Kelvin Bown

Reawakening The Past

Jordan / Amman

Kelvin specializes in antique historical photograph restoration, applying contemporary digital techniques to original archival materials. His exhibitions present themed collections of historical images, showing what Jordan, Palestine, Egypt, Syria and Iraq were like in early 20th century, creating windows to the past aiming to bring a sense of closeness, tangibility, and acknowledgement to the roots of the region. Kelvin’s work encourages appreciation of another aspect of life in the region, through showing diverse locations and various aspects of life, in a peaceful coexistence of various faiths and peoples, living in unspoken respect, and communion with nature. He hopes to encourage and inspire protection of the region’s values and heritage, and reflection upon how they may be applied to the situations we face today.

The Challenges

Kelvin faces a variety of challenges due to the nature of his work. From the time needed to achieve his artistic goals in this field-- his digital reconstruction of the interior roof pattern of the Dome of the Rock took almost 300 hours--, to finding the most effective ways to share and convey the message of his work, to having more images he would like to include than the time needed to work on those, Kelvin’s difficulties are plenty. Often there are a myriad of different ways to approach specific technical situations, and Kelvin very often will go through an array of techniques in order to make sure the best final result is achieved. Sometimes the exact date, photographer, and location of these antique photographs are completely unknown, so it may not be possible to answer questions about these accurately.

Impact of work

When people directly print historical images, even from the original slides, a lot of information contained in the image cannot be seen, and they often look very flat and lifeless, like something from a lost past. Kelvin tries to apply many techniques, including some refined techniques he has developed himself, to the aim of making the images seem like another today not so long ago, which, in the light of history, is true. Of course repairing the damages of time is part of the process, but it is also bringing depth and realistic perspective, and bringing out all of the hidden details to a balanced visibility. Fundamentally, the aim is to give the original photographers the pictures they would have liked to produce, had they had the tools we have today. Further, the materials used are the best possible, printed only on 100% cotton, museum-quality, non-fading, art reproduction papers, with each image carefully calibrated and tested to the most suitable paper to bring the best results. The fine results in the end come from years of daily working on so many different images, and the application of extensive cumulative experience which comes with that.

Through his work, Kelvin is attempting to keep alive the memory and understanding that this is a region with precious roots, faith, and values, highlighting the absolute importance yet fragility of these features in the light of an increasingly globalist, corporate worldview. It is also meant to offer the view that cooperation, as demonstrated throughout time by so many peoples, especially in those closest to indigenous roots, is so much better, more energy efficient, sustainable, and healthier in every regard, than the deceptive western ideas of competition and "growth.” His work seeks to remind its viewers that the wisdom of the elders within the community is so necessary for a healthy future, and that much valuable knowledge and understanding can so easily become lost forever in these rapidly changing times.

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