Topic: Black and White (98 posts) Page 1 of 20

Sometimes

(Note: This is a post that's been sitting in the archive of posts written but not published. You can tell it is a little out of date, but I believe it is still relevant.)

Sometimes you know when you make some new work you are going to lose some fans. Either the new work is so different you've crushed their expectations or you just have to make it and the hell with what others think. 

Case in point: San Jose Squares, 02.2018

Downtown San Jose, CA, shot square, hence "Squares", mid-February. Black and white. Of stupefying quality, really first-rate, in a flat tonality reminiscent of my 80's and 90's square work in black and white (Oakesdale, Portland, Hershey, Yountville, Nantucket, etc). The new Nikon, feeling familiar but foreign too. A subtle but perceptual shift in rendition,  so natural and neutral as to be transparent.

I am writing this soon after seeing the Sally Mann show at PEM and clearly, it had a powerful effect on me. How anyone can cut through the surface like that is beyond me. She's like a hot knife through butter, or a cut from a razor; fast but no pain til later.

But today at the studio I went through the San Jose prints and this is hard work to get behind. Flat and quiet, you've got to work at these before they become available. Fred Sommer's "short attention span" comes into play here and they are easy to ignore. But slow down and look in there and they are relentlessly rewarding.

Hm. I seem to be making work that no one gets or no one cares about. San Jose,  Shrink Wrapped, winter 2017, the Spruce Pine work (2012, 2013,2014, 2018) on the Road to Pinnacles,  2018. Maybe I'm just making bad work, but I don't think so.

At the Sally Mann, Sara Kennel, the curator, spun the work so well, confirming its substance and genius with every breath. No dispute, this is hugely important work. What an opposite, though. I know, who am I to compare myself to Sally Mann? Well, someone who's been doing this longer than she has, so perhaps I qualify. But if I do go there, I look at her ability to cut through, to essentialize a photograph compared to mine, which are sharp and clean and precise and cold(?). Beautiful seems to reign supreme in mine but she will kill conventional renderings and use the materials to get what she wants, rough and edgy and visceral. Jesus, go through that show and you leave needing a bandage. Know of the work she did of the decaying bodies? Look at her pictures of her husband and they seem to forecast his end.

So San Jose Squares? Deserves another look, some serious perusal perhaps. Maybe you're moving too fast, doing too much and it's affecting the quality of your life. Slow down, take a longer look at some work that contains... a lot. You'll walk away richer, I  guarantee it.

See the full series here.

Topics: Black and White,Digital

Permalink | Posted August 4, 2022

My RISD Graduate Portfolio

1973. I'd wager this is before many of you were born. Graduating from the RI School of Design with a Master of Fine Arts degree in Photography. We were told to make two copies of our thesis portfolio, one for the Department and one for the library. I did just that, although many did not.

I drove down to Providence a few weeks ago and got to look at mine for the first time since 1973.

Now housed in the library's archive, mine was mounted prints on 16 x 20-inch museum board sitting in a portfolio box.

(forgive the roughness of the imagery. I had to shoot the prints with my iPhone. and then square them up in Lightroom).

These were made 50 years ago. 

All shot with the Rollei SL 66 and the Carl Zeiss 80mm f2.8 Planar lens. 

Photography in those days seemed to be, for me, a large dose of high-end craft combined with imagery that was primarily graphic with strong blacks.

There were 14 photographs in the portfolio.

I can remember thinking after I'd graduated and the portfolio was finished, I might try shooting with more distance. I think this was developmental, learning perhaps, in the early days, to move in tighter then later I could let more air in my pictures. As it turned out, I did just that, shooting landscapes in northern Scotland one summer four years later that were expansive.

And so it goes. Of course, I would have been offended should anyone suggest in 1973 that I wasn't fully formed as an artist. Little did I know how much there was still to do.

Topics: Black and White,Analog

Permalink | Posted June 28, 2022

Moses Lake 2

Odd. You would think the short series called Moses Lake 2 would be preceded by Moses Lake 1. But it is not.

Let me give you a little context. In the 90s I was steaming on several fronts. Still shooting in black and white 8 x 10, I was making yearly trips to photograph in the wheat field country of the Palouse in eastern Washington. But I was also shooting with the Superwide Hasseblad mostly handheld.

In those days I often would fly west to Seattle or Portland and drive back east in a rented car to Colfax or Pullman, which served as a base for ten days or two weeks of photographing in the wheat fields.

Washington is a big state and, once over the Cascade Mountains, it is dry and desert-like. Inevitably, after several of these trips driving east I was going over the same territory. Driving on Rt 90 I would go right through Moses Lake, a small town in the middle of the State. In the mid-90s the town was experiencing a housing boom. As I was photographing all sorts of housing in those days, I stopped to photograph one development under construction where, I learned, the builder was able to put up a house a week.

Moses Lake 2 was the 2nd time I'd photographed homes under construction in Moses Lake.

The two prevailing characteristics were the water tower and the incredibly black pavement which had just been rolled out, in fact, hot under my feet.

I made Moses Lake 2 prints on Kodak Polymax paper 11 1/2 inches square. They are over matted to 16 x 20 inches and are available for viewing at my studio in Acton, MA by appointment: here.

Oh yes, Moses Lake 1? Didn't make the cut.

Topics: Black and White,Analog,Northwest

Permalink | Posted April 24, 2022

1978 NEA Application

Going back. Way way back. 1978 grant application. One of two key grants back then: The Guggenheim and the NEA (National Endowment for the Arts).

As American citizens and individual artists, we could apply for the NEA using our  photographs as an application. This was a granting program initiated and signed into law by President Johnson in 1965. The individual grants are long gone now, as they went down a path of controversy to elimination. Look up Jesse Helm, Piss Christ and Robert Maplethorpe for more info. In 2017 President Trump tried to deep six all federally funded grants in the arts.

At any rate, I applied. We all did.. I'd started teaching at Harvard by that year and was pretty pumped about it. Were we presumptuous? Absolutely!  I was five years out of graduate school.

I'd spent the previous summer traveling in Europe so included a couple of those in the application. I was working in 35mm black and white infrared in those days, hand holding a Leica M4 with 21 mm Summicron and 35 mm Zeiss lenses. I toned the prints. I bulk-loaded the film and changed the film in a changing bag as the felt trap in the film cassettes was not infrared proof.

I was trying to promote the different way the film saw the world and my abilities with it.

My application was 10 disparate photographs, meaning not from one series or body of work.

Part of the reason for being in Europe the previous summer was to go to the Nazi concentration camp at Dachau, Germany where thousands had been put to death in WW II.

I didn't get the grant. That year, photographer's grants were $7500 or $10000

Please leave comments below. The full series is now on the site towards the bottom of the Gallery page.

Topics: Black and White,grants,infrared

Permalink | Posted April 18, 2022

From the Archives 3

In From the Archives and From the Archives 2 we looked at some work that I felt might have been missed or passed over. Being prolific has its downsides.

In From the Archives 3 we're going to look at work made over the winter of 2012. Having just retired the year before I was free to make new work. The year before I had been invited to present at the Yuma (AZ) Art Symposium, a remarkable meeting of all kinds of artists, including pin makers and jewelry artists. 

After that brief exposure. to Yuma, I decided to spend most of the next winter living there. This turned out to be a very productive time. Here are a few:

Lake Martinez

Castle Dome Mine Museum

Goldfield Ghost Town

Salton Sea

As is often true for many of my series, Salton Sea had concurrent ideas going on at the same time. The dystopian view of a wasteland fecund and irredeemable, and an experiment of color and black and white coexisting. I could feel my teachers rolling over in their graves as I worked on the files back in Cambridge.

And last, the first year of making the Dunes pictures started that winter. The next year I spent time in San Diego with much less photographic success but did drive back to Yuma for ten days to complete the Dunes project, aerial and ground-based imagery from the Imperial Sand Dunes in California, just over the border from Yuma.

Dunes

 Just like Iceland would be for me two years later, I found the dunes a revelation; abstract, otherworldly, and very beautiful. Being freed from teaching and no longer having the duties of a full professor at a large urban university not only made going away possible but also allowed freedom of thought and immersion in what it is that I do, which is photograph.

Comments welcome.

Topics: Color,Black and White,Digital,Southwest

Permalink | Posted February 28, 2022