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Summer Holiday 1980 – from the archive

WISH YOU WERE HERE – Click here for more

 Holiday by Steve Bloom

In November 1980 Camera Magazine published a cover story about Steve Bloom’s series of twelve multi-layered unique hand-made Cibachrome prints of British people on holiday in the UK. Around the same time, an exhibition of the work was held in London’s Photographers’ Gallery and Bristol’s Rainbow Gallery.  Amateur Photographer Magazine also ran an article about the work which was titled ‘Wish You Were Here’ .

The photographs had been locked away from early 1981 until December 2009, but have recently been scanned and made available for public viewing.

This satirical look at the British at play shows people in incongruous settings, and Bloom’s sharp eye caught moments during the odd rituals of ice-cream, tinsel, kiss-me-quick hats and seaside frolics which were so prevalent at a time before low-cost air travel lured people away to more exotic climes.

Bloom wanted to illustrate, photographically, the contrast between the actual experience of being on holiday and the fantasies that holiday resorts evoke. The original photographs were taken on black and white film, and then converted to false colours using a unique and complex process which he developed. At a time when documentary photography was almost exclusively in black and white, Bloom decided to falsify colours and so echo the intensification of colour at holiday resorts. It as if, by heightening colours at resorts, the experience of being on holiday in itself became heightened. By doing a similar thing to photographs, the images form a powerful narrative about British people at play.  

The series was first published and exhibited six years before Martin Parr published his book The Last Resort, Photographs of New Brighton – another powerful satirical look at the British on holiday.

The printmaking process was complex in the extreme. Each negative was exposed onto a 12X16 inch sheet of black and white film, to produce a photographic cell. This was done four times using a pin registration system that ensured each cell could be realigned in exact register when contacted separately onto Cibachrome colour paper. Cibachrome has always been the most intensely saturated photographic process using traditional printing methods. 

Three cells were retouched by bleaching or dying certain areas. One cell served for each of the subtractive primary colours: magenta, cyan and yellow. A fourth cell was for more subtle colour control in areas such as flesh tones. Each cell was selectively masked to the required density with either dye (for subtle graded areas) or photo-opaque (for more saturated areas). Areas which required more delicate toning were hand coloured on the fourth cell, before contact printing all four cells, one at a time, in exact register onto the Cibachrome paper. The colours were made using the additive process.  Yellow, for example, was made by first exposing the paper to green light through a green filter, and then to red light through a red filter. Yellow reflects red and green. By doing it that way, the magenta and cyan dyes are bleached out, leaving a more vivid yellow than could have been achieved by simply exposing the paper to yellow light. This technique yields the most highly saturated colours that can be produced with a traditional photographic process.

Click here to see the pictures.

2 Comments to “Summer Holiday 1980 – from the archive”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Art Tech and Steve Bloom, topsy_top20k. topsy_top20k said: Happy Holidays – The British on holiday in 1980, seen as never before http://tinyurl.com/yzblyac […]

  2. rich t says:

    Lovely. Reminiscent of Tim Mara’s work.

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