This past week, I have been shooting, developing and scanning, 35mm and 6×6 film. This process of image making is very time consuming. I have decided to do the project in analogue instead of digital for a number of reasons.
Firstly, I like having physical negatives of my work, there is something very satisfying about holding a concrete image in my hand instead of looking at 1’s and 0’s. Secondly, while at Paris Photo, a lot of the analogue images where on show, and were selling well.
I have been working with another old 35mm camera I have, made by Kodak. The advance mechanism is faulty, and sometimes advances half a frame, or double exposes the image and I don’t find out till its processed and scanned. I like the surprise of the image, not quite sure what I will get. It gives a very interesting effect when I shoot a working camera with one that works randomly or intermittently. It’s so much the antithesis of digital “chimping” I like the fact that I may not even get an image at all. Also like the fact that it’s created in camera as opposed to in Photoshop.
Secondly, I am very comfortable with this now, compared to when I started the MA. I was shooting a lot more digital then, and got really upset if I lost or missed an image. However, now, I figure I will go back, or wait till something similar comes around, or deal with the fact that it’s gone for good. I have become a lot more patient and accepting in my practice.
I am toying with the idea if punctuating the images with the “faulty” images as they seems to stir a lot of interest, and quite honestly, I like the way the images look. They satisfy my on a lot of levels, primarily, that they are unique.
This past two weeks I attended the F-2-F. in Paris. Being a long way from Los Angeles, I decided to arrive a little early and stay a few days after the event. This rendezvous basically ate up 12 days. Well worth it on many levels. From a creative, technical and social perspective.
Paris photo was very informative and a little overwhelming. There where a lot of people and hundreds of booths. Very similar to the American Film Market I attend in Los Angeles where films, instead of photography is sold. They both have a sort of brothel quality to them.
I attended the first day with the cohorts, and the second day returned on my own. I decided to brush by the booths slowly and see what caught my attention visually, in terms of form and content, as well as seek out the works of the old pro’s who have been around for a while, like Bill Eggleston. Eggleston’s Red Room, an image which I love (because of the redness, the composition and line that drags the eye to the center of the ceiling, to the bulb of illumination just waiting to be pulled. The image weirdness, it’s Americana-ness that one never sees anywhere else. I find these elements transforming.)
was on display, and a few of his other prints as well.
I thought it a good opportunity to look at the actual prints, which are Dye Transfers. I always imagined them to be very glossy and very saturated (as they appear in his book) so it was nice to have the opportunity to look at original prints.
I found the prints to be a tad dull, both in color and gloss, compared to modern Lightjet and Inkjet color printing techniques. The prints where not even as glossy or colorful as Ciba-Chrome prints, which are still available, and fortunately, by a lab close to me in Burbank called Ciba-Lab. http://www.lab-ciba.com One of the few places left that can still do the process. The print did sell, I saw the tell tale little red sticker under the print. It went for €285,000.00 including the poster seen in the photograph at the bottom right.
I was in touch with a printer named Ctein (go figure) he looks like a Ctein as well, if one can imagine how a person with the name Ctein looks? well… he look exactly like that. http://ctein.com/howorder.htm who still made Dye Transfer prints, but I think he has since ceased. When I spoke to him many years back. A single print 20×24, cost in the region of $3200.00 with a 6 month waiting list.
I was glad to have the opportunity to see these actual prints, as I have some color work myself and it’s nice to see all the options available, and the professionals who have used these older formats.
Most of the work that interested me was abstract works, and images that were printed on analogue paper. I found the Inkjet prints to be so technically perfect, that it was difficult to differentiate different artists work by their use of form, where as the old school prints all seemed to have their own marks of uniqueness, which I like, because they stood out in terms of form, as well as content.
I discovered a new photographer, who has been around for a long time, however, I had never heard of, by the name of Chargesheimer. (Karl Heinz Hargesheimer) He did some very interesting work with photograms
by painting chemicals on the paper and processing it. Some of the work I found to be very intriguing and mysterious, and I liked the way that he uses highlight and shadow as well the the forms and shapes that he creates in his work. In this particular photogram above, one gets lured into the darkness and wonderers what is beyond the image. I found something similar I did in Light and Shadow in my first module.
I stayed on after Paris Photo and the Portfolio review to go up to Amsterdam to FOAM, as suggested by Anna to take a look at the work of Masahisa Fukase. I did look at his book on “Solitude of Ravens” however, it was good to see original prints of his work, I like to see the actual work. I found the prints in the book and the actual prints to be very closely matched, in tone, contact, and surface, except much larger prints were displayed at the museum. In addition, FOAM had dedicated one entire floor to his work, which included Ravens, his big 20×24 polaroid prints as well as other works that I have not seen. It was nice to see Ravens in context of his other works, which consisted mostly of series as well.
The museum was small and gave me the opportunity to focus on a single photographer, instead of trying to focus on hundreds of photographers like at Photo Paris. So, the experience was different. At Photo Paris I concentrated mainly on the form of the works, ie, presentation and mediums used by current and photographers past. By comparing prints on analogue to those made on digital, as well as photographs made on film compared to those made using digital cameras, I had the opportunity to make some AB comparisons, which I found useful because digital and analogue have always been at odds, not that one is better of worse, what I like are the differences.
In my own practice form and content are equally important. At FOAM I had the opportunity to focus on the content and form of the work of a single artist, where all his tools and worksheets were displayed, making it easier for me to figure his method of working. I am pretty proficient when it comes to the image making process and can pretty much figure out most ways images are made, but once in a while it is nice to have ones mental process confirmed with evidence, which was the case with the exhibition at FOAM. They had his camera, lens, film stock, contact sheet for all to see.
What I gleaned from Fukase in this module, is how to put a series together (poetically, as Anna called it. ) as opposed to technically. This is a nice break for me. I feel that Fukase has helped me understand how to put a series together in a creative way, instead of in a technical way, which I am so familiar with, but dislike intensely.
Fukase makes one ponder about the image, as in the one of the girls above. Why is this one of three young girls at the beach doing in a series of ravens? Answer: It makes one think. And, my thoughts are: The girls hair looks like ruffled feathers, and the fact that their hair is black, also helps. The shape of a flying Raven protrudes out from the middle girls ear. On the left, at her ear, the hair is formed in such a way, that I can see it’s beak and claws. So when I see an image like this, I look intensely for those minute particulars. Now, I don’t know if I’m correct or not, but it gives me search and discovery satisfaction to see things that aren’t actually there?
I like form to play a part in my image making process, I like using different cameras, film, processing techniques. I use digital as well as analogue printing to give my images mood, and the setting for the content, if you will. For me, Fukase is the ideal photographer to look at, both for form and content. I like the way his images look, they are not perfect as far as exposure, contrast, tones, grain, or even composition for that matter, in fact these technicalities are rather weak. However, I have always found imperfection attractive, and he gives me the affirmation that it’s okay to be imperfect, because liking it is one thing, doing it is another.
Paris Photo helped me concretize the medium I am going to work in for this module and hopefully for my FMP, which is analogue 35mm and 6×6 medium format B+W film which I will hand develop myself and scan as well as make prints in my darkroom. There may be a slight chance that I may incorporate color into my FMP later on, but not sure yet. I will explore this possibility as I move along the course.
Had to nice webinars with Krishna and Sophie today. Both very informative had the opportunity to present my oral in point form with some images. Tutors were very informative on how to proceed what to include and what to exclude from the oral. Anna spoke about the differences between this oral and the past ones, particularly mentioning the importance of the audience and the context of my practice, as well as a very good outline of: 1 .What is it about. 2. My process, 3 References, 4 Audience and context.
This module, I feel that my comprehension has finally cognized, and have finally come around to apply all my past technical and creative experience to my work in this module. I feel that both the former module were underpins for this one, and it seems that the former tutors were able to set me up for this point and I am very happy about that.
I saw that a few students are still struggling, and I was too, but I followed the advice of Dr. Steph Cosgrove that I got to see at our first Face-2-Face in Falmouth. “Read and Read and Read and Read!!!! It has finally paid off. I just go over stuff over and over again, not a lot, but I select a few key topics and works, and just go over it, again and again. I also met Paul Clements, and somehow I managed to glean a lot of information from him. He is the Tutor for 702. If I had not attended that Face 2 Face, I don’t know if I would have made it this far. I suggest that every student attend their first F-2-F at ALL costs, ask questions from everyone about everything, go to a portfolio review, even in you don’t have one, make one up. I made one in my Hotel room in Falmouth, and go talk about you work.
Don’t worry about your Final Major Project in the first module. I did that, now it’s so far back in history, I don’t even consider it.
This week I took a look at the work photo editor Akira Hasegawa. He edited the work of Masahisa Fukase’s “Solitude of Ravens.” I really liked Fukase’s images. Dirty, grainy, soft focus. The images evoked pleasure in me. I like that he had an emotional attachment to ravens and what that means in Japanese culture. That emotional link is what I look for in my work. I have achieved it with a single image, but this module, I have been able to achieve that in a series.
Back to Akira. When Anna told me to look at the work of Masahisa, I was a little reluctant, but decided on this MA that everything I resist, for what ever reason, I will turn around and embrace, no matter how hard it is. So, I did it went on line and looked at “Ravens” the dirty, non technical images spoke to me, I really liked them, but what bothered me was: Oh well, it’s just gonna be another boring series on ravens. We have em here in California (Blackbirds, and they mean son of a bitches) However, when I looked at the series, I saw they were punctuated every 4 images or so with an image that was not Ravenesk. His fat wife rolling on the bed. Three girls at the beach with their hair blowing in their faces, and ocean shot. I thought, wait a minute, what’s going on here? As I looked at the images I suddenly felt that the period (full stop fro the Brits) kind of gave me a breather, before moving on to the next set of Ravens. I really was impressed by this, and knew that no photographer is that smart…
I could barely read the afterward in the book but managed to discover who Akira Hasegawa is from an internet search. I figured he was the brains behind the editing. I pulled up an article on him and liked what I read off the bat. “Photo Editor Akira Hasegawa on self-expression, photo manipulation and fake photos.”
This immediately grabbed my attention, here is an old school dude, working through the ranks of time… seen it ALL! Now in retirement, it just made me realize that one cannot go it alone, a good editor can save a bad story and create a good one from images. (I had that happen once, where I sent the local newspaper a photograph, and the editor cropped it, and made a whole story out of it) Front Page.
With that said, I think it is Akira’s editing that finally pulled me off the fence into the Japanese photography camp. Anna said they are very poetic in their style, without poetry an image becomes just another image. and I have plenty of those.
I own many cameras in many formats, All the way from 4×5 down to 35mm and from 35mm motion down to Super-8mm, a camera junkie for sure. Sometimes it becomes difficult to choose which camera to go out and photograph with. But have learned, always have the digital camera close at hand (my trusty Canon 7D) because, I have run out of film, and had no other camera handy when I need to make a few extra images.
Generally I will go out with two cameras. This week I went out with my Nikon F and my 35mm panorama camera. It has a light leak issue, and has not been used in a while. I decided to put a roll of film through it as part of my project development.
Went out with two rolls of Tri-X I inherited from a friend. I normally use Ilford HP5+, however, as I had some Tri-X I decided to use it and go photograph in the afternoon for my series ‘Fences’ I came back and developed the film. The film developed well, but two issues arose. Firstly, the panorama camera still has a serious light leak and secondly the Tri-X curls very badly, making it difficult to mount and scan on my Epson V750
I read about some few techniques on line to make the negative flat, but most people still have the problem, and it seem universally problematic with this film, so I will be sticking to Ilford HP5+. It dries FLAT!.
I looked at the light leak problem, and scanned the negatives full frame. I like the look of the light streaks and flashes, so scanned and made a series of the negative with the imperfections. I may incorporate this into my portfolio this module. I felt that using the camera this way gave the image an interesting mood and feel.
Tomorrow I will be driving down to Hollywood to buy some Kentmere 400 a Freestylephoto, they are a film and digital supplier, with a good range of film stocks and chemicals, and I get 5% discount with my Falmouth Student ID. https://www.freestylephoto.biz/99400-Kentmere-400-ISO-35mm-x-100-ft.-Roll I have not used this film, but it is made by Ilford, and is a lot cheaper, and grainier. I like grain so I am going to test it out. My HP5+ is running low, so time to buy a new bulk load of 100ft. I will spool off about 10 rolls for the F2F trip in Paris. I plan to shoot a lot of film while in Europe.
This week I presented a paragraph Anna asked for. What is ‘Fences’ about and what it means to me. I sent it and received a very +ve response, and it will be part of my oral presentation. The part that discusses where I was in the past, and where I am in my practice now!
I have been working on the oral presentation and it has been going well. Seems a lot easier to put together this time around, and Anna gave some good input as what is to be expected in the Oral this module. MLO was very informative and critical, and came out of it once again as I call it my creative therapy session.
Had a good after module conversation with Michael Turner, fellow co-hort. I was very impressed by his color abstracts, and the work he is doing. We had a good long creative talk after the MLO and I discovered how much he saw into the images I presented this week. For the first time experienced how an intuitive person interprets another’s work, again I look for genuineness when people critique my work and was very impressed by what Michael saw in my images, and patterns that I did not even see my self until pointed out.
I feel that this module is enabling me to stride out in a way that I have had problems with up until this time. In the prior two modules, the problems where brought to my attention (split, undecided as far as my portfolio was concerned) so grateful for that. This enabled me to have a ‘problem’ to solve, and feel that it was a lead up to this module, and glad it got resolved, albeit only in the beginning stages.
This is the first time that I will create (a word I NEVER used before the MA) a complete ‘series’ of images with an emotional as well as a technical thread that links them. Gary was always very patient, and constantly said that his was only the second module (MOD_703) to relax, and go photograph and work it out by doing. He knows that I am very ‘heady’ and abstract, that I needed more concrete work and he encouraged me to go shoot images.
Stella brought up the fact that it’s okay to fail, that failure is part of the process, so that helped me through, instead of stopping short, like I did before. Would have an idea, think it was magnificent, and such a genius for thinking about it. However upon waking up the next morning, I would think myself an idiot for thinking up something so stupid and I would quit before I even started. Both Stella and Gary got me over that. Now I do, then think, before it was think then do (or not do) as was most of the time. So changing my approach helped me get over that fence, in the last module.
My failure piece: real vs illusion, ie real vs mirror, no idea what I was trying to do, or say, did it anyway, felt stupid presenting it and of course good ol’ Gary compounded my insecurities (with +ve outcome) he was honest and I appreciated that, and suggested what I could have done different…better and made me think further out than the immediate place I was while making this.
This week I have been out photographing. . . a lot. Working on my series for this module. “Fences” This module has been the eye opener for me, as far as my work goes. Something has clicked, I have had cognitive breakthrough. That linking of feelings and emotions to the work has happened. It is a key factor, if it’s genuine, and I finally feel it’s genuine. Up until this point, I was faking it, there was no genuine link between my emotions and my images.
I made a technically ‘good image’ so to speak. I don’t have any problems in that department, I have been doing it long enough. Emotionally though, I was in a vacuum, pushing and fighting particles of air, that wasn’t even there, is the best way I can describe it.
I have been fighting shadows and phantoms my whole life and for once, I feel I can land a punch against something solid, actual. . . concrete. And it’s hurts, but it’s a good hurt, there is a physical connection, I understand the reason for the pain. before it was a fake pain, a phantom . . . not real.
I don’t like to use the word pain, however, my struggle has been has beeb just that, however, out of that pain is emerging a joy that I want, and will celebrate with my series ‘Fences’ it is a metaphor of what has been keeping me in, corralled, quartered creatively. This description here is a watered down diluted version, and may change over the next years of my life. However, change is a good thing, getting rid of old baggage, ideas, concepts, beliefs, ideologies, methodologies, and techniques that does not further the cause. As a quote from a travel book I love states: “Pass by that which you do not love!” I always wondered what that meant exactly? Here, some 10 years later, I understand it. Here are some images:
This week, I have been doing some more research on Japanese photographers. This time I looked at the work of Daido Moriyama again from a contextual standpoint. I saw some work of his before, I think it was at the Tate, could have been Pompidou, it’s all a blur. I was impressed by the grainy, contrasty, mood of his images. As I looked at the work of Masahisa Fukase, I noticed a very similar kind of feel to the mood of his work. Could it be a cultural thing, or lack of technical mastery? What ever it is, I like it!
I have always been attracted to this kind of look, maybe it’s a mirror of my own imperfection, and I refer to it as ‘dirty photography’ (no pun regarding images shown intended) Dirty, has more than one meaning depending on whether one reads it as a noun or a verb!
Somehow this look or mood evokes a type of emotion to the forefront of the work, which I like. I am working in B+W analogue for this module (and may do it for the rest of the MA, again, have learned to use the word may, with caution, because I’ve run the gamut so far) and have decided to implement more dirt into my work. . . Time to get dirty – very dirty!
Somehow, by looking at the work of these artists, I feel it is okay to be ‘dirty’ that they have paved the way in this arena already. Their way of being dirty and my way are different for sure, so I am not concerned about appropriation as I once was, because there is not only one kind of dirty. There is for example by playing in the sand, or by playing in the oil fields, two ways in a hundred. Figuring where to get dirty is the creative part of form, as is it’s opposite, getting clean, and again, both have their merits, it’s just that I feel like playing in the dirt right now, maybe it’s a pang for my childhood days of art in the sand box, but that is a whole other issue.
In the US, everything is sterile and clean, or cleaned up, like some other places in the world as well, the US is not mutually exclusive in this regard, but let’s just use it for illustrative purposes, because I reside here and am experienced with it’s cultural cleanliness. For example, even the pulp is removed from orange juice here. Think: Sunny Delight. It’s so sterile it’s like drinking embalming fluid. This is the way I feel about photography in the digital age. Everything good about (analogue) has been removed in digital. Grain, scratches, silver clumping, the list goes on. Funnily enough, it can be put back, in digital form, but it’s a pale horse compared to the real thing. Like actual meat compared to vegetarian “fake” meat. It looks somewhat the same, but it’s not, and with every bite, you know it, and feel cheated, that I’m paying $20 for some glued together, dyed brown mushed up soy-beans, which costs less than a nickel on the open market. In the same vane, analogue photography to digital photography is like being with an actual woman compared to a blow up doll. Blow up doll people have no idea what they are missing.
Form is part of the image making process, content is what makes the photographer unique, well. . . maybe it’s form and content. Personally, I like one of a kind. Unique, the novel, or however one defines it. For me it is one of the elements that adds ‘value’ to an image, something I work for, whatever emotion the term ‘value’ invokes, which are many.
This week has been a breakthrough week for me. For the longest time, over two modules, in fact, I had a problem of putting together a series of images that is linked: in concept, idea and image. Up until this point, I have been happy with the singular image, and have battled with linking an idea with a series of images.
Anna suggested to start with a ‘micro-series’ of images that are related. This suggestion really made the task easier, because I looked at it as a small series, which I decided to limit to three or four images. I have always liked the number three, so I linked the concept of micro to three, and this made my ability to move into a micro-series of 3, or in my case 4 images.
I wanted to make the series in the confines of my yard, and see if it could be done. (an ego trip to be one up on Edward Weston, who limited his work to one square mile, at Point Lobos) never realizing how I was fencing myself in, and, not in a good way. Sure, it is possible to do…now what!
Related: For the past week, I have been looking at a cell tower that was constructed near my house (1/4 mile away, direct line of sight) and realized that the fence I have around my property is useless. The fence has served well in terms of keeping intruders out, but for the dangers of EMF’s and RF’s, (Electro Magnetic Fields ((RF)) Radio Frequency) it has no protection at all.
I started to think about this and figured that I have to figure a way around this problem, and decided not to be fenced in by other peoples information put out there on the internet and to do some research and tests of my own on the subject. By doing some EMF measurements on an RF meter, to measure the EMF’s emitted from other cell phone towers in close proximity.(this will be another project down the line) This way, by gathering information, testing, and making my own informed decision, this whole affair spawned the idea to make a micro series on ‘fences’ both as a physical structure and the metaphorical concept of the mind.
I decided to make a series of images of a wooden fence that I have on one side of the property, and another micro series on a rusty chainlink fence I have on the back side of my house.
When I started to photograph, the intruding thoughts started to pervade, about the idea being ridiculous and stupid. At this point, I would normally stop the project and move to another idea. This time, I decided to take the idea of former tutor Stella Baraklianou. (I will cite under contextual research) about failure and the acceptance and benefits of it.
I decided to forge on with the series, good, bad or indifferent. As I was photographing and forging on, I went back to re-photograph the wooden fence I had photographed earlier, later in the day. By this time the sun was setting, and through a crack in the fence, I caught a flash of sunlight. I decided to make a series on following the light (as cliche and banal as one can get) but decided to follow though. As I held my camera up to the slit in the fence and looked through the lens, I was transported into another world, of beauty, color, shape, line, shadow and abstraction (my favorite photographic genre) and made a few images.
I then went on to a second series of 3 to 4 images at the rusty chain link fence ant the back of my property. I had made a few images here in the past, but not a series. I made the first image of a weed head growing through the fence. Then wondered how it would look from the other side of the fence, so I went up and around to make that point of view. It was as beautiful but in a different way. The lighting was more top and the background a smoother shade of grey. Not better, but different. It gave me a perspective from the other side of the fence. The third image, is of the chain link, not the fence itself, but the shadow of the fence, cast onto some fencing cloth. So, at fist glance it looks like chain link, but once pointed out, it is in fact a shadow. Sometimes a little knowledge of the image can dispel many questions.
The last image, is of a shaft of wild grass growing through the fence. As I made the image, I noticed as much grass behind the fence, as in front of it, and thought: ‘Nature is not constrained by boundaries.’ It lives, grows and thrives, behind, in front, above, or through the fence. I have decided to adopt this attribute in my life as well as in my work from now on, and no longer be confined by the physical fence of my yard, or the mental fence of my mind.
A simple blade of grass showed me what true freedom is all about! This kind of philosophy has been with me always, however, now it takes on an understanding, that I could not grasp before.
The webinar with Krishna was very informative. She suggested that I make photographs every day. I said that I do, but she reminded me to keep it in the vane of series, and thinking about the images as a series. So it’s good that I am finally getting into the groove of working from and idea, instead of from an image that was made. This series ‘Fences’ was born out of ‘Yardwork’ and that was to make images around my yard. I am happy that it was able to be made into a series, as opposed to multiple images with no relation, which could very easily have been the outcome were I not guided this week by Anna and Krishna.
There are no wrong notes, some are just more wrong than others!
This week I have pretty much caught up with the tasks. Went through a bit of a downward turn on the ferris wheel, for a few days, after looking at the work and portfolio of David Jackson, (recommended by Anna, in her interview with Max Barnett of PYLOT magazine.) Once again the doubt about my own work crept in. Just realizing once gain how important that golden thread is that ties bodies of work to-gether, especially on the commercial end. When these times happen, I just recall the words of Simon a fellow student, slightly ahead, at the F-2-F at Falmouth earlier this year. “Your emotions are going to be a rollercoaster” or something to that effect, those words have got me through some emotionally difficult times during this MA.