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Chuck Kelton at Kelton Labs at Mana Art Center. Photos by Tema Stauffer.

Chuck Kelton is a fine artist, photo teacher and master printer.  He also owns two photographic labs that specialize in black and white printing.  Kelton Labs was established in 1988 and has two locations, one in Manhattan near Union Square and the other at Mana Art Center in Jersey City.

Q:  How long has Kelton Labs operated out of Mana Art Center?  What were some of the factors in your decision to locate your business here and how has your experience been so far?

A: We expanded to the New Jersey location in June 2010.  Essentially, we were looking for more space at an affordable price that was close to Manhattan and easily accessible for our clients and my students.  We had been operating from our studio on Union Square since 1986.  Personally, as an artist, the location in Union Square did not provide me with enough space for both my business and my expanding personal work.

Q:  What are some of the specific services that Kelton provides?  What makes your lab unique from other photographic labs in the area?

A: As the industry continues to evolve to a digital format, Kelton provides a traditional gelatin silver print.  Over the last three decades, I have become one of the few master printers in the industry.  Our clients have included both top commercial photographers as well as major artists from all over the world.  We deal with all of our work on a very personal level, whether it is for a college portfolio or a limited-edition handmade book for a major artist.

Washing Andrea Camuto's prints

Q:  You’ve named some significant clients on your website who are highly accomplished professionals working in fine art, editorial and commercial photography as well as important galleries and institutions in New York City.  Can you please describe examples of some of the projects you worked on with  a few of these clients?

A: We’ve recently finished a limited-edition handmade book for the photographer Lillian Bassman.  For Danny Lyon, we are producing a reissued portfolio of his project Conversations with the Dead, photographs of Texas prisons in 1966.  We are currently working with Andrea Camuto who has been photographing the impoverished culture, specifically women in Afghanistan.  We are also working with Mary Ellen Mark on a series of images from Mexico for the Texas University Collection.

Lillian Bassman's handmade book (edition of 10)

Q:  You’re an artist yourself who makes photographic works on paper.  A selection of your work is currently presented in a two-person show with Go Sugimoto at Robert Anderson Gallery through September 24th.  Please tell us about your process and your ideas in making this body of work.

A: This exhibition is a collection of work that I have completed over the last five years. My process involves the deconstruction of the landscape into a metaphorical image saturated with gesture.  All of this work was created by using a process called the photogram.  Rather than using a photographic camera and negative, I am taking the photographic paper and exposing that to a specific object -  in this case, trees, rocks, branches. The motivation for the creation of these images was inspired by the death of my father.  As I watched his physical and emotional presence evaporate, I was consumed with trying to create images which reflected that loss.

Q:  You also teach photography workshops at institutions such as the International Center of Photography, The Center for Photography at Woodstock and Peters Valley Craft Center in New Jersey.  What workshops are you offering in the coming year?

A: This fall, I will conduct an eight month workshop at the ICP in New York City.  In February, I will teach a workshop at the Basho Center in Philadelphia.  One of the ideas of this move to Mana was to create enough space to construct a workshop center for traditional analogue photography.

Q:  How would you describe the community at Mana Art Center to those who are not familiar with what happens here?  What kind of changes have you observed since you’ve been here, and what else would you like to see happen in this environment?

A: This is a very exciting environment.  All of my clients and students who have visited here have asked how they, too, can get a studio space.  It has been exciting to see the changes and development of this building, watching this group of dedicated people here at Mana take this beautiful old building and reconstruct it to be a complete artistic resource center.  When I moved in, I wasn’t fully aware of the concept for this building.  I must say that it is the perfect environment for both my personal work and my business.

Hale Gurland's photographs of Ground Zero

– Tema Stauffer