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Frank Sirona
No compromises
Artist's statement
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Frank Sirona with large format camera

Though I have not had the pleasure of classic photography training, I've come to speak about my second chance with photography by means of another path, as I previously mentioned. It goes without saying that my natural sciences background has given me to this day "Professional Deformation" that is to say: attention to perfection, interest in detail and the bad habit of pushing the limits of feasibility. These are characteristics that can have their advantages, but only if you have the patience to put up with the hardships that can come with it.

So this led me to the idea of "Photography without Compromise". In short, it's about perfecting the situation in every respect, so as to achieve the maximum visual impact. The three most important elements for this approach are described in more detail below.

For every subject there is a suitable perfect type of light. Sometimes it's the warm glow of the rising sun, other times the soft light in the shadows of a cloud in the early afternoon, or sometimes the dim light of a rainy day or the twilight after a sunset. The chosen subject always makes the decisive vote. Light quality has an enormous influence on how an object is perceived - its dimensions, its surface, its structure and its relation to its surroundings. An optimal balance of subject and lighting are, therefore, at the core of my method.

Because landscape photographers rely mostly on natural light, a significant amount of time is necessary for most images - it is the exception that you come to a specific place with an interesting motif and coincidentally in this moment find good lighting. This is why I continually go back to the same subject until everything perfectly falls into place, and the motif can be captured in exactly the way I had in mind.

In this manner it can sometimes take years and dozens of attempts until the planned image can be accomplished. For example, my photo "Outbreak" was finally accomplished after some adventures of marching accumulatively almost 70 miles through rough terrain, half of them in the dark and sometimes in almost zero degree temperatures, and always with around 40 pounds of equipment to lug around. The result of this persistence paid off. After all good results can't be reached without a good amount of effort.

Imaging system
The used imaging system - to put it less grandly: the camera - determines the achievable technical quality of the image, first of all: resolution and sharpness. Anyone who has seen a sufficiently large print by Ansel Adams or Clyde Butcher will never forget the incredible detail of these images, made possible only by the use of large format cameras. As far as the amount of detail is concerned in relationship to the image medium used (be it film or digital chip) it's very simple: the larger the medium is, the more image information can be recorded, and therefore more details can be seen in a picture.

For this reason I use large format cameras in sheet film format 5 x 7" (or 5 x 13" for panoramic shots). A 5 x 7" slide has 25 times the area of a 35mm slide, so it can record 25 times the amount of information. For the finished image that means that prints with a width of 5 ft. or more can be taken without showing any trace of film grain and contain a fascinating amount of tiny little details of the subject. Often I find new details in my prints that I hadn't noticed the moment I was capturing the image.

The replacement of film by digital cameras seems to be unstoppable. However, it is often overlooked that not all digital imaging can accomplish what film can, not even today (although probably a couple of years down the road). Especially in the high end range, where maximum image quality counts, film remains to this date irreplaceable. In this context it is interesting to note that a very careful comparison test weiter was performed on the resolution power of digital cameras in comparison with film cameras, conducted by a couple of guys who really wanted to know. The results were that a digital camera would require a resolution of around 320 megapixels in order to capture the amount of information to be recorded that a 5 x 7" sheet film can represent. The largest digital back available today is Phase One´s IQ180 with 80 megapixels, and was introduced at the price class of a middle class car. This should prove that film will continue to have its place in this world for quite some time.

Print presentation
In order to bring a photograph successfully into effect, it must be made accessible in a larger form to its viewers - which usually means enlarging it on light-sensitive photo paper, or more recently by use of an Inkjet printer. In this case, size matters: the bigger the picture, the more intense the impact, as long as the enlargement is not so strong that the technical limitations are exceeded and film grain, pixels, or blur are visible. Which brings us back to the previously expressed advantages of large format photography, which allows for making very large prints with impeccable quality.

The development of laser printers was a breakthrough in lab technology, which culminated in the construction of the LightJet, the best device for photo printing that was ever built. Lasers in the three primary colors red, green and blue expose light sensitive photo paper in order to buildan image, one row of microscopic width at a time, almost invisible by the human eye, until the finished image is produced. The result is extreme sharpness of prints and a beautiful diversity of colors. The prints of my work are therefore created entirely with the LightJet 500 XL.

How can you get a print to turn out the best? For a long time so called "Diasec" face mounting was recognized as the gold standard. In this process an image is produced without any air bubbles or flowmarks. The image is face mounted and bonded to the acrylic glass with a silicone sealant, which acts as a glue between the print and the acrylic glass. The result is an amazing depth of the image, which is why "Diasec" has gained so much popularity at large. For example, what would the impressive mural photographs by Andreas Gursky be without Diasec: likely very different and almost shallow.

Prints faced mounted to acrylic glass were a big step in the right direction for me. However, the acrylic material had never completely convinced me because of its extreme sensitivity and the lack of flatness frequently observed. After many failed attempts I finally succeded in convincing my lab to try the switch from acrylic glass to anti-reflective mineral glass ("Museum glass", characterized by an interference coating known from optical instruments). The result exceeded all expectations: in this way finished prints are not only shown with wonderfully fresh and fine differentiate colors, but also have almost a dazzling brilliance and plasticity, which leaves all other alternatives that exist for image presentation in the dust. By means of this technique (now known by the name of "UltraSec M") photographs are now produced at a quality level that had been previously unimaginable. So that's right on target if the name of the game is "Photography without Compromise".

[short version]