Swiftcurrent Lake

Photographer/artist Paul Roark's "Swiftcurrent Lake" is among the works on display at Gallery Los Olivos in September.

Paul Roark

Photographer Paul Roark is internationally collected and recognized for the artistry of his images as well as his contributions toward advancing black and white photographic printing technology via carbon pigment ink sets.

For the first time, he is displaying his dramatic B&W images on large “Carbon on Canvas” prints. He is the Gallery Los Olivos Featured Artist for the month of September. An artist’s reception will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. Sept. 10

“Photography has been such an important part of my life and psyche that I want to help others reap those same rewards,” Roark said. “I develop new approaches for my own use, and it costs me nothing to share the results of my efforts with others.”

A significant part of Roark’s photographic journey has been exploring and pushing the envelope of B&W technology. Growing up with a darkroom, he mastered the traditional silver halide film and paper technologies. But inkjet printers made the wet darkroom obsolete. As such, optimizing the best inkjet printers for B&W photography became a major focus of Roark’s attention. It was a critical and, with the OEM inks, limiting part of the evolving digital darkroom.

Making a neutral B&W print from color pigments is not a good idea, Roark explained. Even if one can get the image neutral, it won’t stay that way because of differential fading of the color pigments. However, the carbon bond is the strongest in nature, and carbon pigments have been used for printing for thousands of years.

Roark searched for and found the best carbon pigments that could be used for inkjet printing. Using the carbon pigments in various dilutions, prints made with Roark’s inksets are not only very smooth, but have also been found by a third-party testing company to be many times more durable than prints made with commercial ink sets.

“It’s a labor of love that I don’t do for profit,” Roark said. “The most important rewards are psychological.”

In this show Roark takes his images — some old and some new — and prints them on canvases that are large enough to delight viewers in not only the fascinating forms of nature and urban landscapes, but also the details Roark so meticulously records. Often, they are too small for casual viewers to appreciate, he explained.

The canvases are displayed in two distinct modes, with some under acrylic and some unglazed, though sprayed with an acrylic coating to protect them. All work is framed and, rather than being stretched, is adhered to an acid-free substrate that will not sag or need restretching. The framing also protects the edges and corners from the damage that canvas wraps always seem to suffer.

“It’s interesting that in testing the canvas images with viewers, some have asked whether they are photographs or paintings,” Roark said. “The canvas substrate seems to give the image a slightly different character — one that some see as closer to a painting. The viewers were also amazed at the detail of the images that I work so hard to capture. Half of what I do is to capture not just the forms, but also the details of reality.”

This report was compiled by Lifestyle Editor Eric Gill.