Artist spotlight: Sean Hanratty’s black and white photos

Rome has been one of the locales for artists since the Renaissance. Apart from Paris, it may be one of the premier cities for aspiring artists in Europe, from painters to photographers.

Last spring, Sean Hanratty was fortunate enough to take advantage of the study abroad program St. John’s offers in Italy. His black and white photos are currently on display along with several other artists in the basement of St. John Hall, towards the theology department.

Hanratty, currently a third year photography major, spent his spare time in Rome examining the eternal city through the lens of his rangefinder.

“I just would walk around and look for anything that caught my interest; something that might make for a good picture” he said.

The aspect of his work that is most obvious at first glance is a sort of intimacy.

The closeness is obtained by the sleekness of Hanratty’s Bessa-R Voigtlander rangefinder.

This type of camera is lighter and less obvious than the traditional Single Lens Reflex camera that is a staple to many street photographers.

As it is, Hanratty’s inspirations are based in street photographers Robert Frank and Gary Winogrand.

The images also stand out due to the high contrast of the prints. The technical aspect of this has to do with a process called pushing the film.

To explain this briefly, in the pushing the film process, the film is tricked into thinking it has a different type of film and accepts the light longer and accentuates the highlights.

The result is an image that has deep blacks and full whites that captures the viewer’s attention.

Being in Rome last spring was a time of great importance in the world and therefore Hanratty had many photographic opportunities

“After the death of the Pope, I would go around taking pictures of peoples’ reactions,” said Hanratty.

You can see these reactions in the people, and the approach he used does not seem intrusive.

Also, Hanratty had the opportunity to go to some of the many peace rallies held in the Italian capital. It presents a third-party view of the happenings in Iraq, and the photos document the events.

As with all St. John’s photography majors, Hanratty is spending his mandatory year at the International Center of Photography in Manhattan.

The world-renowned school offers students a chance to further pursue their photographic studies.

“I am taking a color class there,” Hanratty said.

Color facilities are highly difficult to maintain due to processing and chemical costs.

For his future work Hanratty is interested in using studio lighting outside of the studio.

“I’m getting really interested in studio work,” he said.

Hanratty hopes to follow in the footsteps of Phillip Louis DiCorcia, who was known for setting up flash traps and photographing unsuspecting pedestrians.