Featured are color studio portraits, still lifes, and black-and-white landscapes photographed in California and Eastern Europe. All of the photographs were made with room-sized cameras constructed by the artist.
Richard Learoyd’s singular working methods use a camera obscura to create remarkable extra-large-format darkroom photographs, up to 85 inches wide. Both in the studio and in nature, the focal point of the artist’s camera lens captures a nearly hyperreal level of detail, lending the person or landscape a heightened quality of presence. This is contrasted with the shallow depth of field, in which the subject gradually becomes out of focus as it recedes from the camera, as if to escape the visual acuity of the viewer.
In Learoyd’s most recent larger-than-life portraits, his subjects are turned away from the camera, seemingly unknowable. But the artist’s palpable curiosity manifests itself in the intensely rendered details. The photographs have a physicality and tactility that projects a desire for closeness. Subtle use of gesture, color, and pose become signifiers of the subject’s inner life, while the translucent qualities of skin and fabric suggest human vulnerability and fragility.
Learoyd has said of his portraits, “The pictures are about extending the duration of looking… My hope is that they inspire a truly reflective view: a view of intimacy and understanding, and insight into another that will increase our humanity.”
Likewise, in Learoyd’s new black-and-white landscapes, his process is one of search and discovery, revealing surprising scenes with quiet delicacy. His varied subjects reflect encounters with previously unfamiliar terrain, on the coast of California and in rural areas of Bulgaria, Romania, and Poland. Whether photographing a beached whale or the ruins of a monument, his photographs capture an imposing presence, its texture, weight, and volume. Revealing the physical and metaphorical gravity of the scene, Learoyd’s photographs embody the timelessness of the landscape.
Richard Learoyd’s first solo museum exhibition, Dark Mirror, was mounted at the Victoria & Albert Museum in 2015. More recently, The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles presented the solo exhibition Richard Learoyd: In the Studio, which will travel to The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, February 10 to June 11, 2017.
Learoyd’s photographs are in the collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Museum of Modern Art in New York; SFMOMA, San Francisco; The Getty, Los Angeles; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Tate and Victoria & Albert Museum in London; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; and Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, among others. In 2015, Aperture and Pier 24 Photography published Day for Night, a major 328-page monograph of Richard Learoyd’s work.