James Strain's Platinum Prints of Great Cranberry Island

Photos and text Copyright © 2002 James Strain

For about 15 years, our family annually came to GCI.  We stayed in the Yankee Barn (... what Betty called Vicky's little cabin next door to her house, ... which we rented from Betty Hartley) and later in the Bloom house.  I used to drag around an 8" x 10" camera making photos of whatever interested me and turning them into platinum prints.

First a word about platinum prints...  Platinum printing is a contact printing process, meaning the size of the prints is the size of the negatives.  I use principally an 8" x 10" camera making 8" x 10" negs which are then contact printed on watercolor paper on which I have coated a platinum-palladium emulsion.  Thus, the originals are 8"x10".

They have three important characteristics that make scanning [as used on this page to display the prints--BK] an unwonderful way to look at them.  They have very long "scale."  That is to say that they have more gradations among tones than normal black and white silver gelatin prints.  They have texture because they are typically printed on watercolor paper, not smooth paper.  This, for better or worse, shows up in the scans.  Finally, they are relatively "warm" toned.  They appear brownish.  That is simply a function of the chemistry.

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Betty's Lane

"Betty's Lane" ... was the first 8"x10" neg I ever did on the GCI.  We had arrived at the Yankee Barn in a rainstorm the night before.  We had with us two very young boys and an infant girl.  We thought we had gone to the edge of the Earth and the person who was supposed to pick us up (Beverly) had no idea who we were.  Someone else took us in the back of a pickup down to the Yankee Barn.  The next morning, this is the image that greeted me.  ...the fog had not yet begun to lift.  You could see the sun trying to burn it off looking up Betty's lane.
Island Church

"Island Church" was made in the mid-1980s. This image appeared in a national photographic magazine as one of the illustrations for an article I wrote on platinum printing.  I made it from the steps of the firehouse, cranking my tripod up as far as it would go.  You can tell it was one of those glorious mid-August days.  A child had left a bicycle next to the church and someone's truck was parked there.
The Shorey's Shore

"The Shorey's Shore" was made in the mid 1990s and depicts the far east end of the Island.  I am sure you have tromped over that terrain and have felt the peacefulness of looking out on the ocean on a calm day.
Otter Point

"Otter Point" was made in the late 1980s and shows a fairly typical shoreline rock formation with pines.  Unlike the back shore, this kind of formation can be found on most parts of the Island.
The Hotel and Mt. Desert

"The Hotel and Mt. Desert" was made from behind the Bloom's house.  The vista there is partcularly nice.  This photograph was made before Bob died and is a gentle reminder to me of the joy he brought to the Island.
The Back Shore

"The Back Shore" was made in the early 1990s.  The driftwood looked like it was dancing on the rock formation.  And the rock formations on that side of the Island are totally different from the ones anywhere else on the Island.
The Hotel

"The Hotel" was also made in the early 1990s.  No one has ever told me the story of why this building is called "The Hotel," but, like everyone else, I simply accept it.
The Town Dock

"The Town Dock" is the most easily identifiable thing about GCI.  Almost everyone, and certainly every non-native, makes his or her way to GCI's shore via this dock, whether one comes by mail ferry or by hired boat.  Normally, there is a seagull sitting atop the closest light post, but likely I scared it away.  This particular image shows the texture of the underlying watercolor paper that I use for platinum prints more than most.

more to follow...

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