Born in Jersey City, N.J. on the first day of summer, eight months after the Cuban Missile Crisis : Colin Burke is an artist living and working at West Rock in New Haven, CT. Passionate about history, science, and DIY culture, Burke’s practice centers around researching the inventors, inventions and innovative arts of the past; paying attention to the latest discoveries; and connecting the dots forward. All of this inspires him to push visual media to where it can best present his inner vision.
“I want to create a space where people can reflect upon how they spend their time. Not in a confrontational way, but in a way that is thoughtful. I would like people to experience my work in a similar way to how I feel when I have a new idea, or when I go on a hike to install and retrieve my pinhole cameras out in the woods–energized, meditative, restorative, appreciative, hopeful,” Burke explains. “If I can make an image that stops people for a moment, giving them that space to reflect and relax, then I feel I’ve done my job,” Burke says, adding “you don’t need to understand all of what went into making these photographs, but it might help your experience to know a little something about it.”
Cyanotype (or the blueprint process), a process requiring two steps: exposure to sunlight for 10-15 minutes and rinsing in plain water, dates back to the 1840s. The light-sensitive paper exposed to the sun would turn blue. Anything blocking the sun from reaching the light-sensitive paper (an object, shadow, or lines of a drawing on translucent paper) would result in white or lighter blue areas. Cyanotype was used to make copies of original hand-drafted architectural drawings up to the mid 20th Century when another UV light based process, Diazo, (or bluelines) became the norm. (Burke, having worked in architectural firms, has hands-on experience with the Diazo process.) By the end of the 20th Century, hand drawn construction plans were the exception being replaced by computer-aided drafting, or CAD, and digital drawings. Today, black and white print-outs from large format plotters are the standard, though many people still refer to these sets of printouts as “blueprints.”
Camera obscura (room-size pinhole cameras) is an ancient technology, the earliest known record of the understanding of optics and light date back to 400BC China and philosopher Mozi. These images are made with pinhole cameras Burke made to withstand the elements. He loads his cameras and hikes out into the woods mounting them facing the southern sky. Months later, in most cases a year later, he goes back to find the surviving cameras, brings them back to his studio, and removes the paper negatives. These are scanned and inverted revealing what appears to be a color photograph of a landscape.