Gary Rosenblum, Photographer by Night
Hobby of city's risk manager uses technique that gives photos a unique look
By Jennifer Larson

The Desert Sun
August 5th, 2004

-- From a distance, the photograph of a white bronco, bucking its intrepid cowboy rider looks like an Impressionist painting, dreamy but vibrant with motion.

That's exactly the effect Gary Rosenblum intended.

Rosenblum opens a solo exhibition of his photography, including the bronco, today in the North Wing Gallery at Palm Desert City Hall.

As Palm Desert's risk manager, Rosenblum spends his days developing ways to minimize risk to the city and its residents.

But it was a creative risk that he took more than 20 years ago on his own time that allowed him to successfully develop the technique that lends an impressionist flair to his photography.

He first began experimenting with photos he took at the Grand Canyon.

Over the next two decades, he developed and refined a technique he calls pointillism photography.

Impressionist artist Georges Seurat created the style of painting known as pointillism. His painting, "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte," is famous for using tiny dots of paint to create an impressionist vision of a lazy afternoon at the park.

Rosenblum's work also uses dots to create the impression of an image, but instead of paint, his medium is photography.

And none of it is computer-generated, he said.

"I had always been fascinated, from a scientific point of view, about perception," he said.

Rosenblum had taken a photo of his friends at the Grand Canyon, and had to enlarge a tiny part of the picture to find them.

"When I went through the process of finding them, I discovered that I had a basic technique to enlarge the image and photograph it so I could prove to them that they were in there," he said.

"They were in there, but they were just little old pointillist dots. You could tell who they were based on a very limited amount of information, and that was really the thing that hooked me."

Essentially, he takes a picture of a large scene on slide film. Then he magnifies a very small image from the large picture, photographs it again, accentuating the color contrasts and the grain of the film with the magnification and lighting.

Rosenblum is showing some of his earliest pieces that use the technique, which he jokingly calls "historical artifacts," as well as his latest works, some of which feature his vision of polo players on large pieces of canvas. About 40 pieces will be on display.

The exhibit also includes a series of celebrity pointillist photographs. Humphrey Bogart and Marilyn Monroe, with her trademark sultry gaze, are represented there.

"I think that little corner might be my favorite," said Deborah Schwartz, Palm Desert's public arts coordinator, who worked on arranging the exhibit in the gallery.

Mark Stephenson, president-elect of the Coachella Valley Arts Alliance and a fellow photographer, applauds Rosenblum for his innovation.

"It does some very interesting, serendipitous things, creating shadows and kinds of crossovers in color that give an exceptional three-dimensional quality," Stephenson said.

"The closest thing that I had seen would be traditional pointillist paintings that aren't photographic at all," he said. "I hadn't seen anything specifically like this because he took it to a different level."

"Each time you look at it, you glean more from it," Schwartz said.

A couple of years ago, Rosenblum asked Stephenson to print his photographs on canvas. Stephenson has a large printer that allows for museum-quality printing of the photographs on canvas and other media.

Rosenblum said he was pleased with the results and plans to continue printing his work on canvas with the high-quality ink. Besides preserving the photography better, it "helps the overall impact of the image," he said.

"The pointillist style comes through because it's on canvas," he said. "I don't have to hide the image anymore under glass."