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An exhibit of fine art landscapes

Posted: Thursday, November 01, 2001

"Creative seeing" and enormous negatives allow Anchorage fine art photographer George Provost to make awardwinning images.

Provost's work will be featured in an exhibit opening Friday at the Alaska State Museum. A reception will be held from 4:30-6:30 p.m.

The show features large-format, black and white images Provost made on Isle Royale, a national park in Lake Michigan. Provost spent the month of August 1998 in a small cabin on the island, hauling about 60 pounds of photographic equipment in a canoe and on foot on daily excursions.

Ansel Adams popularized photography as an art form using a large-format camera and Provost said Adams was one of his primary inspirations. But very few landscape photographers use large-format cameras today.

"As things go more and more digital these days, people like me are more like dinosaurs," Provost said.

"George is one of the only guys around using an 8-by-10 camera to make his photographs," said Alaska State Museum Curator Mark Daughhetee. "His work has a tremendous clarity and richness that you don't get with smaller-format cameras."

Provost said his 8-by-10-inch negatives are at least 40 times bigger than the commonly used 35 mm format. That provides 40 times as much information, subtlety of tone and remarkable crispness.

The show will include a dozen contact prints, the sharpest type of photographic print possible, made by placing the negative directly on the paper. He's also done 18 enlargements, 16 by 20 inches, creating an image four times larger than the negative.

Daughhetee said Provost enhances his black and white photographs with a split-toning technique. This is a tricky process using selenium and other chemicals applied in the final stages of developing the print. The results are different for every picture.

Provost said it results in a high mortality rate meaning that as many as half his prints are ruined. The successes are worth the risk.

"It really does give the standard silver print a depth and elegance that's hard to achieve otherwise," Daughhetee said.

When Provost set out each morning in Isle Royale to make pictures, he rarely had any idea what he would do.

"I avoid preconceived notions," he said. "I see two ways to go, conceptual or with an emphasis on seeing. Creative seeing is what it's about."

Using a large-format view camera requires setting up the camera on a sturdy tripod and getting behind it, underneath a black cloth. The photographer frames his shot by viewing the scene upside down on a ground glass screen.

"It's looking outward but how you see is really affected by your inner state," Provost said. "I think spending time in solitude in the wilderness changes how you see. You're not focusing inward, but what's in there is affecting outcome. I like working alone, out in the wilderness. I become self-conscious when people are watching me work."

Provost's work will be on exhibit through mid January.

In addition to the reception at the museum, Provost also will address a Juneau photography club, Alaska Photographic Arts Association, at its monthly meeting Friday. The meeting at 7:30 p.m. also will feature a presentation by Juneau photographer Skip Gray. It will be held in the Municipal Way Building, between Shattuck and South Seward streets on Municipal Way, around the corner from Capital Copy. Signs will direct visitors and everyone is welcome.



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