Cattail Fiesta
Cattail Fiesta
Cattail Fiesta
Cattail Fiesta

Christopher Burkett

Cattail Fiesta

South Dakota, 1994

Original Cibachrome Photograph

Pristine condition

certified authentic
Add to Collection $1,500.00
Cattail Fiesta
Cattail Fiesta
Cattail Fiesta
Cattail Fiesta



Original Cibachrome photograph individually handmade by Christopher Burkett from 6×6-format transparency film, mounted on cotton rag Antique Rising Museum Board. Signed in pencil on mount with title, date and edition number on verso.


“In 1994, my wife Ruth and I went on a fall photo trip starting in Idaho, Montana and South Dakota. Then Minnesota, New England, Appalachia and the deep southern states for a total of 13,700 miles in 52 days. Whew. We really appreciated our self-contained camper van.

While in South Dakota we came upon a large marshy area full of cattails that had changed into their autumn colors. The backlit leaves overlapped, making fascinating and beautiful patterns. There was some wind but it wasn’t too strong and it came and went.

I set up my 8×10 camera and calculated that I needed a one second exposure at f/45 on Provia film. The wind would die down, I’d pull my darkslide out, my hand on the cable release ready to make the photo. But the wind would not quite stop and the cattails still kept moving. And then the wind would pick up again. What a teaser. I waited with my hand on the shutter release for 1.5 hours and never got the shot. Bleah.

I put the 8×10 camera away and saddled up the Hasselblad with my 250mm Superachromat lens. Going to the smaller format camera enabled me to make exposures of 1/8 second at f/16 on Provia film. More doable, but to be certain I got a photo that was sharp throughout I made six identical exposures, each one when the wind had almost died down.

When making Cibachromes of this image the color balance is very critical due to the contrasting colors and brightness levels within the field of cattails. Also, the contrast level is touchy. Too high and the image doesn’t hang together, too low and the image is flat and dead.

On the final Cibachromes the leaves are so abstract that my eyes would get lost in the thicket if it weren’t for the five cattail heads which provide solid reference points. The image is full of life, bounding and exuberant.”


All Christopher Burkett photographs sold at Photography West are new and in pristine condition. HD videos of the individual piece you are purchasing are available upon request. For more information, please


Christopher Burkett has labored for over four decades to create what many regard as the most impeccable and luminous color photographs in the history of photography. Gifted with a contemplative spirit as well as painter’s eye, Burkett has an uncommon ability to capture the natural world in a manner that simultaneously reflects “the world behind the world” as Minor White and Paul Caponigro might have put it. And although Burkett has been compared by curators to American color landscape photographers Eliot Porter and Ernst Haas, whose genre of American landscape photography he extended, neither of them exclusively developed their own film, nor attempted the darkroom standard clearly in evidence upon viewing Burkett’s original Cibachromes.

christopher burkett in his darkroom


Cibachrome, also known as Ilfochrome, is among the most stable of all color photographic processes. The dyes reside within the emulsion layers, giving the photograph its characteristic color saturation. The base is a polyester triacetate, rather than fiber-based paper, which adds to the longevity. It was a positive-to-positive photographic process based on the Gasparcolor process, created in 1933 by Bela Gaspar, a Hungarian chemist. Purchased after the merger of Ilford UK and Ciba-Geigy Photochemie of Switzerland, the process was first trademarked and marketed as Cibachrome in 1963. Each Cibachrome is composed of ten layers containing various combinations of light-sensitive silver halides and dyes that are sensitive to blue, green, or red light waves, which gives it an incredible depth and three-dimensional quality. After exposure of a positive, either through an enlarger or direct contact, the Cibachrome must be developed with black-and-white developing chemicals. This step creates a silver negative image within the layers. Next, the photograph must be bleached. The bleaching rids the photograph of dyes in proportion to the amount of silver that has been developed in the previous step and produces a positive dye image in color. In 2011, Cibachrome/Ilfochrome products were discontinued and it is now considered a historical process.