Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Truth Is Beautiful

Keep thinking about this quote from Jock Sturges. When I spoke to him the other night it just stuck out in the conversation, it seemed so obvious but yet so on the mark.

When I photograph the families of the Mae Sot dump, I want to photograph the truth, and through that truth the beauty of who they are will be shown.

Joys Of Music

I have been listening to some wonderful music the last few weeks. With the changing technology the older cassette tapes have lost much of their value (at least to other people). Recently I bought 144 tapes for $30, 66 for $25 and about 180 for $25. I had to store and give some of them away but I still managed to gather a bunch of music styles in about 350 of tapes for $80. Tonight as I type this I am listening to some wonderful Chopin. When I was in Paris I visited his grave, what a genius this guy was.

Hopefully this music will make the long hours in the darkroom that much more enjoyable. W. Eugene Smith felt that the music he listened to while printing was an invaluable part of the creative process, I hope that holds true with me.

8x10 Tri-x Buy

Doing a big 8x10 Tri-x buy, I am hearing mixed stories on the demise of this size of Tri-x so figured even thou it cost more than Ilford's HP5 I would do a big buy of 600 sheets. I will have to make 3 payments on the film over a 4 or 5 month period. I love Tri-x and am getting better at shooting 8x10 so it seems the prudent thing to do. I am also working some security OT so hopefully that can help pay for things.

I am not sure if I am doing the right thing here, money is so short for me right now. When I think of the film I keep seeing what might be, I keep seeing in my minds eye the possible negs and prints that could be created. Its really hard for me to lay off buying the film when I know that there is the possibility of creating something special, the possibility of telling an important story. If I can make a strong photograph of a child at the Mae Sot dump, or of a ladyboy sex worker's life, or of an old lady in a slum home, that is all that should matter. Who cares about a few bucks spent on film when you can create something that has a truth, honesty and beauty to it.

F-ck it, screw the cost, will buy the film!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Grant Submitted

Well I got the grant submission to the Alberta Foundation for the Arts people today. The deadline for the grant is Sept 1 and I got it off August 26, heck thats 6 days early!, I am getting good at this .   : )

The grant is for $5000 of an estimated budget of $10 500, the project is 7 weeks in Mae Sot Thailand to photograph "The Families of the Mae Sot Garbage Dump. The idea of the project is to do 35mm and 4x5 photography of individuals, and family groups. I want to show the lives of the Burmese families who work the dump scavenging for recyclable. I want to give these people a voice they have become the forgotten minority. This project has become very important to me, the more I learn about the Burmese, their language, culture and history, the more I want to tell this story.

The great Walker Evans shot of the Fields family keeps haunting my thoughts. I want to photograph the Burmese family groups in a similar style, with compassion and understanding.

Fields family, by Walker Evans

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Quote: Jock Sturges

"The truth is beautiful."

Spoke To Jock

I had a telephone talk with Jock Sturges tonight, he gave me his phone number in France and I called him as he was on the road, the talk was only 20 minutes. He gave me lots more tech help and has taught me many things about his type of large format photography and especially about how to use a Kodak Masterview 8x10 properly. Highlights from the short talk tonight:

Backgrounds are very important, there are 3 types of grounds (backgrounds)

- distracting
- just there
- jewels

The jewel backgrounds help you to focus on the subject.

Instead of using a loupe to focus you can use 3x power glasses with a bifocal in one eye, you close the other eye and you can focus using the bifocal from a distance of 8inches allowing you to see the entire ground glass at the same time.

(I think I got that right, have to check with my friend Larry Louie who is an Optometrist).

Get the biggest carbon fiber tripod (Gitzo) you can with the center crank. The center crank is very important for quick subtle adjustments.

Silicone spray the back of the camera to allow smoother entry and exit of the film holders.

They no longer make 8x10 Tri-x, HP5 is a fine film get used to it, it's all you have.

Never focus with the rear standard as it changes shape (only use the rear standard when your pointing down to correct for leg distortion). Focus the Masterview with the front standard that is slightly tightened (not to tight or to loose), you can accomplish focus in one movement not 3.

Use a gold 6 foot reflector for b/w and the white side in sunlight, use a silver reflector for color work but be-careful as it can blind people.

Reflectors from 15 feet and farther are tough, the goal is to make everything look as natural as possible.

Use diffusers to help soften bright sunlight (like a soft box).

Do not pose a subject, accept them to make the right choices, let them find something natural on their own then say "Don't move" and make your picture.

Often the best pictures happen after the session is over, keep some film for that and watch what they do after you say "Thanks were done", often they will do the best things and give you the most natural poses when they think everything is over.


*Note these might not be exact quotes as I was frantically taking notes as we talked, thou I think they are true to what was said"

Thanks Jock for all your help.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Banarama 2 And Flash

I am making up images tonight to include in my grant submission to the Alberta Foundation for the Arts. Several of the 4x5 Banarama 2  flash shots (Polaroid Razzle conversion camera) seem to be making the final cut. I need to try to do more work with this camera in the future, I like the tiny bit of Weegee/Diane Arbus feel to them. The flash and large negative create a very detailed and harsh take on things, worth more exploration I think. Dean Jones is currently making Kermit for me, Kermit is a green version of my yellow Banarama with a 90mm lens. The Kermits wider angle of view and slight distortion might even make the combination with flash more compelling.

Here are some of the Banarama 2 (135mm lens) shots that might be in the grant submission dvd:

Hauling goods across the Thai Cambodian Border, Poipet Cambodia 2011
Young Boxer Klong Toey Slum Gym, Bangkok Thailand 2012
Nit 50 Sex Worker, Bangkok Thailand 2011
Young Boxer 2 Klong Toey Slum Gym, Bangkok Thailand 2012


To create something larger than myself, something with important lasting value.

The Use of Space In Large Format Portraits

Over the last few days I have been studying the work of Jock Sturges, Sally Mann and tonight EJ Bellocq. One thing I have noticed is how well these large format people photographers use space, space that tells an important story in the photograph. I did some portraits of my father yesterday, the ones I liked best used space around him. It sort of a fine line if you go to far the subject can become lost and insignificant in the composition but it if the space is used well it creates a strong and important visual dynamic. I will concentrate more on learning to use this sense of space effectively.

Storyville Portraits by EJ Bellocq

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Site Advertising Money

My advertising for the site is up to $67, once it hits $100 I will be getting a check sent to me. My plan is to order 2 boxes of 25 sheet 8x10 HP5, one box that I will pay for and the other will be paid for by the blog (free).  I will do this every time I get a check from the Ad people, which means I will have more film to experiment and learn from soon.

All you out there if you have time please click on the advertisement links and check them out. All the money I get will be used to buy 8x10 HP5 film.  I am hoping at some future date, hopefully not to far away, I can begin making 8x10 portraits in Southeast Asia. Thanks for your help!

Being Open

It is so important to be open as an artist. You need to be devoted to your individual vision but its also so so important to be open to other art forms, other styles of work. We photographers should be open to other types of photography (nudes, portraits whatever), its also very important to be open and learn from other types of art, great painting, sculpture, literature, poetry, abstract art etc.

To often the people I know in the arts seem to be pigeon holed into what they like. If you like b/w landscape, also be open to color nudes. If you love painting, also be open to alternative process photography. We can all learn so much from each other, shuttered minds leave you limited as an artist.

We all love our own work, thats normal, its important to have a passion for what your doing. A greater threat as I see it is not the guy who loves his own style of work, but the guy who loves his own style work to the detriment of any other types of art. Love your work thats fine, but also learn to love and appreciate the other arts, take from those arts things that can make your work more expressive and help you become a better artist.

Learning The 8x10

I am working on my 8x10 available light portrait technique. Yesterday I tried the Mido holders for the first time and used my 8x10 Deardorff to make some vertical and horizontal portraits. I had limited success, there was some fogging on a few of the shots but I think that was because I did not load the film and insert the dark slides correctly. I also had a big fog line but I think that was because I mishandled the holder in the field. Shooting the larger 8x10 was much more cumbersome even with the Mido holders and I found the dark cloth a real pain in the ass to use. I usually shoot my Linhoff 4x5 which has a very compact reflex hood, shooting the larger 8x10 with dark cloth and focusing loop felt sluggish. Of the shots that were not fogged I had 2 horizontals and 2 verticals, the verticals were razor sharp but the horizontals were fuzzy. I have a long long way to go before I will be anywhere near competent shooting this machine. I am also wondering if I should shoot the 8x10 Masterview or the Deardorff. I will use one film and one lens with the camera, the lens is the 250mm Fuji F6.7 W, and the film will probably be Ilford HP5 (I would perfer to shoot Tri-x but its about 35% more expensive).

Am going to make another attempt at some 8x10 portraits today when I shoot my father for the series "My Father At 80". I was planning on only taking the 8x10 but with my failures yesterday I wanted to make sure I got something good of my dad, he is taking the time to come out to do this shoot and I owe him some quality work. I will also take my beloved Linhof 4x5 and will work on a few new technical options with this camera. I am trying to refine my shooting for the next Asia trip, today with my dad I will use a different smaller tripod, a 90mm lens to do the portraits instead of the normal 150 and graphmatic backs not the regular 4x5 holders. The lighter tripod is because I am worried about the durability of my standard tripod (had to glue it together in Thai a few trips back), the 90mm is because I want to experiment with getting a slight bit of distortion into the portraits and see how that looks, the graphmatic backs are a weight and space saving attempt. I want to simplify my 8x10 and 4x5 tools as much as I can, so I can truly learn then, then concentrate fully on making important pictures. Hopefully 8x10 shoot will go better and I will also have the opportunity to work on some new 4x5 stuff.

Shooting the 8x10 is a real bitch, I really admire the great photographers who made such powerful people photos with such a unyielding camera, folks like Edward Weston, Sally Mann and Jock Sturges.
I will keep plugging away until I get this right, once I want to do something I tend to not let go until I get it right.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Quote: Richard Benson (Photographer)

" me the subject of art is the human understanding of the world. ....what can be more interesting than trying to make a picture or some thing that says something about the human condition.."

Friday, August 17, 2012

More Older Scans

Here are some more older scans I found on the hardrive, non people shots are not rally my favs but I like some of these. All photos are 35mm Leica rangefinder shots on Tri-x.

Klong Toey slum canal water, Bangkok 2011
After the bath Klong Toey Boxing gym, Bangkok 2011
Klong Toey slum gym dog (one of 4), Bangkok 2011
Under the free Klong Toey canal, Bangkok 2011
Boxer waiting for massage, Bangkok 2011
Frost on trees, Canada 2011

River ice flowering, Canada 2011
Cemetary, Paris France 2010

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Few Pics

Wanted to upload something and found these images on my hardrive all from old scanning sessions. The first  3 photographs were made with flash and the Banarama 1&2 ( a Polaroid conversion camera made by Dean Jones called the Razzle), the next  3 photographs were made with a Linhof (150mm lens) in available light, the last group of pics were made in available light Leica M6s.

Ladyboy Sex Worker, Thailand 2010
Ladyboy  Sex Worker, Thailand 2008
Bell Klong Toey Slum Gym Boxer, Bangkok 2011
Pong, Bangkok 2011
Street Man Klong Toey Slum, Bangkok 2011
Klong Toey Slum Canal, Bangkok 2011
Boxer after match, Bangkok 2011 
Thailand 2011
Klong Toey Slum Gym, Bangkok 2011

Dips and Trips

Been thinking of doing a some multiple print layouts, diptychs and triptychs. The idea for the diptych is a topless nude shots of a girl Weaw shot from below with a wide angle lens, in one picture her head is down and there is a slight erotic feel to the image in the second shot the face is turned away, the eyes distant and a bit troubled. When I was was choosing which picture to print I was torn between the two as I felt they both said such different things, a diptych they might work best,  it would show more complexity in the person, 2 very different realities.

The other idea I had was to do do a triptych, this series of 3 photos would be vertical shots on white of the ladyboy sex worker Betty. I photographed Betty quite a bit last trip (she became a friend who helped me find other ladyboys to photograph), the first time I photographed her was back in 2007. I was thinking that the 3 betty photos I would use would be:

1) a vertical shot in a dress
2) a close head shot
3) a vertical shot in the same dress as number 1 but this time with the dress raised up showing a full frontal nude

I think the 3 photos together would speak more completely as to who she is, a lady, a compelling intelligent person and also a man.  The 3 photos side by side would tell a larger story than any one individual image could.

I have yet to print the Betty photographs so I might be getting a bit ahead of myself but I think the 2 diptych images of Weaw will work well. I plan on taking both of these multiple image print layouts to a mono guild photo function to get some feedback. If the ladyboy sex worker triptych is well received I will probably show the work that way at Photonola 2013 festival (if I get into it that is!) or at other showings of the sex worker imagery in the future. I might also try doing several diptychs from the sex worker series, Long 2007 and 2009, Mat 2007 and 2009, Bla 2009 and 2012 etc.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Studying Jock

I have been studying the composition of Jock Sturges again in his book "Misty Dawn Portrait of a Muse"

Looking at the simplicity and the beauty of these portraits makes me want to follow Jock's advice and simplify my equipment and technique. I think the next 4 or 5 times I go out with my photo buddies to do some local shooting I will take only 1 camera (Kodak Masterview 8x10), 1 lens (250mm Fuji F6.3), and 1 film HP5 (its quite a bit cheaper than Tri-x).

If I simplify as Jock suggested, I think it will help my photography. Simplification of technique will allow me to truly understand one lens, one camera and one film, it all should become second nature to me, the work should just flow naturally and I should forget about the tools.

I look forward to the day (hope its coming!) when I can make 8x10 portraits in the field look as effortless as Jock does.

Misty Dawn by Jock Sturges

In The Works?

I have a couple of things in the works now.

Over the last few days I have being working on my second attempt (the first was rejected) at a artists visual arts grant for the Alberta Foundation for the Arts people. This time I am asking for $5000 to pay for about 1/2 of a 7 week photography trip to Mae Sot Thailand to work on my "The families of the Mae Sot garbage dump" project. I estimate to shoot and print this series will cost over $10 000, hopefully I can get some grant money to help, otherwise I will have to delay the trip (not sure for how long) until I can work and save enough money.

The second thing that might happen is that my sex worker series work is being recommended to the folks of the New Orleans photonola photography festival. I met a photographer online who is placing the work before the photonola board people for the 2013 festival. I hope the photonola board likes the photography and want to show it. Having the photographs in this important festival would give me the opportunity to show to a wider audience and tell the stories of the people who work the bars of Thailand, plus it would be fun to go to New Orleans and have me some crawfish!

Live Louisiana Crawfish

You can check out the festival and the 2012 line up here:

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Up All Night

I had another good night of printing last night. Spent 7 or 8 hours working on a number of prints. I still have to bleach and tone the prints from the last day and a half. I am a bit worried as I have put a 24 hour deadline on wet prints (because of past problems), am worried the emulsion will become to soft if I do not get on these soon. I am printing older Agfa Classic FB (paper not made anymore), in the past these seem to take being wet better than the Ilford warmtone FB.

Now I am off to buy another 60 cassettes for $25 to add to my collection, then I want to shoot a few handheld Banarama 4x5 shots of my fathers old abandoned work site before coming home and finishing off the prints. I feel much better about the darkroom work I did this week, its good to be back on the printing horse, I need to double down now and work in the dark as much as I can. My next week off I will only get 3 days as I am working 4 OT shifts (happy to make the extra money), in those 3 days I need to do at least 2 long printing sessions.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Mido II Holders!?

I picked up 3 Mido II clam shells and 27 Mido II film holders tonight (8x10). These holders allow you to carry more loaded film at a much lighter weight. I believe for the weight of 2 regular holders (4 sheets of film) you can carry something like 8-10 sheets in the Mido holder inserts and 1 clam shell (outer frame that holds the insert). I have heard there are some problems with this system but also read and been told once you figure these things out they work great. My hope is to use these in Southeast Asia when I move up to shooting 8x10 portraiture, hopefully that will happen in the next few years. Having less holder weight is crucial for me, working in that heat and humidity is a real bitch! Anything that makes it easier to do I need to try out. These new holders might be the difference between shooting 8x10 in Asia or just  having to be content with the 4x5 and 5x7 cameras.

 If these Mido things do not work out for me I will resell them and try to get my money back.

4x10 Mido II Holder System

Update* I did some guestimating on this, I believe while using about the same amount of space and weight the difference between regular holders and Mido holders is as follows:

- 10 regular 8x10 holders holding 20 sheets of film is equal in space and weight as 1 Mido loading clam shell and 24 Mido inserts holding 48 sheets of film.

I should be able to carry almost 2.5 times the amount of film using the Mido system. I now need to learn how to use Mido holders efficiently and effectively, with a minimal amount of fogging, scratches and dust.

3 Very Different People Picture Subjects

I just pulled the 11x14 prints from the archival washer, 3 very different subjects.

1) Harsh ladyboy sex worker laying on a bed in a short time room.
2) Headshot of rough looking drinking man from Klong Toey slum.
3) 5 young girls standing outside in a hilltribe village in Laos.

I like all 3 photos and would love to go back to all 3 places and make more photographs! People of all kinds and types are interesting/compelling/exciting to me, learning about their lives, getting a flavour for who they are and then trying to capture that feeling in a photographic portrait. Life does not get much better than entering the lives of people and making pictures, wish I could do this for another 300 years!

Am a bit surprised the hilltribe photo turned out at all, I was shooting in quickly changing and very low light with a 20 minute (tourists waiting in the tour van) time line to get it done, the exposures were 1/4 or 1/8 at F 8 with a 150mm lens (4x5 Tri-x on a Linhof).

Dancing The Night Away

Well I danced the night away int the darkroom, I just put 11 or so 11x14s to wash. I ended up printing 3 negs over the last 2 nights and will continue with new negatives tonight. The cassette music I bought from the ex DJ a while back was great to move to, I spent most of the last 8 or so hours bopping about with one hand at times agitating the trays.

I went to the doctor yesterday for on my recent medical test results, most things seem ok but I have to work on my poundage, am to fat now (240lbs) I need to bring down the weight and exercise more and hopefully that will lead to improved testing results next time around. I will try to go cycling a few more times this week, will also probably join a gym in the winter time. The dancing in the dark is not only fun its might be a bit useful health wise.

Another Try

Well next week when I am doing my security nightshifts I will take my iMac and work on my second grant attempt with the Alberta Foundation for the Arts folks. The deadline is Sept.1 and I will ask for $5000 (as opposed to $15000 last time) for my "Families of Mae Sot Garbage Dump" photography project. I hope I can get the money to do this, if I cannot get the grant I will have to hold off the trip from the beginning of the year (April/May) to probably the last months of 2013 November/December, either way nothings going to stop me making these important photographs (at least in my view they have value and importance). If I have to work and save my security money for another 6 months and shorten the trip from 7 weeks to 5 or even 3, I will do that, these photos are going to be made.

The trip/film/processing/printing will probably cost over $10 000.

Printing Better Now

During the last couple off work periods when I have tried printing the whole week I had problems getting going, I have struggled to get into the dark early. This week thou I am off to a nice darkroom rhythm, I started printing and worked for 5 or so hours yesterday and will probably put in 8 to 10 hours tonight. I am making up 5 11x14 prints for a friends and family exhibit/night with the mono guild boys (a fun and informal night of photography for the group).

The key to establishing a working routine in the darkroom is I need to get a good rest on my first day  off work (Monday) and then throw myself into the darkroom the next day. Once I get going and start printing my love for photography and the darkroom takes over and everything flows naturally after that, its the getting off my butt and getting to work early that I sometimes botch. Hopefully I can print every day this week, and come up with a load of nice print options for the friends night.

I will probably start developing film again soon as I have a load of 8x10 and some 35 and 4x5 to process. For now thou I will concentrate on the printing, I am an OK printer but want to become outstanding, the only way to become great at anything is to work your ass off!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Quotes: Edward Weston (From "Seeing Photographically" In The Book Classic Essays on Photography)

"By varying the position of his camera, his camera angle, or the focal length of his lens, the photographer can achieve an infinite number of varied compositions with a single, stationary subject. By changing the light on the subject, or by suing a color filter, any or all of the values in the subject can be altered. by varying the length of exposure, the kind of emulsion, the method of developing, the photographer can vary the registering of relative values in the negative. And the relative value as registered in the negative can be further modified by allowing more and or less light to affect certain parts of the image in the printing. This, within the limits of his medium, without resorting to any method of control that is not photographic (i.e., of an optical or chemical nature), he photographer can depart from the literal recording to whatever extent he chooses.

This very richness of control facilities often acts as a barrier to creative work. The fact is that relatively few photographers ever master their medium. Instead they allow the medium to master them, and go on an endless squirrel cage chase from new lens to new paper to new developer to new gadget, never staying with one piece of equipment long enough to learn its full capacities, becoming lost in a maze of technical information that is of little or no use since they don't know what to do with it.

Only long experience will enable the photographer to subordinate technical considerations to pictorial aims, but that can be made immeasurably easier by selecting the simplest possible equipment and procedures and staying with them. Learning to see in terms of field of one lens, the scale of one film and one paper, will accomplish a deal more than gathering a smattering of knowledge about several different sets of tools.

The photographer must learn from the outset to regard his process as a whole. He should be concerned with the right exposure, the perfect negative. Such notions are mere products of advertising mythology. Rather he must learn the kind of negative necessary to produces a given kind of print, and then the kind of exposure and development necessary to produce that negative. When he knows how these needs are fulfilled for one kind of print, he must learn how to wary the process for other kinds of prints......."

"Good composition is only the strongest way of seeing the subject. It cannot be taught because, like all creative effort it is a matter of personal growth."

"In common with other artists the photographer wants his finished print to convey to others his own response to his subject. In the fulfillment of this aim, his greatest asset is the directness of the process he employs. But this advantage can only be retained if he simplifies his equipment and technic to the minimum necessary, and keeps his approach from from all formula, art-dogma, rules and taboos. Only then can he be free to put his photographic sight to use in discovering and revealing the nature of the  world he lives in."

Here is a longer version of the Edwards Essay:

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Quote: Vincent Van Gogh

"The best way to know life is to love many things"

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Quote: Roger Ebert

"I believe that if, at the end of it all, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn't always know this, and am happy I lived long enough to find it out."