Sunday, January 25, 2009

Working with a negative from 2007 of a Brugmansia bloom just starting to open up. I printed one print with a 0 contrast filter and the the other with a 2.5. Same exposure but I notice how the details in the shadows are not visible in the higher contrast print. I might try dodging the shadowed area a bit and printing for a few extra seconds with a high contrast filter like a 5 to give a blacker black. Here is a link to the first print I made using a glossy paper with a higher contrast filter made using my condenser head.

I worked in the darkroom yesterday and printed some of the negatives from my pictures taken around the Jacob Kamm house back in 1975 when it was a boarded up ruin.

I went to shoot some black and white film in Lone Fir while the snow was still on the ground. I also brought along a digital camera and took pictures of these two interesting graves.

Monday, January 19, 2009

So here it is. My Magnolia Series. A set of pictures taken of a common subject from a series of angles, formats, and time.

Here are two scans of prints I made yesterday from the 4x5 negatives, the last negatives, I had left to develop from the film I shot last July of a Magnolia flower I found within easy reach in my neighborhood. Instead of just snapping a picture of it in situ I stole it and took it down in to my basement and spent the whole day photographing it with a variety of cameras and film formats.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

This weekend I spent Saturday developing sheets of 4x5 film to print on Sunday. The film was from my Magnolia "series" from last July. I developed one at a time in these great old Kodak tanks I found at Hollywood Camera.

The best thing about working with 4x5 is I get to use my 150mm Rodenstock Rodagon lens with this great little lit display to show the f-stop. I wish all lenses had this feature. I decided to give up on the condenser set up and switched back to my cold light for printing.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Saw some very nice cameras at Hollywood Camera today. Unfortunately I don't have that much discretionary income right now. The wooden 8x10 monster with a brass lens was from the late 1800's a camera from an old mid west portrait studio used orginally for glass plates. Nice but I'd probably go for the more more modern 4x5 Plaubel model below.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Now that the basement dried out a bit I was able to start working again in the darkroom. Worked on some prints made on an 11x14 Agfa fiber glossy paper developed with Agfa Neutol 1:15 dilution.

Selecting a negative and placing it within a holder. Cleaning away stubborn dust spots with a q-tip soaked in some negative cleaner. Projected negative with contrast filter. Print after development, stop and fix. Prints drying overnight on the print racks.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

I took this photo in July up at the Museum. This was from a slightly different perspective. Another image I like the more I look at it. Every line in it is on the diagonal.

Really, it's much nicer then it looks.
Just as I was gearing up to do a little darkroom work after months of absence some water has seeped in under my darkroom. I built the floor of the darkroom with a thick plastic layer as a vapor barrier between the plywood floor and the concrete hoping to avoid a mess like this. I noticed though that some water had seeped up through the plastic and when I walked in the darkroom a little water would seep through cracks and holes in the cheap vinyl flooring I put down over the plywood. Nothing serious but I think I'll stay out until the water recedes. Eventually I may have to tear out the floor and replace. I'm not really much of a builder. I think I'd be smarter to build another darkroom twice the size in a dryer part of the basement closer to the laundry tub or even build one with running water or at least a hose connecting the print washer and a longer hose to drain directly into the storm drain so the print washer could be in the darkroom.
I'm proud of this image my son made
using his new camera. Thinking like a photographer.

Playing with my sons Coolpix.
I know I rail against "The dieing of the light" or the death of old fashioned photography made with blood, sweat, and tears rather then megapixels, etc. etc. but I have to admit it's fun to seize the moment and just grab an image out of the air in the blink of an eye.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Did some of my first work in the darkroom today since October. I have been working with my Aristo cold light now for over a year I decided to set it aside for awhile and work with the condensers and the brighter and hotter incandescent light source. I wanted to see if the sharpness of the condenser light source was worth the grain and dust spots and other flaws in the negative that will require more retouching work. Here is a detail from each of the two photographs the top one was produced with the condenser light source the bottom one with a cold light source. Both printed with the same lens, same paper and same contrast filter. I can't really tell much if any difference in the sharpness. I'll keep experimenting with the condenser for a few other negatives but I cannot see much reason to use the condenser light source anymore now that I do have a cold light that works with contrast filters.

I decided to start the year off right and do some work down in my darkroom, while doing a little organizing in preparation for working I came across a draft of a review of a review for the 23 Sandy Gallery Resurrection show in May of 2008. I never got around to posting it but after reading it I thought it was a waste not to. So here it is.
The Oregonian review by D.K. Row.
My take on it:
The review primarily concerns itself with the surface details of some of the work and not the artistic commitment of the photographers represented. Leave the technical aspects to the “wonks” it is advised and “…simply enjoy, allow yourself to be mesmerized—or alternately bored and unimpressed because some of the work is forgettable, too—.” This approach to gauging artistic merit may satisfy the standards for artistic criticism in an age where art has become more facade then foundation more manufactured then created. Designed to be disposable rather then to endure. To invite the viewer to simply enjoy the image and ignore how it came in to being misses the point of this particular show of the handcrafted silver gelatin print, tintype, glass plate and other techniques unique from the "Monotgraphy" that currently has a stranglehold on art photography. The work in this show represents more then just the “picturesque” image but the religion of skill and craft. This is work by photographers who choose to be challenged by the technology rather then serving it like some worker on an assembly line. This is the practice of craft which involves faith and risk . The “hollow perfection” of the “anyone-can-take-a-picture digital age” is about manufacturing the acceptable (and soon forgettable) standard and this show is about trying to attain the mesmerizing exception. The artistic crap shoot of human creativity which either produces the mundane or the iconic. In art one insists on being totally engaged in the process and risking failure and embracing mistakes. How can the work be considered challenging if the photographer is not challenged? It’s not supposed to be easy it is supposed to be work. Photography is losing much by abandoning methods that challenge and test ability and cull the mediocre from the sublime. Photographers like Dorthea Lange or Paul Strand have no digital age counterpart because the technology does not require them. A "photographer" being someone who has to learn to master the camera beyond memorizing the instruction manual. The relationship between a camera and the photographer should be similar to the relationship between a muscian and an instrument. It is the photographer who brings things in to focus. It requires practice and discipline and commitment to make something wonderful.

William Morris understood the danger of replacing skill and craft with manufacturing at the dawn of the industrial age because it threatened to diminish our humanity. It seperated us from the act of creation. It supplanted a dynamic constantly evolving process imbued with the soul of the creator for a predetermined and set constant. The souless creation built by a machine or by workers organized like parts of a machine as in the assembly line.

The essence of art is that creation of something from a disordered state of being to an ordered state of being reversing the natural order. Nature breaks things down, the artist builds things up. Art should be the tangible evidence of the human element taking the shapeless void and transforming it in to something sacred. It endures . The work should be made up of more then just the materials that compose it but the soul of its creator. I don’t know what William Morris thought of photography and as an artist of the old school he probably saw the camera as a technological shortcut to learning drawing and painting and that a photograph could never have the same vaule as an artistic object as a painting.

Certainly the camera was better capable of rendering in objective fashion the external world then drawing and painting. The camera though never replaced drawing and painting and any 19th century painter could still go to an art supply store today and buy everything he needed to work in the medium they loved. One cannot say the same thing for a pre digital age photographer who works with film and the darkroom .

The work in this show represents more then just images but a more balanced relationship between art and technology and photographs that are committed to preserving that sacred human element that is the essence of art.
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