This Platinum print “Enchanted Castle” shows his early love for antique photographic processes, and the evocative use to which they can be put. He avidly studied and produced prints in a wide range of antique processes. Gum Bichromate, Platinum and Palladium printing, Kallitype, Dye Transfer, and his favorite, Bromoil and related oil processes.
His interest in these processes was not just in the mood they evoked, but how they lent themselves to the creation of unique prints instead of editions, and to the permanence of the image through the use of archival inks, dyes and papers. Permanence became his call to action, second only to the mood or beauty of the image.
These processes and more were the foundation for Robert Gumpper’s photographic career.
But it was more than the techniques he learned that made William Mortensen a key figure in his life. "I was interested not so much in his techniques as in his outlook. He was less concerned with the specific person he was photographing and more interested in finding the universal in them. He looked for something timeless,” Gumpper stated in a 1985 interview for the New York Times. It was this search for the "universal" that motivated Gumpper for the rest of his life. Finding not just what is timeless but also what images connect and move us all, like dream symbolism from the collective unconscious.
Here, they set up a home and separate studio for painting and photography. It was from this studio that Gumpper’s creativity flourished, but only between bouts of depression and alcoholism.
He produced sensual images of nudes, landscapes, still lives and sculpture. He made anti-war statements in some, expressed his fear of death and the unknown in others, and evoked simple beauty in many. He also ran a portraiture business from his studio at this time, and taught the photographic processes he had become known as a master of.
Robert Gumpper died in 2005. The alienation from society he felt was both torturous to him, and an inspiration to his creative genius. It is what inspired his “Search for the Universal.”
That he so often was successful in finding the “Universal” in his images is the strong appeal of his work, and his lasting legacy.