice for both ‘fine art’ and commercial printers for over sixty years until the First World War, they are now being adopted again and adapted for their artistic and expressive potential. Whilst there is a generosity of material accessible on-line, including practical information, for instance, about the use of digital techniques for the production of negatives, there is relatively little recently published academic research and assessment of the early procedures.

The Centre for Fine Print Research at UWE, though, has supported valuable enquiries by Stephen Hoskins, Anne Hammond, Carinna Parraman, Paul Thirkell and Andrew Atkinson, amongst others, that combine historical surveys with tested practical evaluation of technique. The Centre offers a technical, academic and industrial interface, combining practical and theoretical expertise in the commercial and fine art arenas that is probably unmatched in the UK. It is an ideal base for my research.


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