Bruce Rae, has exhibited widely including at Side Gallery, Michael Hoppen Gallery, Peter Fetterman Gallery, and his work is held in important collections such as The National Portrait Gallery, London, V&A, London Bibliotechque Nationale, Paris,Texaco Collection of British Art, Arden and Anstruther and Citibank.
Rae’s dates are given by the Victoria and Albert museum as being 1846 until ? He was in fact born in 1946 to a Scottish Father and Welsh mother in Aberdeen, in the not untypical austerity characteristic of the post war years.
Brought up in part completed council estates he lived in eight different towns by the age of sixteen. School was bya nd large a forgettable experience with the exception of Skinners Grammarschool in Tunbridge Wells.
As a result of drinking a glass of antifreeze, having been told that it was home made wine, his he suffered total renal failure, four weeks in a coma and damaged hearing to say nothing of minor brain damage gave cause for thought about his future career.
As the sad results of his ‘A’ levels arrived he was advised by his friend who had administered the noxious potion to do photography at Art School. He applied for a place at the Birmingham School of Photography he was accepted, spent three happy years learning the chemistry and aesthetics of his chosen discipline.
Then came two years of “misery” at the ‘ROYAL COLLEGE OF ART’ presided over by John Hedgecoe and his second in command, the charming Michael Langford, who had been head of school in Birmingham in his first two years. At that time the remit of the Birmingham college was to furnish photographers to “serve the metal bashing industries of the midlands, train medical photographers to deep understanding of the aesthetic history of the medium”‘
His tutor in his third year was a Mr Poutney, ex detective chief superintendent of the Birmingham met. At the time, it seemed pedantic, out of date. But now,Rae is eternally grateful and in awe of the training that he was given.
Bruce Rae’s work comes out of a solid understanding of vintage photographic technique. He uses a wooden field camera, similar to those used in the 19th Century, and printing techniques, also from that era. Rae’s rich prints, have a quality that is not reproducible by any digital means, and have a deep luminosity
“My practice” came out of skills taught to me at the Birmingham school of photography in the1960’s. There is no way that they, the images, could have been realised by digital or any other means. The manipulation of perspective, the range of tonalities and the full spectrum of visual feasts leave the digital world in the dark to which I wish it would return”
Rae’s timeless constructs are born within the camera, the room in which Rae’s work exists. Using a field camera, which inverts the image, the still lives are constructed as everyday objects are placed during a playful yet studied ritual, to create a “floating fictive world”.
Ansel lAdams describes the printing process “The negative is like a musical score, the print is the performance” Rae’s images are created in a marriage between the imagery of a field camera and Bruce Rae’s unique alchemy.
Renown darkroom printer Robin Bell says of his work“ Bruce’s printing techniques are legendary within the field and render me to a state of awe-struck admiration. He really is a master printer, someone who has learnt and understood the alchemy involved in producing deeply sumptuous saturated mutli-layered tones, not achievable using hum-drum darkroom techniques. He is a rarity, a genuine artist who uses photography as his medium and chemistry as his tool of choice.”
Rae’s famous “Flora” and “Memento Mori” series were made during the 80’s used a paper manufactured by Kodak called “Ektalure”, “which had a particularly long tonal curve of response”, sadly this has not been made since then, and so from that period on, Bruce Rae started to explore other techniques to enable him to create this quality.
One of these many different alternative techniques was salt printing, of which Bruce Rae has become one of the rare master. Salt printing, was discovered in 15th Century Germany by a natural philosopher called Fabrius, and later developed further by astronomer Royal Sir JohnHerschel and passed on to his friend William Henry Fox Talbot
Although finding a deal of satisfaction from salt printing it had its limitations and so Rae went back into the darkroom to develop his new printing technique, despite the attractions of the various alternative processes such as salt print orcyanotype printing, Rae’s roots are firmly in the silver gelatin papers he used as a young man… there are vast differences between for example the Royal Bromesko of the 70’s and currently available materials, but the Ilford range, do allow him to realise to the full potential of the images that he is currently making.
While these are silver gelatin prints, the alchemy has been altered to create a new vintage style. Hand printed silver Gelatin prints by Bruce Rae range from £350-£700
Collections Donna Karan
Victoria and AlbertMuseum – London
Colefax and Fowler
Marriot- The Hague