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December 2, 2019 - 2:37pm

World-renowned tintype photography artist to visit Pembroke tomorrow and you're invited

A world-renowned photographer who specializes in tintype artistry and who is a Civil War historian will be the special guest at Pembroke Jr./Sr. High School tomorrow (Dec. 3).

Rob J. Gibson will give a presentation to teacher Eric Johnson's Photography classes in the school's Visual Arts Department as well as to Johnson's Social Studies classes.

In the evening from 6:30 to 9 in the school library, Gibson will speak and give a demonstration at a special, free community event entitled "Recreating the Past: The Vintage Photography of Rob Gibson."

Gibson describes himself as an Ansel Adams meets Easy Rider kind of guy -- a Renaissance man who is on a crusade to save at least some of forgotten America.

This passion for historical investigation fuels him to seek out vintage roadside attractions, abandoned buildings, industrial sites and significant historic locales. He travels wherever necessary to create art that tells the story of the nation's past, one photographic plate at a time.

He rides U.S. backroads on his 1950 panhead Harley-Davidson motorcycle replete with a working 1938 package truck sidecar that has been converted to a darkroom -- in fact, "The World's Fastest Darkroom."

His cameras capture forgotten icons as well as those who keep these relics alive, forming a mosaic of Americana that is distinctive and ingenuous.

The result is awe-inspiring tintype images captured with his primitive cameras and developed into photographs on site, as was done in the demanding 19th century process of tintype photography.

Hollywood movies have made use of his skills and he has made contributions to "Gettysburg," "Cold Mountain," "National Treasure," and the just-released "Harriet."

Gibson's artwork has also been featured on television, in magazines, Internet blogs and articles and it hangs on the walls of clients worldwide. Thousands of people, including the White House Press Corps and visitors to the Smithsonian Institution, have seen his demonstrations.

While on the road, Gibson gets sidetracked, beckoned by unexpected sights. It is during these extraneous excursions that his McGiver-like resourcefulness becomes particularly useful to keep his bike running and his equipment functioning.

Long ago Gibson, who grew up in Lockport, says he learned that the journey is just as important as the destination.

He's come a long way from the machinist job he left at General Motors to open an 1860s-style photography studio in Gettysburg, Pa.

How did he cross paths with a teacher in Pembroke?

"I met Rob at the Newfane Bike Night this past August, a charity event that raises money for a local not-for-profit organization," Johnson wrote The Batavian in an email. "I saw his Harley sidecar darkroom, and as a photography teacher and artist myself, I struck up a conversation with Rob."

The "art teacher/biker" says the encounter was quite unexpected, a quirky coincidence.

Fortunately for people in Genesee County, it has turned into what promises to be an interesting opportunity to learn about a unique talent tomorrow evening.

Pembroke Jr./Sr. High School is located at 58 Alleghany Road (routes 5 and 77) in Corfu.

Gibson is available for commissioned custom work and can be reached at: [email protected]

Top photo of Rob Gibson and his 1950 panhead Harley-Davidson with the sidecar that's "The World's Fastest Darkroom," courtesy of Eric Johnson.

Bottom photos made by Rob Gibson on the movie set of "Harriet," courtesy of Eric Johnson, showing actress Cynthia Erivo as the iconic slave-turned-abolishionist Harriet Tubman.

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