RTG Photoworks
The Photographic Work of Robert T. Gumpper
info@rtgphotoworks.com
This website is intended to be a starting point in familiarity with the work of Robert T. Gumpper. 
The selected portfolio is a small but representative portion of the photographer's works.  Because of the scope of his work, details on each piece including dimensions, process, date of completion and pricing are not included on the site, but are available on request, as well as information on the hundreds of images not on the site.  I look forward to promptly answering all inquiries including additional information on Mr Gumpper’s life and the numerous processes he used.  It should be noted that the work on this site, and in fact the majority of his work, was done between 1950-1975, long before the digital age.  As his daughter I was around to see much of it created first hand, and can provide insight and information on the photographer and his work.

Contact Valerie Gumpper at info@rtgphotoworks.com
Biography
Robert Gumpper was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1928.  At the age of ten he started using cameras and a darkroom at his fathers business. Inspired by an artistic mother, young Robert learned how to express emotion through photography.  He studied and was most influenced at an early age by the Pictorial Movement and the Photo Secessionists.
By the time he was sixteen he had taken the first place award in the Detroit Photographers Guild.

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.

In 1949, between high school and college, Gumpper studied at The Mortensen School of Photography in Laguna Beach, California.
William Mortensen  (currently enjoying a resurgence of interest, and written about in ‘American Grotesque’ by Larry Lytle and Michael Moynihan) was a Hollywood still photographer who specialized in studio lighting  and photography.  He was known for his flair for the over dramatic, but also for his excellence with lighting and the use of the Bromoil process, and a method known as abrasion tone.  This is a process where the print or negative is manually altered by scraping or stippling with tools.  He was derided by purist photographers like Ansel Adams for turning photography into paintings, or drawings, with disregard for the purity of photographic image.  Mortensen's use of these techniques created intense mood and emotion.  It was just what Gumpper was looking for.

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.

The next stage in Gumpper’s life was military enlistment.
It was 1950, and the Korean War had erupted.  He enlisted as a photographer, and after graduating from The Signal School, which he credited with furthering his photographic and cinematic abilities, he was sent on assignment, first to New York and then to Paris, on the staff of SHAPE, the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Powers in Europe.  His primary assignment there was following and promoting then-General Dwight D. Eisenhower.  He found this a stimulating assignment and environment, learning about politics, life in foreign countries, and the horrors of war.  He and his new wife began a life long love affair with the city of Paris.
After his assignment ended, The Gumppers settled in Bridgewater, Connecticut.

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.


The height of Gumpper’s creativity and productivity occurred here during the turbulent '60s and '70s.

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.

Exhibits

Westover School - Middlebury, CT  1973

Burnham Library - Bridgewater, CT  1973, 1985

Alcott Damon Smith Gallery - Kent, CT  1975

Greater Hartford Civic and Arts Festival - Hartford, CT  1973, 1975

Washington Art Association - Washington, CT  1975

Slater Memorial Museum - Norwich, CT  1975

Galerie les Contrade - Lacoste, France 1975

Publications

Source for The Keepers of Light, by William Crawford. Primary contributor for Oil/Bromoil chapter, p.213-226

Post Factory Photography Publication #6,  2001 - “Bromoil Express”

Teaching

Group and individual seminars on Antique Processes - Northlight Studio, Bridgewater, CT

Seminars - The Bromoil Process - Southeastern Massachusetts University

 Seminars - The Bromoil Process - University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT