The Arts

By Mark Lambert, M.S. '97

Preserving a unique vision

M.F.A. student David Rehor gets an extraordinary opportunity to work with photographer Judith Joy Ross

Radford University Master of Fine Arts student David Rehor accepted the opportunity of a lifetime in early May 2021. Margaret Adams, an associate professor of photography, and Mark Osterman, of the George Eastman Museum, asked Rehor to help with two major upcoming projects involving world-renowned photographer Judith Joy Ross and her curator, Joshua Chuang, at Ross’ home in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

The projects involved Rehor helping put together a show for Ross in Madrid, Spain, and assisting in archiving her work for the New York Public Library. Adams felt that Rehor would be a good candidate for the projects because of his experience with analog photographic processes and, more importantly, because of his maturity and demeanor. Ross was experiencing the early stages of dementia.

David Rehor, recipient of the Andrew W. Ross Endowed Photography Scholarship
David Rehor, recipient of the Andrew W. Ross Endowed Photography Scholarship

“For both projects, time was of the essence because of her condition,” Rehor said. “I was able to learn as much as I was to help, though, so everyone benefited from this amazing opportunity.”

Rehor said Ross prefers using printing-out processes for her fine photographic prints because the range of tones far exceeds normal developing-out processes done in a darkroom. He said these are essentially sun prints, exposed by the sun or UV light sources, on large format 8x10-inch negatives.  He said that Ross then contact-prints her photos on rare and expensive paper, no longer available commercially.

“We have to hand-make this paper today,” Rehor said. “Mark Osterman and his wife, France, make batches of this paper. And Judith prefers the brown color tone created using gold chloride solution. It’s a very difficult and expensive process, but the results are breathtaking.”

Rehor helped Ross make prints for her show in Spain using this process. At the same time, he was helping Ross learn to use Adobe Lightroom, creative software for organizing and manipulating images.

“Personally, I think the printing-out process is important to photography because the images are unique and hard to duplicate, making them more valuable and precious,” Rehor said. “More significantly, though, you can create transparencies from digital files to produce these prints. This means this ancient process can find a new life with digital photography for those who want to make fine art prints. I see a renaissance in the crafted print around the corner.”

Rehor helped Ross organize the tens of thousands of negatives she needed to scan into a digital archive for the New York Public Library. Rehor said that Sophie Harris, a student at Columbia College in Chicago, also helped with that portion of the project.

“As part of the project,” said Rehor, who credits Adams for arranging the unique opportunity, “I got to work with famous printer, instructor and photographer David Haas, who taught me how to split-tone prints. I got to visit Hank’s Photographic Services in New York City, where I met the crew who still prints for many famous photographers, and I got to inspect and handle the bulk of the Vivian Maier collection. It was a truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”