Biographical SketchI graduated in chemistry at the University of Oxford (1962), where I subsequently obtained a doctorate by research in molecular spectroscopy (1965). I then followed an academic path, lecturing and researching in structural and inorganic chemistry at the University of Manchester (1964-92); becoming a Chartered Chemist and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (1982).
I am now independently committed to studying the science, history and art of alternative photographic processes. A Kodak Photographic Bursary (1984) initially supported my research on printing in noble metals, which was recognised by the award of the Hood Medal of the Royal Photographic Society (1990), of which I was a Fellow, and by the Richard Farrand Memorial Award of the British Institute of Professional Photographers (1991). I am self-taught as a photographer, but my experience has been greatly enriched by collaboration with the noted photographic artist Pradip Malde.
I have acted as a consultant to the National Museum of Photography, Film & Television, Bradford, England, and other major museums, and have supervised postgraduate research in photograph conservation at the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Royal College of Art, and in alternative photographic processes at the University of Derby. I acted as the first External Examiner for the new M.A. course in Photographic Studies at De Montfort University.
The results of my research on improving historic processes, such as the Platinotype, Cyanotype and Chrysotype, and the invention of the new Argyrotype process, have been published in both the technical and popular photographic literature; some of these publications are reproduced in these pages. Several of my historical studies of early photography have appeared in the academic periodical, History of Photography.The conservation of the first photographs on paper is the subject of my book Mechanisms of Image Deterioration in Early Photographs, (1994), and Herschel's blueprint process is described in my book Cyanotype: the History, Science and Art of Photographic Printing in Prussian Blue (1999), both published by the National Museum of Science and Industry, London. In November 1999, I was a Mellon Research Fellow at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin, to study the archives of Sir John Herschel, in preparation for my third and fourth books: The Chrysotype Manual and Gold in Photography (2006), both published by ffotoffilm.
By way of an artistic counterbalance to these scientific and scholarly activities, since 1981 I have also exhibited my personal photographic work widely in galleries in Europe and the USA ; examples have been acquired for several national collections. I have conducted specialist workshops and masterclasses in alternative printing techniques throughout the country, and appeared on BBC Television in the Open University series 'The Chemistry of Creativity' (1995).
Photography, for me, provides an ideal meeting ground for science and art: I find my raison d'etre in the endeavour to bridge the notorious gap between the 'Two Cultures', by employing chemical science to enhance the art of photographic expression.
My Scottish ancestors, from Orkney and Shetland, belonged to the family Irvine, whose motto is Sub Sole sub Umbra Virens: "Flourishing in sunlight and shadow".
I am content with that.
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