This 8×10 Landscape Photographer is Racing Against Time to Finish His Work

If you want to see an example of passion and talent rolled up into one photographer, look no further than landscape photographer Christopher Burkett. PBS NewsHour just aired this wonderful 8-minute segment on Burkett’s life and work.

Burkett has been shooting for over 40 years, hauling his giant 8×10 large format camera — the same type used by Ansel Adams — around to all 50 states with his wife Ruth by his side.

And despite the world of photography largely transitioning to digital, Burkett remains fiercely loyal to his beloved film process, which he says produces “the ultimate in image quality.” But this presents a special set of challenges for the photographer.

Burkett still uses Cibachrome (AKA Ilfochrome), a polyester base paper that’s used for dye destruction positive-to-positive reproduction of film transparencies. Cibachrome prints are among the best in color photography materials at resisting fading, discoloring, and deterioration over time.

But in 2011, Cibachrome was announced as discontinued by Ilford due to declining demand and the rise of digital photography. The last production batch delivered was in 2012. Burkett responded to the news by buying up a 10-year supply of Cibachrome.

Burkett is now racing against the clock to finish his lifetime body of photography work before his chemicals and paper degrade and lose their effectiveness. And when he’s out of materials, he has no plans to make the switch to digital — instead, that’s when he’ll hang up his camera and call it a career.

“I also realize there’s gonna be one day when I leave the darkroom and I turn off the lights and that’s the last time I’ll be in there, so that’s a difficult thing because I love what I do,” Burkett tells PBS NewsHour. “And going out and photographing is one thing, but spending time bringing the light out of these images to share them with other people is really what it’s all about.”