Photographic works by Montréal-based artist D.R. Cowles include a major historical documentation made between 1993 and 2000 of the remnants of 2,000 years of Jewish life in North Africa, as well as images of Islamic and traditional Moroccan architecture, North African landscape, Roman ruins and art antiquities. Recent work includes still life studies and large composite images constructed from multiple prints.
Cowles works exclusively with large format cameras, and his prints are made on printing-out paper, a late-19th century process whereby the negative is placed directly onto the paper and the image is developed by exposure to high ultraviolet light (originally direct sunlight) instead of a chemical developer. The print is then toned in a gold chloride solution, undergoing varying degrees of colour change as the original silver emulsion is coated in gold. The paper has an exceptionally long tonal range, yielding shades that can vary from sepia-like to chestnut to purplish to charcoal, depending on the processing given each sheet. A master printer in this largely unexplored medium, Cowles has learned to fine-tune these hard-to-predict tonal variations and use them to expressive effect, even to the point of being able to access the whole range of shades in a single print by toning selectively with a brush. The last company to make printing out paper discontinued production and dismantled its factory in 2007.
D.R. Cowles' work is included in numerous public and private collections, among them the National Gallery of Canada, the Canadian Centre for Architecture, and the Tel Aviv Museum.