October artist of the month

Holladay Artist of the Month David Hyams intersects art and science in his 19th-century photography


 By Sona Schmidt-Harris

Holladay Journal October 2019

With a backward baseball cap taming his curly brown hair, artist  David Hyams discusses photography. He seems at home in his studio,  Luminaria, on 800 South.

“We got a shop dog,” Hyams said, emphasizing his embrace of the studio lifestyle.

With a bachelor’s degree in fine art photography from Montana State  University and a master’s degree in the same from Leslie College of Art  and Design in Boston, Hyams sought the artistic life early. He accepted  that he might not always have a steady income.  

“I was always drawn to science and chemistry as a kid. And I  originally went to school as a geology and chemistry major, and then  I've also always been a very visual person. So, for me to be able to  create work and work in bodies of work that visually communicate things  that I'm passionate and interested about is really awesome,” he said.

“When I was in high school, I took a darkroom photography class and  just kind of fell in love with that magic of the print coming up in the  developer and the alchemy of it all.”

“For me photography is the perfect intersection of art and science,” he said.

Hyams is not a typical, modern photographer. In fact, he embraces and  helps preserve photographic styles from the past, including cyanotype,  which was invented in 1842. Cyanotype photographs have a deep blue hue.  Other media in which Hyams works include gelatin silver (invented in  1871), wet plate collodion (invented in 1851) and platinum palladium  (invented in 1873).

Hyams’ favorite media are wet plate collodion (also known as tintypes) and platinum palladium.


“For wet plate collodion portraits, which I've been doing a lot of  for the business, it's a great experience because it's so collaborative  with the model. It's not just like firing off hundreds of shots and then  giving them or sending them a link,” he said. Hyams takes only up to  three shots an hour during the process.

“It's almost like being a painter where you know your model is  committed to that. If you're painting a portrait, it's hours of work for  both parties, and with photography that's really rare,” he said.

The process is meticulous and requires relationship building. 

“It’s still quite rigorous and there is trust that you build through  that that is really hard to do when you're just autofocusing and  auto-exposing and shooting lots of images.”

“I feel like with digital technology today, we're becoming more and  more of an instant society and we're losing that tactile relationship,  especially with the photograph.

 “With the techniques that we do and that I specialize in, everything  is very tactile. You have a hand-coded sensitizer on top of a fine art  piece of paper, and you have a lot of time with that object creating and  taking it through the various phases,” Hyams said.

“(That time) also gives you the opportunity to really contemplate  what you're printing and what you're photographing because you know you  don't have a thousand frames to edit down,” Hyams said.

“You work very methodically and very consciously of what you want to  communicate as an artist, and I think that is really powerful to have  that time and that connection with the work.”

He also works with digital technology. “My specialty is bridging those analog technologies with digital methods,” he said.

Much of Hyams’ work is focused on western landscapes.

Hyams is very pleased with his business. “We met some really awesome  people and we've had people flying in from all over the world to come  work with us and learn with us.”

Hyams has lived in Holladay about six years, with a trip to China  punctuated in between. He lives and works with his partner Christine  Baczek.

For more about Hyams’ business, Luminaria, please see his website:

David Hyams

 On display through October at Holladay City Hall. Monday - Friday, 8am - 5pm