Friday, May 30, 2008

Tomorrow is the last day of the Resurrection show at 23 Sandy Gallery and my picture has a hold on it so it may sell. I was supposed to come and pick it up tomorrow but I may never see it again, sniff. I went to see the installation a week ago to get one last look at the show and I was a little dissapointed to see that no one had purchased my picture but it looked so nice there in the gallery I was fine with getting it back. Now it belongs to the ages.

Actually it was purchased by this person.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Oregonians take on Resurrection

This week the visual arts critic for our only real newspaper reviewed the show. It made complete the experience of having one of my pictures on public view. I considered myself extremely fortunate in being included in this show for lots of reasons. The show was National in its scope, limited to photographers working with pre-digital aged technology (i.e. real photographers), had it's own catalogue, and was reviewed in a major Newspaper. It satisfied several items on my lifes "to-do" list all at once.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Yesterday I went to the web site for the Phoenix mission to Mars to watch the webcam broadcast of the landing. The site is here. I have followed all of the Mars explorations with fascination from the first Viking lander in 1976. This mission can only last about 90 days until the winter sets in at this site near the Martian North Pole. At that time the region will be plunged in to freezing temperatures and the probe will be frozen in dry ice. Until that time though it hopes to dig below the surface in search of water ice and signs of ancient or current life. It is thought that this was the sea bed of a large Northern Ocean that once existed on Mars. It would be extremely cool if they found fossils.

The Silurian Sea (400-440 million years ago) as realized by the Czech illustrator Zdenek Burian and the imaginings of Alison Carey.
Alison Carey

I went to visit the Resurrection show last week to take one last look at the installation before it comes down at end of this week. Laura Russell was kind enough to give me several small catalogues illustrating some exhibits of the work of Alison Carey. Alisons work in the show consisted of two Ambrotypes taken of Dioramas she built depicting sea life during the Paleozoic(340-570 million years ago). It is singular work of unparalleled genius. The work reminded me of illustrations from a book I found at Powells years ago that I saw and fell in love with in our school library when I was about 7 years old. It was book of illustrations of prehistoric life and was very popular with the boys. I remember when a friend of mine was lucky enough to find it on the shelves and checked it out and when it was time for him to turn it in I followed him in to the library and pounced on it before anyone else could claim it. The book was called Prehistoric Animals by Dr. Joseph Augusta and the illustrations were by Zdenek Burian. The book had text describing life from the Paleozoic to the Tertiary (55 million years ago) was followed by a series of beautiful plates in color and in sepia tones of ancient landscapes that I would lose myself in. The photographs of Alison Carey have a similar effect on me transporting me to a window with a view to another world. The Ambrotype process that uses glass plates that are covered with a photo emulsion create a negative that is then turned positive by placing a black velvet backing to the other side of the glass so light can no longer pass through it. The glass gives the image a translucent and glimmering quality that seems to create an additional dimension and depth to the image. She literally builds her own worlds from clay of landscapes that are ancient based on fossil evidence and fantasy landscapes that spring from her own imagination. Her ancient landscapes imagined and then photographed as if by some Victorian time traveller are some of the most beautiful and strange work I have ever seen.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Sea of Fertility cycle of novels by Yukio Mishima. I just finished reading Mishimas last work, his 'testament to the world' that after completion in November of 1970 he committed suicide in spectacular fashion. The Sea of Fertility consists of 4 novels starting in 1912 and ending in 1970. The perspective of the work is from Shigekuni Honda who witnesses the transformation of himself, of Japan and the transmigration of his childhood friend Kiyoaki through three reincarnations in the subsequent three novels. It is an epic work exploring the nature of history, humanity, reality all told in a story that is difficult to put down. Mishima was a dynamic personality and writer and all of his work is wonderful and a joy to read. This was my second reading of Mishima which was much more satisfying then my first. I loved the books the first time through and was especially drawn to the rich visual imagery and youthful passion and romantasicsm that made up the first two books, Spring Snow and Runaway Horses as translated in to English by Michael Gallagher. The third novel, Temple of Dawn, translated by E. Dale Saunders and Cecilia Segawa Seigle followed the emphasis on rich and dramatic visual imagery of the Gallagher translations. Decay of the Angel though on my first reading seemed almost like a totally seperate novel as translated by Edward Seidensticker. Darker in tone and more sparse in language it didn't feel like a continuation of the previous three books and at the time I blamed it on the translation. On my second reading thirty years later though I didn't notice this abrupt shift in tone and style that dissapointed me on the first reading. Instead I experienced a much smoother transition from the previous three novels into the fourth that reflected Mishimas preoccupation with death and the decay of Japanese purity and appropriately titled 'The Decay of the Angel'. An alternate title prior to publication had been ' Five Signs of Gods Decay' a reference from early Buddhist texts of the signs of death in an angel; "Their flowered crowns wither, their robes are soiled, the hollows under their arms are fetid, they lose their awareness of themselves, they are abandoned by the jeweled maidens". The death of the angel is perhaps a reference to the dilution of Japanese purity by Western influences that is a central theme in the four novels. In the final novel the central character Shigekuni Honda tutors the young Toru who he adopts when he recognizes him as the third reincarnation of his only real friend Kiyoaki that Japanese Purity was once a fatal poison but now has been diluted to a potion that can be consumned by all with no ill effect.


Monday, May 19, 2008

"NEWSPACE CENTER FOR PHOTOGRAPHY Inner Light Group, group show. What would peripheral vision look like if you tried to photograph it? Members of the Inner Light Group, a local photographer’s collective, take up that question in a largely unsatisfying group show. Much of the material here is hackneyed—a moody photograph of a cat, a child’s hand in an adult’s hand (gag!)—and the lion’s share amounts to little more than travel photography. Two exceptions are Scott Weston’s luminous untitled silver gelatin print, which channels David Hamilton, and Jonathan Brand’s intriguing narrative vignettes. 1632 SE 10th Ave., 963-1935. Closes June 2."
From Willamette Week.

I saw this show this afternoon and really enjoyed it. Unlike most of the photography shows I have seen at Newspace it was primarily made up of Silver Gelatin prints most of which were very accomplished and for that reason alone made the show worth seeing. I really don't know where the reviewer for Willamette Week comes up with calling the collection "hackneyed" especially since in Portland that's almost de rigueur. The work with a few exceptions didn't quite live up to the illusive theme but how does one compose a photograph that illustrates peripheral vision? The answer for me was found in one of the Scott Weston pieces described in the WW review as "channeling David Hamilton"(gag!) which if you really want to see "hackneyed" just take a look at his work. The picture I saw was quite remarkable because it did answer exactly the question posed by the theme of the exhibit. The photograph of a darkened room lit by a single window in the center of the image draws the eye to the the source of light which illuminates an empty room where there appears to only be a bed and a pair of woman's shoes. As you stare at the center of the photograph you become aware of the true subject of the photo in the shadows. An incredible image in a very interesting show. Hackneyed indeed. I just bet the guy that wrote that review for WW knows about channeling David Hamilton (if you know what I mean).

Sunday, May 18, 2008

We really underestimated the creepiness factor.

I can walk across the bridge on my lunch hour and photograph this bronze of former mayor Vera Katz.

I worked yesterday on cropping this image of Lichens in to a square format. I printed on a cold tone paper semi-matte and warmtone papers in gloss and semi-matte. I found it easier to get a print that pleased me on the warm toned paper but felt the cold toned paper made the image look flat no matter what contrast filter I used. I tried a split filter technique where I make a test print of various exposure combinations with the highest and lowest contrast filters. First I draw a series of lines on the vertical and horizontal over the photographic paper to make a grid of fairly even squares. I'll start with the lowest contrast filter and do a series of exposures in increments of say 5 seconds each going from top to bottom of the paper, then switch to the highest contrast filter and do another sent of overlapping incremental exposures moving from left to right. I will end up in one corner with the minimum equal exposure using both filters and in the opposite the maximum equal exposure using both filters everything in between will be a variation of different exposures using the highest and lowest filters. When I've finished making the test print I look over each grid and see where I find the nicest range of tonal values and figure which exposure combination it is. Then I make a print using that combination. I'll use that as a starting point and make various prints adjusting the exposure combination until I make a print I like or give up in frustration. In this case the top print done on cold toned paper was made with an exposure of 22 sec using a 00 filter and 14 sec using a 5 filter. The warm tone print was made using a 45 sec exposure with a 2.5 filter. I made the prints using an aristo cold light for use with variable contrast paper and my 50mm el-nikkor lens on my Omega D-2 enlarger.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

I've spent most of the day in the darkroom working on some prints. One of the times when I came up for air the mail had arrived with my catalogue from the Resurrection show. A really nice quote from the currators statement, "With these antiquarian processes artists must have a sound and specific knowledge of one's materials - glass or tin plates, various emulsions and papers, light itself...and one must also be willing to give up the expected and embrace the accidents." Laura Moya.
or as Sally Mann is quoted "Mistakes are not the end of the world and perfection is not my goal. Proust writes about being visited by the 'Angel of Certainty'. I solicit visits from the Angel of Uncertainty."

I worked on this print last night more as an excuse to cool off then have a serious printing session. My first prints are more about assessing if a image is worth investing any more time in it. That is relative because a picture may seem more (or less) interesting after time has passed for a variety of reasons having to do with my own personal tastes, how an image acquires interest over time, and as I learn more about printing my ability to make a better print. I am still printing for the first time negatives I developed 30-40 years ago.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Try to keep cool.
I am not ready for 90+ degrees yet. I'll probably spend a lot of time in the darkroom where hopefully it will be cooler.

Monday, May 12, 2008

I like Lichens.
I found these attached to branches on various shrubs in my back yard last fall. I photographed them using my 4x5 camera but these were done with 35mm film, Agfa 25, using my 105 nikkor bellows lens. These are uncropped but I might try printing with a little more enlargement and cropping out about 25%. The fine grain film and sharpness of the nikkor optics would allow that and reveal more of the details of the subject. I have always been drawn to early photographic work done for scientific illustration where the camera is just used as a tool to record with as little embellishment as possible. What I like about the work of Karl Blossfeldt is that his pictures found a happy medium between art and science. He was a botanist but he also taught art and he wanted his photographs to serve as inspiration by revealing the beautiful designs found in natural forms.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

I hate making a contact sheet but since I started doing photography again I am trying to discipline myself to make one for every roll of film I shoot and keep the contact sheet with the negatives in their own folder and make notes on the printing data with each set of images as I work on them over time.

I was split-filter printing these pictures to put the background a pure dark black and still maintain the white and mid tones. When I was switching filters I must have bumped the easel just a bit and it gave the picture a fuzzy pictoral quality that I liked.

Disporum sessile 'Variegata'

I found this plant last month at a Leach Botanical Garden plant sale and thought the pale green & cream colors of the flowers and leaves might make a good subject for one of my black and white botanical prints. I worked on it most of yesterday printing it on cold toned and warm toned papers. I couldn't make a print though that pleased me with the cold toned paper. Perhaps I should switch from a matte to glossy and see if that helps. The warm toned prints always look better to me but I want to make use of that deep dark black and silvery grays that I see on a really well made cold toned print that I can't figure out yet how to reach. I was right about the subject though I loved the way those varigated leaves look photographed.
Corner of Third and Taylor. The building is gone so this picture is less successful. The building on the left still remains and there is a restaurant there. It's called the "Directors Building" now probably because it was the site of a business called "Directors Furniture". Third Avenue back in the 70's was nothing but adult businesses from Burnside all the way up to Salmon street.

Don't ever change. I made some prints last week of two pictures I took in 1972 with my Nikon f and the standard 50 lens. I thought it might be interesting to take the same camera to the same place and try to take the same picture. It was a bit more difficult then I imagined. I brought along a copy of the print so I could try and take the same composition. In the darkroom I laid down the print of the picture from 1972 on the easel and then projected the negative from 2008 over the print to help match up the composition. In this picture the sign above Marys Club was exactly the same which made it much easier. The lamp post looks the same but it either moved a bit or was replaced because it is slightly smaller. All of the buildings are still there but the trees obscure them now. The Marquee has a different message showing what was appropriate in 1972 was more conservative then today.

Friday, May 09, 2008

A small article in last weeks A & E that mentions my name and a review of the show here and another one here. It's good to finally begin to see some type of reaction to the Resurrection show. In an e-mail from Laura Russell to the those who participated in the show she shared that one of her customers called Resurrection " of the best photography shows he has seen in Portland in the last 10 years." I realize that I am biased but if you know anything at all about photography and you see the show I believe you would agree.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

One of the few portraits I've done. I took this picture of a friend in 1976.
She was an excellent model and loved to pose for the camera. I took a lot of pictures of her from around 1973-1976 like this, this, this but this is my favorite. I enjoyed taking her picture and she enjoyed having her picture taken. Walker Evans said you could divide the world up in to voyeurs and exhibitionists.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The tragic Smith family plot in Lone Fir. A couple who buried all of their children including an infant. The beautiful statue of Ada remained untouched for over a hundred years but was stolen I believe sometime in the 80's. I only took this one picture of the family graves in 1982 while the statue was still intact and the remains of Adas statue in 2005. The top picture was made on black and white paper from a color negative.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

"The Antiquarian Avant-garde."

I found this article a couple weeks ago and just got around to reading it. The article is 5 years old but compliments nicely the two current shows in Portland on the Antiquarian Avant-garde and the continued interest in working in the silver medium and eschewing the digital one.

"Sally Mann said the wet plate collodion process allows her to be totally involved in the act of making an image. "For me, 19th-century photography is simply unsurpassed," she told Rexer." Its artists conducted a comprehensive investigation of what the camera could elicit. They wanted to know what the camera had to do with reality. It is not that they wanted to see what the world looked like. They wanted to see what it looked like photographed. And that is still the point."

Your damn right.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Another one of those photographs that look better with time. Selenium toned.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

I worked in the darkroom this morning for the first time in two months. I selected 2 negatives of pictures I took in downtown Portland in 1972 and spent several hours just working with making one good print of each. I want to go back and reshoot these two pictures using the same camera lens combination so I can shoot the exact same composition to show how the neighborhood has changed in 35 years. It felt great to be back in the darkroom after a long absence. I love the smell of stop bath in the morning. It smells like....Creativity. May 8th- I went back to these two spots with the Nikon and 50mm lens that I used in 1972 to try and shoot the picture from the exact same spot. The 3rd and Taylor location of the "Adult Businesses" is now a vacant lot. I had a little more luck going to the corner of Ankeny and Broadway where Marys Club is still there. The lamp post, the sign above Marys, and the Stewart Hotel are pretty much exactly as they were in 1972. The Jesus sign is gone and the buildings are all there and little changed but now totally obscured by trees. Hopefully I can develop the film tomorrow and work on the prints on the weekend and post the images on Sunday.

Friday, May 02, 2008

My photograph at the opening of 23 Sandy exhibit, Resurrection a new look at old photographic processes.

The show had it all; a daguerreotype, collodian prints, cyanotypes, tintypes and an excellent cheese and cracker plate.


The golden photograph of an air show by Ryan Zoghlin has to be seen first hand to appreciate the work. The picture literally sparkles with the gold powder used in the making of the print. I'd never seen anything like it.


Resurrection at 23 Sandy.
This triptych by Kate Kaznowska done on rough stone tiles coated with a photographic emulsion was wonderful. I know it's a cliche to refer to a photographs "textural element" but this work actually did have texture physically and visually.
(below) It's hard to select a favorite work from this show but if I had to pick the top 5 these two works by Alison Carey, "Organic Remains of a Former World" would be on that list. This landscape of ancient life hand built and photographed with an ancient photographic process took me away. If I had the money I'd buy them.


More photos from the Resurrection installation.


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