on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

Christopher Burkett

Master photographer

Tim Parkin

Tim Parkin

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

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Spuce & Bright Aspen Forest, Colorado, 2003

When I started my photography path, I was enamoured of the ‘vista’ photographers, Joe Cornish, Colin Prior, Charlie Waite, etc., probably because of ease of finding books by them but obviously because of the instant ‘hit’ of a great vista. Once I started looking around the internet for other photographers, I found people like David Ward, Charles Cramer and Jack Dykinga, people who were looking at texture, shape, form, etc. It was just after this that that I ‘found’ Christopher Burkett. I can’t remember who introduced me but I think it was David Ward whilst on a trip in the Hebrides. Despite Chrisopher’s books costing £50 each, I had to buy both of them immediately (well - after I’d saved a few coppers). The books blew me away, showed me a way of composing texture and form, distilling chaos, creating an order without cliche. Hopefully the following biography and pictures will interest you as much as they interested me.

Christopher Burkett’s early life was a fuzzy, orderless place. A severe myopia meant that anything further than an inch or two from his eyes faded into a universal bokeh. This did mean that his early experiences were of the textures and details of life, blades of grass, leaf litter, etc. It was only when he was six that he finally got a prescription that allowed him to see the infinity of the world.

As a young man he was still mostly a loner though and despite college and a couple of jobs after school, he was still looking for something when he entered a religious order when he was 19. The order worked in the community helping the homeless and helpless.

How to know where to photograph

A passion for the light entered his life during the years as a brother and he started to use a Crown Graphic 4x5 camera and a Rolleiflex (around 1974), using black and white at first and teaching himself Ansel’s zone system. This passion needed more time and he left the order (but not religion) and married Ruth who was also in the religious order in 1979.

His focus on this passion was so single minded that he took jobs working in printing and scanning so that he would know how to distribute these images that he was creating. Since then he has worked diligently to capture the light and vision, to share his vision of the light of god.

Whatever your beliefs, his photography captures something numinous, an occasional display of light that transforms subject.

Glowing Autumn Forest Virginia

Christopher works mostly with a 10x8 camera (jumping up via 4x5 in 1979), although he also originally used a Hassleblad when he left the order and still does for subjects that aren’t suitable for the 10x8. He has only been using the 10x8 (a rather large Calumet C1) in 1987 and it is amazing that he has produced such a wonderful portfolio, all starting with buying the 10x8, quitting his full time job and spending five months on a tour of the states with Ruth followed by an extensive printing session. The galleries reacted very positively and he soon had to build a bigger dark room (see the amazing pictures alongside this article and on Christopher’s website).

It is worth mentioning that Christopher prints all of his pictures himself and spend an extensive amount of time separating each picture into three fundamental colour components (imagine each colour channel as a black and white negative). He will then use typical darkroom techniques to adjust the tonality of each channel in order to tweak hue and saturation (a difficult job in photoshop, never mind doing it by eye in a darkroom). The technique is called contrast masking and when the final print is made onto Cibachrome, the range of tones and colours is sublime.

Christopher’s website is well worth looking at. Many of the photographs have small narratives next to them, discussing the situation in which the photograph was taken and sometimes more. There are also a few articles and interviews.

I hope you’ve enjoyed Christopher’s work, it isn’t instant like much photography but it rewards attention and time.

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