Friday, January 29, 2010

I felt a sense of loss to hear the news of the death of J.D. Salinger.  A man whose last published work was over 40 years ago and who had shunned the public eye since the 1950's.  Wanting to be alone but was never left alone all because of one little book that he cursed himself for having written but so many of us are forever grateful that he did. I never could understand what possesed him to sever that link between writer and reader.  How he could tempt us with his genius and then within a few short years deny us anymore.  What had we done to him to make him hate us so.  Salinger himself as the character of Holden relates to that personal connection one can feel with certain literary characters and their creators.  Characters that you wish were alive so you could call them up on the phone and talk to them. There are those writers who only have one story to tell but I don't believe Salinger was one of them.  It was suggested that he wrote every day for years because he loved to write but hated to have his work published.  His death  may bring to light hidden treasures that he held on to like a miser or may reveal that he really had said all he wanted to say and wanted just to be left alone.  That we were greedy rather then he was selfish. I think many of the people who tried to see him just wanted to say thank you.  I would have wanted to.

I was introduced to Holden Caufield the summer I turned 17 by the first girl I ever loved.  I considered myself well read but had never heard of Salinger.  She told me I just have to read this book and  I went directly to the library and checked it out and finished it in a weekend.  Here was a character who like me was making that rough crossing from childhood to adolescence.  I was a hopeless romantic on the brink of getting my heart broken and the book perfectly described my state of mind where just about everything was a source of despair and happiness was brief and rare and usually beyond my grasp. By the end of Summer my "Jane Gallagher" had taken up with someone like "Ward Stradlater", an equally self-absorbed and self-assured swine who could never appreciate the pearl before him.

I found a nice old library copy of Catcher for .75 at a garage sale about 16 years ago and tried to read it again.  It was just as funny as I remembered it, but something was missing, Holden no longer seemed a prophet but a whiney little brat who needed to get over himself.  My boys are now the same age I was when I first read it and don't seem all that interested in knowing Holden Caufield, or Phoebe, or the missing ducks in Central Park. They have that cartoon Harry Potter.  Perhaps Holden has finally become like Huckleberry Finn an artifact of the past that has no relevance in the present. He is nothing remarkable.  The anti-hero, the self-loathing depressive of post-war American literature has been cured with anti-depressants and motivational thinking. We are still self-absorbed but not with shame, or guilt but with our own inflated ego. We don't endure life we make it our bitch and if we don't we die a lonely death as a miserable malcontent in a cabin in New Hampshire.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

This is a very early attempt at serious photography for me taken when I was 14 taken in 1967.  It isn't much but it does show the rail road tracks still left over from the Inter-Urban trolley line later Southern Pacific Rail Line that connected Oregon City to Portland.

Photo booth portrait

My mother had many of these taken.  Small postage sized photographs that when enlarged reveal interesting details.  This one looks hand tinted and a little bit of silver coming through.  Walker Evans enjoyed being photographed this way. 

Monday, January 18, 2010

Life in Chapman, Oregon 1920's

My paternal grandmothers family, Burger, lived in, Chapman in Columbia County a logging community. The Depression was hard on them but several of them did very well during WWII. Someone took lots of photographs probably with a small crude box camera that reveal a lot about the people and their life there. Unfortunate that I have none of the negatives so I have to settle for scans of the tiny contact prints.  The scans though when enlarged reveal quite a bit more details.   These photographs I've been scanning were taken probably around 1924-26 . 

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Accidental Photographer

I have found it is difficult for me to by force of will create a good picture.  In Henri Cartier-Brissons work 'The Decisive Moment' (which I have not read because it's an expensive out of print work) he mentions that some of his best images occur in the last few frames when he is trying to finish the roll so that it can be developed. That you don't so much find the picture as the picture finds you.  That photographic Zen moment.  This is not always the case, sometimes you have those rare moments where you sense behind the lens that you have before your lens more images then you can deal with. When everything comes together and just waits for you to capture it and you're lucky enough to have a good camera in your hand.  Those "Kodak Moments" that professional photographers could create for advertising Kodak Film.  The staged image that looks accidental. That's hard to pull off consistently so for the amateur it's a rare moment, an accident of lighting, position, and having the lens focused, the apeture perfect.  I found this picture this morning taken back in 1978 of my sister in law that reminded me of one of those types of images. It was on a roll of film that included a lot of great family pictures, a cloudy overcast day in late Summer on the Oregon Coast where I had my camera and my brothers family and everybody looked so beautiful to me that I couldn't take enough pictures.  The negative is old and faded but I may consider someday trying to see if I can make a decent black and white print from it. 

Saturday, January 16, 2010

"I was alone, with a stranger, inside the walls of a dark palace, in a strange snow-changed city, in the heart of the Ice Age of an alien world."  Ursula Legin from 'The Left Hand of Darkness'.

This is probably my third reading of this small wonderful novel but it's the first reading that I now make in context with the other novels that make up the "Hanish Cycle".  It still remains my favorite of the bunch though now 'Planet of Illusions' is a close second.


Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Omega D-2

I  found this link to a very nice article written recently extolling the virtues of the great old Omega D-2.   I have always used Omega enlargers so my opinion is biased by my lack of experience.  Admitting that though I feel that amongst the enlargers available in the used market for people who still want to work with film and enjoy the darkroom process the D-2 is one of the best buys out there. They out number the similar Besler model 45 and the smaller Omega B and C series enlargers.  They were manufactured in America at at time when things were built to last so there are a lot of them still out there. Prices can vary extremely and are tied to a lot of factors.  The basic machine differed little from the ones made in the 1940's to the last models made probably in the late 70's to early 80's. The Omega D-2 V, v standing for "variable condenser" had a condenser housing on the enlarger with lenses that could be adjusted to expand light coverage for different size negatives.  The older models use different condenser sets that are easy to change, but are large and bulky and require storage space.  The V-models have all that is required built in to the enlarger itself which probably means easier maintainence (cleaning). The newer models also had a crank to turn to raise and lower the enlarger housing in addition to a locking nut to hold it in position which I think would be a big improvement over having to lift the housing manually even if they are counter balanced.  Prices vary and I believe the most important factor is the patience to find the right machine on the part of the buyer and the impatience to unload a big machine on the part of the seller.  You can spend a few hundred dollars for a very average machine and then find someone selling a pristine one for 50.00 or even giving one away.  I think the average price for one with a lens and negative carrier is probably in the vicinity of 100-150.  Because of the weight and size I also think it is a good idea to buy local.  Shipping could in some cases cost more then the item itself.
The D-2 was a work-horse machine built for commercial as well as advanced hobbyist which I believe compensates for the size and weight. I see more D-2's then just about any other enlarger and optional equipment like different light sources, negative carriers, lens holders, etc. make it much easier to expand it's capabilities.  This is why the professional enlarger built for commerical use in the 20th century is now a better option for the amateur who still wants to work the old fashioned way in the 21st century. The kind of equipment made for the amateur hobbyist in the past are poor choices today and should be ignored.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

A different view of some pictures taken from the Morrison Bridge in June 2006.  I shot these using 24mm nikkor lens with infrared film.  Flat lighting compliments the use of infrared and tones down the "drama" a bit.  I like what infrared does for green foliage by making it lighter.  Sometime next month Newspace is having a juried show using the carnival as a theme.  A couple of years ago I might have considered entering some of my pictures from the Rose Festival or pictures taken at the old amusement park in Pittsburgh but this year I am going to refrain from entering work.  I'll enjoy the show a lot more if I have no stake in it. 
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