Roman Loranc’s Two-Hearted Oak is not easy to come by in the UK. In fact, it’s not easy to come by at all! At one point, copies were available for $500-$1000 0n Amazon and so I waited for some to pick up this copy for about $30. The dust cover is a little ratty, but it’s what’s inside that counts!
For those of you not familiar with this photographer, I interviewed Roman Loranc last year. He gave me lots of his time and shared a great many insights into how his work and career developed, along with his approach. During this interview he explained that he was quite shocked at the public response to this book. Loranc is a US-based professional black and white photographer, shooting 5×4″ film and printing traditional darkroom silver prints.
So what’s special about this 29cm square, 1.5cm thick, 79 page book? In terms of the physical item, not a lot. It is a nicely sized and constructed book and the print quality is decent, but it is not as jewel-perfect as some. Loranc’s photographs are all chemically toned, either in Thiocarbamide/Sepia, Selenium, or both, and these tones are well very conveyed (and harmoniously so) in the book.
It is well laid out, with significantly more variation than Paul Caponigro’s New England Days (which is not a judgment either way). However, what makes this book stand out is the fact that it is a wonderfully concentrated vessel for much of Loranc’s best work. It contains all of the images that helped make his name and all of the images that I still consider to be my favourites. That’s rare for a photo book. Perhaps it is because this book was conceived and designed by Roman himself, rather than by a third party twenty years later? Have you noticed how many photo books have peculiar image selections? Sometimes even the huge ‘end of career’ retrospectives have astonishingly frustrating omissions. But not this book. If you were following Loranc fifteen years ago and loved his work, the chances are that pretty well every image that you strongly connected with will be in Two-Hearted Oak!
Simply put, this book is a feast of fantastic photographs. Loranc’s work is very different in style to the traditional ‘Big American’ f64 types. It is less formal, more poetic, less neutral and full of passion. You can very clearly feel Loranc’s love of the outdoors and the ordinary subject matter he has explored (primarily) in the Central Valley of California, where he resides.
For those of you who have eagerly read Tim Rudman’s books/writings on darkroom toning and lith printing, you either know of Loranc already or you’ll be really glad you know of him now. Loranc’s work is arguably among the finest examples of toned B&W photography by a living, professional fine-art photographer. It can be intimidating to get right, to find consistency and to produce harmonious bodies of work. Some critics may scoff at the idea of such variable ‘aesthetic’ toning (although both Selenium and Sepia increase archival permanence), but the rapidly growing list of prints that are now sold out say otherwise.
I’m going to shut up now. Enjoy the photographs and perhaps go and have a look at Roman Loranc’s Website.