Sunday, 21 December 2008
...and much else besides.
For the past three weeks or so I've been putting together a family album of photographs for my mother - the earliest years of her family, dating from 1860's until her youth (there will be sequels....). I have scanned the photographs, restoring some pretty much as they are; with others I have done a lot of work. They are printed in a photobook (by photobox). I went for photobox as they were the only printers who could guarantee Christmas delivery (I was skating on thin ice time-wise). I'm delighted. It is something she will look through, not worry about damaging (and she would worry) - she can do what she likes with it, write notes in it, over it...the text I have chosen is nice and large...
I have a respect and preference, sometimes, for 'sacred dirt' - the accumulation of the vestiges, and witness of, time. But to strip away stains and discoloration, to remove a tear, or creases, to recreate someone's likeness so it is more as it was when the shutter was tripped - restoration can bring someone to life in a powerful way. Especially for people who are old enough to remember those people - they are often not so pleased with the stains, tears, rips, which represent only damage, not history.
There are other ways - I still copy individual photographs onto film and print archivally, depending on the photograph, and individual digital files can also now be printed onto fibre-based black and white darkroom paper made by Ilford (though this paper cannot be chemically toned).
For this particular purpose, though, using the photobook route has been liberating - and I think I'm hooked. It's a wonderful way to share (rellies - you know where I am!) and the originals can stay safe (some need to, as they are now very delicate). Meanwhile the people, the stories are here directly before us, to look at and to touch, whispering to us something of how we came to be here.
Friday, 14 November 2008
It was nine years ago that I did my last lith print - on very well out of date (but perfectly OK) Kodalith, a beautiful and delicate for-purpose lith paper, long since 'deceased'. I'm not altogether certain of the rich tones offered by the paper that I used for the previous image below (Forte Polywarmtone 15), very different from the subtle colour shifts of kodalith. (This paper is also now deceased of course, though I have a stock of it). I have yet to try toning which might make a difference, as does the freshness of the developer: but that print was my favourite in terms of 'snatch point' and in terms of having no blemishes/dust spots whatsoever (I think it was one of two in that respect!).
It's good to venture into something new. And there's something seductive about the easy quiet, contemplative nature of lith printing (as long as you slow the process down) compared with regular printing; the balance of control and intuition. As well as a dreaminess, the hint of something just-below-the-surface...it seems to fit my current state of mind (kicked off perhaps in a timely way - and amongst other things - by Sarah Moon).
Thursday, 13 November 2008
Friday, 31 October 2008
When my mother discovered that, at age nine, I could not make out that the blobs on the distant telegraph pole were in fact birds, she marched me off to the optician for my first pair of glasses. I was quietly devastated. I didn't take kindly to such indignity, or to such obvious evidence of imperfection. These days, though, it's cool. There are many, many, frames to choose from, no-one is teased any more - for slight short sight at least - and when my son reported a few weeks ago, at the same age, that he couldn't make out everything on the white board, he was delighted to have his eyes checked, and when he subsequently received his first pair of glasses, said it was better than a birthday present. Even if he does seem more interested in using them for alternative ways of looking at the world, than in the more conventional way...
Sunday, 26 October 2008
Yesterday I managed to catch the last day of a fleeting retrospective of Sarah Moon's work at the Royal College of Art. I had read about it in the Independent earlier in the week (see the article, Frocks and Fantasy below) but at the time it hadn't registered with me just how short has been the run of this exhibition.
I've always been interested in Sarah Moon's work, and never had the chance to see it in such depth. Many of the works were new to me. It was presented in a non-conventionally non-linear way (though apparently carefully planned) which for me worked well, and compounded the eerie claustrophobic essence of her work, where each is separate from the other, whilst the whole effect is of a gently restrained but perhaps slightly insidious "crowding in" around and about you. Like strange dreams, half-remembered. It's possibly worth noting that my companion felt differently about the presentation, and was somewhat thrown by the seemingly disordered approach and particularly the lack of space between the black and white works : the fashion images were presented more conventionally.
Moon has made films of various fairy tales, along with a body of work of film stills from each, and her film The Red Thread (after 'Bluebeard') was included here with stills alongside (The Little Mermaid was also shown on film but unfortunately I was unable to catch this one). I looked at the stills first, which contained a descriptive narrative in french attached to the base the pieces themselves, with translation below. Half of these were in darkness because of the layout of the room, with the screen running the film in the middle. I thought this was a shame as it was almost impossible to read the text or see the photographs in the darkened half of the room. I overheard someone complaining about this later who was told that the point of that part of the exhibition was the film not the stills but I tend to believe that if you are going to show something, you should show it so that it is visible, or not bother at all. The pieces which represented the dead wives were perhaps the most striking of these stills, where each photograph became part of a larger, three-dimensional sculptural piece including some of the trappings of death (for example, strange, dark-blooming flowers). Due to their relative size and the fact that they were not along the furthest walls, they benefited from the spooky half-light within which they were placed.
The Red Thread alludes (I assume) to the line of blood that binds this particular story, and there was such a meandering thread or wire linking each of the pieces. The narrative is Moon's version of the Bluebeard tale, and for me it had an intense kind of almost unbearably uncomfortable claustrophobia that I've not experienced as a viewer since seeing the film Erasorhead. I am fascinated by the way narrative and poetry can be applied to photography, and for this reason found The Red Thread interesting and refreshing although ultimately it left me a little dissatisfied. I enjoyed it's tangible yet metaphorical qualities (such as the thread, the use of text, the sculpted flowers) but I found the husky heavily french-accented narrative, the very heavily-freckled heroine, the hammer-horror, just a little clichéd and even at times, bordering on a little silly. (And what is it, continually, with the obsession with freckles in the photography world). But whatever my response and possible reservations, there was a rarely-experienced pleasure in the process of being at the mercy of an unusual and powerful storyteller.
Susannah Frankel writes in the Independent article below “Moon's voice, above all, is an intensely personal one, whispering, rather than shouting.” She certainly does not shout, though I wouldn't describe her work as a whisper either, more an attempt at wordless communication direct to your sub-conscious mind. At it's best, it works powerfully in this way. Occasionally, for me at least, it falters slightly in its originality and becomes just a touch heavy. I wonder if a further pursuit of her own, more literally personal tales would have appealed to me rather than the re-telling of an old, even hackneyed one. But perhaps, given her use of the medium also, that would be a step too deep and too far. And I concede, of course, not her point here.
As for the fashion photography – I adored it. How unique it is to see the fashion world presented in this way, without the glitz and the gloss and not an anorexic model in sight. Truly fashion as a fine art – though Moon herself would be uncomfortable with viewing her own work as art, although is it the 'artiest' photography (a little too much so just occasionally) I have seen in a while.
Reservations aside (small ones really) Moon's retrospective was a breath of fresh air - or should that be the lingering echo of another world. Visual poetry it certainly is. We see far too little such introspective, poetic work amongst the glitzy, over-saturated colours, the deadly smoothness and hyper-reality of popular contemporary photography. It is a great shame this exhibition was not on for longer. However the less comprehensive concurrent exhibition at the Michael Hoppen Gallery runs until the 15th November, so if you missed the RCA exhibition, catch it if you can.
Michael Hoppen Gallery and book Sarah Moon- 1,2,3,4,5
Frocks and Fantasy - The Independent
Sarah Moon at the Kyoto Museum of Contemporary Art
Friday, 17 October 2008
I had a chance yesterday to look at the series of pictures I made on the walk (see last posts). As often happens, when I first looked through them I skimmed over and rejected all but the one that most caught my eye. This is the one that was taken seconds before...
Monday, 29 September 2008
I'm feeling that I should have seen the connection between my photo Into the late summer light (see previous post) and W.Eugene Smith's Walk to Paradise Garden as pointed out by a number of people. Of course I was aware of Eugene's Smith's picture, although it's not something that I've held uppermost in my mind. If pushed, I would say that I have always found it a touch sentimental.
I think the photos (his and mine) are very different, and the reason that I hadn't made a connection - apart from only just having processed it - could be because of the 'mind-space' I am in as the photographer, rather than the viewer. The difference is maybe more apparent to me because of the process I went through taking it (just one of a roll of exposures as I tried to keep up with them) and because of the difference in motivation in taking the picture cf Eugene Smith who - and I've looked up a bit about it - needed a kind of revelation at that time or at least reason for carrying on...my motivation was very different. The results seem very different too, to me at least, even the play of light, although obviously there are two figures heading towards the light, from shady greenery. I do like the connection being there, though, after the event (if that makes sense).
I think it shows how valuable it can be to get feedback on your own work. It also raises interesting questions - where work comes from, how it relates to all that has come before. Whilst acknowledging the past (with gratitude) I'm not someone who believes that everything has been done already. I believe the opposite - there is everything yet to do.
Saturday, 27 September 2008
Monday, 22 September 2008
...and a steep climb on the Downs a few weeks ago with an old friend. Time passes too quickly and months and even years can go by and we don't see each other. We must do another walk whilst the weather holds (but who can rely on the weather - we'll do another walk anyway!..)
Friday, 19 September 2008
Down by the river - on one of the few days of 'summer' we had this year! Fortunately we were away from London for it (this is from the same August trip to East Anglia).
This is the second (or third, or fourth) entry into the murky waters, (by which time the pockets - no idea why they found themselves inside out - were full of water).
Despite the dreary summer we've had, the weather now is gorgeous - so hoping to get out and about and enjoy it during September, and hopefully longer!
nikon fm3a, Ilford delta 100
Wednesday, 17 September 2008
from the online photographer today
For starters, I'm going to migrate the Forgotten Camera series over to Photoborg.org, although I'll post reminders here when new ones go up...
The good thing about this is that "Forgotten Camera" is now an ongoing series, with no deadline. So if you missed your chance before but still would like to participate, now you can.
There's not always a great deal that interests me on the online photographer, but it's good to see an ongoing film interest taken up.
Link to Photoborg.org
Tuesday, 16 September 2008
A different corner, and boy - still from our trip in August, but with the RZ. Back in the city and well settled back to 'normal'; already it seems an age ago.
Saturday, 13 September 2008
and The Online Photographer
I had a look at theonlinephotographer.com - haven't checked it for a while (thanks to Suzanne for the link!) The results of the 'forgotten cameras' challenge is quite fun to see (deadline passed). As for 'forgotten cameras'...I do understand the passion. A fun thread to follow - and quite informative also.
Tuesday, 2 September 2008
Monday, 1 September 2008
using this camera has been such a pleasure.
The obvious - it sets me free from the rules. Not being quite sure what you are seeing (composing) - but sure enough. Not being sure what you will get - but sure enough. The freedom to be instinctive. Having a go, with exposure, with focus. It doesn't come out 'right'? So what. If it goes wrong, blame the camera. Which means my stern editing self is sent packing. What a relief.
Light, light, compared with the RZ and so quiet - yet such gorgeous large negatives. I don't have to lift it to my eye, so it's quite discreet - except when the finder is obscured and I'm peering. I was quite surprised that in the town no-one seemed to notice it...a good thing for me, I prefer to be invisible. It struck me that some of the younger kids may not have known what it was...
The shape of the negatives. Imperfect. Have purposefully kept them all full-frame. And I love the look of the negatives from the pre-war lens.
Truly from another era. A sense of history - and, a direct lineage to this camera. I used it myself well over two decades ago; what was I then? What was photography to me, then? Have I changed, strayed, grown, wasted time?
And face to face with my past - the taking of the pictures, back then, and the subjects of the pictures. It feels good to bring the past alive again, in many ways, bring it towards the present. At the same time, using this camera makes it easier to look back, in a way that seems completely natural, completely 'right'..
The lineage again, going further back...knowing who owned the camera - one owner, before me (I think she must have been the first) a relation who rode a gearless bike over West Country hills before the War, riding thirty miles at a time, with this camera in her basket.
The bad things - no pictures of hers remain. They were most likely part of the lost box of her family photographs, gone missing in one of many moves.
Another bad thing - good and bad - I do not want to crop these negatives. I feel more strongly about this than any other photos I have taken or formats I have used. So no cropping to 6 x 7, and no 6 x 9 enlarger yet (time for some alternative processes, perhaps...).
Tuesday, 26 August 2008
Well...I am seriously in love with this camera. And wanting a 6 x 9 enlarger! And, yes, in serious doubt as to whether I do want it 'fixed'! Whether I want to think, as usual, about doing everything 'right'. I'll have to live with that one for a while - I'm in no rush...
Monday, 25 August 2008
a little fun with the fixed 3ft focus, (and narrow depth of field).
This swing is getting a little small now, for a near ten-year-old, for much serious swinging - he still spends a great deal of time there though...(as does his more ruminating brother...)
Ilford Delta 100
Sunday, 24 August 2008
Saturday, 23 August 2008
Camera- Agfa Billy Record 4.5, 6x9 folder, c.1935
I played around with different apertures, to see what I could get. The dreaminess of some of these first ones seems to fit.
Exposure was sometimes problematic as the slower shutter speeds do not work properly, although once or twice I used a best guess using 'T'. I stuck to speeds above 1/30 where I could. All hand-held, and a great pleasure having no mirror slap. As for composing, - there is often a degree of guesswork and randomness, (sometimes pretty total!); the external finder is tiny; it's inverted of course (L to R) which is nothing new, but as in the station photo following, the problem sometimes is seeing an image at all due to the size and more often, the direction of the light shining on it. The pop-up viewer is pure guesswork. ...Other times, it's easy to see.
I really like the random feel, and the way I had to go with the camera as it is (even though I plan to fix it) I feel it adds to the power of the photographs and stops me being so much in control. Or maybe in a different way. Maybe I need, at the moment, the freedom it allows me.
It's amazing the depth of field you can achieve with f32, (as in the next station shot) even with the focus firmly stuck at 3 ft. I am wondering though, seeing those earliest negs : whether when I first had the camera there was more movement on the focus ring before it finally froze (I only clearly remember not being able to use it). In other words, it became worse under my care. In any case I promise billie a complete overhaul as recompense! I realise now what a fine camera she is. But I do like her as she is...
...I could pretend that the lean was artfully intentional but I'd be fibbing.
This is the station of the previous posted pics revisited. I was thinking of that first photo when taking this one, I was quite disoriented by the changes, trying to find the same position as years ago was harder than I anticipated. Unbelievabaly, after very little change really in years, just in the last three months a new road has sprung up, a new car park, and baskets of flowers. The 'new' cafe has gone continental with tables and benches outside. I had to take the shot from the middle of the new road, which disconcerted me, hence the lean...also it was impossible to see anything in the tiny finder - when the light shines on it in a certain way all you can see is reflections. Excuses excuses. Maybe I'll go back and try again, I should have been further back, I appear to have been standing pretty much where the car was in the first - not sure how easy that will be. Maybe I'll try again.
Another reminder of the past - (ah well -the buildings lean one way and the car another in this one!)
The film I used for the new ones was a mix of Tri-X and Acros 100
More to come.
Tuesday, 5 August 2008
Sunday, 3 August 2008
I found these negatives, and quite a number more, back in March (see previous post here). It's taken me until now to find the space to look at them. They were taken on an Agfa Billy Record 4.5, (Prontor 11 shutter) a 6 x 9 art-deco folder (which was made c.1935) with FP4. At some stage the focus became, still is, stuck on 3 ft. It didn't seem to matter at the time (which was more than 25 years ago!). Not sure if I had a little more movement here with these (some of the first) before it finally seized up completely - but it never worked properly. No light meter either. I haven't used the camera in years, though looking at these negatives I'm going to give it a go again soon. These were amongst my first ever photos that were not taken on the little agfa instamatic my dad gave me when I was eleven or so. I did print some at the time at an evening class (not a very good one) - my first ever go at black and white printing - but not these. Then - no black and white photography and precious little other kind, only holiday snaps and first-child snaps, for nearly 15 years...
The first two are of someone who didn't much like having his photo taken. The third is my father, (who come to think of it never liked having his photo either so I'm lucky to have these) sorting through his summer harvest of apples - I cropped this one a little - which I will have to do when it comes to printing as my enlarger only goes up to 6 x7. The fourth is him too - the next are...well... the seaside (local, Suffolk coast). The railway station with car (and café) looks a bygone age - makes me feel pretty old. Not sure how long that car had been sitting there though, judging by the weeds!. The last is, I think, telling me where I came from (and it hasn't changed).
Anyway, I'm delighted to have them back.
Sunday, 25 May 2008
I was taking pictures of landscape, and then looked to the right to see my son in this position. My heart leapt a bit, because the whole landscape (as well as seeing him within it), looked so lovely, in the early winter morning. I couldn't take a picture with the Mamiya without taking a giant leap 10 or 20 yard backwards, so I put down the camera, and picked up the FM3a at my feet, (the technical bit - using aperture-priority, manual 28mm nikkor lens & the film was Tri X) and got the picture before he moved – although aware of me - and there it is, a 'snap'.
The landscape I've known since I was young. So - is it a 'snap'? A self-portrait? Or a portrait? Or a landscape? Both? All? On my site I put it in the landscape section, but that was more a question of context than anything else. There's a lot of me in it, it could be seen it as a journey to my past and also my future there, with him. But that seems contrived, and seen in retrospect.
There's more in it of him – he had no direction from me but just at that moment his presence, his posture, the waves of grass, the landscape, my position with a camera and lens that could take it all in, all came together and I was lucky enough to be there. I like that he is looking straight at the camera. And he has known the land since he was born, he has his own claim on it. I love the way he always lies and rolls in it. That won't last for long.
In the end, although definitions can be useful, the impulse to define can become at best a blind alley - at worst an unnecessary obstacle- as for whether or where it fits, I really don't care.
Sunday, 30 March 2008
In one old folder, yesterday, along with some letters I cherish but had meanwhile completely forgotten (if those two states of mind can exist concurrently, which in a fickle kind of way, I think they can), I found some very old negatives of mine, Ilford HP4 and Kodak Tri-X taken with the Agfa Billy Record 4.5 (Prontor 11). I have thought about them from time to time, not knowing where they were, with a hollow feeling that I may have lost them but ....here they are! Precious negs, some of them, from well over 20 years ago. I didn't print myself to any extent then, and can't wait to see what I can do with them - but more important they will now be safe in negative sleeves along with all the rest.
In a way this fits with my next project (other than picture-taking), now that the website's done, to get more of the family archive - much older than these of course - minimally digitally 'restored' where necessary, but scanned at least, and then printed archivally onto silver gelatin.
Saturday, 19 January 2008
It seems as if I've been hibernating, as far as this blog is concerned. I've been busy though - building a new website when I can, doing some portraits. The website is taking far longer than I thought, designing and constructing it myself with the help of dreamweaver (building the pages, no templates) has been a steep learning curve, but I am now writing the code myself more often than not - oddly satisfying. Gradually it's becoming less of a mystery, revealing itself to be quite simple in the end. It's just finding the way through the undergrowth of the unknown initially. However it turns out, when it's finished it will be an achievement. The good thing is, having gone through this process, it will be very easy to maintain once it's done. I think it is ready now apart from editing, processing and uploading all the pictures. Although technically this is the easy bit, it is not in other ways; I find the editing very hard - easier somehow with a website with a total of under twenty images (as currently). Much harder really to delve into the work I've done over the last ten years and come up with something representative without being overdone. It can only ever be a selection - but the process of reviewing and making that selection is beginning to prove the most useful part of all - possibly even more useful than having the finished site.
I also had a chance, between Christmas and New Year, to do some more landscapes. I feel at last I have enough that tell something of the loneliness of the place, and with it the spirit of calm, and ....ancientness somehow, as if it's all on the very edge of something...between land and sea as it is, but somehow more than that, somewhere timeless. There's a lot of 'me' in the pictures too. I have processed all the film except for one (4 rolls so far, one of which is 35mm). Interesting the difference between the 35mm (with 28mm lens) and the 6x7 (with 110 lens). I like having the choice, and both to hand, but I'm also contemplating a wider lens for the Mamiya for landscape work, although I realise I would then miss having the immediate choice to hand that I have now (intensely disliking carrying spare lenses and fiddling in the field).
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