The Arcantypes
Why It All Started

Be it creative or scientific, anyone exploring an idea or a concept, an emotional perception of something to be seen in another way, from a different viewpoint or side, will guard and keep hidden all the secret stages and levels that it took to arrive at what they wanted to achieve. Finding just the right match to light that one candle. It is not the many hours, days and weeks it takes or the trials and errors that matter, it is the very idea itself that is the one and only thing to consider. As Man Ray once put it so very succinctly "Of course, there will always be those who look only at technique, who ask 'how', while others of a more curious nature will ask 'why'. Personally, I have always preferred inspiration to information."

John Claridge (a much admired photographer) and Steve Walsh (a highly respected printmaker) have known each other, both professionally and personally, for many years. They decided to develop an idea they had talked about for some time of combining both traditional film and darkroom methods and techniques with what modern technology had to offer.

In 2001 John, having spent all his professional life living and working in London, made the decision to move to South West France not only to concentrate on several personal projects but also to explore the quality of light. No different from the many artists before him who took this route Van Gogh, Gauguin, Picasso, Matisse and C├ęzanne to name but a few.

Steve also moved out of London and settled down in Suffolk. There he built a darkroom to his own specifications thus allowing himself the space and time he needed to concentrate on his printmaking.

It was during one of Steve's many visits to John's home in France that they really got down to the very basic premise of what they wanted to do and how to achieve the truly unique quality of an Arcantype print. Both being great lovers and admirers of various historical photographic processes, they were intrigued by the possibility of bringing the two disciplines of tradition and modern together. Like any discipline there are the obvious basics that one must obey but, when it comes to creativity, there are simply no rules whatsoever.

Like all great photographers and printmakers, the eye and the heart already knows what will be on that piece of photographic paper. It comes down to pure honesty and passion to manifest that emotion into a finished print. No two original traditional prints can be the same; there will always be subtle differences. It is not the differences that matters but the sensitive skill of bringing together an image and an emotion. That is the true art of a printmaker.

They wanted to use some of the incredible and valuable tools that the digital world had to offer but still produce a print that was made in the traditional way, in a wet darkroom. Modern digital technology really opened the doors to allow them to fully explore at a much deeper level all the traditional photographic techniques, of which they both are very much aware.

Then came the time necessary to focus on experimenting and exploring all the steps and stages that they needed to go through to achieve the special quality they were looking for. The results, of which is basically an eight-stage process, is an Arcantype print.

What they achieved was exactly what they were searching for, but what to call it? The name had to be as unique and as individual as the print and the process itself. The suffix 'type' has been used from the birth of photography to classify or categorise specific and different kinds of printing processes (Ambrotype, Cyanotype, Kallitype, Collotype, Daguerreotype etc) so that was their starting point. A name that referred to nothing that could be confused with anything currently used or had existed before. So they decided on 'Arcan', part of the name of the small hamlet where John lives and works. And so the Arcantype was born.

All our prints are for sale. As well as being bought by private collectors, some of the Arcantypes you see on our website, together with those that have been specifically made to clients' briefs, are already being exhibited in settings such as restaurants and bars. With the vast number of images available from John's archive, plus the diversity of subject matter, these unique Arcantype prints could just as equally be exhibited in retail outlets or hotels, with images being tailor-made to a client's precise needs or brief. If you have any questions or queries we would be delighted to hear from you. You will find all contact details on our Contact page.