Halliday’s primary subjects are carefully-composed still lifes, portraits, and landscapes which he shoots in black and white film with only natural light. He is a purist behind the lens, rarely manipulating his negatives in any way and a master in the darkroom. His work has an ethereal quality that’s translated not only through the subject, but also by the warm sepia tones he uses in his printing.
David Halliday sets himself apart from the bulk of contemporary photographic practice in several ways. Along with Aaron Rose and Sally Mann, he is one of the art photographers to have resisted adopting the new digital technology that produces instant color images. He develops his silver gelatin prints by hand, and his only technical departure from the standard black-and-white approach is to tone his pictures with sepia. Doing so connects him with the Photo-Secession movement launched by Alfred Stieglitz just over a century ago, when, in a different context, photographers with serious artistic goals tried to distinguish their work from aesthetically deficient examples of photography dominating the market in that day. Stieglitz’s associates were also trying to equal or surpass the quality of turn-of-the-century painting, which, in 1905, meant avoiding the documentary, signboard realism characteristic of most non-portrait photography of the era immediately preceding them. They wanted to prove that photography was indeed an art, and that its images could embody qualities of design and subtle evocation as successfully as Impressionist painting did. [Extract : Mutual Regard : by Alfred Corn]