Topic: infrared (2 posts)

Southwest 1979

First of all, my primary mission with this blog is to bring attention to work I believe is worth looking at, to bring to the fore work that is under acknowledged, new, or unknown. 

To this end, we are going to take a few posts to examine some work I made in the late 70's on a self imposed sabbatical leave from teaching to photograph in the American Southwest. 

The background and context: 

My first big trip away to photograph was in the winter of 1979. I wasn't a professor yet, and told NESOP (New England School of Photography) I wouldn't be teaching in the spring. After my teaching finished at Harvard in January I took off for the Southwest. This was a self imposed sabbatical of indeterminant length to go make work. I needed to get south from Boston as it was winter and I had friends I could stay with in places like Santa Fe and Houston as this was a trip on a shoestring.

This a quote from the blog titled "Sabbaticals".

The full portfolio is now up on the site and can be seen here.

After some delays that includes a car that needed repair I was gone like a shot in late January from Cambridge and found myself in New Orleans making my first pictures:

I was working solo, with two 2/14 cameras, the Hasselblad Superwide, using panchromatic black and white and infrared films, and the SLR Rollei SL66, also in black and white. I didn't start using color until about 2001...22 years later!

After a week or so in NOLA I drove to Houston,

where I stayed with a friend of a friend, and grew to understand this oil rich boom town a little.

While in Houston I made the discovery of the wonderful Rothko Chapel at Rice University and also met Anne Tucker for the first time, at the Museum of Fine Art. She was then the new curator of photography.

Looking back, these early pictures look much like a warmup as I wasn't really in the Southwest yet, or at least what I thought of as the landscape of the Southwest.

That happened in Alamogordo, NM and nearby White Sands:

White Sands was a revelation to me, just as it has been to many others. The several days I spent there opened my eyes up to the possibilities inherent in a sensibility of reduction and a proclivity as a minimalist.

However, methodology that've been in place for me for decades hadn't coalesced yet in 1979. I was doing much of this for the first time and so this trip was  formative. One of the things is the recollection that I had no idea what the outcome of all this work would be. Of course, I knew of Kerouac, Robert Frank, Danny Lyon, Walker Evans, Lee Freidlander, Steinback, Robert Pirsig, but I didn't model my behavior or artistic aspirations in their vein, I was on my own journey.  Nor was I  photographing with intention for a final result.  I was just photographing. This was work made not so much with the intellect as it was intuition with no known outcome. Apologies for painting this with a big brush, but this trip was loaded for I was risking whether this would take, was this sustaining as a career: avocation and vocation, a life in the arts, and whether I could pull this off. I had no real job, although I liked teaching, it wasn't a firm commitment yet, I was an adjunct in two schools, was single with no kids, could pick up and move and was thinking seriously that perhaps the Southwest might be a place to live.

We will stop here, only really just scratching the surface of this work. I have much more to say about it. I hope you will come along with me. 

Next up in Southwest 2.





Topics: Black and White,vintage,Southwest,infrared

Permalink | Posted May 7, 2017

INFRARED

1976. I know, another century, way before you were born, archaic pictures from a different time, totally irrelevant to present day photography. Well, you don't have to read this but that's where I am going, showing  you some work I made then. In the mid 70's I had started teaching at the New England School of Photography (NESOP) in Boston and was shooting a lot of 35mm, in earlier days with a Nikon and then a little later a Leica M4. Most summers I spent some time with my folks at Martha's Vineyard where the family home is. Going to the beach I'd bring a camera. We had access to a private beach on the South Shore called Squibnocket in those days. On long afternoons in the hot summer sun I would wander off and explore with a camera loaded with Kodak black and white infrared film and a 25A three stop red filter on the front of a wide angle lens. This below is typical of the kind of picture I'd make, hanging the camera around my neck and setting it on a self timer, my hands sliding into the frame, a desire to interact with what was in front of me, to play a part in the picture:

Way back there as two dots on the water are a pair of swans. This was taken after walking back from the shore and the surf to a private inland pond. I made many more like these in those years, not really knowing why, not able to verbalize well what the motive was, more of a feeling than a thought. I wasn't alone, others were making more personal pictures, extending photography to areas not seen before, putting themselves in the frame. Occasionally I still do this. These from Iceland a few years ago:

I believe this way of working affirms a belief in the medium's inherent malleability, in its capability of being almost anything visual, looking like what is in front of the lens, looking nothing like the reality at all.

At any rate, bringing it back to infrared in the 70's, I had started photographing foliage in the spring and summer with the film, knowing it reacted to the chlorophyll in the foliage, rendering it light, while making blue skies go dark.

These are from Mt Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, MA near where I live. Mt Auburn has been a source of many of my pictures over the years. These and more I used for a grant application in 1978, which I did not receive.

I wanted to exert controls over the pictures then that would alter the images, make them in strong color (chemically toned black and white prints), using a wide lens (in this case the 21 Summicron lens on a Leica), and making them as big as I could get away with, 16 x 20 inches.

Eventually I found my hands slipping into cemetery pictures locally and as I travelled. These never became a fixed set, just an amalgam of pictures from different locations.

I don't have a strong background in religion and am not religious now. But not believing in a fixed religion doesn't mean you don't have a sense of purpose or that you aren't spiritual in some way. I think of these pictures as speaking to a connection, to empathy for others and a desire to connect on a level that is sympathetic. I've never shown them, until now.

I can cite two friends as influences: Jane Tuckerman, who has worked in infrared her whole career and who was a colleague of mine at Harvard, and Peter Laytin, who first exposed me to infrared and its possibilities. Thanks to you both.

After these I moved on to photograph using infrared at the concentration camp Dachau, in Germany. Let me know if you'd like to see those. 

Topics: infrared,US,Europe,vintage,Black and White,70's

Permalink | Posted March 14, 2017