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Intimations of Paradise & Resplendent Light – Christopher Burkett

Book reviews

Tim Parkin

Tim Parkin

Amateur Photographer who plays with big cameras and film when in between digital photographs.

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As we’ve seen in my Christopher Burkett mini-biography, Christopher is an extraordinary photographer by any account. However, he has also realised that the best way to disseminate his work is through publishing books and even went to the lengths of working in a scanning and printing companies to learn the skills of colour separation and printing. These skills have informed the creation of his two self published photography books, Resplendent Light and Intimations of Paradise.

The two books represent two aspects of his photography, Resplendent Light contains his Hassleblad work and Intimations of Paradise contains his 8x10 work. The separation of the two books into camera formats leads to an interesting subject/style split which I’ll talk about in a moment.

We’ll start looking at what must assume is Christopher’s main work, Intimations of Paradise. I say this because he admits that he uses the Hassleblad camera when the conditions preclude the use of the 8x10 Calumet camera. These photographs are studied works of nature and light and there most beautiful. Quite often the pictures could be described as ‘simple’ in composition but anyone who has tried to compose in the complex environment of forests and grassland will realise how difficult this really is.

Before I talk about the photographs themselves I should give you an idea of the amount of attention to detail that went into it. Christopher ordered a specific type of paper for it that wasn’t available in the right size so he asked the supplier to make a special batch. The printers couldn’t get the colour right on some pictures so he created an extra colour channel in addition to the normal CMYK channels that allowed him to get a couple of troublesome blue colours just right. This is attention to detail way beyond what most commercial publishers can manage, and it shows in the end results. These prints are luminous and rich in colour with a very fine, almost invisible screen.

The pictures are what really sells a photography book though and Intimations of Paradise has those in abundance. The pictures are stately in their magnificence and avoid most compositional ‘tricks’, probably because these are nearly all about texture and organised chaos, light and colour. Don’t take my word from it though, you can get a preview of the pictures included by looking at Christopher’s 8x10 section on the website where you most of the images in the books are included. It also has three introductory essays singing the praises of his work (possibly a little over the top but you can’t argue with their opinion) and also two sections describing Christopher’s background and technical information.

Resplendent Light is in it’s physical production, a very similar book. the printing is again beautiful but they are undoubtedly different. It was only when I was sitting down with David Ward recently and looking through both books back to back that it became very clear that the Hassleblad work is in many ways a lot more creative. It seems Christopher takes a few more chances with the ‘blad; photographs that probably fall outside his ‘expected’ material (less trees for instance). This makes it a very different proposition and I think this is the ‘supporting’ book that show the alternative side of Christopher’s work but is no lesser a book photographically.

These books are two of the best photographs I’ve seen and at least Intimations should be included in any serious romantic landscape photographers book collection.

As an additional item to this review, you should also consider the book Seasons by Christopher Burkett and Robert Frost. The book is a collection of poetry covering the four seasons and each season is followed by a series of plates by Mr Burkett. About half of the pictures appear in the two books reviewed but there are a substantial number that don't. The pictures are very good as well and for the completist, despite the printing not being as good, this is worth the purchase (try Abebooks or Alibris).

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