Paris 1880: Letters From Deyrolle

Russel Kwan

“Paris 1880: Letters from Deyrolle” is my new (and still in progress, planned to comprise 20 to 30 negatives) series based on a 19th century French botanical collection that came into our hands in the spring of 2007. The lovingly collected, composed and pressed plants, complete with descriptions of their medicinal properties were compiled for one Mme Robert, between 1879 and 1903 by Parisian naturaliste Emile Deyrolle, son of Achille Deyrolle, the founder of their namesake business in 1831. It was Emile who moved the shop to 46 Rue de Bac, Paris – an address it still occupies today. In 2001, the fourth generation of Deyrolles sold the business to Prince “Jardinier” Louis-Albert de Broglie, who has continued operations under the Deyrolle name. Tragically, a fire destroyed much of the historic building in February 2008, and efforts to restore it are under way – but the loss of historical artifacts is immeasurable. My homage to Emile represents the confluence of his botanical collection with my own continuing research into the physics and chemistry of traditional silver-based photographic processes – coincidentally discovered in France about the same time Achille set up shop. For some time, I’ve been looking for a way to impart personal gesture and handwork into my photography, while maintaining the characteristics of the silver-gelatin print. In early 2008, I started experimenting with a process I now call Chromakinesis (adopted from Greek: colour = χρώμα and movement = κίνηση) – a chemical and physical means for changing the size and distribution of silver particles in the print, creating unusual patterns and colours. Handpainting the chemistry makes each print unique – while the source negative may be reproduced, the pattern of colours cannot be. The final photograph has the same chemical and physical makeup of any museum quality silver gelatin print, but my hand is clearly visible. The firelike patterns in these prints is my reaction to the fire at DeyRolle, and the boldly visible, but clearly frail botanical collection represents my hope for their future.


to gallery


Google Analytics