Brenton Hamilton: “The calotype is a pursuit of beauty”

For over 25 years Brenton Hamilton has created a sustained body of work, largely concentrated within historic process. Visual artist, historian, antiquarian, foil fencer Brenton Hamilton is telling to The Calotype Society about his work with calotypes.

Portrait of Brenton Hamilton, photographer
Brenton Hamilton ©Mark Dawson.

I loved beauty and the physicality of the making of the work

I am a full time instructor at Maine Media Workshops in Rockport , Maine. I teach historical processes full time all year. I am also a historian and lecture on the development of the medium of photography.

What kind of education do you have?

I have an MFA from Savannah College of Art & Design.

When and why did you decide to make calotypes?

I began working with calotype processes in 2016 – I was attracted to the evocative way this medium describes light and I loved the physicality of the making of the work.

The head of a statue from the garden, calotype
From My Garden, 2016. Calotype which was shown on the exhibition in Milan “The art of fixing a shadow” in 2019, ©Brenton Hamilton

What was the first experience and what was your first photograph about?

I pointed the camera at trees and strong shapes of the trunks in bright light just outside my darkroom.

About beauty, curiosity and passion

Why did you decide to work with the technique of calotype, why does this technique attract you?

Pure curiosity and a passion for early methods.

What new and important things did you discover by working with this technique?

Patience and embracing failures as learning opportunities.

“I live in the NorthEast US and the calotype season is quite short…”

Brenton Hamilton
The hand, calotype
Vellum calotype n.d., ©Brenton Hamilton

What kind of camera do you have or use?

I have a large, lumbering 8×10 wet plate camera with an authentic back – its perfect for calotype work.

What kind of recipes for making calotypes do you use?

I use the French variants from 1847 – wet paper on vellum.

The sculpture of a boy
Vellum calotype, n.d.©Brenton Hamilton

“Still life arrangements are my usual subject”

Who were your teachers?

Authentic books and deep reading have been my teachers of these processes.

What subjects do you choose for your calotypes? Architecture, people, landscapes?

This is quite varied – though simple still life arrangements are my usual subject.

What do you like more – the result, or the process of preparing for the developing of photographs?

All aspects completely captivate me and motivate me to work more. I live in the NorthEast US and the calotype season is quite short.

The head of a statue -man with a beard, calotype
Vellum Calotype paper negative, n.d. ©Brenton Hamilton

“The calotype is a pursuit of beauty…”

How does your darkroom look? Is it a professional space, a makeshift bathroom, a basement?

Its a large professional  space – though I have also done field work with a mobile light tight traveling dark box.

What did you learn about life after making calotype photographs?

The materials are exquisite and worth every minute. It’s a pursuit of beauty.

Visual artist Brenton Hamilton during his work
Visual artist Brenton Hamilton during his work

Interview Asia Santambrogio


2 Commenti