Monday, September 26, 2011

Did some printing in the darkroom yesterday of two images taken this Summer.   Above a Labor hissy fit in downtown and this quiet peaceful image of one of Portlands oldest restaurants.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

"I really love what you can't see in a photograph.  An actual physical darkness.  And it's very thrilling for me to see darkness again." D. Arbus.

I've been thinking about Diane Arbus a lot lately and reading about her and looking at her pictures and thinking of how she approached photography and how I approach photography.  Not to say that I share anything in common with her but that in learning to use the camera we have both tread similar ground and her pictures resonate with me in a way that no other photographers work does.  Some things she says I get only because I've worked with a camera and film and a darkroom.  Her first monograph published after her death just has her pictures and a series of quotes.  In reading this quote  I thought of this picture that I took and how I purposely printed it so that the shadows would reveal nothing.  Lately I've been printing images with very low contrast so that everything is revealed, even photographing on cloudy days to avoid the shadows as if these are weaknesses in an image.  To see darkness is rare especially in broad daylight but there it is in the photographic image. I also have to remember that there is no one way to take and make an image.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

I am mystified why in the digital age of photography photographers still want to hold on to these ancient icons of another age of photography. When the term "Photographic Proof" actually meant something.  Perhaps because now that cameras no longer "capture" an image on film but instead use digital manipulation to create images the photograph no longer can be trusted but the camera perhaps can.   The need to link the anlog world to the digital world is a way of maintaining the integrity of photography in a digital world where that is now suspect.  So photographers  hold on to these symbols like holy relics so they can feel linked to the objectivity and craft of Photography in the pre-digital age.

There is also the former analog photographers who have gone digital but still keep their hand in the analog world and feel they need to explain why they still use film. (even though they really don't). 

"I use film any time I want to make an image I feel is important to me. It preserves the option of making "real" prints for that uncertain future time when I might have a darkroom again."  The emphasis here is that you need film to take a real picture.  It's difficult though and the results are not initially as impressive.  I still have the very first photograph I ever took that was in focus.  For me that was a huge step.  My "A" image.

I used film for years and then abandoned it before the digital age because I hadn't the time, the money, or the focus anymore and because I really wasn't very good at it.  A lot of time passed and then I picked up my camera again but rather than go in the digital direction I wanted to pick up where I left off to finish what I started and find out if I was any good.  A lot of my inspiration was finding a copy of Ansel Adams first book 'The Camera' something I wish I had been introduced to back when it would have really mattered but still here was a comprehensive guide to returning.  The process has been a frustrating one.  Though equipment is cheap the materials especially film and papers are limited.

Of course if I were -heaven forbid- a "Professional Photographer" I would use digital over analog.  Why take the risks involved in using film if your livelyhood depends on it? If you ever photographed a wedding for someone in the pre digital age when cameras had to be focused and film developed you know the anxiety involved in all the things that can go wrong before and after you push the shutter release button and you do not want to go back to a Bride and tell her you have no pictures.  I never did more than a few weddings the stress was too much.  The photojournalist Robert Capa landed with the D-Day Invasion carrying a twin lens Rolleiflex to record the event.  He was being shot at while he was shooting with a camera that required focusing, and exposure setting and changing film after every 12 exposures.  Only a few of the images made it because a darkroom tech in England screwed up the development of  most of his film.  He wasn't all that upset, probably because he knew he was lucky to still be alive (though years later he would die stepping on a land mine in Indo China).   Analog photography made photographs and photographers in a way that digital photography never will and this is why I think photographs and photographers will die along with film, paper and chemicals. If you want to practice real photography then do it now while there is still some equipment and materials left and it's a long learning curve and time is short.  I've been doing it since 1968 and I still feel barely adequate at the craft but I have developed an appreciation for the craft which can be an end in itself.

I love to work in my darkroom.  I love to expose film to just about anything just for an excuse to see what develops in the film tank and in the print trays in the dark room under the amber glow of a safe light. To see first what the camera saw.  That was magic the first time I witnessed it and I still feel the same way over 40 years later.  I only want to attempt "real" pictures.  True pictures.  Film is a direct link to a specific moment in time formed by reflected light and lens by an independent chemical process not digital manipulation ruled by some programmers algorithymn.  Film is more difficult to lie with. I choose to wear this Cilice photography vest because I  would rather risk failure for the rare moment when I succeed at something that requires craft then eliminate the risk to produce something I am in no way really attached to.  For what it's worth.  That is why I still use film.  A simple truth is better than an elaborate lie.
Photograph by Hiroshi Wantanabi

For the Anniversary of My Death

By W. S. Merwin

"Every year without knowing it I have passed the day

When the last fires will wave to me

... And the silence will set out

Tireless traveler

Like the beam of a lightless star

Then I will no longer

Find myself in life as in a strange garment

Surprised at the earth

And the love of one woman

And the shamelessness of men

As today writing after three days of rain

Hearing the wren sing and the falling cease

And bowing not knowing to what"

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Mill Ends Park Portland.

Portland "quirky" vs. Portland "weird".  This tiny, tiny park established long ago and a monument from our quirky period sits adjacent to one of the four famous Portland "Loos" Solar Powered toilets that cost more than my house.  Monuments to the weird. 
Here is a picture courtesy of the city showing the typical Portlander, bearded and riding a bike and bringing his own roll of officially sanctioned bio-degradable TP.

Monday, September 05, 2011

The home during better times.

A 1927 Mediterranean style home built for the Doernbecher family in Southeast Portland designed by Herman Brookman.  The first time I saw this place probably around 20 years ago it amazed me.  It was the nearest thing to a Los Angeles style mansion right in southeast Portland.  It's in the Laurelhurst neighborhood right next to the Park.  Laurelhurst Park is probably one of Portlands most beautiful city parks (which is saying a lot since there are so many) with lots of expensive and beautifully designed homes built around it but this one stood out.  Now it stands out for a different reason which can be read about here.  I shot a few pictures here in July and came back a few weeks later.  I wish I could wander around the grounds and I probably could but I'd rather respect the property and the neighbors who I think find this a pretty horrible embarassment so I keep my legal distance.
"The coldest Winter I ever spent was a Summer in San Francisco"- Mark Twain.

That could certainly have been said for Portland Summer this year.  May and June were downright frigid with average temperatures in the 60's and dark cloudy days that would usually not clear up until 5:00 in the afternoon. 

I wandered about downtown on my lunch hours taking pictures of the moody skies and the flat light which shed very little shadow.

Things improved wonderfully by July and August though with the days being a very comfortable 75-80 and only a couple of days that climbed in the high 80's and 90's.  Portland can also be known for an extended Summer through September and early October.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

This better be good.

I have always been fascinated by Diane Arbus and her photographs.  I have written about her several times over the years in my blog here, here, here.

This is the first  Diane Arbus photograph I saw, reproduced as a tiny stamp sized image in Time Magazine in an article about her first show in 1971 when I was 17.  The image just blew me away.  Though I had seen a lot of great photographs I'd never seen anything like this.  It transcended the objective lens in a way I would have never thought possible with a camera.  A camera took photographs of what was in front of the lens the photographer just made sure everything was in focus and properly exposed.  You found the great subject and photographed it.  End of story.  Here though was something that seemed to reveal way more than what was in front of the camera. Almost like an image captured from a dream or the "minds eye".  Who was this person who took this picture and how did they do it? She would be dead in a month and at that time she was not that well known outside of New York.  It would be another year before her first collection of work would be published and over 10 years before a biography about her would offer a little more about her life.  A few years after her biography was published a new collection of her images was put out of her work done as a professional photographer and a show of hers was held at the Portland Art Museum. Years after that her estate released 'Revelations' in conjunction with a retrospective show of her work.  This most recent work is referred to as a  "Psychological Biography" and perhaps will shed more light on my questions about this woman I consider one of the 20th centuries most interesting people.  It seems a tad thin for such a huge subject but I am both anticipating and dreading reading it.
Web Statistics