Richard Learoyd’s color images are made with one of the most antiquarian of photographic processes: the camera obscura. Literally translated from Latin as “dark room” 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. Learoyd’s subjects, composed simply and directly, are described with the thinnest plane of focus, re-creating and exaggerating the way that the human eye perceives and not without a small acknowledgement to Dutch Master painting.
Learoyd’s black-and-white gelatin silver contact prints are made using the negative/positive process invented roughly 170 years ago by Englishman W. H. Fox Talbot. Working with a large and portable camera obscura of his own construction, Learoyd has journeyed outside of his London studio, into the art-historically rich English countryside, producing images that have long been latent in his imagination. These photographs, up to 80 inches wide, are among the largest contact prints ever made.
His work is included in the collections of the Tate, the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the National Gallery of Canada and the Yale University Art Gallery.