Christopher Burkett | Cibachrome

Artist Statement

The world untouched and undefiled by man is one of indescribable beauty and wonder: a world filled with light and peace. The miracle of life unfolds before our eyes, and is seen in the tapestry of creation. All of our world, each living cell, every stone and drop of water, even the air and light around us, reflects and mirrors the glory and presence of the Creator and calls us to respond with wonder and praise.

Photography is an expression of the world we live in, and of what we see and experience. Many contemporary photographs seem filled with negativity and warped, malignant things. That these negative things and perceptions exist now for a time in the world with us is indisputable, but I feel strongly that there is no need to give life and strength to them. Too often, attempting to represent the sacred in nature is maligned as being naive or simplistic, and is said to be unchallenging and visually unsophisticated. This need not be so.

The purpose of my photography is to provide a brief, if somewhat veiled, glimpse into that clear and brilliant world of light and power. To the extent that these photographs help show that way, is the extent to which these images succeed.


Black and white photographic film made by Kodak in 1885 was a breakthrough. It was light, flexible, and had almost the same print quality as glass plates. At the same time, it allowed using smaller cameras with fewer accessories. But photographers around the world craved for colours, so in 1903 Autochrome was released. This Colour process used glass plates and potato starch to give the photogs of that era ability to capture colours. The next step was to adapt colour to the film.

It happened in 1936 when Kodak released Kodachrome, a colour reversal film for movies and photography. Agfa followed a year later with their Agfa Color Neu. Both of them were a great hit since they produced vibrant color slides with great sharpness and tones. But there was a problem: the film was easy to project, but not that easy to print. Since there was no positive printing process, making a print required producing an internegative (enlargement on negative film) which considerably lowered the quality of print.

Time passed, Kodak released Ektachrome, a more straightforward slide film with a standardized E process, but printmaking still was not so straightforward. The world needed a positive to positive printing process and in the 1960s it got it.

Cibachrome was developed by Ilford and Ciba AG and addresses all the problems with conventional slide printing. It was a positive to positive process, which means that contrary to negative printing, where areas on photo paper that received light by the action of developer produced density and colours, it was the other way around. All of the pigments (13 layers) were preset on the paper from the start, and after reaction to light and development, those pigments gradually reside from the paper leaving the image behind.

By using a polyester base this paper was extremely stable and had a vivid image. The paper has high contrast so for printing, less contrasty sides were produced. Also, the use of dodging and burning is a must. But they work differently than in negative printing: burning makes the image lighter, dodging makes it darker. The process was as follows:
1. Development
2. Bleaching
3. Fixing

It should be noted that this paper was so highly acclaimed, that in the 2000s it was also used for lightjet printers, giving the ability to forgo using of slides. The quality was superb, but this process gave way to more simpler and cost-effective methods of printing. So the star started to set.

The first buy-out happened in 2005. Tokyo-based company Oji paper acquired a deal for the production of Cibachrome but could not reinvigorate interest in the process, so they gave way to Paradigm Global Partners LLP. It was too late however, in 2011 company announced the discontinuation of the Cibachrome papers and chemistry.

Last production run was announced, giant quantities of paper were sold, so the process could live another day. 10 years to be exact, because the paper itself, if kept frozen, will be colour perfect for another ten years. But there was a problem with chemistry. Being highly sophisticated, it could be produced only by Ilford and had a shelf life of 3 years, even refrigerated. In 2013 production of the process chemicals stopped, so the process was doomed. Everything looked gloomy for a couple of years until some good news arrived: retired Ilford chemist acquired rights to produce these chemicals and made them far better by selling them in powder form, which made them considerably more lasting.

So this is the stage of the process we live in right now. The last chapter of 60 years of Cibachrome is now. In the near future, we will stop seeing new works in this process, but since it is so stable, we will be seeing this achievement of human minds for a long long time.

Christopher Burkett

He was born in 1951 and was reared in the Pacific Northwest. In 1975, while he was a brother in a Christian order, he became interested in photography as a means of expressing the grace, light and beauty he saw present in the world of nature. Over the next twenty years, he gradually perfected his craft so photography could be the means through which he could express his innermost feelings and inspiration. Today he works almost exclusively with color 8 x 10" transparencies.

In 1979, Burkett left the brotherhood to pursue photography and married his wife, Ruth. He learned the offset printing process and ran four-color printing presses and laser scanners to create detailed color separations. These years of experience in the printing trade helped develop his fine discernment of color and gave him a deep understanding of the principles of color and tone reproduction.

Today Burkett travels extensively throughout the United States to photograph. His masterful printing and numerous exhibitions rapidly brought him international acclaim. His photographs are featured in many public and private fine art collections. Burkett also has taught several workshops sponsored through the Friends of Photography and Anderson Ranch Arts Center.

For 8x10" work he uses a Calumet C1 camera, a Sachtler Video18S Tripod, and 300mm Rodenstock Apo-Sinaron S, 450mm Nikkor M, 600mm Fujinon C, and 800mm Schneider Apo-Tele-Xenar lenses. He also has a Hasselblad set, which includes two 205TCC camera bodies, E24 backs, and CFI 100mm, CFI 120mm, CFE 180mm, CFE Superachromat 250mm, TPP Tele- Superachromat 300mm, and CFE Tele-Superachromat 350mm lenses. The films he most often uses are both from Fuji, the Provia 100F RDP III and Velvia 50 RVP.