“What one chooses to do AFTER the image is captured is truly the beginning of the end, or the end of the beginning, depending on how far the artist wishes to travel.” ~ Photographer David Brookover
Photographer David Brookover is thinking about his dog Mocha.
Mocha, for 13 years Brookover’s constant companion and muse, passed away just a few years ago. If you’ve stopped by the Brookover Gallery, a keystone arts space in downtown Jackson’s Gaslight Alley, you’ve visited Mocha as much as you visited Brookover’s expansive photographic vistas depicting landscapes, seasons and wildlife of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
Brookover is rolling out new images of the Tetons and their environs just in time for Jackson Hole Fall Arts Festival 2021, and one of his finest depicts a spot in Wyoming’s Buffalo Valley where a young Mocha took some of her first life walks with her owner.
“I was visiting my friend Frank Chapman, the owner of Heart Six Ranch,” Brookover recalls. “I’d just left his house and was on my way back home after checking out the site. This magical storm just appeared over my head, so I pulled over and took out my medium format camera and got to work. I still use my large format camera, but I prefer to use it for portraits because it’s obviously bigger and harder to move around, and it’s much more methodical. With this new unit, photographs look like they’ve been taken with a large format lens, but the equipment is incredibly nimble, and images are so crisp! The technology enables me to really interact with the environment, and that’s crucial because as we all know, moments here pass quickly. You’ve got to be ready.”
Brookover’s Tetons appear surgically sliced and affixed to their big, big sky. Undeniably dynamic, the mountain range loves this photographer’s camera lens. And Brookover loves talking about these mountains and all the regional images he captures. Photographers themselves can be hard to track, but Brookover is present and accessible at his gallery; he enjoys talking about process and materials, and it’s a big reason for his continued success.
Accordingly, he stays on top of finding and using the finest photographic papers available and is currently realizing spectacular results with a German-made cotton rag paper that doesn’t utilize optical brighteners. Instead, the paper is coated with fine silver particles that produce remarkable reflective qualities. To illustrate its quality, he shows me a small print of one of his large-scale images printed on silver gelatin, and it’s impossible for me to tell the difference. These inks, adds Brookover, have an archival life of 400 years.
“That’s even longer than photography has been around,” he points out.
Our Dangling Conversation, Brookover’s portrait of a glossy-coated male moose set against a sparkling Grand Teton National Park December day, was another lucky photographic catch.
It’s one of the toughest shots I’ve done. Eleven years I tried over and over to get it. ~ David Brookover
“He walked right by me, 25 feet away,” recalls Brookover. “In winter moose are prone to licking salt off vehicle license plates, and that’s very detrimental to their health because the licking allows moose to spread a certain strain of pneumonia. So, you have to keep them away from your car. But this guy was just angling for a lick of the truck, and I got a good shot. The light was beautiful, the foreground is the focus and the background is a soft fade.”
A Tetons landscape very close to Brookover’s heart is Conrad’s View, a panorama taken near the former homestead of famed Tetons plein air painter Conrad Schwiering.
“I had tried to get this view near his place so many times over the years, but there was always too much snow, the light was wrong, you couldn’t see the Tetons, for days, and on and on. But I am relentless, and one day I was finally in the right place at the right time. The clouds were swirling, and a hole opened up in an incredible spot in the sky. Light was hitting all the right places, gorgeous daytime formations, totally magical. It’s one of my toughest shots I’ve done. Eleven years I tried over and over to get it. I’m happy with the way it finally turned out.”
Brookover shoots entirely in black and white, the format he preferred when, before arriving in Jackson, he first moved to Tokyo with a plan to study blue light laser acupuncture. When that career path didn’t materialize, he turned to photography and never looked back. Success came quickly. On assignments for Fujifilm, his projects were almost always color shoots.
“I had done a few shows in Tokyo in the mid and late 90’s, so I had a lot of large-format photos that were ready to go from day one when Yuko (Brookover’s wife) and I moved here. After a few years of showing all that work in the gallery, I really wanted to return to the historical roots of photography and start displaying traditional, handcrafted one-of-a-kind pieces of art,” Brookover recalls. “The response was amazing, and to be honest I was able to keep my loyal color customers and, over time, develop a whole new clientele which brought us a lot of recognition and respect.
In 2006 we created a unique method that allowed us to print platinum palladium prints larger than the actual negative size. In 2008 we created a 30 x 41 inch platinum palladium which was, if not the largest, then certainly one of the largest platinum palladium prints in the world. No one disputed it then, and we checked with many platinum palladium printers; they had never made one that size nor heard of one being made. It was a very exciting, fun time. We also worked extensively in silver gelatin, photogravure, and bromoil printing.
Our edition numbers are 25 or less, because we cater to collectors. ~ D.B.
We came out with seven new platinums, starting them at $7,000, in editions of seven; and we returned to the silver gelatin. For a long time the large gelatin papers were unavailable because everything was going digital in bigger sizes. So we had to go to black and white ink jets, which were okay then, nothing like they are now. Incredible technology has evolved since. But we stayed with it, and around 2010 the lab told me they were able to get the large gelatin papers again, and I just thought, ‘Thank God!’”
Since then, Brookover and his printers have indulged in big silver prints, as well as platinums and photogravures, but people really know what a silver print is, he says.
Who needs 2500 editions of a print? Come on. Order a poster instead! ~ D.B.
“It’s when you sneak off to the darkroom with your girlfriend in high school photography class,” he laughs. “People had forgotten that that was silver gelatin, but it is, and they are handmade prints. It’s a time to remember. The feeling of seeing a picture begin to appear in developer fluid, it’s wonderful when you are first learning. And that’s what this is.”
What do collectors look for in a photograph?
Brookover notes that people are influenced by their own geography when it comes to buying fine photographic prints. There’s a certain crowd for platinum palladium, the type of printing process that allowed photography to first be accepted as fine art—the kind of work photography greats like Stieglitz, Paul Strand and Steichen were doing in the early 1900’s. Collectors from the East Coast are drawn to platinum because they like the combination of that form with content from Jackson Hole.
“Friends of mine from NYC used to come in and say how much they love buying art here because it’s so calming. It’s not tortured, in-your-face, torn up, and made by someone who is angry at the world. And folks like this style because it has a history. There are fewer editions of platinums than there are black and whites. People respect that. I keep all my edition numbers low. Who needs 3500 editions of a print? Come on. Order a poster instead! One artist proof means one artist proof, not 90 artist proofs,” says Brookover firmly. “I think the concept of so many artist prints was something concocted in Vegas!”
On the subject of edition numbers and proofs, Brookover points out that the printer has one proof, the Bon á tirer, or BAT. The phrase translates to “a good pull,” and denotes the chosen perfect impression of a work, one that sets the standard for all other impressions of a photograph. It also gets the artist’s official confirmation as the preferred image to use as the gold standard for an edition. A work falling short of the BAT is customarily destroyed.
Although you’ll see mostly large-scale prints in Brookover’s gallery, each is available in a variety of sizes.
“We offer our prints in various sizes depending on what type of printing method the client requests,” says Brookover. “We are known for our traditional handcrafted platinum palladium, silver gelatin, and photogravure images on historical Japanese and French papers. Our edition numbers are 25 or fewer because we cater to collectors. We have also embraced the tremendous technological advances in digital output with regard to archival pigment inks and their new 200-400 years predicted archival stability, along with dramatic advances in 100% cotton rag paper substrates.”
Digital is as valuable a photographic style as any other, Brookover adds. A majority of the 10 most expensive photographs ever sold are digital.
“This is the best summer we’ve EVER had!”
This arts writer has heard Brookover say that before in the 15 years we’ve known each other, but insists summer 2021 takes the cake. He’s also been joined in the showroom by Mocha’s successors, Peyote and Chai.
“Usually, we have a few dips during the summer, but this year we’ve been going gangbusters since May. Boom, boom, boom. Phenomenal. Our customers are a mix of people who already have homes here, people who walk in the gallery doors for the first time, and the people who are coming to Wyoming in droves right now, buying new homes. They’ll buy many images at once. And word of mouth about the gallery is strong.”
Last summer, in the midst of a summer Covid shutdown, Brookover sold the final print of his iconic tribute to Ansel Adams, 64 Years Later, a panoramic of the Snake River and Tetons, to a buyer for $100,000.
David Brookover also anticipates having a new restaurant open next door to his Gaslight Alley space. The alley has no restaurant traffic, he points out, and an upscale eatery a few steps away would increase foot traffic. But, what kind of restaurant would he like to see?
Brookover doesn’t hesitate. “I hope it’s French!”
The Brookover Gallery will be open until 7:00 pm during Fall Arts Festival. Visit David, Peyote and Chai in Gaslight Alley, on the northwest corner of Cache and Deloney Streets. Check him out online at www.brookovergallery.com and on Instagram @thebrookovergallery .
The 2021 Jackson Hole Fall Arts Festival kicks off WEDNESDAY, September 8th and concludes SUNDAY, September 19th. At this writing, most Festival events look to be on, though you should make sure to check with your favorite artists, galleries and museums for updated Covid protocol. The most recent update received here is that on September 10th’s P&P Art Walk, scheduled from 5-7:00 pm, will take place, but many galleries will NOT be serving food and when possible, activities will be held at least partially outside gallery walls.
Crowds love to gather during this much anticipated 10-day celebration of our arts scene, so please keep yourself and others safe by wearing your most colorful, creative mask.