Week-15-Project Development

I was invited to an opening at The Hollywood Sculpture Garden, Located in the beautiful Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles.

On way to The Hollywood Sculpture Garden. Photo by: Pierre Chemaly ©


It is a 5 story house converted into a gallery and sculpture garden. I mentioned my FMP exhibit to the owner of the gallery and garden. He offered that I could have a showing at his gallery. He only has one date available: The 14th of November and after that and the gallery would not be available.

View of Hollywood and Downtown LA from the balcony of the HSG Photo by: Pierre Chemaly ©

He mentioned that some important people would be arriving from France and it would be a good opportunity to show my work. I will have to find out from Dr. Wendy if this will be okay for my FMP exhibit, as it will only be for one day.  He mentioned that his ‘Garage’ is available for the exhibit. Ironically I love garages, it is a mechanics equivalent of the artist’s studio, and in fact many artists convert the garage into a studio. Jean Cocteau, an artist who’s work I really admire said to create conditions in which it can work.  ‘poetry functions better in the garage’

The Hollywood Sculpture Garden Garage: Photo by: Pierre Chemaly ©


I feel that this is a good opportunity and I will discuss with Dr. Wendy and get opppionion on it. Finding a space to exhibit is very difficult. It is possible to rent a space, or buy a space, however, I do not like this approach and would rather like to have a showing at a gallery and if anything thing sells that get a percentage.


This week I had the opportunity to do out to Dumont Dunes: 30 miles west of the town of Baker California, in the Mojave Desert, to do dual practice. Firstly to finish work on a feature film a friend of mine has been making for the past three years (a day or two at a time over that period) and the opportunity for me to go out to the true desert in California, where there is no flora or fauna (or at least any that is immediately apparent). I had planned to go out photograph and to have some time to experience this mysterious landscape that mystics as well as Christ (40 days and 40 nights) experienced in their lives.

Ironically this is the last “Commercial” venture I will embark on before my FMP.  A foreshadowing of the ‘Fence’ that I have attempted to cross all my life: Moving from commercial to fine art and from making some-one else’s art, to making my own.  Strange, or maybe not so strange, that this endeavor should be taking place in the desert where nothing lives, much like the empty mind before the idea, from the darkness and nothingness from which I was made into being.

Fig.1. Baker California. Home of the worlds tallest thermometer 134ft. (left of Mobil sign) Photo by: Pierre Chemaly ©

These sand dunes at Dumont, are like those of the Sahara Desert.  Nothing but sand for miles. I had planned on going out to this area to make more images for my FMP but as this opportunity arose, I figured I would do the filming, then do some photography for my FMP project while I was out there. My mind was void of ideas, there is noting but sand. However, as it is the mission of the MA I set out when strting this journey, was not to let reason, intellect and emotion stop the thought. And, I  moved forward.

The Dumont Dunes is inland about 30 miles west from the town of Baker. Baker has the tallest thermometer in the world (134ft)  located in the center of  town (See Fig 1.)  Once driving out twenty miles, the sand dunes are another 10 miles or so inland off Highway- 127 N. (Also known as Death Valley road)

Hwy-127 N. From Baker towards Dumont Dunes. The Dunes is then off this highway about 10 miles. Photo by: Pierre Chemaly ©

After driving for a while and not passing any cars on the inland dirt road,  it becomes a little uncomfortable, because there is no cell service out there, the temperatures are a little cooler this time of year but it was still over 88°F (31°C) so it is still quite hot.

When we finally arrived at the dunes, and the producer drove too close, and I felt the back wheels begin to sink in the sand and soon the passenger van got stuck and could not go forward or backwards. I had a sick feeling to my stomach, we were all alone out here, (a small crew and two actors) no cell service and no one else in sight.

I  immediately stopped the driver from getting us deeper into the sand. If the van bottomed out, there was no way we where going to get out of there. I got everyone out the van and we dug a ramp forward of  the back tires, then I told the driver to straiten the  front wheels, then we all pushed the van out of the hole the rear wheels had dug into the soft sand.  Once it was out I directed the driver to keep moving and not to stop till he reached hard ground.

It was a nerve wracking 20 minutes. All kinds out thoughts passing through my mind. If we got stuck and what would happen?  Fortunately all ended well. The van moved forward to safe ground and we finished the film shoot. I could easily understand how a simple accident could cost one one’s life. The California desert is a very dangerous place. Heat, rattle snakes, desert vagrants. After the film shoot I spent a little time photographing the dunes. All the while in the back of my mind, I was grateful that we got the van out.  (I had been stuck in sand  once before, and this time did not allow the vehicle to sink in too deeply before we dug it out.) I am very glad for that past experience in my life and how it came to out aid this time around. I made a few images of the dunes, which I will use for my FMP constructions, and will always look back, as one of those fortunate days.

Note: as we drove out some guy in an earth mover drove up to the left about 300 yards away, so if we had become stuck, there would have been help. Maybe…! Would he have arrived if we got stuck?  Can’t be sure, as that, would have changed all events to follow. The images I made of the dunes where made gratefully. I said a silent prayer. It easily could have turned out very disastrous. This is most definitely one of the most ‘grateful’ images I have ever made. And will be nice to incorporate into my FMP.

‘Grateful.’ Dumont Dunes California. Photo by: Pierre Chemaly ©


This week I am looking into making a book as part of the FMP.  I had considered taking a class and making my own, however, I have decided against it, as I am loaded with making my own darkroom prints and framing my own work. I do not want to be caught up in a bind (pun intended)  and get overwhelmed, which I do all the time, freeze and land up doing nothing.  I looked around Los Angeles for a binder, and found a very cute, creative and attractive bindery on Melrose Blvd in LA.


The bindery is owned and run by Charlene Matthews. As fate would have it, we both worked for Panavision around the mid 1980’s  but she was at the office on Orange and I was at the other branch, so we never met.

Charlene showed me some of her work, I realised there and then that when an Artist makes a ‘book’ it is a work of art, not a book. I explained what I was attempting to do with my FMP project ‘Fences’.  I mentioned taking the photography out of the photograph, she mentioned she takes the book out of book binding. I knew we are on the same page.  Of course we finally came to discuss the price?  Charlene laughed and said: “You could never affford me but I like your idea.” She will charge me $!!!  It is a huge favor and I have to supply her with the poetry and images.  She will then art me a book. So this week, I have obtained: a space and  getting my book made.===


This week I did some more printing at Santa Monica College in the darkroom there, as well as in my own darkroom at home. I will definitely print on fibre base paper, and the size will be 11×14 inches. The paper I will use will be Ilford. After much stain testing, washing it appears that the paper will have to wash for an hour, with the prints left in a hypo clear bath was for 5 to 10 minutes to remove the residual hypo. My archival washer did arrive and I did test it, it works fine, however I am a little concerned how much water gets wasted with an archival wash.  I do not like the look of RC paper even the best brands does not have the feel and texture of fibre base, so I will just have to deal with the water issue.  I think if I trickle it for an hour the prints should be hypo free or at least with a very light stain which is acceptable as archival.  Ilford recommends:

Fixation             ILFORD RAPID FIXER (1+4) or HYPAM (1+4)                1 min

First wash         Fresh, running water                                                         5 min

Washing aid      ILFORD WASHAID (1+4) intermittent agitation          10 min

Final wash        Fresh, running water                                                         5 min

Ilford no longer uses the term ‘archival’  they use optimum permanence. I can only presume they want to fall somewhere in between archival and less water waste in the washing process.  I will contact Dave Butcher (also known as darkroom dave)  he used to work for Ilford for many years, he is a darkroom specialist and very familiar with Ilford paper and chemistry. I will do what he says is recommended. Time is running short, and I do not have time to re-invent the wheel.


I have constructed two images this week, Incorporating the Dunes and some cracked glass images I made during the week. I am still working on them in lightroom and photoshop and should have them ready for printing by the weekend.



Jean Cocteau:  Cocteau, J., Buss, R., Bernard, A. and Gauteur, C. (1992). The Art of cinema. London: Boyars.

Dumont Dunes: https://www.blm.gov/visit/dumont-dunes-ohv-area

Charlene Matthews Bindery: http://www.charlenematthews.com

Ilford: https://www.ilfordphoto.com/ilford-optimum-permanance-wash-sequence-fb-papers/?___store=ilford_brochure&___from_store=ilford_brochure

Dave Butcher:  http://www.darkroomdave.com



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