Ray Bidegain’s work was chosen as an outstanding portfolio by juror Christopher James in the 2022 Denis Roussel Award.
“Your romantic photogravure images are nicely crafted. My favorites in this portfolio are the images of the sleeping woman throwing “Saturn” into the universe (at least that’s what I’m seeing) and what I think is a self-portrait as there is a long shutter release cord in the image. Adding chine collé to the material process is a brilliant idea.” Christopher James
Would you please tell us about yourself?
I have been a photographer my entire adult life. Over the last 42 years I have worked as a lab rat, commercial photographer, fine art photographer, and workshop educator. I spent around 20 years primarily making platinum prints and teaching most of the iron based alternative processes. For the last 5 years I have been exploring and refining my skills as a printmaker, making polymer plate photogravures. I was a stay at home father for my 2 children while my partner worked magic in the field of social work.
Who has had an influence on your creative process?
In photography school my heroes were Richard Avedon, Edward Weston, Irving Penn, and the bad boys of fashion photography at the time. Think of Newton, Bailey, Demarchelier. I continue to me influenced by Penn, and many of the masters from the past. I like beautiful brown prints basically.
Please tell us about an image (not your own) that has inspired you.
I am primarily a portrait photographer. The series by Irving Penn “ The Small Trades” has long been an inspiration for my work. When I was working as a retail portrait photographer my goal was always to make portraits that transcended the identity of the sitter to have a broader meaning. I feel like this series by Penn achieved that status.
Is there an image that you wish you would have taken and can you still see it?
I do not have a stack of images in my mind waiting. Thankfully. For the most part I make work all the time so things I am thinking about are realized.
How do you work through times when nothing seems to work?
I am someone who finds joy and satisfaction in both the process of making photographic images and the process of making pints. The print as an object is so meaningful to me that I really only look at my work once it is printed. The beauty of this 2 part engagement with my photography practice is that when one aspect is giving me business, the other is often working well. All of my feelings of accomplishment are not relying on one part of my life as an artist.
What part of image-making do you find the most rewarding?
I find great joy in the making of hand made photographic objects.
Please tell us about your process and the work you submitted to the Denis Roussel Award.
I submitted some of my recent photogravure work. Some portraits, some from a series I call “ Objects of Beauty”. Some of the photogravures included a chin collé using a warm colored wash paper from Japan. All of the work are hand pulled photogravures from the last couple of years.
What tools have you found essential in the making of your work?
I work with film cameras exclusively, primarily 4×5 and some 8×10 large format. I have used film for so long I find it comforting and familiar so I stick with it. These days I rely on my Takach etching press for the photogravures. Photogravure prints include a step of hand wiping the ink on the plates. I find this step is where I can introduce many details that will contribute to the look and feel of the final print. So my hand is an essential tool in making my work. I love this idea.
Is there something in photography that you would like to try in the future?
I would like to experiment with combining photogravure with other intaglio processes including dry point, and spit bite etching on copper.
How does your art affect the way you see the world?
I find a great deal of comfort in beautiful art objects. It feels peaceful, and transporting to me in the best cases.
To learn more anout the work of Ray Bidegain please visit his site by clicking on his name.