I don't know how well known Trevor Ashby's work is - he's appeared in various magazines, is/was a member of Arena and has produced a stunning body of work at the Eden Project and, more recently, at the Royal Cornwall Museum.
I first came across Trevor's work at his exhibition at The Eden Project in Cornwall. The photographs were stunning. Large 20x24 prints of photographs Trevor had taken of a broad range of seeds and plants in the biomes. The biomes are huge geodesic 'glass houses' that maintain a tropical temperature and humidity in which exotic plants can thrive. Trevor spent months visiting the biomes and photographing specimens against a black velvet background (the background is one of two black velvet dresses bought for Trevor by his son as a christmas present!)
So far so prosaic, expect that Trevor was using Mamiya and Rolleiflex TLRs - for close-up work. As you can imagine, this was challenging work, focusing and composing and then having to move the camera to align the taking lens with the object to be photographed. On top of that the humidity in the biomes is such that the cameras soon succumbed to any number of mechanical maladies which Trevor had to fix personally.
The outcome of this amazing effort is a collection of more than eighty astonishing prints. Trevor is a retired art teacher and his compositions reflect his knowledge and years of experience of working with still lifes. His printing is of the very highest order. He bleaches and re-develops and uses a combination of toners to produce amazing combinations of warm and cool tones, inky blacks and the finest gradations of tonality I've seen outside of a Michael Kenna exhibition. But perhaps the most amazing effect is the apparent glow of lightly sepia toned highlights against the inky black background. The effect is 3D and stunning.
Following a brief review of Trevor's Eden exhibition that I posted here on APUG, Trevor contacted me to say thanks and to answer some of my questions. Since then we've maintained regular email contact and his stories continually inspire me to get out and take more black and white photos. This weekend Trevor invited me and fellow APUGer, Crispin UK, to visit his latest exhibition - a combination of Eden and his most recent Royal Cornwall Museum work - in Truro and to follow that up with dinner and a look round his darkroom and archives. What an opportunity! We jumped at the chance and made the four hour trip down to Truro.
Trevor's latest work, unearthing and photographing hidden gems, all but forgotten in the Royal Cornwall Museum's archives once more showcases his wonderful eye for composition and his astonishing ability to print black and white photographs. Trevor talked us through the exhibition and the challenges he faced (he daren't lick the end of roll sticky paper on his Delta 100 film as many of the stuffed animals had been preserved in arsenic!)
Following a coffee in the museum cafe where Trevor talked of Arena and his friendship with Tim Rudman, we retired to his house, met his family, enjoyed a home made and rather fabulous Thai curry before Trevor gave us the grand tour of his working environment. He is a remarkably practical man, fashioning enlargers from a selection of broken devices, creating his own 6x12 cameras from turn of the twentieth century folding cameras and generally getting by and making do with whatever comes to hand.
Trevor prints big - 16x20 and 20x24 in the main which means that he consumes a lot of expensive paper, chemicals and frames and this is all funded from his teacher's pension, which can't be easy! It also means that he has many, many huge boxes of fabulous prints piled high in rooms throughout his house. Rifling through these boxes is a highly pleasurable experience as image after image engages the eye and the imagination.
It's not often that one gets to meet one's inspiration and less often still that they turn out to be such friendly and open people. I can only recommend that you seek out some of Trevor's original prints. He's sadly under-exposed (excuse the pun) by galleries so take the opportunity to see his work at The Royal Cornwall Museum while you can. You can see some examples of his work on his website: http://www.trevorashby.com but unfortunately the scans there-in give no clue to the beauty and dynamic range of the originals.
I might take a look next weekend if I have time.