Richard Learoyd’s Presences


Richard Learoyd, Harmony, white shirt, 2011

Richard Learoyd is a British photographer with a unique method. He combines the oldest camera contraption, a camera obscura, with modern print materials, Ilfochrome paper. His beautiful soft portraits seem imbued with the actual presence of the sitter, so the series is aptly titled Presences. The pearly light, the still poses and interior gazes remind you a little of Dutch Master portraits. His San Francisco gallery Fraenkel explains the process:

Learoyd has created a room-sized camera in which the photographic paper is exposed. The subject—often a person, sometimes a still life—is in the adjacent room, separated by a lens. Light falling on the subject is directly focused onto the photographic paper without an interposing film negative. The result is an entirely grainless image. The overall sense of these larger-than-life images redefines the photographic illusion.

How does he make them so big? There is no negative so no enlarging process to achieve large print size. The large scale of the prints you see below is a result of using large sheets of Ilfochrome (formerly Cibachrome) paper. The sitter is lit by strong lights, and a lens in the wall focusses the image on to the paper in the adjacent dark chamber. It’s a direct positive process, each image is unique, like Polaroid. In fact the large prints are reminiscent, both in size and smooth tonal quality, of the giant 20×24 inch Polaroid.


Installation view, Fraenkel Gallery, Presences 2011



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