The Analog Profiles: Jon Moore

By Mary Thomas

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As I pulled up to the agreed-upon coffee shop in St. John’s, I spotted my appointment across the street with a beard, a flannel, and a Pentax 67. I waited for him to go in first, and watched with a chuckle as he passed the front door and walked to the wrong side of the building, where there was a sign that read “Please use other door”. I did the same thing last week. Classic.

Most people are taller than me, but Jon Moore is much, much taller than me, I realized upon shaking his hand. He was far from intimidating though. His demeanor was warm, light, and just a bit nervous. I had done my research, and so had he, it seemed. This made meeting for the first time a dance of sorts, as we both tried to pretend we didn’t know too much about the other. The awkwardness dissipated quickly with the sips of our coffee; neither of us could stop talking. We skipped right over my list of questions and began philosophizing on our work as photographers.

 

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Jon admitted to being highly critical of himself, but in a positive way. This quality continually challenges his ongoing work . “When I was studying photography in school, people would ask why I made a certain photo, then once I told them, the next question would always be ‘but why?’”

Yes Jon, why?

“I make photos because of my impatience. It’s the fastest way to get my vision out there.”

 

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Jon has a knack for cinematic scenery. I’ve long followed his diverse portfolio of fantastic landscapes, point-and-shoot concerts, and editorial work, but his most recent project, Uncertain Light, is what really caught my eye. Primarily shot on his Pentax 67, the series of photographs uses light and environment to provoke introspection and pose questions I had never before thought to ask.

 

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Starting out on a Canon Rebel 2000 [my first camera too!] that his parents gave him, Jon shot through his first three rolls of film in his teens. He then took them to his local grocery store for processing, as any rookie would, and got all three back blank. As a heartbroken young Jon found out, black and white film doesn’t process in color chemistry. So he began processing in his garage, as he does to this day. “I call it the Shake and Bake. I only use two ingredients: developer and rapid fixer. Oh, and Dawn dish soap to finish.” His stripped-down recipe is unconventional and works for him. Hanging his negatives up to dry in his makeshift darkroom, Jon got his first successful results on film.

 

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Since his first camera, he’s gone through a number of other cameras, formats, and film stocks. He primarily uses color film now, which he processes here at Blue Moon Camera’s lab.

After moving to Portland a few years ago, Jon made a trip to the shop on his second day in town. “Finding Blue Moon Camera made me believe that there was a community here for film. From the small assignments that Jim gives me to just talking with Jake. He, as a business owner, comes and communicates with regular customers and that means a lot.”

 

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Before Portland, Jon lived in Tennessee, where he went to school at Watkins College. He initially went for design, but changed his major to photography his second semester there. “College was a really pivotal point for me. Alec Soth and David Hilliard both gave lectures during my time there, and at that time, I had never heard anyone talk about photography the way that they did.”

“One of the things Alec Soth talked about was titles. He loves daydreaming about titles. This struck me as odd and fascinating and inspired me to think more about presentation. Soth’s series, The Last Days of W, doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with politics, but just his documentation of what the world around him was like. ‘I’m not taking a picture of a person in front of me, but rather the space between us’ was a quote that really resonated with me for a long time.”

 

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Jon, like a lot of artists, gains inspiration from the people around him. “I’m really an extrovert when it comes to hobbies. Not many people know this, but I have to photograph with someone, whether or not they’re the subject. Same goes for developing. That’s the only way I get inspiration. Sometimes when I’m alone I feel like I’m forcing myself.” This sentiment subtly shows itself in the lonely scenes he photographs.

 

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“My latest series, Uncertain Light, is me taking any opportunity to photograph my friends in a bewildered kind of state. I like to experiment with continuous lights to add more of a cinematic atmosphere, as well. Most of the work I’ve photographed has more or less been thought up on the spot, although I do have ideas that will require a lot more work and planning in the future.”

 

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Okay, but why?

He knew I wanted a real answer this time. He shifted in his chair and looked at me across the wooden table in the dimly lit coffee shop.

“I found beauty in the ordinary.”

 

 

See more of Jon’s work at jontakesphotos.com or on his Instagram @jontakesphotos

Adventures in Color Film

By Mary Thomas

When I started working at Blue Moon Camera, I became much more concerned with the film stocks that I was using. Whereas before I would pick up any old roll at a grocery store and shoot, at BMC I was surrounded by film stocks of all sorts. I found myself intrigued by all of the different options on the shelf and extremely curious as to what their differences were. So began my Adventures in Color Film.

Leaning towards portrait photography, I naturally started with Kodak Portra (160 and 400). And I loved it.

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The greens, the yellows, the fine grain – it was flawless. But of course I wouldn’t use Portra forever. There were many  more films on the shelf, and they were calling my name.

 

Next up, Kodak Ektar 100. I was hesitant to try it at first because Ektar is known for its vibrant reds, which don’t necessarily look great when the reds are the undertones of someone’s skin. Nonetheless, I went for it, and I’m glad I did. Ektar yields fantastic colors and has a lovely fine grain structure. I really haven’t found anything more vibrant.

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After trying Ektar, my coworker Jim convinced me to pick up a few rolls of his personal favorite, Fuji PRO 400H. I was sufficiently impressed. It’s sweet, soft, and quite true to the colors I see when I’m making the photographs. In the future I plan to use reds and pinks more, and I think this is the film stock I’ll choose when that time comes; all the vibrance of Ektar without the skin tone dilemma.

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It took me a while to try out Agfa Vista (200 and 400), as it is one of our least expensive options. I quickly realized how silly I’d been avoiding a film for its low price – judging a book by its cover. What a snob. Anyway, it was good. Very good. The colors are surprisingly striking for a consumer film; they are richer and more vibrant than I had expected. The grain structure is more visible than I typically prefer, but the combination of the grain and the striking colors gives it a unique look that I definitely appreciate.

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Moving along to faster speeds, next up was Cinestill 800T, an incredibly unique stock that was converted from motion picture film. You can see the tungsten-balanced colors (the “T” of 800T), giving images a bit of a cool blue tint. I’ve gone through a few rolls and my results have varied. Sometimes I will get a roll back that I really love and sometimes I’m unimpressed. Although, that could easily be user “error” – 800 speed color film requires some level of testing and re-testing in order to produce photographs that look like you want them to. Overall, a great addition to the collection; some of my favorite photographs have been on Cinestill 800T.

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After Cinestill, I had to try the same speed in the brand of film that originally made me love color film: Kodak Portra 800. This is a lovely high-speed color film that I think I prefer to Cinestill 800T in grain structure as well as tone. It feels smoother and the colors emulate the warmth that I tend to lean toward in many of my photographs.

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Lastly, my very favorite color film at the moment, Cinestill 50D, the younger brother of sorts to the 800T. It might be the summer weather that made me so fond of this low ISO stock, but I just can’t get enough of the glow that Cinestill produces as a result of the removal of the anti-halation remjet layer from motion picture film. This film is perfect for the days when harsh shadows and intense sunlight would normally spoil portraits; the low speed has a way of balancing contrasting light that, paired with the film’s subtle saturation of colors, makes for an incredibly smooth photograph. Whereas the 800T has a blueish tint, I found that the 50D leans toward warmer tones in general.

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Although black and white film is near and dear to my heart, exploring these color films has been incredibly beneficial to me in finding my voice as a photographer. The type of film one loads into their camera plays a heavy hand in what the resulting photographs will look like, so it’s nice to feel like I have some control over that hand. No one type of film works with every single photo I want to create, but scrolling through my work with each film stock helps me to align the vision I have in my mind with the one that will come out of the darkroom.

I have yet to get through the entirety of our stock of color films, but I’m close.

Keep up with my photographic journey on Instagram @marylthomas

The Permanence of the Analog Kit

“Why use film?”

Since the creation of the digital image, those who choose film have been asked this question. The question itself strikes us as a little bit odd, simply because it’d be unusual to imagine other artists get drilled on their choice of a common, tactile medium in casual settings by artists and non-artists alike. If you met a painter at a dinner party you probably wouldn’t ask why they don’t just use a tablet and Microsoft Word. And yet we as film photographers get the question – at dinner parties, in the middle of a shoot, through email inquiries on our website, at gallery openings – pretty much all the time. It’s basically the expected response to telling someone you choose film as your photographic medium; there’s the crinkle of the forehead, the pondering look, and then it rolls off of tongues like a well known call-and-respond routine. “Marco”/”Polo” – “It was SO big.”/”How big was it?” – “Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?”/”Spongebob Squarepants.” –  “These images were all made on medium format film.”/”Why use film?”

We all have an answer to this question. After a few dozen times of fielding it, our response becomes more and more polished and rehearsed, but never less genuine. It’s a common thread on film-centered blogs to discuss the “why” for many a film user, and so we thought we’d add our own “why” to the mix. Like several of you, we have more than one “why”, but we’ll still try to keep it brief.

 

1. Archivability in a transient world. 

 

As film techs, we’re very archivability-focused, and we can’t help but wonder if our grandchildren will have any use for a .jpg?  Or just what they mean when they say “stable” and “electronic” in the same sentence?  Perhaps we’re all just suffering from EMP paranoia. In any case, using film makes us remember that one hundred years from now, if the sun is still burning in the sky, we’ll be able to hold up our film and see images.  Try that with a CD.

 

2. Resistance against planned obsolescence. 

As camera store workers, we understand the cost of feeding a photography habit. We get people pointing out the cost of film to us all the time, but then turn around and spend $1,000 on a camera that may be irrelevant in 3 years. The cameras on our shelves are decades old, and still some of the best you can buy. The cure for modern machine angst resides, for us, in film. The progressively disposable culture of modern photography leaves us worried and fed up with squandering hard-earned equipment budgets on devices rendered obsolete before they are even broken in. At the end of the day, we’d rather have a companion machine with which we might actually have time to become intimately familiar. When you’re comparing a few years to a few decades, it’s obvious to us which one wins out.

 

3. Tactile sensations in a time of virtual reality. 

As artists, we love to touch the art. Holding a digital camera and producing work through a screen feels a bit like walking through an art museum of our own work, but the glowering security guard in the corner still won’t let us reach out and agitate our images. We crave physical contact with the work that we produce, because how else are you supposed to get just the right balance of blood, sweat, and tears mixed into your developing? Tactile photography is easy: all you have to do is get behind your camera, tank, or enlarger and bleed (with apologies to Hemingway) – and you can believe us when we say that bleeding all over your computer is nowhere near as rewarding. There is a sort of magic in the slap of a shutter, the crank of an advance wheel, the slow appearance of an image in a developing tray; this just can’t be replicated digitally.

 

Those are some of our reasons we use film. What are yours?

Color Infrared Film with Heather Boyd

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Photographer, illustrator, and pastel-fanatic Heather Boyd shows us the world in shades of pink and blue. No, this isn’t a Lightroom preset or a post-processing series of clicks and adjustments.

Her secret? Color infrared film.

 

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Heather worked with a lot of different film stocks over several months before finding one that suited her colorful palette. She made her way through our film inventory and beyond, research eventually leading her to Kodak Aerochrome. This is the same film used by Richard Mosse in his striking photographs of the Congo in 2011. Whereas a lot of the power in Mosse’s work comes from the deep reds of what is usually green jungle, Heather’s photographs play with pastel pink and fuchsia to achieve a look that echoes the color palette of her paintings and illustrations.

 

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“My goal while working with film, is to work within its history while also advancing it. In 2013, I picked up my first analog camera and last November I came across my first roll of Aerochrome. Aerochrome has a history of war as a tool of aerial surveillance for enemy camps in highly vegetated areas. I take the film out of that context and instead use it to create beautiful, strange, surreal, flat dreamscapes”

 

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“All of the images show the world in a way that is not natural to our everyday perceptions. Due to color shifts, subjects and objects change; green shifts to pink, red to yellow, blues become more varied and saturated, and highlights gain a translucent quality. The world might appear to be more lush and vivid in these photographs but I hope viewing the world through an altered lens points out how fragile and ethereal our world already is. Through this ‘unearthly’ exploration of the landscape I hope the viewer will also examine their own relationship with the natural world.”

 

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We’re inspired by Heather’s exploration and her eagerness to try different and challenging mediums. Stepping outside of one’s comfort zone when creating is wildly important.

 

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Need to get your hands on a roll? We don’t stock Aerochrome ourselves, but you can find it through the Film Photography Project hereAerochrome is exclusive to FPP and their site includes great (and important) tips for handling and exposing the film.

We do run a full E-6 line in our shop, so we can process your Aerochrome once you have finished shooting it. We have been processing Heather’s film for months as well as those of several other customers, including one customer who photographed the recent eclipse on color IR film.  The film must always be kept in complete darkness, so make sure to keep it in the black plastic can to protect it while bringing it to us.  Some E-6 developing machines can be harmful to Aerochrome film since they use infrared sensors to detect passing film, which can fog the infrared-sensitive Aerochrome.  Don’t worry, our E-6 process doesn’t use such a machine and is safe for all color infrared film.  Hooray!

 

See more of Heather’s work at heatherboyd.net or on her Instagram @nomadic_memories

On Traveling with Film

Having the right camera with you on your travels is a vital step in any successful trip. Perhaps you already choose to travel with one or several trusted film cameras, and have reasons of your own for doing so. I wasn’t always a film camera traveler, but after years of tentative trials, I’ve now come around to the analog adventurer side. If you’re still mostly a digital photographer on the road, but curious about the other option, stick around. I’ve now traded my SD cards in for a bag full of film, and I don’t plan on going back.

Even as I re-embraced film – after a short digital hiatus – more and more in my work at home, I felt a lingering resistance to travel with a film camera. The reasons behind this are the same for why I still compulsively bring my 5D to any wedding and professional shoots that I do, even if I don’t plan on using it: I don’t want to lose anything, either by fault or accident, and the risk for loss sometimes feels bigger with film. Over time, though, my fear of loss has waned. With practice, experience, and discipline I’ve gained confidence in my ability to produce photographs without unpleasant surprises – I now believe in my ability to make the photograph that I think I’m making. Through maintaining my cameras I feel more secure in their reliability, and my ability to troubleshoot minor issues. And as for accidental technical losses, well, I’ve received far more “corrupted file” messages from an SD card than I’ve ever experienced loss of film to user error, lab error, water damage, Xray damage, accidentally leaving rolls behind in a hostel, or any of the other random acts of God I feared may rain down upon my bag of exposed rolls of film.

Once I realized I no longer feared film in travel, I started traveling with film, first in addition to my digital camera and soon instead of it. I now reach for my AE1 rather than my 5D when I go somewhere once-in-a-lifetime, and I keep finding reasons to prefer it that way. In an effort to spread the joy of film travel, here’s a countdown of my top 5 reasons to leave your DSLR at home when you take your next big vacation.

 

 

5. Decrease of liability and cost of replacement:

Some of the places I’ve traveled have been to high theft areas. Additionally, the risk of theft is naturally higher when you’re in an unfamiliar area, looking like an outsider. Bringing a film camera while traveling has provided me with peace of mind in regards to theft in several different ways. For one, while an undiscerning thief may grab anything left unguarded, film cameras don’t present quite as tempting of a target for most. Additionally, if your film camera is stolen, it is likely much cheaper to replace than a digital kit. The film cameras I most often take traveling with me are a Canon AE1 with 50mm f1.4 and 28mm f2.8 lenses, a Holga, and a Zero Image pinhole camera. No thief would know my wooden box is a camera, so there’s very little risk of theft there, but even if it did happen I’d only be out about $140. The Holga only cost me $50 new, and my Canon AE1 and lenses can all be replaced for about $400. If I were to lose my Canon 5Dii with 50mm f1.4 lens, I’d spend at least $1,000 replacing it in today’s market.

 

4. Sturdiness in the face of rough travel:

In addition to low costs of replacement for theft, film gear is often cheaper to replace or repair in case of broken equipment, as well. But traveling with a sturdy film camera also makes the potential for experiencing equipment damage far less likely in the first place. I personally have carried my AE1 in a kayak on the Adriatic Sea, around my neck in the unexpected damp bouldering of a handful of blocked PNW and Hawaiian trails, in the backseat of a muddy quad, wrapped in a towel on the beach, and in the bottom of a hiking backpack for days on the Inca Trail. While I do my best to protect my gear while abroad, my husband and I have taken up an interest in a variety of messy travel activities, none of which I’d feel comfortable bringing a plastic, delicate and very expensive DSLR into. My AE1, Holga, and pinhole camera, though? Yeah, they’ve got this.

I once accidentally knocked my AE1 off a minor ledge on a mountain, heard about a pinhole camera that was dropped in the ocean, and banged my Holga around many a cobblestone, and all continue to make photos today. Sure, there are delicate film cameras out there, as well as things that are just as sure to bust your film SLR as your DSLR, but for overall durability, it’s safe to say that mechanical and metal beats electronic and plastic any day. After the impending nuclear apocalypse, the world will be swept clean of everything except for two things: cockroaches and every single Argus C3 ever made (but definitely not the Kodak Brownie Hawkeye, as Fallout 4 would have you believe).

3. Quality to cost ratio:

This is an advantage that is always present in the film vs. digital decision making process, and not inherently travel-specific. I hesitated to include it in my list, but if you’re like us, chances are you spend at least a year saving for your next big trip. That means that every dollar saved is significant, so it’s worth bringing up the debate here. After all, would you rather spend money re-purchasing the latest high cost digital point and shoot or DSLR camera with lenses and accessories, or get yourself an extra night in paradise? I know which one I’d prefer. We’ve already discussed the price differences in gear for loss, repair, and replacement, but if you don’t already have a camera of choice, you save big in initial costs, as well.

The same scene in Croatia, captured by a higher end digital point and shoot and student model film SLR cameras

The same scene in Croatia, captured by a higher end digital point and shoot (left) and student model film SLR (right) cameras
 

In the digital world, a cheaper camera often means lower picture quality. By going film, however, your choice does not come at the cost of quality: a high resolution scan of a 35mm frame is at least as many megapixels as the current high end DSLRs produce, and high res scans of larger formats such as 120mm and sheet film can exceed resolutions that current digital cameras are even capable of producing. When I look back on my older travel digital photos and compare them to the film photos I’ve produced on vacation, I prefer the look of my film work about 90% of the time. I sometimes find myself wishing that I could redo a previous vacation, this time with a film camera. There’s something undeniably special and beautiful about the look of film. Some argue you can reproduce  the aesthetic in digital shots with post-processing, but it can be expensive, labor intensive, and difficult to replicate, so why bother trying? Just use a film camera and see what I mean.

 

2. Waiting for your photos and the potential good surprises they bring can extend your vacation:

I now feel like my vacation isn’t totally over until my photos are all developed, scanned, processed, and shared. By saving that unseen batch of images for after you’ve come home, you get to experience a bit of the magic of seeing a new (or loved) location all over again. Many people have forgotten the joy of sending off film and the expectant wait for the photos to return in the mail or over the counter. That magic of opening an envelope and going through the places you’ve been all over again is unique and almost as fun as the moment you made the images.

 

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One of my favorite things about my travel film photos is something that I used to fear most about using only film on vacation: the unexpected quirk, mistake, and result. To illustrate what I mean, here’s an example. While on a secluded island in Lake Titicaca, we stumbled upon the villagers’ parade for their Independence Day. Kids were dressed like soldiers, nurses, and militia band members, and every inhabitant of the island filled the town square with excitement and celebration. I photographed it for hours and towards the end of the day I got what I felt was going to be my favorite from the roll: an image of a young boy wearing war face paint and holding a toy machine gun. The next day, I remembered how close to the end of the roll I’d gotten and grabbed a new roll to load. I was thinking about the day before, my hands on autopilot as I popped open the back and stared in horror at my film from yesterday stretched out and exposed before me. I slapped the back shut but was devastated, knowing most photos would be fine but certain that my war boy was most likely lost. When I got the film back weeks later, I saw him bathed in the characteristic red glow of fogged film, and I loved it. While technically far from perfect, it was still an interesting image of this surreal experience that I had, and much like the experience of being there, it was unexpected and full of a unique kind of beauty.

 

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1. No picture preview means you keep your eye on your surroundings, not your LCD.

This is far and above the biggest advantage I have gained by switching to film for my travels. When I shot primarily digital, I could take 10 shots of the same thing, but then usually ended up liking the first frame best anyway. I found my mindset while carrying a digital camera on travels was more about documenting than experiencing. With an SD card big enough for a squillion number of photos and an immediate view of the image I just made, I’d obsess over reshooting to perfection. Arguments over capturing the moment versus participating in it sprung up among my travel companions. For years I feared the idea of not seeing the results of a shutter release until I was home – now, I overwhelmingly prefer it.

To be able to thoughtfully and purposefully fire my shutter and trust that I will, eventually, see an image at least as interesting as I hoped is a far more comfortable and powerful feeling than mindlessly shooting until my screen is perfect or I decide I no longer like what I’m looking at. The zen of film extends – in a related way – to impulse control, stopping me before I spend 10 minutes and 20 photos on something as unnecessary as a dinner plate. Several times I have found myself reflexively reaching for my camera as I would my phone and then stop. “I only have 2 more rolls for this week – do I really need this photo?” I would ask myself. When the answer was “no”, I would feel immediate relief that I had stopped myself from taking time away from a pleasant and unrepeatable moment to make a photo I didn’t even want. Instead, I could stay in the moment, creating a lasting memory rather than a disposable snapshot. That is the greatest gift that traveling with film has given me, and I recommend you all treat yourself to the experience, if you’re not doing so already.

 

Happy travels!

Happy travels!

 

Note: for information on flying with film, especially in regards to Xrays, see Part 1 and Part 2 of our previous discussion on this topic.

The Analog Profiles: Mia Krys

By Mary Thomas

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Mia Krys carries a small box of exposed and not-yet-developed 4×5 sheet film in both hands as she walks from her in-home studio to her in-home darkroom. It’s not a long walk, but she holds the box close to her body; inside the cardboard walls and the black plastic wrapping is something that makes her who she is and inspires her to push boundaries and gives her a voice. At any moment a sliver of light could find its way into the box, contaminating the delicate sheets. She squeezes the lid tighter.

She’s made it safely to the darkroom. Even closed, the door leaks a small amount of light through the cracks, just as she expected. She covers any light with strips of tape, framing the door in bold lines of black and locking herself in for what will be hours, at the very least. With a breath of relief, she turns the lights out. Her sheets are safe. Now the process begins.

 

One of the most important aspects of what we do here at Blue Moon Camera has to do with the people that come through our doors. While we love the hardware and their output, we maintain our focus on the users that create the link between the two.

This series of profiles seeks to highlight particularly interesting users and their creations. Enter Mia Krys.

 

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Mia started working with a Graflex Speed Graphic a few months ago. She decided to make the move from small and medium format after she’d evidently been letting her other camera sit on a shelf for far too long. When I asked Mia how her passion for large format photography began, I was only half-surprised to hear “Well, Jim sold me a camera”.

 

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Mia then applied for a mentorship under Ray Bidegain in hopes of learning the ins and outs of 4×5. Ray accepted her and has been working with her since May. “He taught me everything I know about large format”. She now has a darkroom in her apartment and photographs full-time. Having completed her Liberal Studies degree at PSU, at some point she imagines returning to school to pursue a Masters in Fine Art. Perhaps once her portfolio thickens.

 

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So why large format?

“Large format has always been this looming beast I was waiting to tackle one day, and now that I’ve done it I’m deeply in love. The idea of lugging this huge camera around and all of these film holders and large sheets of film probably wouldn’t appeal to many people, but everything from shooting to taping myself into my darkroom and processing is so attractive to me, because when you get that perfect shot, that shot that makes it through all of possibilities of being over or underexposed, or scratched, or light fogged, there are no words to describe how good it feels. It is truly magical.”

“I have always been drawn to things for their quality rather than their convenience, and film is no exception. My photographs are simple, and I place a lot of value and emphasis on the mood and quality of the work rather than the context at this point. For me, large format film is the end-all be-all of quality over quantity when it comes to photography.”

Mia highly appreciates the slow aspect of large format photography in the studio as well.

“I love the fact that the 4×5 slows down the process to allow for much more space and time for the subject and I to connect. This rings true whether the subject I’m shooting is a person or an inanimate object. In terms of models, in the end I think it makes the process more of a collaboration between us both. As they see what I’m doing and I explain it to them, they feel comfortable and enjoy being a part of it. That’s really important to me, you know, because most of the time I don’t work with professional models, so I really like to make sure that they’re comfortable, considering the nature of my work.”

 

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Mia finds herself photographing almost exclusively women, which has a lot to do with her place as a queer woman in the community. She says that her work at this point “is highly focused on mood and experimentation and the form and architecture of the composition,” rather than the subject. But it is evident that she’s not merely composing beautiful images; she is telling a story, and women are central to the plot.

 

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When I ask about ambitions and intentions with her work, Mia says, “How much art and media is there for gay women? Blue Is The Warmest Color, The L Word….I could count them on one hand.” She has a point. Today’s media is seriously lacking in representation of the gay community. Mia worries that the underrepresentation of queer women will only make it more difficult for young, struggling women to realize that there is an accepting community for them.When Mia was facing these issues herself a few years ago, she saw virtually no gay women in the media surrounding her. Underrepresentation of any group can feel isolating, uncomfortable, and unfair. These are exactly the feelings that have pushed Mia to make her art.

 

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“In the near future, I want to use my skills to be more dedicated to the visibility of my own personal intersection in the queer community and beyond. [I want to] help perpetuate feminist ideas of liberation, resistance and the power that I believe women inherently hold, but all of that is brewing for now. Good things are in the mix.”

We look forward to seeing what Mia creates next.

 

Keep up with Mia and her work on Instagram @miakrys and on her website miakrys.com

Harley Cowan’s “Manhattan Project”

By Mary Thomas

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A customer of ours made a brilliant series of photos at the Hanford Reservation, a decommissioned nuclear production site in Washington.

 

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Although Harley Cowan‘s Rollieflex is what goes with him everywhere, these photographs were made on his Sinar F2 4×5. He began shooting large format about four years ago and came across his first historical documentation-style project when he was taking a large format landscape class from Ray Bidegain. He contacted the Heritage Documentation Program, which catalogs historic properties, wondering if they were interested in a photograph he took of a house on Sauvie Island. They were. He donated the photo and then got thinking about other historic properties that are under-documented or not well represented.

 

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Things really opened up for him when the architectural firm he was with at the time announced that it was offering a research fellowship. They wanted proposals that drew from the idea of “emerging technologies”. Harley instead approached them with a medium from the past: film. He emphasized the importance of consistency with archiving and recording history and got the fellowship.

 

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From there he recalled the property he grew up near, the Hanford Reservation, which was one of the newest national parks and therefore not yet well-documented. After a lot of work getting the right permissions and (accidentally) running into the right people, Harley was allowed to spend a week at the site photographing every corner.

 

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Harley says that doing work like this is sort of an escape. He loves finding a place that has a history to it and running off for a few days to catalog and discover everything about it. We think it’s great that Harley has combined his architectural work and interest in history with his passion for photography to create something unique.

 

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Find the complete project at Harley’s website http://harleycowan.com

 

Drinking with Jake (Round Five) – Heidi Kirkpatrick

Next in a series in which Jake Shivery and a guest get pickled and talk photography.

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Heidi Kirkpatrick is a nationally  renowned fine art photographer, mixed media artist and educator who resides in Portland with her husband, Doug. Editor’s note #1 : Please note that this interview is from 2015. Heidi retired from teaching as of June, 2016. We publish this interview now to commemorate this rite of passage.  Editor’s note #2: Do not try to keep up with Heidi while drinking.

 

Who: Heidi Kirkpatrick with special guests Sarah Taft and Blue Mitchell
Where: Jake’s garage
When: September, 2015
What: Heidi: Chardonnay, everybody else: Bulleit Rye with a bit of ice

 

Jake Shivery: And here’s Heidi Kirkpatrick, my first female victim.

Heidi Kirkpatrick: Victim.

JS: I’ve been getting my chops busted by my university mentor – she’s been reading the interviews and she likes to point out: “Well they’re good, but how’s it going to be when it’s not just an old boys’ club?” So we’ll see.

HK: So we’ll see.

JS: Well – how’s your mom?

HK: Mom’s good. She just got back from visiting her boyfriend in Florida. He thinks she’s going to move in, but she thinks she’s just going to stay there ten days a month. That sounds good to me.

JS: Where is she now?

HK: She’s in Springfield, Ohio, where I was born and raised. Funny story about Mom from when she was here – you made our portrait for the second time the day before she was heading back to Ohio, and I didn’t tell her what we were doing. I didn’t want her to fret about it. She had her angry face on when we got there and said that she didn’t like the one that you made before, because in her mind she looks like she did when she was forty. I get it, I think I look like I’m twenty. I think this is natural. I brought the beautiful portrait from the first session home with me. So we’re having dinner, and she said “Can you take a picture of that picture with my phone?” So she does like it.

04_Ms. V. Lambert, Blue Moon Camera, 2013

JS: Well, she looks great.

HK: I know. That’s what I told her. She likes being the star. Who doesn’t like being the star?

JS: In fact, probably the best portrait I had in that show.

HK: It was fun for me, for people to figure out that she was my mother, because people don’t think of me as a Lambert. My maiden name – and now my middle name. I wasn’t given a middle name, so I made my own.

JS: So you took one for yourself. In the traditional style.

HK: Yes. I’d been with Doug for three years and he is second generation American – Scottish and Irish. St. Patrick’s Day was on a Saturday and I said that if he didn’t marry me, I was taking his name anyway. It worked out – we had our twenty fifth anniversary this year.

Scotland 25th Honeymoon March 2015

JS: Amazing.

HK: It is. It goes fast.

JS: I have staff now younger than your marriage.

JS: So, you grew up in Ohio? In Springfield?

HK: I did. It’s a great place to be from.

JS: Any comment on the Midwestern sensibility?

HK: Well, we don’t get to choose where we’re born and raised. I had a great, fairly normal, childhood. Upper middle class upbringing. Middle child. Two older sisters – I think my parents were disappointed that I was yet another girl, but they tried again and did have a boy. 

You know, when I was a kid, it was fun. You got to run around wild and get dirty and play in the pool and stay out until the streetlights came on, with no worries.

JS: That’s probably a sufficient segue into speaking about your role as an educator.

HK: Well, I say that photography chose me, and being an educator chose me, as well. Thankfully, I listened. Doug’s dad bought me a camera in 1992, said he saw something he liked in my pictures, I was making pictures of family and friends and when we traveled, like I still do.

Skogafoss 2001

It was in Portland where I really threw myself into photography. I met a woman who has had a huge effect on my life. I was doing a cyanotype demo at Portland State – the Women in Photography class – where I met Michal.  She ended up teaching at Northwest Academy and also started a small business on SE Division.  This was a gallery space and rental darkroom – a precursor to Newspace – called Safelight.

Safelight is where I did my first teaching – and it was with adults. Michal thought I should teach at NWA; I didn’t think so at the time. Several years later, I got a call from NWA offering me a temporary 5 month position teaching basic black and white darkroom at the high school level. I thought that sounded fun and interesting and I accepted the position.

I never wanted to have kids, and had not ever worked with people that age. I loved it, but it was the hardest thing I had ever done. It was very challenging and I don’t think I’ve ever had more doubt, but at the end of the five months, the kids said “don’t leave” and I didn’t. I decided to stay through the end of the school year, then I decided to graduate that class, and now, this is year twelve.

JS: How long have you been in Portland?

HK: Since ’93. Nineteen years in our house as of Labor Day. Portland has been very good for me; it’s nurtured me as an artist. It’s been a great place to be.

JS: What was it like in the nineties?

HK: Well Doug and I lived in a small apartment downtown. It was fun moving here from Dallas, Texas – but it was absolute culture shock. I didn’t have a job or a car for the first time since I was 14, and I was thirty three at the time. I hit the street with my camera. I loved those days – I had a perimeter, and could only go so far, and I worked very thoroughly within it. Our apartment became a submarine with my photography taking over, so we started looking for a bigger place.

About this time, the job that brought Doug here from Texas wanted him to move back, but we decided that no, we weren’t doing that. And we’re still not doing that.

JS: So Doug took another job.

HK: Yeah, he started working with a friend of his from college, also from Western New York.

JS: In what?

HK: “Plastics” is the short answer. Really, he just cusses on the phone in his pajamas all day long – that’s his actual job.

JS: Wow.

HK: Yeah. He’s really good at it, too. [laughs]

JS: So, you took your first picture at age what?

HK: Thirty two. It all more or less started when we got here.

JS: I’m just trying to get a sense of time line. Your first exhibit, your first sale, your first publication, et cetera.

HK: We can chronologically work through my work, starting with street photography and how images of women are used in popular culture. That was about me wandering upon the images, not creating them in the studio; working with a toy camera, and what my students would call “taking pictures of pictures”. Normally, advertisements, mannequins, being out on the street and finding the work. Most of this was from Portland, although Doug and I were traveling a lot.  I found it interesting that everywhere we went – Iceland or Thailand or Mexico –  I was finding the same kinds of stereotypical images of women:  young, beautiful, skinny, shirts open, legs spread, which is not really, actually stereotypical. This is not really how women are. My mother doesn’t look like that. I don’t look like that. None of my friends look like Barbie dolls with perfect make-up – especially not here.

OK, so I moved here in ’93 and started taking classes right away. I audited classes since I wasn’t after a college degree, but then decided that I wanted to teach. I started my studies at Portland State with John Barna and Richard Kraft. I applied to PNCA in 1996. With my portfolio, I placed as a junior, but I still had to take all these foundation classes. Now, I was thirty five and most everybody else was 18 or 20. I wanted to do photography, I didn’t want to take drawing and theory – Richard, who was my adviser, suggested that I quit and so I did.

Richard Kraft had introduced me to some socio-documentary work – very politically driven. Images of people projected onto buildings, almost more of a performance piece. I twisted that concept by projecting images of buildings onto women – just to see what it looked like – and it was that work that turned into my first solo gallery exhibition, Flesh and Stone and that was ’98.

Flesh and stone #6 1996

I felt the work on the walls was a little crowded – I wanted to pull out one piece, but the gallery talked me out of it, and of course, that’s the one that sold.

JS: Of course. Always the 37th frame.

HK: So this was my first big sale. A stranger paid money for something I made. That felt different. That was the beginning of my career.

Alysia Duckler had her gallery in the pearl district. The first work I showed there was called Modern Goddess. It was all studio work dealing with time – starting with seeing pictures of myself and realizing how I was aging. This work was made with hot lights in the studio using long exposures, showing some movement. I wanted to make beautiful portraits of women who did not necessarily feel that they were beautiful. Every time I would approach someone to work with, there was always something – “Oh, I’m too fat,” or “I need a haircut” or “my face is broken out” – always something along that line. This was my first exhibition in a PADA gallery. The sales were weak, not uncommon for a first exhibition.

Modern Goddess #15 2000

My next show with Alysia was Girlie and I sold $8,000 worth of work the first night. I mean, there’s a lot of overlap with these projects – I’m never content to work on one thing at a time. I’m a Gemini. I need more than one thing at a time. But Girlie, in 2003 and 2004, that was the first of the photo objects.

Girlie was in response to my friend Sue Boyer dying of breast cancer. We bar-tended together in Dallas. She didn’t want to have the surgery to disfigure her body and it killed her.

I photographed booby art, everything from vintage through modern day objects – salt and pepper shakers, cake pans, lighters, swizzle sticks, bottle covers, all kinds of crazy stuff. This was my first foray into mixed media. The pieces were big, hinged shadow boxes, chalkboard paint with my handwriting  overlapped both horizontally and vertically – not completely obscured, but not trying to just give it away. My mother and my aunt and my sister have all had breast cancer, so I had personal experience to bring to the table.

heidi

The whole time, I’m making regular pictures too, and experimenting, moving from paper to film.

PNCA invited me to do a show of prints in 2006-ish, maybe later. Stories, these prints on paper,  the last series I created on paper, were all unique images made from magazine and newspaper pages that I had been collecting for 5 years.

And all of this has relations to my life, being a woman and an artist. I work with issues about body image and about lineage and about the archetypal female relationships. But also other issues, like addiction and disease.

Science stuff – scientific illustrations and the series Specimens. I was working with the anatomy pages and female imagery – the illustrations would act as clothing or tattoos, binding or wrapping the body. This was during my red period.

And funny stuff, too. It’s not always so serious. During the 2008 crash, we needed something a little more light-hearted. There were the souvenir cedar ashtrays, with an image of women’s butts layered over a myriad of illustrations,  I called this series Cigarette Butt.

please give me some 2008

But it’s always been the dress, it’s always been the female form. Just a little while ago, Doug said “Another dress?” and I said “You know what, you want to do pants, go ahead. I’m sticking with the dress.”

JS: So the dress is the representation, the reflection of the female form for you?

HK: Yes.

JS: So you’re interpreting female strength from the form of the dress?

HK: Yes. I feel there is a lot of power in the dress. Women are strong. The dress to me is representative of many different times and roles in our lives. Child, daughter, wife, mother, sister, friend, lover. Then there’s confidante, teacher, listener, forgiver and on and on and on.

Hope 2014

JS: You have a lot of female archetypes that you are working with.

HK: There are so many. The body work stems from me having had a lot of health issues, the deconstruction of the body and putting it back together is me working the puzzle. When I was at my physical worst, the images are really bloody. There’s a lot of red, and the work has definitely become more subtle.

JS: It’s more subtle because you’re feeling better?

HK: Yes. The worse I felt, the bloodier it got. The better I feel, the more subtle and softer the work becomes.

And historical; with the 3D work, I use a lot of re-purposed antiques. I like bringing in the spirit of older objects, discarded bits of our history that I can give a new life. Block pieces, tin pieces, Mahjong tiles in ’08 – I did a series called Winning Hand – a limited edition of eight, and my first editioned object pieces, where every set was different.

JS: So you’re re-purposing all your old finds, melding them into your own ideas – where do you want these things to go? Where should they end up?

HK: In somebody else’s house. [laughs] Seriously. I make them for me but not for me to keep. Object-based work takes up a lot more space than stacks of prints.

I’m fortunate to be well represented, so the flow out is pretty good.

China Tower 2014

JS: You’ve had a pretty fast rise – I mean, I guess it’s been twenty years, but it seems fast to me. You’re all famous, now.

HK: So I started not even knowing how to develop a print, but I was immediately hooked on the magic. That was ’93, and then the first big show in ’98, but this was the first time I didn’t have a job. So I could really assert myself as an artist. I was spending thirty hours a week in the darkroom. The good old days. I wish I was doing that now. But I love teaching.

Photo Lucida 2011 was a defining moment in my career. I sold enough work to pay for my reviews and still made money. I did not see that coming. I came home after the first day, laid out my portfolio and just cried. It takes guts to throw your work out on the table – “here, you want to judge me?” I was the only person showing work that was not flat.

I tell my students – you have to have guts to put it up on the wall. Not everybody’s going to like it, and they’re going to tell you so.

the dress 2006

 

JS: So there you are in 2011, and you’re being represented in Seattle.

HK: By Gail Gibson. I won’t ever forget that day.  I went in with no appointment, just a referral from Ann Pallesen from Photo Center Northwest; you don’t just walk into a gallery without an appointment. It was crazy in there, the phone was ringing, the UPS guy was there, clients, et cetera. Claudia walked in and said “Sure, get your portfolio”. I opened my portfolio box, Gail and Claudia flanked me at the flat file, they looked over the work, looked at each other and said “Yes”. I remember calling my mother that night with the news and saying, “They carry dead photographers!”

Dream. Come. True.

And all this sounds great, but remember, I’ve got Doug backing me up. I mean, the sales are good and all, but I would have starved to death. Even now, I’m more or less at poverty level, if you just look at the art. I had a good year last year, but even with the teaching and the art combined, I’m still fully aware just how much I need Doug around. I used to thank him in some of my writings and or giving a talk, and he always says: “Please don’t thank me. You did it.”

Well, if I was working forty hours a week, I couldn’t physically do it.

JS: So you’re selling really well and have reps everywhere and yet you’re still at poverty level. When you’re speaking to young artists or students and trying to describe your more-or-less meteoric rise, how do you explain the path?

HK: As far as the poverty level? As far as Doug being the breadwinner?

JS: Yes, being with someone else to make your own work possible.

HK: Well, this is a very expensive game we are playing. I have said many times in the past that I have two jobs, teaching and being an artist, neither of which pays very well. It’s never been about the money. If it had been I would have quit a long time ago. Doug and I make a good team – we are equal partners in the life we have built.

As far as dealing with my students, well, I’m not the college counselor. I don’t encourage or discourage them from going to art school. I’m not trying to raise up a horde of young artists; I’m trying to show them some passion, and show them somewhere they can put it. I know how much joy photography gives to me as a person.

OCAC Juried High School Exhibition

I hope that the students continue do some photography, but it takes other forms, too. I had a student write me from New York – and she’s not into photo anymore – but she wrote me a thank you note for instilling in her the photographic eye. She just walks around the street and sees things differently. That kind of makes me cry.

I’ve worked hard and I’ve been very lucky and I’ve been willing to throw myself out there. That’s what I tell my students. In my studio, I have a stack of rejection letters tacked to my wall. Well, eventually, I had to go to a nail, when the tack would no longer hold them. And it felt so good to jam that nail through that stack of rejections. Which I still add to.

JS: How are your students now compared to the students twelve years ago?

HK: Every year is different. It’s amazing how much one student can change the whole dynamic of the class. And the school is much different now, too. When I started, we had 60 students, and now we have more than 200. All of my students have enriched my life.

Now, let’s talk about the less glamorous part of being an artist. I have to spend so much time now in front of the computer – challenging for a black and white girl. But you have to be the marketer and handle the social media and these are all good things for me, but I simply do not enjoy sitting in front of a computer. I would much rather be in my darkroom or at my table.

scan of a fibre-baed 8x10 contact print

I prefer the in-person modes: Photo Lucida has backed me; Portland at large has backed me. We have such a fantastic community here; better than Seattle, better than Chicago. It seems that in other cities everybody’s working on their own. Here, we like to hang out. Look, we’re friends and artists together. I don’t feel like you’re my competitor.

I came to Portland kicking and screaming; now I hope I never have to leave. I was here for years before I ever came up to your store, and as soon as I entered, I regretted not being there sooner. Same thing with Portland in general – now I go back to Dallas and wonder how I ever could have been happy there. But honestly, I have been happy everywhere I have lived.

JS: Do you want to talk about Dallas?

HK: We can.

JS: Do you want to talk about drugs and so forth? I read a bunch of interviews with you while prepping for this, and you always sort of…

HK: …touch on it. Yes.

JS: I remember a couple of years ago, watching you give your lecture at the museum, and you were quite candid. I remember thinking that it was my favorite speech because of the honesty, because you were very willing to keep it raw. You put yourself out there, in front of that particular bunch of people. Putting everything out there seems to be your super power.

HK: You were going to heckle me.

JS: Well, I was too stunned to heckle.

HK: OK, so my other life started when I was about eleven. I became a bartender at 18. There is a lifestyle that comes along with that profession, especially in Dallas in the eighties. I tried very hard to ruin my relationship. Fortunately, Doug is smarter than I am, and he kept trying.

I don’t use anymore, I pretty much stopped when we moved here. It was a wake up call. Moving here is where I found myself – staying straight and spending time alone and becoming a photographer.

Looking back, I think I was just bored in school – as a kid, back in the Midwest, in a small town of 50k people – what I really needed was something like NWA, but it just wasn’t available in Springfield. My parents didn’t do anything wrong, I was just in the wrong place, and at the time, getting high seemed like a good option..? 

JS: So, can you define the wake-up call?

HK: Doug.

JS: You were already married.

HK: We were married in ’90. So we’d been married for three years when we moved here. He actually came without me.

JS: Because why?

HK: I was strung out. I didn’t want to move here. I didn’t want to leave Dallas. My brother and his wife lived there. I made a lot of lifelong friends and made a shit ton of money. But ultimately the drugs took over, things spiraled out of control, and I wasn’t twenty anymore – it was definitely time for a new plan.

JS: So what made you finally come up here?

HK: Doug is why I came here. I moved here and slept for two months. Literally. And then I started taking classes and got hooked on the darkroom. Basically, I traded one addiction for another.

JS: We’ll be mindful of the fact that your students might all read this.

HK: It’s fine. They know. It’s good for them to know.

Zero to thirty three was a whole different life. I was a different person than I am now – twenty years ago, I could never imagine that I would be doing what I’m doing now.

Moving to Portland was a very definitive line in my life. That was all before, and this is now. I loved Dallas and I loved tending bar, and I was really good at it. I made a lot of good friends, but I don’t miss it. I mean, I miss the people aspect, but it was just completely different, and I don’t regret any of it, not anymore. I used to think I wasted time, but I really had to do all of that to get here, where I am now.

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JS: So you might say that tending bar informs some of the art that you’re executing now?

HK: Good question.

JS: I mean, you had this whole life, right? Then you had this cut-off point, and then became this fancy-schmancy famous artist. Pretty much right away.

HK: Well – twenty years…

JS: Yeah, well, there’s a lot of people who work twenty years and are still tending bar. Slinging coffee, whatever.

HK: Yes, you’re right. I’ve been lucky. I’ve thrown myself out there, and I’ve done the work, but I’ve also been very, very fortunate. I’m very aware of that.

JS: As you say, you need all three. But my question – would you be the artist that you are if you weren’t the bartender that you were?

HK: No. I had to do all that. I don’t see a direct correlation, necessarily, but it’s my whole life, my very winding road, that adds up to now.

JS: So your art has so much to do with female issues – I’m explicitly not saying feminism – and gender roles, and family and history – where does all this come from?

HK: From experience and from memory, which can be very selective and not always accurate. The work also comes from stories I have been told. My grandmother died when I was very young, and I’ve since been enamored with her image – haunted, in a way. I mean, she got to hold me, but I don’t remember her. I have all these images of people that I don’t know, and she’s one of them.

JS: Is your family artistic?

HK: No.

JS: Do they like your work? Does Vera [Heidi’s mom] like your work?

HK: She does. She doesn’t necessarily understand it. But that’s OK. She says: “I don’t know where she gets it.”

JS: How does your family feel about your appropriation of all the family images?

HK: They wish they owned more of it. They really do. I think they’re proud of it. I think that it’s important to them. The first photo objects that I did were all about family. In the beginning, I was photographing family photographs so that I would have a negative to work with. Eventually, I felt like I got to a stopping point and began using my own imagery in my work.

Family Service 2013

Since my dad passed a couple of years ago, I’ve been going back and working with the family imagery again. Actually working with some of the very same images. It was a very comforting way for me to start again. I had stopped working for a while; death is not easy on the living.

Dad died in May, and I had my Critical Mass award exhibition in November. I realized it’s getting close to November and I’m thinking “Holy Crap I have the biggest show of my life coming up I need to get my ass in gear.” I had the matches, the dress, and the cyanotypes, it was a huge room for someone whose work is one inch across. I never needed an excuse to work, but this timing was perfect. I ended up with the new series Dearly Departed. It’s amazing what death and the grief process can do, if you let it.

Words for Parting 2014

JS: You don’t have any children.

HK: Nope.

JS: What happens when you’re ninety three? Where does all this go?

HK: Well, I don’t know. We have a couple of nieces and nephews, but we also have a lot of stuff.

JS: Well, you’ve spent a long time preserving this history, and transmuting it yourself. But then what do you do when there’s nobody behind you? It’s a pointed question, by the way – I mean, I’m in the same boat. What happens to all this work when you (we) get old and die?

HK: You and I are both childless by choice.

JS: Yes, but we work so much off of ancestry. And with no potential to become someone’s ancestor.

HK: But now it’s art. Hopefully, it all goes into a collection – or collections. It’s the giant unknown, but you can’t let it bog you down.

I mean, I find all of these photo albums at the Goodwill, and some of them are really beautiful, but all of them belonged to somebody at some point. They were precious, and now they have been thrown away. Except that I found them, and I love them. All over again.

JS: Let’s talk about education a little more. Talk about principles that you teach. Name three.

HK: You mean photographically? Cause I teach more than just photography.

JS: However you want to frame it.

HK: Well, respect. That’s number one. Respect the space, respect the chemistry, respect your relationship with me, respect your camera. If you leave that camera in class, you’re in trouble. That’s yours now, and it’s your vehicle, and you need to take care of it.

Practice is two. Yes, we’re printing today, and lucky you. The only person not printing in the darkroom today is me. They all get to print, and they need to be mindful of the importance of practice.

And behavior and participation. They have to engage – they have to do photography every day that they’re in class with me.

me and some of my kids

SARAH TAFT: What grades to you generally teach?

HK: 10th-12th, mostly. I have a couple of freshman this year. The kids are great – they’re engaged, they give a shit. They take my class because they want to – it’s an elective and they don’t have to take it. The age is not as important as the engagement. And once they take my class, they usually take photography until they graduate. I get my hooks in them.

JS: I want to circle back around to this… I can’t quite find the word or words for this, but it has to do with femininity…

HK: You mean contemporary issues of being a woman.

JS: Yes, I think so.

Blue Mitchell: Do you mean in photography?
JS: Well, yes, but it’s more general that that. I don’t want to pigeonhole Heidi as if I’m saying “Lady photographer”, but I see female issues as being a real center point in the work. I just want to make sure that it’s getting enough time.

So, succinct statements about the relativity of contemporary issues of being a woman and how these relate to your photography?

HK: That sounds easy.

JS: So – you’re talking to an audience of all women about contemporary women’s issues, and making art for yourself, and being married, and basically having a patron. How do you reconcile this?

HK: Definitely an issue. I feel that it’s important to be able to express my observations. I’m not a feminist, I’m not political, I’m not a social documentarian. My work is about observations and experience as a woman in today’s world. I feel very fortunate that I get to make what I want, and do not have to make what you like.

BM: You have a very unique relationship – such obvious support.

JS: Clearly, you’re involved in an enlightened marriage. I’ve never inferred that you feel like you’re secondary to Doug.

HK: No, no – he would say the opposite. Yes, he’s the breadwinner. And he’s decided to use that to help me. Like I said, we are a good team – Team Kirkpatrick. When we hang out with people who are discussing their educations, and they’re going into forestry or social work or whatever, he’s old school – his response is always “I went to college to learn how to make money.”

Doug’s support goes well beyond the financial. He gives me intellectual and emotional support. My mother has always said that he’s the only one for me. She is right.

The most important thing is to keep working. Practice, practice, practice. Get ready for somebody to say “no”. Doug makes it possible for me to do that.

wanda red and blue

BM: What work did you show at your first Photo Lucida?

HK: That was 2011- some plates, mahjong, a lot of 3D work.

BM: I thought you went earlier than that.

HK: Oh, you’re right – I went in 2007, but it just was not right. I still took object based work, though.

I had the audacity to think that people would want to tell me things, but they actually asked me questions! First reviewer blew my mind; I was not ready, set the tone for the whole weekend.  Now  2011 was a very different story – Mr. Blue Mitchell right here was my first reviewer, and it changed everything.

BM: Changed the tone.

HK: It changed everything.

JS: When you travel, do you photograph a lot, or are you more of a studio artist? Does travel have influence on your work?

HK: Not so much, anymore. Doug and I travel a lot, but I shoot much less. I used to use the Holga a lot, but I took it to Scotland and it broke, which I thought was telling. Don’t seem to need to do that right now… But the idea for the dominoes comes directly from photos made while traveling. The dominoes, which is a new-ish project, involves a lot of landscape work.

blue for you Norway Summer solstice 2016 taken about Midnight

 

JS: We need to talk a bit about process. When you’re out shopping for objects and widgets and so forth, do you have an image in mind? Are you finding the objects and then applying an image, or vice versa?
HK: Typically, I find the object first. One nice thing about this kind of work is that it feeds my shopping addiction. I come from a long line of pickers and savers of vintage objects. I do love me a junk store. All of us, my mom and family, we love antique stores, we love yard sales, we love estate sales. You never know what you’re going to find. Sometimes, I find something and I know exactly what I’m going to do, and sometimes not exactly but I know I can use it as a frame or a substrate or a binding or I could photograph it. You’ve seen my studio.

JS: I certainly have. It looks like a museum of junk store treasures. Too clean to be a junk store, too full to be a museum. And so clean.

ST: I’ve seen the picture – it looks crazy. Just from the image, I knew that she was awesome.

BM: It’s so packed, so full of things, but it’s so incredibly organized. And not a speck of dust.

HK: You guys are just getting older – or you’re just not looking at the right places. Or you’re coming in at the right time.

JS: And the darkroom. I’ve never seen a nicer kept darkroom. Anywhere. In my whole life. It’s ridiculous.

HK: My darkroom is kind of blue right now; from making cyanotype since the summer. But I am getting ready to switch from blue to silver.

JS: And at the same time, you’re also collecting images?

Mah Jongg on Rack

 

HK: I also have a lot of images. I go through phases of shooting, building up a back catalog. I get obsessive compulsive, and other times – like right now – I’m taking a break. Now, I spend more time cleaning my house and sleeping in – no submissions, no marketing, just pausing. Having said that, I probably have fifty rolls of film in my house to process right now. Easy, fifty rolls.

 

JS: Speaking of blue. Let’s talk about Wichita.

HK: Five Alchemists was a very important exhibition for me this past February. It was nice to be recognized for the cyanotype work. I was completely blown away to have a museum show and they made me feel like a total princess. Flew me in, drove me around – paid me. Paid me. Good lord, they paid me to come in and spill my guts. The patron dinner, everything, it was like a dream come true.

Wichita Art Museum and Lisa Volpe – who is adorable – had a party at her house. Doug flew in and we had an excellent time. It was bittersweet, being the only woman among five artists, but still – always happy to represent. My work was markedly different, extremely feminine, compared to the other artists work.

JS: Want to talk about tools at all? Favorite camera?

HK: I don’t give a fuck.  It’s just not important to me. The best camera is the one that’s with me. People say that I should get a better camera. Maybe in my next life.

JS: Whats next?

HK: The world keeps throwing me round things. So I’m working on a series of circular objects and images – it is going to be all inclusive:  the family, the history, the female form, sewing, the cyanotypes, everything. Calling it “Full Circle”.

It’s all a giant process. I do something photographic every day. Buy, shop, develop, print, assemble. It’s good stuff.

BM: You are persistent. You work on cyanotype in the summer and silver in the winter. Not a lot of people can keep a number of projects going at the same time, all the time. I’ve always known you to be working on a lot of projects at once.

HK: That’s another Gemini trait. I like a lot of work all at once. I could put together a whole show this week if I needed to. I’m going to go home after this and work.

JS: We’re going to end right there, I think.

HK: Thanks, everybody.

JS: Thank you, and good night.

02_edited

To Confront a Portrait in the New Year

A Moment of Reflection Inspired by Walt Whitman

 

The new year brings with it the possibility of change, a season ripe with resolutions and retrospection. In 2017, our access to image making and consumption will continue to be grand. Most of us unceremoniously hold a master key to an infinite catalogue of images and data in our pocket. The ease with which we can capture an image on our phone and immediately send it out to the trolls and coddlers of the Internet world makes it possible for us to mass-produce ourselves like never before in human history. With this access comes the responsibility and burden of how we choose to make our Selves to the world. Who do we find as we scroll through the detritus of these amassing images of ourselves?

 

In order to proceed in our self-reflective musings, we need to go back to the 19th century, to the person who gave Americans the liberty and manner to explore notions of Self at all. Back to the pivotal moment that inextricably connects the literary and photographic representation of self. We need to go back to that serendipitous union of Walt Whitman and the daguerreotype.

 

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Daguerreotype portrait made of Whitman, age 29. Photo courtesy of the Walt Whitman House, Camden, New Jersey.

 

In the mid-1800s, Walt Whitman (poet, editor, genius, and general eccentric) wrote a new kind of poetry, grounded in a profound notion of self and elevated by a visceral description of the corporeal. Considered the father of free verse poetry, Whitman wrote himself out of the confines of meter and rhyme, opening his poetry up with an intimacy that felt as if he were sharing a conversation with his readers. His work provided a complete portrait of human life with catalogues of imagery ranging from ejaculate to an autumn landscape to trash. His critics deemed this frank perspective crude and most people did not appreciate his quest to democratize poetry, his hope to instill within the medium a more honest semblance of reality.

 

At the same time as Whitman crafted his literary portrait of the candid Self, the daguerreotype made its way to America. The daguerreotype was the first publicly accessible photographic process…Ever. By treating a polished sheet of silver-plated copper with chemical fumes that make it light sensitive, exposing this to light, and finally developing it with mercury vapor —voilà, a moment captured in time with precision never before attainable! Before the daguerreotype, oil paintings were the dominant way to render the representation of a subject. Now, it is hard for us to imagine a world without the Internet, let alone a world without photos, but the daguerreotype was the very first of its kind. The images were considered to be exact copies of the subject, free from the creative interpretations of the limner and their painted portraits. Whitman described his aesthetic preference: “I find I often like the photographs better than the oils—they are perhaps mechanical, but they are honest. The artists add and deduct: the artists fool with nature.”

 

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Of all his many portraits, Whitman declared this photo, “the best picture of all…I was at my best—physically at my best, mentally, every way.” Age 44.  Photo courtesy of the Alderman Library, University of Virginia.

 

Flash-forward about one hundred and seventy years and we cannot deny the creative control that a photographer holds over the representation of their subject. The numerous and powerful ways in which a photographer can manipulate the reality of the subject (via lens, type of film, aperture, etc.) are undeniable. Acknowledge our anachronistic perspective and then try to imagine the magnitude of this visual paradigm shift in the 19th century. Imagine looking from oil painting — a textured plane with brush strokes visible to shatter the illusion of the subject’s reality, to daguerreotype — a glossy specter of the subject that seemingly floats in a dimension all its own. Imagine the thrill and terror of being the first generation to witness your own aging through images of your immortally youthful past. Imagine how severe and important these images must have felt. Whitman describes the experience of looking at a portrait, “An electric chain seems to vibrate… between our brain and him or her preserved there so well by the [photographer’s] cunning. Time, space, both are annihilated, and we identify the semblance with the reality.”

 

1887-home

Whitman in the sitting room of his home, age 68. Photo courtesy of the Alderman Library, University of Virginia.

 

Whitman fell deeply in love with the symbolic and aesthetic possibilities presented by photography. Ed Folsom best describes this creative synthesis, “[Whitman’s] catalogues brought reality hurtling into poetry with the same speed that photographs were cataloguing reality.” Just as Whitman distilled candid lived experience in his poetry by including the lewd, mundane, and magnificent details of life, so too did photography establish a condensed, potent particle of life itself, unedited, full of detail. While these processes are undoubtedly parallel, it is important to recognize the ways in which they resist each other. If photographs, for Whitman, ‘annihilate’ time through their mechanical nature, then his poetry recreates time through emotion, re-instills the fullness of time through visceral experience.

 

1854-first-leavesofgrass

The original frontispiece to Leaves of Grass, engraving done by Samuel Hollyer based from a daguerreotype by Gabriel Harrison, age 35. Photo courtesy of the Bayley Collection, Ohio Wesleyan.

 

Whitman’s magnum opus, Leaves of Grass, provides the most salient example of how photography informed his literary process. In the summer of 1855, Whitman independently published the first edition of Leaves of Grass. This small collection of only 12 poems did not include the author’s name in print. Instead, Whitman chose to be represented visually in the frontispiece by an engraving made from a daguerreotype portrait. It wasn’t until the third edition of the book that he decided to print his named on the cover or title page at all. Throughout the numerous editions of Leaves of Grass, Whitman continued to include a photographic representation of himself, updating the portraits as he aged. Over the span of a 35 year period, Whitman continued to revise and publish the collection, which grew exponentially from 12 to 400 poems, releasing over six vastly different editions. Leaves of Grass was a life-long creation for Whitman, something not to be finished until he himself could no longer live to write it again. The last edition was published two months before his death. With each iteration of Leaves of Grass, Whitman re-imagined the project to find a new relevancy for his readers and for himself. In many ways, Leaves of Grass functioned as the literary portrait of the man, analogous to the many photographic portraits Whitman affectionately collected of himself.

 

Perhaps Whitman would have been the first in line for the newest, smartest phone. Perhaps the possibility of holding a camera and publisher in our pocket is his dream of democratizing poetry and images in one: a tweet and a selfie. Perhaps the excess of this access would be disturbing to him, a perversion of the potential held by the daguerreotype. As fascinated by the images of himself as he was, in his later years, Whitman began to question whom exactly the photographs represented. He found himself overwhelmed by the various selves that surrounded him in the form of his younger portraits, “It is hard to extract a man’s real self—any man— from such a chaotic mass—from such historic debris.” These musings of “Self” preservation hold equal potency in the hyperreal spaces that we occupy today. While Whitman was the most photographed writer of the 19th century, he earned this title with only about 150 portraits. How many images of your Self exist in our nebulous reality right now? Hundreds? Thousands? If Walt Whitman could not handle the scope of 150 portraits, how do we propose to manage 1,500 imitations of our Selves? How do these images represent you? What do these images take away from you? How can we further democratize our Selves in an age of simulation?

 

As we move into 2017, we encourage you to engage in this crisis of Self.

 

frontispiece1891

The final frontispiece of a rare 1892 edition of Leaves of Grass, age 72. Photo courtesy of The Library of Congress.

 

 

 

Works Cited:

Folsom, Ed. “Introduction: “This Heart’s Geography’s Map”: The Photographs of Walt Whitman.” Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 4 (Fall 1986), 1-5.

Folsom, Ed. Whitman Making Books/Books Making Whitman (Iowa City: Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, 2005).

Library of Congress. America’s First Look into the Camera: Daguerreotype Portraits and Views, 1839-1862.

Whitman, Walt. Leaves of Grass. 1855 & 1892.

The History of the Customer Show

The Blue Moon Camera and Machine annual Customer Show is our favorite event of the year. Opening in December to celebrate our anniversary, we somehow have conned our staff, customers, fans, and friends to get dressed up and walk the streets of St. Johns in the rain and cold all evening, and it’s always been 100% worth it. On this 15th Anniversary and 14th year of Customer Show-ing, we’re feeling nostalgic: let’s take a step back a little over a decade ago to when this whole Show thing got started.

Photo by John Bodaly

Photo by John Bodaly

Discussion of the first customer show brings us back to the image that began the show. While sifting through prints one day in the lab to perform routine quality checks, Jake stumbled upon an image that he instantly adored, made by our customer and friend John Bodaly. “I knew that, left to its own devices, this image would eventually be put in a box somewhere, to be potentially forgotten and never seen again, and I couldn’t stand for it,” Jake says of the discovery. Motivated by his drive to ensure that this and other photos that are too good to go unseen have their day (or month) in the spotlight, the Blue Moon crew made a show. It seemed like a good idea at the time, and a decade and a half later, it’s still does.

The overall idea of the show has been the same since that first photo: during the staff’s normal routines in the print lab, there are images we come across that make us stop and take notice. These images are then shown to the rest of the staff, and a majority vote is taken as to whether or not it should be put into the show. If 51% of the staff like it, it goes in the Show. Some of the photos are a close call, coming down to tie breaking arguments on either side, while others are unanimous, but once it’s in it’s all just a part of the Show. The customer is informed of their selection, asked to sign a print to participate or decline the invitation, and all the approved prints get mounted and hung in anticipation of an early December opening.

The actual event of the Show has evolved over the years. The first Show took place in December 2003 to celebrate our second anniversary of the store’s opening. At the time the Show hung in one venue: a neighborhood cafe then called Cafe NOLA, which has since been renamed to Proper Eats. Those who have been to a Customer Show opening before know that Proper Eats remains our Show’s hub, and while we’ve expanded to more venues over time, Proper has been the host of the current year’s show and, in later years, after-show dance party.

CS2004

After a couple years of the Show, we started running out of room for all the stellar photos our customers were making. In 2005 we added a second venue: the Cafe Xeno’s, now James John Cafe. The expansion to another venue allowed us to display more than one year’s Show. This began the tradition of the current year opening in Cafe NOLA/Proper Eats, with previous years’ Shows appearing in our other venues. Like Proper, James John continues the tradition begun by Cafe Xeno’s of hosting a Show each year. Over time we continued to grow, eventually coming to the five venues the Show boasts today.

CS2009

Photo by Marah Anderson

Eventually, we started having a dance party after the formal opening reception. Mostly this is because we love a good dance party, but it was also meant to give the staff, who all worked the show, a chance to party off the clock with everyone else. We’d tell you for sure what year we started doing that, but it was such a good time that none of us can really remember for sure. At a certain point between 2010 and 2012 the post-show memories all start to get a little hazy around the edges, so we’re guessing it started some time around there.

CS2007

One of the best things about the Customer Show always was the photos themselves. We’re not exaggerating when we say that these are the best images we’ve seen all year, and that we bet they’ll be some of the best anyone else could see. Our customers are creative, brilliant people, and to gather work from over 100 creative, brilliant photographers together for one viewing creates a staggering display. And we’re not the only ones who think so – One year, a man approached Jake in a huff and demanded to know what stock service the photographs came from. Jake reassured him that the Show was exactly what it was advertised to be: a collection of our customers’ work from the year. The incredulous attendee responded with, “There’s no way this work came from a mini lab.” Well, it did. And our customers really are just that good. Some may think it defies logic, but what good has logic ever done us, anyway?

CS2010

Photo by Jesse McMartin

Our stock photography salesman wasn’t the only Show attendee who couldn’t believe that our customers were capable of the excellence shown on the walls. Another accusation came to us with assertions that we were performing heavy digital post production work on our images, doctoring them to be more interesting, compelling, and beautiful than a straight film shot from “amateur” photographers could be. This was also a foolish accusation, as all of our prints pass through an optical printing machine that has what could be thought of as only eight buttons related to image correction: +/- Cyan, +/- Magenta, +/- Yellow, +/- Density. When a button is pushed, it affects the whole photograph, helping to take away overall color casting and brighten dark shots, and that’s about it. The rest of the credit belongs to our customers.

CS2012

These two occasions far from take away from the Show, and if anything only stand as testaments to how wonderful it is. The wonder is certainly in the photographs themselves, but it’s also in the event as a whole. When we say that the Customer Show is what we consider to be the biggest and most important undertaking of our year, we hope you understand what we mean. We’re honored by the opportunity to gather and show the images that moved us – that made us think, laugh, cry, advocate, and appreciate. We’re further thrilled for the excuse to throw a big party, put on our best dress, discuss art with strangers, and walk the streets of our beloved neighborhood well into the wet and cold winter night. If you’re in town and have not been to a Show opening night, come. If you’re not in town, make the trip. The only word to explain what it’s like to gather so many art lovers in one neighborhood for one night in celebration of theirs and others’ work is magic. The air is filled with it. Also, making new friends while asking their favorites and arguing in support of yours will give you a little taste of what it’s like to be in the lab, selecting images and sharing a love for them. It’s the best part of Show night, and it’s a gift our customers have given us for which we can never repay them.

Photo by Will Walle

As far as the future of the Customer Show, who knows? As long as we have customers, we will have an annual Customer Show. Aside from that, we’ll see what opportunties may come our way. But come December you can always count on us to show up, Show hung and ready to shake our tail feathers all night long (or at least until Proper finally sends us all home).

 

The Traditional Staff Photo: Customer Show openings through the years

staff2008

staff2009

staff2012

staff photo cust show 2013

staff2014

staff2015-cropped

Typewriter Troubleshooting

Using a typewriter is a rewarding and fun writing experience, but your typing journey can be unexpectedly waylaid by some common quirks for these machines. We’d like to help you troubleshoot some of the more common typewriting issues you may come across. Whether you did a lot of typing a long time ago and are now a bit out of practice, or you’ve got your hands on the first typewriter you’ve ever personally encountered, these short tips will likely solve many of the issues you may encounter on a manual typer. (But If these fast fixes don’t work, though, stop there! The problem is likely more in depth than what you should attempt to fix on your own.)

To further illustrate some of these tricks, we’ll use these three machines as examples:

From left to right: A Smith Corona Sterling portable, Corona Quiet Writer portable, and Underwood Noiseless desktop

From left to right: A Smith Corona Sterling, Smith Corona Silent Four Bank, and Underwood Noiseless Upright desktop

 

“My carriage won’t move!”

Chances are the carriage is locked down to allow for safe transport. If your typewriter is fresh off the Blue Moon Camera shelf, we usually do this before sending you on your way with your new companion. Nine times out of ten the solution for this is as easy as finding the carriage release on your machine (which, admittedly, can be a bit tricky). If you’re unsure where the release is, try finding the machine’s manual in an online search. For example, on the Smith Corona Sterling, the carriage lock is the silver switch pictured below. For this more modern machine, the carriage is released by gently guiding the carriage all the way to the right and then all the way to the left.

Left: Carriage lock switch on the SMITH CORONA STERLING; Right: Slide carriage to right then left to unlock

Left: Carriage lock switch on the Smith Corona Sterling; Right: Slide carriage to right then left to unlock

 

“The type is way too light – what gives?”

This could be one of two things. If you can’t remember the last time you changed the typewriter ribbon, it’s likely time for a replacement. Ribbons lose their ink over time with use or dry out when left sitting for too long. If you need a new ribbon, you can come in the shop or stop by the Automat – the ones we have in stock fit *most* manual machines. If you’re unsure or nervous about whether or not this is the right size ribbon for your machine, feel free to contact us.

If you know that your ribbon is relatively fresh, there’s another factor that could be affecting your typing clarity: many machines come with a stencil mode, which could be making your typer produce outlines of letters rather than its typical bold typeface. Like the carriage release, the switch to turn this off could be pretty much anywhere on your machine. Track down a manual or do a thorough internet search for info on your particular make and model of machine.

 

 

“Where the heck is the exclamation point!”

Don’t worry, the typists of yesteryear were just as fond of punctuation emoting as we are today. Even if you may not see an exclamation point on your typewriter’s available symbols, that doesn’t mean you can’t type one. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Type an apostrophe (‘) – for most typewriters this is Shift 8
  2. Use the backspace key
  3. Type a period on the same space as the apostrophe
  4. Rejoice!

typer_exclamation

 

“And I don’t have the number 1, either!”

Don’t panic! Many typers don’t. These machines made the most of their space by using the lower case letter L any time they needed to type the first numeral. You’11 1earn to 1ove this stream1ined design feature.

typer_number1

 

“Why can I only type a few characters per line/What’s up with these margins?”

Ok, here’s where things get a little bit crazy. These machines were designed by fastidious individuals who, much to our appreciation, made it possible for us to laugh in the face of the standard 1″ margin whenever we pleased. Like a document in Word, the margins can be be set and reset on most any machine. If your carriage isn’t moving as far as you’d like before starting a new line, or letting you type too far along a page, resetting the margins will probably solve your problem.

For most machines, there are margin tabs along the paper table of the machine. Some might be behind the paper table. They may be plastic or metal. Here’s a general guide to setting them:

  1. Push down gently on the tabs and slide them to the far ends of the paper table: one on the left and the other on the right.
  2. Insert the size of paper you plan on using for reference.
  3. Center your type guide (the little metal window or point that shows you where your letters are striking as you type) where on the paper you want your left margin to begin.
  4. Gently slide the left margin tab towards your type guide. It should stop automatically, setting your left margin.
  5. Center your type guide where on the paper you want your right margin to begin.
  6. Gently slide the right margin tab towards your type guide. It should stop automatically, setting your right margin.
  7. Slide both the left and right paper fingers/rollers (these hold your paper down, either on a bar or on their own) to be in line with the margin tabs. If your typewriter has a ruler on the paper table and the bar that rests on your paper, you can refer to this for a more precise placement. These fingers/rollers provide visual cues for where your margins are as you type.

typers_margins

 

“I’m at the end of my line, but I only have a couple more letters left to type.”

Speaking of margins, there’s also a handy button on most machines called the “margin release” button. This releases your margins (which you set above) and lets you keep typing on the same line without keeping to the margin rules. So don’t stress; you don’t need to resort to weird hyphenations to finish off your end-of-line word.

typers_MR

 

 

Now that we’ve (hopefully) solved your typer troubles, here are some general tips in typewriter upkeep:

  • Always save your spools.  More often than not, we can supply your machine with a factory-ready ribbon, but there are occasions when we need to wind a roll of inked ribbon onto your existing spools.  Failing that, or on particularly old or historic machines, we can actually re-ink the existing ribbon.
  • Have your machine serviced every two years, or with the change of every ribbon. A machine that is being used will constantly lubricate itself and will be in better shape over the long haul, but even the most loved machines can use a little tune up and adjustment every once in awhile.
  • Leave the complicated work to the experts. Respooling ribbon and general upkeep is something that may come easily with practice, but as anyone who’s opened a typewriter can tell you, these are complex machines. The intricate tinkering is best left to the repairmen and women.

 

 

Lastly, it’s important to note that to truly appreciate the satisfaction of employing a typewriter, you must be operating a well maintained machine.  There is no comparison to be made between a typer that has been languishing in a basement for twenty years and a freshly lubricated, fully adjusted writing machine. So if you know that the typewriter sitting in front of you hasn’t been typed with or touched for at least the past 2 years, it’s likely time for a tune up. If this is the case, or if your issue wasn’t solved by any of the above tips, please feel free to drop us a line or give us a call (503.978.0333).

 

Rescued Film Project Interview : Levi Bettwieser

Chances are if you’re a follower of photography news online, you’ve heard about the Rescued Film Project. Last year they made digital headlines with the discovery and development of undeveloped film from a WWII photographer, and now they’ve got their hands on one of their biggest projects yet: an estimated 1,200 rolls of undeveloped film from one photographer in the 1950s, known only as “Paul”. While RFP often does their own developing of rescued films, the size of this project compelled them to reach out to us to help with development, and we’re honored to be involved in the project. Working on this film made us curious about the whole process for Rescued Film Project, and many of our customers felt the same. We reached out to RFP and Levi Bettwieser, Founder of The Rescued Film Project, very generously answered some of our questions on the 1,200 rolls of film, RFP’s history, and his goals for the project.

 

About the 1,200 rolls

Blue Moon Camera: Let’s start off on the project we’re developing now. How did you come across all this film? 

Levi: I purchased the film by winning several (around 20) online auctions.

BMC: Do you have any information about the photographer and his life, other than the notes that he’s left for us?

Levi: All we know is that his name is Paul and he was a steelworker from East Chicago Indiana.

One of the developed images off of Paul's film.

One of the developed images off of Paul’s film.

BMC: Do you think the photographer possibly still alive?

Levi: We don’t believe so.  From what we understand we purchased the film from a seller that was hired by the photographer’s family.

BMC: What will happen to the film after it’s developed?

Levi: Our first step is to make the images publicly available for viewing in some kind of online gallery.  Then we hope to get in contact with the family to begin production on a documentary of some kind.

BMC: That sounds great. What are your hopes for the future of these images?

Levi: All I hope is that the images are rescued and these moments are remembered and enjoyed since Paul will never be able to see them.  How that is done be it through gallery installments, book(s), video remains to be seen.

One of the images off of Paul’s film.

 

About Rescued Film Project

BMC: Let’s step back for a minute. What inspired you to begin the Rescued Film Project in the first place?

Levi: As a film photographer who also processes my own work, and after noticing that many cameras at thrift stores/flea markets/antique shops still contained rolls of film, I began acquiring them to process the film out of curiosity.  After processing my first batch and seeing that a large number of the rolls had viable images, I realized that there must still be thousands of rolls out there that still contain images.

BMC: About how many people make up the Rescued Film Project?

Levi: It’s primarily just myself.  But I do have a few volunteers that help with things like social posting and obscure projects like the “Paul” film.

BMC: Where does your film generally come from?

Levi: Most of it comes from myself directly purchasing it from someone, usually in another part of the country/world.  But we do get lots of film donations.

BMC: Have you ever been able to reconnect subjects or photographers with film that you’ve rescued?

Levi: Once through our Instagram page a girl recognized her father in an image. (See below; click on “comments” for the exchange.)

 

 

BMC: Very cool. What’s your favorite rescued image (so far)?

Levi: There can’t be just one.  We’ve rescued over 18,000 images so far and I love so many for so many different reasons.

One of the rescued images from RFP’s first rescued batch of film two years ago, and still a favorite.

Thanks for talking with us, Levi!

To contribute to the saving of Paul’s film, please visit, donate to, and/or share the Indiegogo for the project. If you’re not already, you can follow the Rescued Film Project’s updates on their website, Facebook, Etsy, Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr. If you know of film that you’d like to donate, please be sure to get in touch with them!

 

A recent rescued photo from India

A recent rescued photo from India

Five tips for your Fireworks Film Photos

Summertime brings with it long, clear, warm nights and plenty of excuses to set a giant stick of explosives on fire, run away, and photograph the cacophonous and polychromatic results. To get you started, our expert fireworks setter-offer Peter Carlson has some quick tips and tricks.

 

Pictured: Peter Carlson, resident pyro and fire safety officer at Blue Moon Camera. Photo by David Paulin

Pictured: Peter Carlson, resident pyro and fire safety officer at Blue Moon Camera.
Photo by David Paulin

 

5. Focus to infinity

This might go without saying, but fireworks are (hopefully) very far away from you and your camera. If they aren’t, please stop reading and correct this error in judgement. We’ll wait.

Now, be sure that your luminous explosions are in focus no matter where they go off by setting your lens focus to infinity and keeping it there. You don’t want to be messing with focusing in the split seconds of brief but awe-inspiring fire power.

Fireworks in the River by Peter Carlson, 7min exposure

This glorious scene captures 12 whole minutes of freedom.
Fireworks in the River by Peter Carlson, a 12min exposure

 

4. Stick to smaller apertures

Starting off at around f11 is a good idea. This helps sharpen some of those white-hot details and is also a good idea because you’ll want to…

 

3. Make a long exposure

You may have fast fingers, but there’s no way you’re gonna snap that starburst at a thirtieth of a second. Bring a tripod and let your lens take in the view for awhile. If you start at f11, pairing that with a 30 second exposure should help you capture those brilliant flashes of unbridled patriotism. But don’t stop there; experiment with longer and longer exposures to capture all the blaze and glory (in case you missed it in the caption, the above river scene was a 12 minute exposure).

Sparkler Spin by Peter Carlson

Sparkler Spin by Peter Carlson

 

2. Use a saturated color film

Like Ektar 100, for example. Sure, you could use a black and white if you really wanted, but then you might miss some of the kaleidoscopic shades of excited metal oxides as they burst into the air and shower down upon the world below, and what fun would that be?

Don't be fooled by this Black Cat--black is in fact the presence of ALL colors, and only with Ektar can you properly see them. Black Cat by Peter Carlson

Don’t let this Black Cat fool you – black is in fact the presence of ALL colors, and it’s only with Ektar that can you properly see them.
Black Cat by Peter Carlson

 

 

1. Bring beer

Only if you’re legally of age to drink, of course. But if you’re 21 and older, don’t miss this most important step. Trust us on this one.

Bottle rocket by Peter Carlson

Bottle rocket by Peter Carlson

 

Go forth and make explosions, people. Have a safe and happy 4th of July.

Don't do anything we would do. Photo by David Paulin

Don’t do anything we would do.
Photo by David Paulin

RadioLab – Sight Unseen

Your Sunday inspirational this week takes us back to RadioLab and this story about Lynsey Addario and a series of images she made of the death of an American soldier in Afghanistan. It is a poignant episode that is capable of starting a very good conversation regarding the power of photography, the capabilities of photographers to do more than just make photos – to touch and change lives, the ability of photographs to grant a form of immortality and more packed into this brief episode.

http://www.radiolab.org/story/sight-unseen/

Nikon Nikonos

Nikon Nikonos V

So whether you are actually underwater, or due to this weather lately, just feel like you are underwater, go check out a Nikonos underwater camera. We recommend the Nikonos V as it has a built-in light meter and an aperture-priority exposure mode to go along with it’s full manual setting. These cameras are suprisingly multi-purpose being useful both below the seas and above. They make great hiking cameras here in Oregon. Need a self-portrait by the base of that waterfall? What better camera to pull out in the mist and the spray. Love hiking on these rainy, overcast mornings? This camera will be a steadfast companion. Want something with a quiet shutter but cannot afford a Leica? You’ll be surprised just how little noise the Nikonos V makes in operation.

One piece of advice though – mind any lenses you buy for this camera that are marked “UW”. Those lenses need to be used underwater in order to get sharp images. The three “on-land” lenses for this camera are the 28mm f2.8 LW, 35mm f2.5 W and the 80mm f 4W.

Also check out the Nikonos III. Kind of a nifty camera as well but no meter (but all mechanical shutter).

Meet the Blue Moon Crew

Group

Whether you come in often or have never met us face to face, we thought it’d be a good idea to introduce ourselves. Meet the crew, learn what we do, and come by to say hi some day!

 

Erin Johnson

Erin-small

Where you’ll find her: Erin is most likely spotted on our scanning desk, providing expert scans of our customer’s film.

What’s in her camera bag: A Hasselblad 500 c/m, Voigtlander Bessa L, Fuji Tiara, and Fuji GW690

 

Arthur Ruckle

20160416_134540

Where you’ll find him: Arthur bounces back and forth between the back and the front of house. When up front you will likely find him helping customers with a friendly face and knowledgeable word; when in the back he’s helping with our tech department to keep all our online entities running smoothly.

 

Sophia Diaz

sophia

Where you’ll find her: You’ll probably see Sophia helping out over the counter on your next trip in. Friendly and knowledgable, she’s a great resource for anyone with questions about film.

What she does in her off time: Sophia enjoys amateur boxing, brushing her teeth, and writing poetry. Only occasionally at the same time.

What’s in her camera bag: A Canon F1 and Holga

 

 

Mike Knight

Where you’ll find him: Mike is a long time expert in film cameras and photography. You’ll see him out on the shop floor, talking up cameras and checking out the attic relics that find their way into the shop.

What he does in his off time: Mike is often seen spending time with his awesome daughters, Kassie and Lexi.

What’s in his camera bag: Mike’s camera bag is like a magician’s hat: it has no limit in what it can hold, and there might be a few stray rabbits in there. Pretty much if it exists, it’s in Mike’s camera bag.

 

Junior Burdett

Photo by Jim Hair

Photo by Jim Hair

Where you’ll find him:  All over, really. Junior is often seen up front helping customers find their perfect camera or film, and even more often in the back, bundling and shipping out national orders.

What he does in his off time: Junior used to spend his off hours getting punched in the face while pursuing concert photography, but for some reason he’s decided to move on to something else. Now he spends his hours not going on Social Media, quoting Trailer Park Boys, dodging drones, or petting dogs. Updates on that front will be forthcoming.

What’s, currently, in his camera bag: A Hasselblad 500 c/m, Crown Graphic 4×5, Horizont, Olympus Stylus, Holga, and a Zero Image 2000.

 

Jim Hair

Jim by Jim

Where you’ll find him: Everyone knows Jim; he’s a staple of the Blue Moon Camera counter. While you’re here he will gladly let you in on all his insider’s knowledge about film, photography, and life. It’s well worth your while to give him a listen.

What he does in his off time: Jim takes no off time from photography. When not in the shop, he is out in the world turning light and happenstance into photographs and strangers into portraits.

What’s in his camera bag: Hasselblad 500 c/m, Speed Graphic

Jim’s Flickr Portfolio

 

Christal Angelique

Photo by Peter Carlson

Photo by Peter Carlson

Where you’ll find her: Christal is our lead color film developer. If it’s color, she develops it, and even finds the time to help out customers over the counter with all their equipment and film needs. Chances are if you’ve stopped in the shop, you’ve had the pleasure of meeting her.

What she does in her off time: Much of Christal’s time is taken up making beautiful and thoughtful black and white portraits and landscapes with a variety of cameras. When not behind a camera, she can be found in the recording studio or rehearsing with her band, Sandy Loam.

What’s in her camera bag: Hasselblad 500c/m, Canon AE1
Christal’s website portfolio

 

Katt Janson Merilo

 

Photo by Zeb Andrews

Photo by Zeb Andrews

Where you’ll see her: Online! After almost 4 years of working around the shop in various capacities, Katt now works from her new home in Washington, producing the occasional article and social media content.

What she does elsewhere: Katt sometimes writes book reviews for One Twelve Publishing’s blog, and is an occasional contributor on the Film Shooters Collective photostream and blog. In her day job, she is a high school Special Education teacher in Auburn, Washington.

What’s in her camera bag: A Canon AE1 and 50mm lens that her mother bought during her deployment in Vietnam; Holga, Zero Image 2000, and, occasionally, a 4×5 Speed Graphic

Katt’s website portfolio

David Paulin

Photo by Zeb Andrews

Photo by Zeb Andrews

Where you’ll see him: David is our color printer extraordinaire, and you will see him most days behind our beloved printing machine “Nora”. If he isn’t there, he’s likely in the darkroom or studio organizing our 8×11 sized Spy Film for MINOX cameras.

What he does in his off time: We don’t give David off time.

What’s in his camera bag: A Mamiya RB67, Mamiya C330, MINOX III, Nikomat, Holga, Zero Image 2000

David’s Flickr Portfolio

 

Peter Carlson

Peter

Where you’ll see him: Peter is a master darkroom printer, and to that effect we often lock him away in the darkroom to produce our true black and white prints. We let him out occasionally, though, and you’ve likely seen him at the counter or talked to him on the phone at least once.

What he does in his off time: Peter has recently completed a box set of darkroom prints from vintage negatives of nudes, titled Nudes I Never Knew. He is working on other printing projects, and is also setting up a portrait studio in his house for his photographic endeavors.

What’s in his camera bag: Currently, Rolleiflex Automat EVS, Hasselblad 500 c/m, and a couple of Holgas

Peter’s website portfolio

 

Faulkner Short

Photo by Jake Shivery

Photo by Jake Shivery

Where you’ll see him: Faulkner is one of our star printers, and is often seen working on our black and white and obscure film format printer, affectionately dubbed “Ray”. If he’s not there, he’s probably processing black and white film in the back, or making the staff a delicious five-star lunch in the kitchen.

What he does in his off time: Faulkner is also known as DJ Folklore. He has his own show, Chauncy Pops, airing on xrayfm on Sunday mornings and House of Sound Monday nights.

What’s in his camera bag: A Zero Image pinhole, Leica M3, Nikon F2, Instax Wide, Minox B, and others

Faulkner’s Flickr Portfolio

 

Zeb Andrews

zeb

Where you’ll see him: Zeb is our resident Jack-of-all-trades. When he’s not up front answering all imaginable obscure questions from photographers, he’s probably performing quality checks on our printing machines or mixing chemistry in the dark room.

What he does in his off time: If he’s awake, he has a camera in his hands. Zeb spends much of his downtime teaching for Newspace Center for Photography, and all time not accounted for out in the world with a camera.

What’s in his camera bag: A little bit of everything, including a Hasselblad 500C, Innova pinhole, Holga, and Pentacon SixTL, just to name a few.

Zeb’s Website Portfolio

 

Kelly Palin

Kelly

Where you’ll find her: Kelly does all our books, so she’s often seen in the back working away on Excel or other complicated financial spreadsheets the rest of us can only begin to understand. She’s the one making sure we’ve crossed all our t’s and dotted all our i’s, and we would be an uncrossed, undotted mess without her.

What she does in her off time: Our resident expert in a variety of topics related to gardening and healthy eating, Kelly loves spending time in her garden. When not busy raising her garden, she is most often spending time with her daughters.

What’s in her camera bag: A calculator and portfolio of really good looking spreadsheets.

 

Jake Shivery

image

Where you’ll see him: Jake walks the floor most days, handling all your sales, consignment, and general expertise needs. He’s just the person to provide the odd piece of expert information and invaluable advice on photography at large.

What he does in his off time: Many Sunday mornings, especially in the winter months, are dedicated to large format portraiture in his back yard. Jake recently released a book of his 8×10 film photography, titled Contact.

What’s in his camera bag: An 8×10 Deardorff and MINOX III camera, loaded with Spy Film.

Jake’s Flickr Portfolio

 

Daisy

Photo by Jim Hair

Photo by Jim Hair

Where you’ll find her: Daisy is Jake’s dog, and she is very calm, friendly, photogenic, and well trained. To the last point, she will not venture out past the black curtain, but she may poke her head out to say hello every now and then. Feel free to go give her a pet if you’d like, and she’ll love you for it.

What she does in her off time: She is often seen being incidental in the background of Jake’s portraits. When not lying just within frame, she can be found running through the park or the river, or enjoying a lazy afternoon in the backyard.

What’s in her camera bag: She has no camera bag; she’s a dog, silly.

For more photos of Daisy, click here

What’s New on the Blue Moon? (since the last blue moon)

It’s that time of the lunar cycle again. A blue moon rises on Portland tonight and to celebrate, we’d like to tell you what we’ve been up to since the last blue moon back in 2012. We’ve had a very good three years, and owe so much of that to the people reading along now. Thank you, as always, for supporting us and the Portland film community.

staff at shows

We had an Impossible visit (and are gearing up for our next in a week), Pinhole Photography Walks, many rowdy customer and staff shows (another one of which opens tomorrow), a couple Portland Art Museum brown bag lectures, an OPB Art Beat feature, an exciting monograph book from a Kickstarter venture, the first issue of our staff zine 8417, and a license to manufacture MINOX sized Spy Film.

Most importantly, though, we got to develop, print, and scan thousands of rolls of film from our customers, and put hundreds of functioning film cameras into the hands of photographic artists. It’s easy to lose track of the time when you’re doing something that cool each day.

For your enjoyment, we’ve put together some behind-the-scenes photos of what we’ve been up to.

 

Zeb celebrates his 10 year anniversary at Blue Moon! September, 2012

Zeb celebrates his 10 year anniversary at Blue Moon! (Photo by Zeb Andrews) September, 2012

 

Some of the Blue Moon crew at Jake's show at Powell's, October 2012

Some of the Blue Moon crew at Jake’s show at Powell’s. (Photo by Jason Kelley)  October 2012

 

Zeb and Jake at the opening of their joint show, Still Live, in Vancouver, May 2013

Zeb and Jake at the opening of their joint show, Still Live, in Vancouver. (Photo by Jason Kelley) May 2013

 

The biggest we've ever been! The staff continues to grow as we gain new family members. November, 2013

The current and past staff gather for a family cookout. November, 2013

 

The shop front in the snow, February 2014

The shop front in the snow, February 2014

 

On our first pinhole photography walk, April 2014

On our first pinhole photography walk, April 2014

 

Jake teaching the Impossible guys exposing instant Impossible 8x10 film, May 2014

Jake and the Impossible guys, Kyle and Mitch, exposing instant Impossible 8×10 film, May 2014

 

We're big in Japan! The Japanese magazine Popeye highlights Blue Moon Camera in its St. Johns feature, June 2014

We’re big in Japan! The Japanese magazine Popeye highlights Blue Moon Camera in its St. Johns feature, June 2014

 

Our OPB Art Beat feature resulted in many exciting things, including a big screen showing at Blue Sky Gallery and the cover of OPB Members' Magazine, October 2014

Our OPB Art Beat feature resulted in many exciting things, including a big screen showing at Blue Sky Gallery and the cover of OPB Members’ Magazine, October 2014

 

Behind the scenes filming Jake and Oliver Ogden, filming  the video for Jake's Kickstarter, November 2014

Behind the scenes filming Jake and Oliver Ogden, filming the video for Jake’s Kickstarter, November 2014

 

Faulkner celebrates his 10 year anniversary at Blue Moon Camera! November, 2014

Faulkner celebrates his 10 year anniversary at Blue Moon Camera! (Photo by Tom Humphrey) November, 2014

 

Jake’s Kickstarter is successful, resulting in a beautiful book–Contact–published by One Twelve Publishing. Video by Arthur Hitchcock. December 2014

Jake and Blue at the opening of Jake's show Contact at Newspace, April 2015

Jake and Blue at the opening of Jake’s show Contact at Newspace, April 2015

 

The staff publish the first issue of their own photographic zine, 8417. June, 2015

The staff publish the first issue of their own photographic zine, 8417. June, 2015

 

Excitement abounds as we sign our licensing deal with MINOX Germany and release Spy Film for MINOX cameras. July, 2015

Excitement abounds as we sign our licensing deal with MINOX Germany and release Spy Film for MINOX cameras. July, 2015

 

Thanks for the past three years, everyone; we’ll see you with another update on the next Blue Moon.

Announcing Spy Film for MINOX cameras

spy film, minox

Spy Film for Minox Cameras on sale now!

We’ve got news.

It’s really, really big news. We’ve kept it Top Secret for almost a year. At long last the time has come to declassify, and we’re ready to share with you our latest endeavor. But first: are you sitting down? Good. Were you followed? Excellent. Here we go.

Effective immediately, Blue Moon Camera and Machine has begun production of subminiature films for MINOX spy cameras. That’s right: your favorite MINOX printing, scanning, and developing lab is now your Spy Film supplier, and after the long, long wait, you can finally find the film you need to keep your clandestine photography going. And we’re not talking about one or two batches; nope, we’ll be keeping you agents supplied well into the future.

But wait, there’s more! You’ll be getting a whole array of emulsion options, all ready to fit in your tightest tuxedo pocket or smallest evening handbag with plenty of room to spare. Want a super slow, fine grain, black and white emulsion? No problem. Fast, grainy, and colorful more your style? We’ve got you covered. Whether you’re a traditionalist who likes to go big with little grain or you’re looking for the dreamlike low-fi look that only high speed film grain can deliver, you’ll find the perfect photographic companion in our selection of Spy Films.

For those of you who have been calling on us for years looking for your 8x11mm fix, you will already know the elation we feel at this announcement. But if you’ve not yet discovered the thrill of photographing with subminiature MINOX film, please follow the link below with more information about this format.

Oh, and one more thing: we have the film right now, sitting on our shelves, ready to make the trip from our shop to your door. Stop on by if you’re in town, or give us a call if you’re not (503.978.0333); our shipping department is standing by. You can also buy online on the Automat at any time, day or night.

From Portland with love,
Your friends at Blue Moon Camera and Machine

For the Press:

Down load the Spy Film Press Release (pdf)

Download the Spy Film Press Kit (zip) with Press Release, Related links, and Promotional photos

 

Drinking with Jake (Round Four) – Mike Bain

Next in a series in which Jake Shivery and a guest get pickled and talk photography.

Drinking with Jake and Michael 01

Mike Bain is the US Marketing and Business Development Manager for Harman Technology / Ilford Photo. He has been with Ilford for 26 years and he has been working in the photo industry for over 35 years. He keeps busy with photography, travel, walking and reading. Mike and his wife live in the beautiful Oak Cliff section of Dallas, Texas.

Who: Mike Bain – Ilford, US Management and Development
Where: Jake’s garage
When: March, 2014
What: Bulleit Rye with a bit of ice
 
Editor’s note: Please note that this interview was conducted in Two Thousand and Fourteen, and it’s just taken a long time to actually get it into print form. There are a variety of points raised where the time is relevant, so kindly just pretend for a second that we’re back in the salad days of early 2014. Sorry – it’s been kind of a crazy year. js
 

Jake: Thanks for coming to visit us in Portland.

Mike: It’s my pleasure.

JS: I understand that you enjoy beer, so I figure you might also enjoy Portland.

MB: I do like beer, as it turns out, and I really like Portland.

JS: You find us to be a good town for beer.

MB: Oh yes. I like pale ales especially, and there are many.

JS: Anything in particular?

MB: I have to say, everything I’ve tried here, I’ve really enjoyed. Just last evening, I went to a brewery downtown and had one of their pale ales. Down the street from Powell’s – that was nice.

JS: You travel a lot. You once told me that you’ve spent three weeks a month on the road for most of your career.

MB: Yeah. At least three weeks. I cover the whole country, so I move around a lot. I started about this time in ’88 and at first I just covered the Southeast as their technical rep. I moved to Dallas from Chicago, and I covered Texas, Oklahoma, over to the Carolinas and down to Florida, where I supported our salespeople.

JS: So all the way back to ’88, when it was all darkroom stuff.

MB: Oh yes, all darkroom. Back that far, we weren’t even thinking about digital process yet.

JS: You’ve been at this for a good long time, then. How do you describe your job now?

MB: I do a little of everything. I guess one of the reasons that I’m still around is because I have a bit of a technical background. These days I say that I do everything from talking to someone when they develop a roll of 35mm film to talking with people like you and big labs and then all the inventory – making sure that we have the right products in the United States.

JS: This came up earlier today when you were speaking with the rest of the staff, but what do you need the public to know about Ilford?

MB: I think that the main thing is that despite some of the bad news that people may hear about traditional photography and things like that, we are financially stable and plan on a long future. We continue to develop new products and plan on being here for quite a while. I mean, it can be a challenge, but really, everything about this industry can be a challenge.

JS: It’s interesting to note that Ilford has just released a brand new fibre paper. Just late last year. [ed: again, that’s 2013, folks]

MB: Yeah, actually two brand new ones. We’ve been producing Multigrade IV since ’93 or ’94, and since then we’ve been working on the new stock, which we’re calling Classic. It tones a little nicer than the IV paper, and has a great contrast range, everything you’ve come to expect from the IV, but even better. We’ve also introduced a cool tone version – we’ve never had a cool tone FB material before, so now we have the Warm Tone and the Classic and also the Cool Tone FB papers to offer.

IMG_7552_MGFB Range Pack Shot 1

 JS: That warm tone paper has been my favorite for the past six or seven years now. It’s all I print on; literally, everything I’ve souped in the last few years has been on that paper. I think it’s the best thing since sliced bread. How old is that paper?

MB: I want to say it’s eighteen or nineteen years old. We haven’t changed anything on that, which will be important to a lot of people – we have a lot of people using that and enjoying it. That paper already tones great – it looks great – we don’t know what we could do to make it much better.

JS: As I say, I think it’s already a perfect paper. Are the new cool tone and classic papers sort of catching up to the warm tone?

MB: Well, they’re very different papers. Anyone using the warm tone paper will notice that it’s much slower – it’s a totally different emulsion. And then the toning – the warm tone paper has a much easier time taking toners.

JS: And how about the Fine Art paper – where does that fit in with the line?

MB: It’s certainly a niche product. We’ve wanted to make it for a while, but we had difficulty finding the substrate that could withstand being in solutions for a long time without falling apart. So Hahnemühle now provides us with that base, and we coat it with a very similar emulsion to what’s on the FB warm tone paper. So if you’ve printed on the warm tone paper, you can easily transfer over the same techniques to printing on the Fine Art material.

JS: I’ve found that to be exactly true. I’ve pulled the same neg on both the warm tone paper and the Fine Art paper and managed to lose track of which was which while they were in the trays. When they dry down, though, they look much, much different.

MB: It’s not quite the same DMAX, and then there’s the surface, but it has a nice look all its own.

JS: I find it to be a great “limited edition” paper, and by that I mean that I like to use it when my focus is just a hair off. The textured surface does a great job of disguising that, while still giving me a beautiful fibre print.

MB: That’s funny, I recently spoke with someone doing the same thing. They were printing their grandparents’ negatives, and wanted fibre paper, but some of the negs weren’t exactly sharp – I suggested that the Fine Art 300 would be a good way to go, and they were happy with the results. We certainly don’t sell as much of it as the other papers – like I say, it’s a niche product – but I like the way it fills out the lineup. People had been asking us for a textured paper for years, and we’re pleased to have an offering. And it has its own following.

JS: Yeah, it’s good stuff. Anything you want to say about RC papers?

MB: Well, the truth is that we’ve certainly seen a decline in RC paper sales from many years ago. We were a much bigger company twenty years ago, of course, but over the last three or four years the market really seems to have stabilized. There is a slight decline in RC paper sales – Fibre is holding its own, and film is good – very stable – we’re selling lots of sheet film – so of all of our products, RC is the one that’s shown the most decline. It’s more or less stable, lately, but darkroom folks really seem to be gravitating to the FB papers.

JS: Right, well, people that are taking the trouble to go in the darkroom at all are skipping over the RC step. It no longer really seems that much “faster”.

Alfred Harman 3

MB: Exactly. That’s what we think. People like the unique look of the fibre. I still tell people that fibre is almost always going to be the longest lasting print in the room. And that look, I mean nothing else looks like that. You can put it side by side with even the most beautiful inkjet print, and fibre will still hold its own. There’s just something about the way it looks and the way it feels.

JS: And it’s the only thing which adheres to the HABS criteria for archivability.

MB: Yes, I’ve spoken with several people about that, people who need to fulfill the needs for archives. It’s great that we still have a product which can be tested for such long term stability.

JS: Yeah, we run the lab to HABS criteria – it’s nice that they’ve now done away with the single weight and the graded requirements.

MB: We do still have a limited amount of graded paper in grades two and three that we offer. When I first started you could get all the grades, one through five, in all kinds of sizes. The multigrade material has really taken over since then, though we are continuing to maintain a bit of the graded stocks for folks who need it. It’s a shame to lose any of the materials, but we like to think we have something for just about everybody these days. And we’re putting a lot of emphasis on film stocks, as well.

JS: And you do have a very thorough selection of film available. What’s the most recent film that Ilford has released?

MB: SFX – the extended red film. Use the dark red filters, and you can get infrared-type results without the handling issues that you have with true infrared films. And then, if you shoot it with no filter, it’s also a very pretty general use 200 speed film. That’s nice, since you can mix both results on the same roll of film.

JS: What’s your most popular film these days?

MB: Hands down, HP5+, 35mm, 36 exposures.

JS: In the store, it always seems like we’re selling more 120 and sheet film, but Ilford at large continues to sell more 35mm?

MB: 35 is big, but there’s no question that 120 film and sheet film have really done the best over the last several years, looking at the uptick in sales. I think that there are a lot reasons for that – there are a lot of really great 120 cameras used on the market, for starters. People may have wanted these cameras for a long time, and now the prices are down where they can afford them. And the plastic cameras, the toy cameras – we’ve really benefited from that quite a bit. 35 still defines the student market though – we do very well with the 35 films bundled with the RC paper. I’m pretty fortunate in my job because I get to meet a lot of different photographers and a lot of people doing really interesting work. I meet photojournalists who have to take digital for their work, but they tell me that they still shoot film for themselves. When they’re doing their own projects, they shoot all film – and of course, a lot of those folks are shooting 35.

JS: We hear the same thing, pretty constantly. Digital for work, film for art.

MB: Exactly. It’s funny, when it’s important, the same people want to do it on film.

JS: Do you have any products that you don’t think people know enough about?

MB: Well, we mentioned SFX, and I do feel that it gets underrepresented a little bit. We’d like more people to know about the Fine Art paper – if more people saw it, then I think it would become much more popular. It’s a nice option – it’s good to have prints that can look so very different.

JS: OK, so Ilford recently got out of the color material market altogether, which has been causing quite a bit of gossip. How do you wish to describe this? What went bankrupt and what is still around?

MB: Well, when I got started, there was a company called Ilford Limited. This was an umbrella company for all the worldwide operations – we had manufacturing plants, most importantly in Switzerland and the UK, and at one time also in France. Then there were selling companies, like Ilford US, and Ilford Germany, etc. In the ’90s, as digital really took off, we started making a lot of inkjet products. We were doing it from the beginning and got better and better at it. But the fact is that we were a bit overwhelmed by it and the transition was abrupt and difficult for everybody in the industry. So, we were this big organization, centered in the UK, and we went into some debt trying to make the transition to digital. During receivership they started selling off bits of the company, piece by piece. Right about nine years ago – almost exactly – receivers were handling all of the assets. At that time, the Swiss company was sold off to a Japanese company and my boss, Steven Brierley, along with five of his colleagues, went to the receivers and said they wanted to buy the UK black and white business. At that time, we knew that black and white was still solvent, and it was all of the other interests which were dragging it down. We knew we had a solid business in black and white materials, if it would be allowed to continue. So they bought out the black and white division, and renamed it “Harman Technology”. That’s the legacy name – the guy who started Ilford in the 1870s was named Alfred Harman. We have the Ilford BW brand name for use in perpetuity, but only on black and white products. The company in Switzerland took over all the Ilford color products, including the beautiful Ilfochrome materials. They made this, plus all of the inkjet products, and all the RA-4 color printing products, and the Ilfotrans and so forth. Basically, Switzerland got all the color, and the UK got all of the black and white. Recently, you may have heard news about Ilford Switzerland’s bankruptcy. The Swiss color company has been through some tough times and is now in receivership. This has no impact on us in the UK, since we are separate businesses altogether. That’s what we want people to know. It’s unfortunate about what’s happening in Switzerland, but it’s a separate entity and we’re not affected by it.

Directors Photos 033

 JS: So the Ilford Black and White company is stable for the long term?

MB: Oh, yes. I have to say, we run a pretty tight ship. We’re streamlined, and very conservative in our approach. We’re solvent, secure and looking to the future.

JS: You have a very long term lease on the film manufacturing plant.

MB: Yeah, it’s twenty years or something like that. We have the facilities to make everything we need to, plus a lot of room to grow when the need arises. We’re always looking at where a new product might fit in.

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JS: So, how about an industry overview from you, as a person, and from you, as the Ilford rep?

MB: Well, obviously, it’s challenging. But when I look around, and I mean, it’s easy in hindsight, but from my point of view, the people who have remained, or become, successful, are the ones who focused on their niche markets. We used to have an industry of people who did a lot of everything, and I think that became part of the problem. The ones who are surviving are the ones who are dedicating themselves one way or the other to smaller segments of the business.There used to be a lot of commercial labs who would order rolls and rolls of paper and the big blue barrels full of chemistry, and most of that business is gone. There is still a little of that work, but there are fewer labs, and the ones who keep going are the ones who really show the dedication to specific services. The art market has always been very important to us, and is even more important now. And education, of course – we still visit as many schools as possible. It’s always very reassuring to me when I visit schools and find that people still think teaching traditional photography is important. The skills make better photographers, ultimately, whether they end up shooting digital or film.

JS: We deal with this all day, every day. It seems like the students want to take darkroom classes, and the teachers want to teach darkroom classes, but there remains this resistance from above – there’s a philosophy among the school boards and the PTAs and so forth that we shouldn’t be teaching this “dead field”. Care to comment?

Drinking with Jake and Michael 03

 MB: I’ve seen that, too, and I’ve heard a lot of different things. Sometimes it’s as simple as a school administrator who has gotten their first digital camera and has become a convert. So now the instructors have to do the job of selling to their own administrations. They have to be the ones to throw in on why the darkroom is important, why it matters, why it’s still completely valid. Sometimes, in cities where the rents are high, it’s as simple as the darkroom taking up too much space – I hear that more than you want to know about. But what I do hear consistently is that when there’s a class for traditional darkroom, it fills. I’ve never had an instructor tell me that they can’t fill a darkroom class. That’s very reassuring. Young people find it fascinating – it’s so different from every other aspect of their lives. I always love it when I meet a twenty year old who shows me beautiful silver prints.

JS: This is something we say all the time. Every kid’s got a computer in the kitchen, but nobody has a darkroom at home anymore. I see it as the goal of the school to be providing facilities that aren’t otherwise available, and giving the kids a chance to learn new skills. My shorthand is that we don’t give up all the pianos just because we have computers that can do the same thing. That seems to resonate with a lot of parents and administrators, when I can get them to think about it like that. Furthermore, we’re on the cusp of giving up all the metal shops and wood shops, and replacing them all with 3D printers. I mean, I appreciate the usefulness of computers, but I think that one of the underlying missions of educational institutions is to provide exposure to the different options out there.

MB: It’s not all bad, though, there is still quite a bit of support from educators. I’ll be attending the SPE conference, and that’s a great place to meet instructors from all over the country, many of whom are fighting for the same thing. I mean, just from a purely dollars-and-cents point of view, it’s pretty easy to justify the teaching of traditional photography. Enlargers will last twenty years, and it’s easy to deal with the materials. On the flip side, I hear about schools who have people whose whole job is to keep up on the licenses for the software. None of that in the darkroom.

JS: Right. Let’s spend time teaching the craft instead of keeping up on the software. The illusion of work, the illusion of learning, is no substitute for actually learning how to get things done.

MB: Exactly. You know, the history is interesting – I’ve seen old photographs from Ilford of their factory workers with tea kettles, pouring emulsion onto the glass plates. We’ve come a long way, but the technology is still basically the same.

JS: Yes. And it’s important that someone – you guys – will be keeping this technology available in the future. We know it can be a struggle. How’s the global market?

MB: Well, certainly the US is the biggest market. Europe is big, but all of our worldwide distributors are busy. There’s a big art scene in Latin America; we don’t quite have the reach down there that we would like, but the market exists. We have a good presence in Japan. Overall, it’s the US and western Europe, and the UK.

JS: What about the competition?

MB: Well, it’s the names we all know – Kodak and Fuji. And some players in eastern Europe.

JS: Who else is still active in Europe?

MB: Foma, and Bergger. Forte’s been closed for a while. There’s some activity in Agfaphoto and Ferrania. We see a little of the Oriental papers out there. We used to be the little guy, but now Ilford’s seen as the big guy. In reality, we’re a pretty small company, but we are in a growth mode.

JS: So, two big companies, then you guys, and a bunch of smaller players.

MB: Kodak has come out of the other side and are now aggressively selling films again; we’re watching this closely, of course. We’ll see how it goes for them. It’s a relatively new development.

JS: And, well, we still need Fuji, because you guys aren’t making an instant product.

MB: No – it came up when Polaroid got out of the business, and I know that there were some talks about us taking over that product line, but moving all of the equipment to the UK and dealing with the setup seemed a bit outside of our scope.

JS: So, whither the future for Ilford? The art market, of course.

MB: Well, of course, plus the education market. We think that people will be shooting film for a long, long time. There are a lot of reasons for that – the fine equipment, the ability to see the images in twenty years. I mean, everybody’s got a twenty year old floppy disk with data on it, and I challenge you to go open one and make use of it. Film doesn’t have that problem, and never will. It stores a tremendous amount of information, and we’ll be able to look at it for years to come.

JS: So, since you have the whole US territory, what’s your favorite US market?

MB: Why, Portland of course. No, really, there’s nothing like Portland. I spend a lot of time in New York – there’s so much photography there. Any of the big cities, really, there’s a lot to see. I get to see a lot of really good exhibits, and there’s so much tremendously good work going on.

JS: Let’s speak a little more about you. What did you do before Ilford?

MB: I studied photography in school and then I worked in and eventually owned a photo lab where we made Ilforchromes and did some black and white processing. That was in Austin years ago, in the 80s. I was in the lab business in Chicago, and then I was offered the job at Ilford – I had roots in Texas, and that’s where the job was, so it seemed like a natural fit. I’ve been in Dallas twenty six years – I could work anywhere, but that’s where I’ve built my life. I like it a lot. Seems like a long time when you say it out loud.

JS: And how about your personal photography?

Diner_01

 MB: Well, I still love to shoot. I love film, and I’ve always made photos – I’ve shot since I was a teenager. I thought I would be getting into newspaper stuff, and kind of learned from other people, plus community college and then four year college. I enjoy night photography, and pinhole, documentary style – that’s what I like to shoot and what I like to see. A lot of twin lens work.

JS: And what’s your rig? What kind of camera do you use?

MB: Rollei twin lens. Pretty simple, lightweight, small enough. I do have a Hasselblad, but it never seems to come out anymore, to be honest. At Ilford, we have our own pinhole cameras, the Obscura and the Titan, so I use those quite a bit. They’re a good, simple way to shoot 4×5. I also enjoy the Zero Image – I carry around a 6×6 – very lightweight and easy to deal with. Going back to what we were talking about before, I rarely shoot much 35mm; these days, it’s primarily 120. With all this, I still really like to look at photography. I enjoy galleries, and being able to get out and look at work. You have a pretty strong gallery scene here in Portland, yes?

JS: Oh, yes. There’s a lot of action in town. More than we can attend, really. You should schedule one of your trips for a First Thursday or First Friday – we can show you around a bit.

MB: Good idea. I find it very encouraging. I guess the big message is that film photography is alive and well. While it’s smaller than it was twenty years ago, it’s still very vibrant and important. And it will be for a long time to come. Also, people should print. That’s what’s important about the darkroom – it means that people are making physical prints. I look around at the internet and phones and all, but there’s nothing like holding a beautiful print, or having one hanging on the wall – nothing like it.

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 JS: Photography has changed a lot since you started.

MB: Oh, yeah. A lot. Twenty years ago, I didn’t have the imagination to see where all this was going. The way I look at it now, it’s just that we have more tools. The more tools that an artist has, the better it is, but you don’t want to throw away the old tools just because you get some new ones.

JS: So, when you were in the lab business twenty years ago, I’m sure you had the old curmudgeons, the same as I did – folks to learn stuff from, and they probably complained a lot. So, back in the day, what were your curmudgeons pissed off about?

MB: Oh, the same as now. All about format. 35 was introduced so many years ago, but you would’ve thought that it was some new thing. The old timers that I used to talk to still shot their Graflexes, and stood by the quality of their sheet film. Also the same as today is the materials – even then we were losing a lot of the historic papers, the single weight fibres and so forth, and that’s always been an item of contention. We have lost a lot of really beautiful papers. The old Agfa Portriga was a beautiful paper, but even it changed – it certainly wasn’t the same paper at the end as when it started. But it’s nostalgia, really, and romance. I mean, I loved a lot of the old papers, but I wouldn’t trade them for the modern papers that we have today. The DMAXs are nice, the consistency is good, the contrast is good. I have a lot of old 70s papers, and they still look good; it would be nice if we still had a big enough market to have that kind of variety, but I’m proud of Ilford for keeping a good selection of materials available.

Santigao_01

 JS: Yes, thank you. Keeping three fibres and an RC, all in different surfaces, plus the Fine Art, is still a pretty good selection. And in a lot of sizes.

MB: We don’t make some of the large sizes anymore, but we are selling big FB paper in rolls – we offer a 50″ roll of fibre that does very well.

JS: You sell a 50″ roll of fibre?

MB: You’re darn right we do. Quite a bit of it.

JS: Who’s using it?

MB: Certain edition printers. In the past few years, in galleries especially, I’ve seen big prints becoming more and more important. Another product line that we make which is important, and it’s another niche but still important, are fibre and RC papers for hybrid printers. Laser digital enlargers use these, so we have a good line of paper that will make good darkroom silver prints from digital files. It’s just one more thing we’ve done to make our products available to the most number of people.

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 JS: I’m always fascinated by people’s darkrooms. You’ve been around a lot – what’s the best darkroom you’ve ever been in?

MB: Well, it’s interesting about darkrooms. I once saw someone speak about darkrooms, and his point was that darkrooms always tell stories about who is working inside them. And his other point – gosh, I wish I could remember his name – his other point was that the best darkroom is the one where you know where everything is. I mean, I love my darkroom at home, because I’m the only one who uses it – everything is always right where it should be. I don’t know if I could pick out a favorite, but I have been to some really fantastic darkrooms. There is a school in Philadelphia that recently built a new facility and I was stunned at how beautiful and well-thought-out it is. I went to one in San Diego – the city college there and the facilities were incredible. Then there’s Columbia in Chicago – they have quite a view. When you’re out there flattening the prints you’ve just made in the darkroom, the window in the workroom looks out over Lake Michigan and Michigan Avenue. That was pretty spectacular. We have a website called local darkrooms dot com – we’re using to try and help people connect to darkrooms. There are a lot of people shooting film who no longer have access to darkrooms so this website is a clearinghouse for places where you can print. If you’re traveling, you can see if there’s a rental available, or sometimes, people will even invite you into their personal darkrooms. It also has places where people are teaching traditional photo workshops and things like that. Anything we can do to help sustain the community. Globally and locally.

JS: OK, so I want to build a brand new darkroom, from scratch. What should I be thinking about?

MB: Well, for me space is a big one. I’ve seen some small darkrooms that work well, but it’s not ideal. I mean, that’s how I started, probably like you – with the table over the tub and the enlarger on the toilet, but if you can have the space, that’s the best. I never even had a real darkroom sink until I redid my darkroom about ten years ago, and I love that sink. It’s really beautiful and it makes all the difference. Just having a six foot sink, if you can have that, it’s the best thing.

JS: So you built a brand new darkroom ten years ago? Right when digital was really starting to kick?

MB: Yeah, well, I hope I have a lot of printing time left in me, I mean, I hope I’m printing in twenty five years. Probably like everybody else, I have a lot of negatives that I’ve never printed. I see my retirement as being me looking through a lot of the old stuff and playing catch-up. Plus, there’s just something about being in the darkroom. It’s somewhat intangible, but that’s what I love about it. You’re alone, you have time to think, you’re doing something with your hands. You don’t feel the same way when you have a beautiful print that came off the inkjet printer.

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 JS: Yeah, we have that discussion a lot – the difference between handmade and mass-produced, and it rankles the inkjet printer guys. Their point is “Well, I’m touching it, isn’t that handmade?” And my point is that if you can push a button and make ten of them, then it’s mass-produced. It’s really hard – effectively impossible, really – to make identical prints in the darkroom.

MB: Well, when we were kids and coming up, I mean, we never thought about computers being able to do it for us, right? Darkroom is the craft I came up with and I want to stick with it. It’s fascinating to meet someone who is just now in college – eighteen or nineteen years old – who’s never known not having a computer in the house. It seems to me like a lot of them really take to being in the darkroom and it feels like they’re making something. It’s like making something in a workshop. There is something about getting your hands wet.

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 JS: That’s a great point to end on. Anything else you’d like to address?

MB: We’ve covered a lot, right? Listen, when you asked earlier if there’s anything that I want people to know, it’s pretty simple: there’s still a lot of film being made, there’s still a lot of film being shot, and Ilford has a very long-term plan for the future. Thanks for having me, Jake – this was fun.

JS: I really enjoyed it, Mike. We’ll hope to see you again soon. Thank you, and good night.

Holgamania

Holgamania

Happy Toy Camera day! We don’t know about you, but here at Blue Moon Camera and Machine, we’re major Holgamaniacs. Need proof? Just check out some of what we get up to off hours with our plastic cameras.

 

Photo by Peter Carlson

Photo by Peter Carlson

 

Photo by Zeb Andrews

Photo by Zeb Andrews


Photo by David Paulin

Photo by David Paulin

 

Photo by Katt Janson

Photo by Katt Janson

 

Photo by Nick Burdett

Photo by Nick Burdett


Photo by Sarah Taft

Photo by Sarah Taft

 

Photo by Peter Carlson

Photo by Peter Carlson

 

Photo by Katt Janson

Photo by Katt Janson

 

Photo by Sarah Taft

Photo by Sarah Taft

 

Photo by Zeb Andrews

Photo by Zeb Andrews

 

Photo by David Paulin

Photo by David Paulin

 

What can we say? We love our toy cameras, and we think you should, too. So grab your toy camera, get out there, and get photographing.

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Thank you and godspeed.

An Impossible Party

card-cameras

This week we were lucky enough to get a visit from Impossible’s SilverShade Airstream tour. In true Blue Moon Camera and Machine fashion, we celebrated this the only way we knew how: by throwing a big party. We stayed open late, ordered a keg (or two), and photographed all the Impossible film we could get our hands on. Below is the spoils of our partying, including super exciting Jake Shivery 8×10 instant prints. Try to contain your excitement, and read on.

 

Mitch and Kyle: our Impossible visitors. Photo by Jake Shivery

Mitch and Kyle: our Impossible visitors. Photo by Jake Shivery

 

Photo by David Paulin

Photo by David Paulin

 

The van arrives. Photo by David Paulin

The van arrives. Photo by David Paulin

 

Photo by Peter Carlson

Photo by Peter Carlson

 

Jake IPsmall

Phot by Peter Carlson

 

Photo by Peter Carlson

Photo by Peter Carlson

 

Photo by Peter Carlson

Photo by Peter Carlson

 

Jake gets set up for some 8x10 work. Photo by David Paulin

Jake gets set up for some 8×10 work. Photo by David Paulin

 

Francis by Jake

Francis by Jake

 

 

Jake by Francis

Jake by Francis

 

 

Photo by Gary Quay

Photo by Gary Quay

 

 

Photo by Jake Shivery

Photo by Jake Shivery

 

Photo by Jake Shivery

Photo by Jake Shivery

 

Photo by Jake Shivery

Photo by Jake Shivery

 

Photo by Jake Shivery

Photo by Jake Shivery

 

 

Photo by Jake Shivery

Photo by Zeb Andrews

 

 

Photo by Jake Shivery

Photo by Jake Shivery

 

Photo by Jake Shivery

Photo by Jake Shivery

 

Photo by Jake Shivery

Photo by Jake Shivery

 

Thanks guys, and goodnight!  Photo by David Paulin

Thanks guys, and goodnight! Photo by David Paulin

 

Drinking with Jake (Round Three) – Ray Bidegain

Next in a series in which Jake Shivery and a guest get pickled and talk photography.

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Ray Bidegain is an artist and an educator. He is an accomplished platinum printer whose work has been collected internationally for two decades. He lives with his wife Kathleen and their two daughters, Abigail and Emogene in St. Johns, right around the corner from Jake. Jake’s colleague Sarah Taft also joins the fray.

 

Who: Ray Bidegain, Jake, and Sarah Taft
Where: Around Jake’s fireplace
When: February, 2014
What: Bulleit 10 year (which was a gift)

Jake: Well, Ray, you want to start with business or art?

Ray: Or the business of art?

JS: I want to talk about a lot of different stuff – art, business, showing, the museum – where would you like to start? You want to get going with the softball stuff?

RB: Oh, yeah, let’s get started with something easy. You want to go right to the Photo Council?

JS: Well, no. I changed my mind. I want to start with the lifestyle stuff. I want to start by saying: “Ray, you’re my hero.”

RB: Oh, that’s nice.

JS: And the reason that you’re my hero is because you print every day. I remember that you spoke about it during your museum speech – that you work in the darkroom every single day. And that’s what I’m talking about – that’s why you’re my hero – because it’s not a hobby, it’s a full-on lifestyle. So, let’s talk about that.

RB: So, I spend my time between being the primary caregiver for my children and making my work. And this means photographing sometimes, and processing film sometimes and it does include printing every day. I often have prints on order, so I have prints to make for people who are collecting them. And on days when I don’t have anything new to print, and I don’t have any orders to fill, then those are the days when I go back through old negatives which I may have previously ignored.

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JS: So, how much of your time is old stuff and how much is new stuff?

RB: Let’s see. For about four months after my birthday, I’m printing orders from my big sale. Any time I have a new negative that I’m excited about, I always find the time to squeeze it in. I guess it’s not really too often any more that I’m digging back very far. Part of this has taught me that I don’t always process film and print negatives right away. I think they need to sort of ripen.

JS: So, are you running out of old negatives? I mean, if you print every day, how long before you have exhausted the catalogue of old work?

RB: Well, when I’m working, I only make about ten prints a day. I don’t make that many because I’m a platinum printer. It takes a while.

JS: You do understand that that’s a lot, right? I mean, five to ten prints a day, particularly in platinum is a lot of printing.

RB: I guess it could seem like it. It’s a matter of perspective. In regards to old negatives, let’s just say that I’m not going to run out.

JS: Really? So, how often do you shoot these days?

RB: Well, that goes in cycles. Sometimes I’ll get frustrated and go out and shoot several times a month. Sometimes I go months on end without shooting at all. I tend to run into the same old difficulties that all the landscape photographers do. And when I run into that, then I switch back and start photographing people again.

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JS: Are you doing commission work or are you really just shooting for yourself?

RB: I almost never do commission work. I’ve only done one commission work this year; they always leave me wishing I had done something else. There was a time when I did nothing but commissions, but that ended about fifteen years ago.

JS: Well, that’s been a long time that you’ve making art for art’s sake.

RB: It has. Since I turned forty, really.

JS: You’re not fifty five.

RB: Fifty four. Almost fifteen years ago, and I decided that it was time that I started making pictures that I wanted to see on my own wall.

JS: And how’s that going?

RB: Sometimes good and sometimes…. Well, sometimes I spend a lot of time wondering what it all means. What we’re all facing now, especially, is that even though I spend a lot of time interacting with collectors and making prints, it’s still just not enough. The opportunities are not what they once were. Chances for exhibitions are fewer, the exhibitions are smaller, and the internet just doesn’t do it for me.

JS: Would you like to define “enough”?

RB: I struggle to know if this is because I was a commercial photographer for so long. These days, everything I do is for me, but I still need an interaction with an audience in order to understand my own work. Without that, it’s not enough.

JS: OK, don’t let me lose the thread about your birthday sale. Let’s speak a bit about that, but let’s do it last in process. Will you please describe your process all the way through to selling? Let’s start with the camera – what do you shoot?

RB: So, I shoot a Calumet 8×10 and these days I have a 4×5 Ebony camera. I am a person who has had a lot of different cameras, but I always have those two formats.

JS: So, you’re all sheet?

RB: I shoot all sheet. Well, now I do. I’ve shot a lot of roll film of course, but now I’m all sheet. I often have an internal struggle about print size. I love small prints, I love small 4×5 prints, but sometimes I need the bigger image.

maple leaf hand

JS: So, you’re always contact printing?

RB: I always contact print. I haven’t used my enlarger in ten years. This has a lot to do with the platinum – I can do a lot of different alternate processes, but my primary medium is platinum printing, so yes, contact printing. I’m capable of making an enlarged digital negative, but I just don’t think that there’s much love in a digital negative. I mean, they look fine. But they don’t look the same. I’m spoiled, I guess, by the look of a contact print from a film negative.

Ultimately, I’m spoiled by objects. The object is super important to me. It’s the texture of the paper, it’s the color of the paper – all of that beauty tied up into one is what means everything to me. A lot of people say that it’s the image that counts, but for me it’s the object which counts. The object is everything. And how the object gets made is everything to me, too.

JS: Well, I disagree. And I think you disagree, too. Certainly the image counts.

RB: It does, it does. Nobody is interested in an uninteresting image, no matter how nice the execution. The image is of critical importance. But for me, the object counts as much. I’m not happy with it on the internet.

JS: But that’s now how everyone looks at photography.

RB: Right, and that’s a big part of my current dilemma. I’m not sure what that means. The audience is hundreds of times bigger than it is in real life.

JS: And how big is your internet audience?

RB: I’m not sure I really know. Well, I’ve had five hundred thousand page views on Flickr.

JS: And how big is your human audience?

RB: I have about 150 steady collectors. I have no idea how many people came to my last exhibition. My last exhibition was in 2012 and I don’t have one coming up in the foreseeable future.

JS: That was Newspace? That seems like a long time ago.

RB: And I have no idea how many people saw it. I mean, you never really know that.

JS: Well, it seems the internet is a boon in its own way, just in terms of exposure. Is it making you money? Are you selling?

RB: Well, yeah. I sell a lot over the internet.

JS: OK, hang on. We’re running far afield, and I don’t want to lose track of the process conversation. So, you have your cameras, and you’re making platinum contact prints and then what? You want to put stuff on the internet? You want to put stuff in a gallery? You want to do… both?

RB: I used to feel that my goal was to have a gallery show. But they’re difficult arrangements. They’re expensive and hard to procure and so, currently, I get images up on Flickr and my website pretty quickly, but I still strive to get them into somebody’s hands. One of the important things for me is seeing my work up on people’s walls.

I got an email from a person in Japan with a jpeg attached – a simple photo of this person’s hallway, and hanging in that hallway is a little 4×5 platinum print of mine. And the thing that’s exciting for me about that, is not only that it’s so far away, but that it’s up, that it’s a part of this person’s daily life.
I do get emails and letters from people mentioning that my work is up in their homes. And for me, that’s worth much more than the money that they paid for it. I mean, I need the money to live, and that’s important, too – but having them up in people’s homes, to me, well that’s exciting. That’s kind of forever. It’s a little like having your pictures at the art museum. Cause that’s forever for sure.

tulips

JS: Let’s go there. You recently sold some more work to the museum.

RB: Yes, after the 2012 Newspace show, Julia Dolan suggested that she’d like to have some of them for the collection. She selected eight prints and I found some patrons to buy them and donate them in their own names, and so now I feel like I have a legacy at the Portland Art Museum.

JS: And you do. Eight prints is a lot. Dr. Dolan says that a good representation, especially for a living, local photographer is three. And you have eight.

RB: Plus, I already had one, so that’s nine. And you know, similar to the photo from the person in Japan, that’s what really helps me go on making work. Making more and more work. It feels really good, and I’m a feeling-driven guy.

Sarah: Because this is something that you created for yourself, but which many other people can also enjoy.

RB: Right. And this was the point of shifting over from being a commercial photographer. I feel like people who work on commission should get paid the most, because it’s the least rewarding in some ways. What’s the most rewarding is to make photographs of your own choosing and have those go out and be enjoyed in the world. And so I’m very grateful and feel very lucky to have anything at all in the museum collection, much less nine.

JS: And let’s stick with the museum a minute. Now you’re the president of the Photo Council.

RB: Yes, OK, that started five years ago when I became president of the Portland Photographers’ Forum board – this is a group of photographers in Portland that has been gathering for thirty years or so to share their own work and to hear photographers speak and so forth. And five years ago, when I became the president of PPF, I was also part of the museum Photo Council with some small notion of joining that board. I figured that the PPF experience would be a good way to see if I could be of some more use to the Photo Council.

The Photo Council has been an exciting time for me. It’s a good way to learn about, and become more compassionate about, the way that museums work. I think that previously I had the belief that a lot of people have – that because of what it costs to go to the museum, the museum had plenty of money and resources to do whatever they please. But the truth is that it doesn’t really work that way, and there is a large and diverse and necessary group of people required to keep expanding the collections.

JS: So, here’s your chance for a full-on Photo Council pitch, Mr. President.

RB: I joined the board of the Photo Council because I feel compelled to help the museum raise funds for acquisitions. And I think this is the whole point – it’s super important that the museum continues to grow its collection. And I think, from an educational perspective, any photographer interested in a better understanding of not only their own work but also the history of photography would do well to join up and see what we’re up to.

JS: I like it because it gets you close to the art.

RB: And that, too. You get to go, through membership, and you get to attend private tours of the exhibitions with Dr. Dolan, and I guarantee that if you do that, you will learn something that you did not know before. About the art on display, and about photography in general – it becomes more interesting, and more in context. The history of photography is much more complex than most people think.

So, it’s a hundred dollars a year. You get to attend a handful of activities and events, and you get a great behind the scenes tour of the photography exhibitions. We have one hundred and twenty members, and we have a good time.

JS: And we get to vote.

RB: Right. Every year, we do a meeting where we help decide which prints come into the collection. Julia brings in her selections, and members have input about how the funds are spent. Ultimately, it helps for a deeper understanding. Of the work, of the history, and of the curatorial process.

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JS: OK, I don’t want to lose track of the birthday sales. That’s been very important for you.

RB: Yes. So, when I turned fifty, I used my website to host a one day sale of my images where every image in my catalog was fifty dollars. I sent out a notice to my mailing list. And the first year, I sold about a hundred. And it was excellent, because it meant that I had a chunk of money that I wouldn’t usually have and also, I had a job. For the next couple of months, I made prints and mailed them out. My clients received prints that they didn’t have before, and I had money to live on. So that became a regular thing, and every year it’s gone better and better, and this last year, when I turned fifty four, I sold two hundred and one pictures for fifty four dollars each.

For me, this is how I like to market. I like having my pictures out in the world. The money is nice, but now, really, I have two hundred pictures spread out over 125 people from my birthday sales. A lot of these people are other photographers who were not art collectors. But now they are. They have the experience of what it’s like to buy someone else’s work and own it.

I had this experience in Seattle – a gallerist named Marita Holdaway at the Benham gallery said this: anyone who wants to sell art should make a point of getting out and buying art. So that they know how it feels.

From that day forward, I have always made a point of buying pictures. It’s an interesting feeling and maybe not what you expect. But if you want to sell, you should also want to buy. It’s a discretionary thing – it’s not like buying a car or something – I mean, you don’t have to do it, but what better thing to buy than original artwork? I mean, what else are you going to spend your money on? Posters? There is a lot of great original artwork out there at affordable prices.

JS: And who wants posters? Especially in Portland. There is so much art out there.

RB: And a lot of it is so affordable.

JS: Good segue. Let’s talk about pricing. How do you view the current fine art photographic market?

RB: I think that most emerging photographers price themselves completely out of the market. I took a different route and would always prefer to sell more prints for less money, rather then pursue big edition schemes that would never be realised. First, I want my artwork to be affordable, but also, I want to sell it. I want to be making and selling prints. I don’t want to be sitting around waiting for one to sell. And I always figured that I could sell them at a price where I would be busy, and if it ever got so that one day I was too busy to keep up, well then they would cost more.

And I think that if more artists would treat their career as a job, they would be more successful. Compare it to what people will pay you to make art – there’s no way you can make as much money printing for other people as what you can make in your own basement, drinking coffee and listening to music, maybe or maybe not dressed, making your own pictures for sale. And I get to go down every morning and make prints from my own negatives that I really like. If I was working a job, and a good job, where I could make a couple hundred dollars a day, that’s what I compare that to making my own. If I make ten a day, then I just have to sell them for twenty dollars each, and I’m breaking even.

And I’m not advocating selling art for twenty dollars; I’m just pointing out that selling pictures on my birthday for fifty dollars a piece is not hurting me.

So I’m making all this work, and I’m trying to get it out there, and this leads to showing. This has something to do with you, Jake, come to think of it. I approached Chris Bennett about us having a joint exhibition.

JS: I can’t believe you’re bringing this up.

RB: Well, I feel bad about it, but there’s a point. I approached Chris about us having a two-man show and he said – “Well, how about just you?” and I took it and had a large exhibition.

JS: Because you and Chris Bennett both hate me.

RB: No, no, no. My point is that being able to print every day means I have a lot of work, which led to the Newspace show which led to sales and eventually to the museum collection.ray_showcardJS: And that was our second attempt at a two-man show. I don’t want to lose track of that, but for now I want to keep talking about pricing.

RB: I try to think of selling art as any other retail business would. Which means that if you’re hanging your pictures on the wall for $400 and they’re not selling, then think of yourself as Macy’s and start to mark it down.

I take a lot of heat for this.

JS: I do, too. “Why are you selling everything so cheap, Jake?” To which I respond: “Oh yeah, well, how many do you want?”

RB: Right. Right. Exactly. They say “Well, you don’t value your own work.” and I think well, that’s not true at all. I value it plenty. I’m just trying to be realistic. If you’re talking about someone who prices their stuff really high, then you’re probably talking about someone who doesn’t need the money from selling. And I do.

JS: Or, there’s an alternate school of thought with selling much fewer pieces at much higher prices, and keeping the perceived value very high. But I agree with you here, because the guy holding out for one at a thousand dollars instead of selling ten for one hundred dollars does not have the ten pictures out there in the world, flying free.

RB: My other feeling about that is that the beauty of me starting out selling my pictures on eBay for not that much money meant that I learned how to make a lot of pictures. It’s a lot of work, and it takes a lot of practice to be good at it. But it’s still photography.

I remember one year getting ready for a show and being buried with the amount of prints that I had to make. I was really busy in the darkroom and was working a lot and thinking about how hard it was and wondering if I was going to be able to keep up. It was summertime, and my neighbor was having their roof redone. So it was good check – I’m looking at those guys up working on the roof in summertime and thinking “Now, that is hard work. And what I’m doing is what I love to do.”

When I first started on eBay, I sold ten, maybe fifteen pictures a week, and I learned that I could get fifteen pictures out the door every single week. So if anybody needed fifty prints for an edition in a month, I could do that, and it wouldn’t have to hurt. I hear about others, they need a year to get ready for something like that.

This helps me cycle through my work and learn how to do it. It’s kind of like golf. It’s practice.

JS: Let’s talk about eBay. Are you still selling stuff on eBay?

RB: No. Not for a while.

JS: And when did you start and when did you stop?

RB: I turned forty in 1999 and started the eBay thing. Ebay was new at the time, and the way that I did was I said: OK, I have a two-year old baby that I’m in charge of, and that’s that. Now, how much do I feel like I need to contribute to the household in order to feel good about my part-time job as a photographer? And it was two thousand dollars a month. And then I said, OK, so if I work on this while the baby’s asleep, then how many pictures can I make in a day? I came up with forty a month – ten a week, and what I need is to make two thousand dollars. So I put them on eBay for fifty bucks each. And I sold six hundred of them the first year.

For me, that’s thinking about it as a business.

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JS: Jesus – OK, so you made thirty thousand dollars on eBay in your first year.

RB: I did. It worked out.

JS: Six hundred prints in a year is staggering to me. I mean, I’ve been at it nowhere near as long, but I haven’t sold anywhere near that in the six years I’ve been actively selling. And this was your first year, and this was twenty years ago. It’s staggering.

RB: Seventeen years ago. At that time, eBay was new, and it cost like $1.50 to market, and it was easy. My whole plan progressed like this – I did eBay for about four years and I gained about one hundred and fifty solid collectors. And then I quit eBay and started marketing directly to those same collectors. I have individual collectors who have over one hundred prints each. I mean, I’m not bragging – it’s just work.

I asked one of my collectors in Texas and said “What are you doing with all these pictures?” and he said: “I’m waiting for you to get famous.”

So, he’s got two things: he’s buying them aesthetically, and he’s also – truthfully – he’s also speculating. And I don’t feel like I have to deliver on that. I mean, I have to deliver on the aesthetic side and so he got a good deal either way. But if I do get famous, then good for him.

JS: All you need is a good hostage situation and maybe a heroin overdose, and he’ll be rich.

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RB: Yeah, OK. I’ll keep that in mind.

JS: So, what sold on eBay?

RB: Nudes.

JS: Right. Let’s talk about naked lady pictures.

RB: Truthfully, when I left commercial wedding and portrait photography, I had taken landscape photos equaling zero. I never thought I was going to be a landscape photographer. And it didn’t take long to figure out that people don’t very readily buy portraits of people they don’t know.

JS: Amen.

RB: People will buy pictures of people they don’t know fairly readily, if the people in the pictures are not dressed. Hmmm. Also, I feel confident that my work has never been as exploitative as that just sounded.

JS: And how do you make sure that your naked lady pictures are not exploitative?

RB: I feel like they are anonymous and that the power lies within the subject rather than the viewer. I just had a long discussion with a friend about this. It’s never that these people are just available, or available at all. Part of it is because I want the subjects to be universal, and part of it is from my real emotions. Part of it is from what it’s like to have a two-year old daughter.

JS: Yeah. You live in an all-girl house.

RB: Right. And when you’re a dad, you have to work for it. Mothers immediately have a relationship with their children; dads have to work for it. I’ve always wanted to be the kind of dad with a deep relationship with my children. And when they’re young, it’s a busy time.

Listen, when the kids are one or two years old, it’s a lot of work. This is why so many couples get divorced during this time – you’re so focused on just getting this kid going that you sort of lose track of each other. And so a lot of what that early work was about, for me, was that whole feeling that my wife, my partner, this woman in my life, was not as available as she had previously been.

And so I wanted the models in these photographs to also be unavailable. Does that make sense?

Sarah: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.

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RB: And so I really tried to carry that across. These are all voluptuous nude women, but they are not, in any way, available to the viewer.

And so now, I still make those kinds of photographs – far fewer but I still make them. These days, the interesting thing for me is that everything has changed again about that whole genre of photography.

Because of the internet, I feel like most of the nudes that you see now are more about having the identity intact, and it’s just somebody in a picture who happens to be undressed. But I’m still striving for the anonymity, and this power thing – I want the models to represent all women, and not just the individual person. It’s not easy.

I was really pleased that one of them got chosen for the museum.

JS: What else was chosen?

RB: Well the sticks, you know.

JS: Oh, I loved the sticks.

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RB: Yeah, me, too, and Julia said it was her favorite. But otherwise, they didn’t get a lot of attention. This take me back to something I read in interviews that always bugs me: “My wife is my best critic.” My wife is very supportive, but she is not my best critic.

JS: So Kathleen didn’t like the sticks?

RB: No, Kathleen did not like the sticks. She thought it was boring. I wouldn’t say she’s my worst critic – Kathleen is my “everyday viewer” critic – she feels like she’s the voice of everyone when looking at my work. But my point about the sticks is that she’s not always right. And she’s often quite critical about pictures that I’m quite fond of. But I learned long ago to stick with them.

Sarah: They look like bones.

RB: That’s the beauty of them. They do look like bones. And it’s good. I like the nudes, but it’s my goal that they won’t be my main work. And I’m happy that on my last birthday sale, more than half the pictures were non-nudes.

JS: And what about on your fiftieth birthday?

RB: Way more. Mostly nudes. The shift is nice. So that’s the thing – in a gallery setting, I sell landscapes and still lifes and on the internet, I sell nudes.

JS: Well, that’s informative.

RB: It is informative. I had a chance to have my portfolio reviewed by the late Terry Toedtemeier, and I showed him a variety of landscapes and nudes and some still lifes and his comment was, pointing at the nudes: “There is no shortage of collectors for these photos.” This didn’t make me feel better or worse – it just was what it was.

I got off this topic before, but making nudes was a natural move for me when I stopped being a commercial photographer. No one would buy the other portraits, but they would buy the nudes. And at that time, I really felt that I needed a person to interact with. I had to teach myself to do landscape photography.

JS: So you had to shoot nudes in order to make portraits and have something to sell.

RB: Yeah, to be able to take pictures at all. It was clear that I didn’t want to take commissions. I mean, I know you take portraits, but I think they transcend in a very different way.

JS: Plus, I’m not trying to make my living on it.

RB: Your pictures tell more about the people and more effectively than mine do. Because of the setting.

JS: I’m aiming for the opposite of anonymity.

RB: You are, clearly. But the other thing is, like you said in your talk, you have the collaboration going, where they show up and they have their own agenda. Just like you said – whose picture is it? I find that highly interesting.

They bring a bigger piece of themselves. For the sake of comparison, I’m using models, and you’re using individuals.

JS: And they’re deciding what they’re going to put in front of the camera. It succeeds or not based on that, or on my ability to modify the situation.

RB: Or at least let it unfold. And you already have people knocking you off.

JS: Hmmm. It’s interesting to be a young photographer who people are already claiming to be “knocking off”.

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Sarah: I knock him off the best. Wait, that came out wrong.

RB: And that went right on the tape. The only people who are stealing my bit are students, which I think is always amusing – but I perpetuate it because the ones I like the best are the ones that look just like mine.

JS: OK, let’s talk about people stealing each others’ bit a little. Now, you make naked lady pictures, and how do you do that without making one that I’ve seen a hundred times before?

RB: I’m not sure that I am. I’m not convinced I’m giving anybody anything that they haven’t seen before, and that is not my major goal. I feel like photography has suffered at the hands of young photographers who feel like they always need to do something that no one else has done. I feel like we have a lot of ugly pictures as a result of that.

That being said, what I feel like I’m giving you is a sense of calm, organised beauty. Regardless of my subject matter, whether it’s a landscape or a building or a still life, I want a calm sense of beauty. I don’t want it to be titillating if it’s a nude, I don’t want the sky to look like Bolivia, I just want it to look like something which you can look at and say ‘I feel better’.

It’s not something you’ve never seen before, but that’s not the point. It’s mine. I mean, I’m not shooting “Pepper 30” over – I’m not going to do that but I am making traditional prints of traditional subjects and sometimes struggle with feeling completely irrelevant in the modern world, but I don’t care. The whole idea of being an artist instead of a commissioned photographer is that you do what you feel like.

JS: So, talk about content in regards to traditional vs non traditional imagery.

RB: Well, if I were to put my finger on the pulse of what’s popular in galleries today, then it would be much more social documentary-driven. In fact, you can read prospectuses for group shows, and that’s what they want. For me, NPR handles that. We’re not in charge of that.

JS: OK, so what are you in charge of?

RB: I’m in charge of soothing everybody. Making people feel good. It’s kind of a generational thing – I’m way too considerate to show you something that’s going to piss you off.

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Sarah: That’s a whole other thing. There’s a whole other generation which can do that right now.

RB: Right. Not my department. And then, even since then, since the social documentarians, there has been a whole new generation. I mean, Abigail’s in high school, and she is so thoughtful and optimistic and global. She doesn’t just want everybody to be happy, she wants everybody to succeed. And it’s so genuine, it makes me really happy.

JS: So someone, presumably from this middle generation between you and Abigail, once described “good” art as that which does not match your couch. And their point was that they want the art to challenge you, they have the need for the aggressive documentary style – if it’s not making you uncomfortable, then it’s not fulfilling the purpose of art. Your point is much the opposite, that art can, and should, look good over the couch.

RB: Exactly. I mean, what do you think? What do you want over your couch?

JS: Well, you know that I want the soothing and organised beauty. Only beauty will save the world.

RB: Yeah, this is cause we’re romantics, I think. I don’t want to soap box too much, but when I see modern portraiture, I see people taking banal pictures of banal people and I think to myself, when these people modeled for these photos, they had no idea what they were getting into. They didn’t realise that these were going to be 8×10 color photos of them looking extremely plain or boring or banal. And I don’t think that’s OK.

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JS: Well, it’s the difference between taking pictures and making portraits, if you ask me.

RB: I think so. And I also think it’s too easy. It’s too easy to point out how things look bad.

JS: We talked some about exploitation in the nude, but I think it pervades a lot of “dressed” portraiture, too. It always drives me crazy, and always drives me off. Some photographs only look, to me, like the subjects are being taken advantage of.

RB: They look like angst-ridden teenagers, or disheveled grown-ups who don’t have any money or whatever.

JS: And lots of even maybe well-meaning documentary work, like the ubiquitous shot of the poor girl in Afghanistan – here, let me take your picture and get famous off that. I know there’s a flip side to this argument but…

RB: But, guess what? Everybody already knows it’s bad. And I’m not interested. But I’m going to stick with it, even if it doesn’t work out for me. There are several things I’ve done in my career that mean I’m not having a big show in a fancy gallery, but I’m happy with the things I do. And I’m getting the work out.

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JS: We’ll get to galleries in a bit. First, let’s talk about the future of photography.

RB: For me?

JS: Sure, let’s start there.

RB: I worry about doing the same old thing. But I really am not compelled to do anything else. I just want to keep making the same genre of pictures that I’ve always done. That’s what turns me on.

Every time I do something wildly, dramatically different, it never makes it to the print.

Sarah: What about side projects?

RB: I try, but I never like it. I don’t know if this is me being weak or me being fixated, but it just doesn’t feel right. I talked to Jake about this a few weeks ago and said “Jake, do you ever think about making a different kind of picture?” And Jake comes back with “I’m thinking about making a horizontal one.” And I love that. It’s exactly how I feel.

The mantra I constantly hear is “You have to do something new”, and I’m a little fed up with it. I had someone that I respect recently tell me that I’m too much of a craftsman and not enough of an artist.

JS: What does that mean?

RB: He felt like I need to take pictures I’ve never taken before. But I was a little pissed. I think craft is super important but I don’t feel like my pictures are strictly about craft.

JS: But we’ve already discussed the importance of the object. And I think you implied that it’s ultimately more important than the image.

RB: Well, that’s not true.

JS: OK, so let me ask you really explicitly – would you rather see a really banal image which was incredibly well executed, or a compelling image on an iPhone?

RB: That’s not a fair question.

JS: It’s a mental exercise. And you only get to choose one.

RB: I would say that I would be equally disinterested in both of the modes. What I really want, obviously, is both at the same time. I don’t think a photo on an iPhone is a photo. And the perfectly executed boring photo is just that – it’s boring. I want both. I want it all.

JS: Well, you’re dodging my question, but I’m not surprised. I think the answer comes down the same way for everyone, eventually.

RB: Obviously, the picture has to be good, I just think of the iPhone photo as a “vernacular” photo, which can be really beautiful. But it’s different than the “intentional” photo.

JS: Maybe we should have a symposium on different terms to reflect the different kinds of image making. I’m feeling less and less like what I’m doing is even “photography”. At least not in its new definition.

RB: Right. The phones are fun, and they change everything. I was laying on my bed, and I took a picture of my ceiling fan, I added an instagram filter, and thirty seconds later, twenty two people liked it. I mean, that’s a huge shift. But honestly, I was just bored. And I don’t think art comes from people being bored.

JS: I’m remembering this great thing you said about phone photography one day while we were out walking.

RB: What? I don’t remember.

JS : You’re lucky I was paying attention. I quote you on this all the time. “Phone photography is to real photography what phone sex is to real sex. It’s fine if you don’t have any other options. But hopefully you have other options.”

RB: Yeah, that sounds like something I’d say. Phone photography is cool, but there’s a difference between cool and beautiful.

JS: They can’t be both?

RB: Jake, I feel like we’re spinning in circles.

JS: In fact. OK, so let’s move on to galleries. We’ve been talking about this interview for a year and a half, and one of the first things that made me want to do it originally was your phrase about artists: “We need to get our balls back.”

RB: Right.

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JS: So, you want to talk about galleries? You want to burn some bridges?

RB: Well, at that time I had just started thinking about how photographers got to the point where we would be grateful, after a long process of work, that we would be selected to spend two or three thousand dollars of our money to put our pictures up in someone else’s business, where the business is specifically to sell work, and have the expectation that we would then take them all home.

So many of the photographers that I meet say that they have shows, but that they don’t expect to sell anything. I don’t know what other person would get to the point where they thought that was a good idea. I mean how did we lose track of the fact that galleries need us more than we need them?

Look at it this way, here’s this business whose point is to have twelve months of programming, and we are supplying all the work. If it’s two thousand a show, then that’s twenty four thousand a year worth of material which isn’t even on the gallery’s budget. So, without us, there would be no gallery, but we have taken the back seat to where we feel lucky to have a show and don’t have any expectations of making any money from it. And the split is 50/50, but all the production costs come out of our side.

I had a perfect experience once, where a gallery requested forty of my images and I sent them the forty loose prints – they matted them, they framed them, they advertised them, they sold them, and then they paid me. It was beautiful. But that’s not the rule.

So, for instance, I feel like the split shouldn’t even happen until costs have been covered.

Galleries, in their defense, are trying to make money, too. And I know that they have a lot of expenses. Big, established galleries, with big name artists, have a good chance to make money. Smaller galleries, with emerging artists, well, just the sales can’t make it. Which takes us to juried exhibitions. Now you’re spending an additional thirty dollars for the privilege of hanging your picture on the wall. And there are so many of us.

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JS: But that’s the whole issue. I mean, for every gallery, there’s twenty or thirty artists lined up out front.

RB: Twenty or thirty? Forget about it. There’s a hundred.

JS: That’s my point. Sure, galleries need us to have a point, but we also need them. Like we’ve both said earlier about needing an audience to finish the work, and we can’t do that without a gallery willing to take on the risk and the overhead and the associated work.

RB: But it’s not working out. There used to be a small number of gatekeepers, and if you didn’t get the nod, you didn’t make it. Now, everyone just goes to the internet. Now, we all establish our own resume. I don’t know what the answer is.

I know a lot of photographers who feel that the gallery system is so damaged that they just go right to Flickr, and that’s where they get their audience participation. It’s enough for them – they don’t need to capitalise on it financially, they capitalise on it emotionally. And that’s all right, too.

But I don’t like the change in the business model – while we were busy thinking it was OK to pay and mount pictures that didn’t sell, galleries lost track of their job – creating a stable of collectors which they could rely on to come and collect the work. And juried shows are a different way of doing it, and that’s what’s happened – the artist has become the target market for the gallery, instead of the collector.

JS: Yeah, but you’re still not fixing it. What do you suggest to gallery owners?

RB: Not my job. My job is making the art.

JS: Well then, you shouldn’t bitch. Let’s pretend that the world righted itself in your eyes – what does it look like?

RB: It looks like this – the gallery is now an approachable venue with affordable art on the wall. This is how stuff sells – you and I both do this – it’s good to sell stuff for one hundred apiece and actually sell stuff. We come away feeling OK, the gallery make some money – everybody makes some money.

So why isn’t this the norm? We see most pictures on gallery walls for four hundred to twelve hundred bucks apiece, in a market which doesn’t sustain it. So we see no red dots.

Guys like us, we have more success selling “cheap” – I sold platinum prints at the Newspace show for $225 apiece and sold nine or ten of them – that’s pretty good. I remember you selling for ninety nine bucks apiece, and having a good night. So it works, but how much heat do we have to take for this?

In the old days, galleries had work up on the wall, and they had a different agenda. They wanted to make sure they sold, and sold a lot. And I feel like that’s changed – at that time, no one entered into the transaction thinking they weren’t going to make any money.

JS: And now we do.

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RB: It’s all pay to play. The gallery business: if you want your pictures on the wall, you have to pay to get them there. The road to getting your work out consists of things like Photo Lucida, portfolio reviews, etc. It costs a lot of money to be an artist, these days.

JS: Are you going to float the idea that when you were starting out and twenty years old that the field was less crowded, or somehow different?

RB: I was different – my goals were different. I was a wedding photographer when I was seventeen years old. I went to commercial photography school and I wanted to be Richard Avedon more than I wanted to be Edward Weston. Meaning, I wanted to be in the business of photography.

I don’t know when it was, but it was much later that I realised that I wanted to make my own work. And I don’t know that there were that much fewer people making art. Or that there were more venues. It’s less about us and more about galleries not being properly managed.

JS: Ever run a gallery?

RB: No, why would you? I mean, there’s no money in it. If you had a guy like you or me in there every month, and we sold some things, but they were cheap, then what would happen?

JS: You could scrape by.

RB: Right. And you’re not going to get rich off of it. Maybe the issue is that people going into the gallery business are the same as the artists – they have high minded ideas about how much money they’ll make. I mean, how does that compare to the camera store business?

JS: I see your point. It lends itself to this evolving theory I have about why people get into business, and who gets into business. First, you’ve got people who are really good at something, and they really love it and they want to share, it’s all they want to do. Or the other people, who have a really good idea – an idea so good that it’s liable to make a lot of money.

So, you’re walking down the street, and it’s time to buy a hamburger. There’s Joe’s Hamburgers – it’s right there, and Joe is a hamburger savant – he’s dedicated his whole life to it and it’s what he’s really, really good at. Then there’s McDonald’s right next door. There’s no one in there who’s dedicated their life to the hamburger, but they have a really good model for the production and distribution of hamburgers. It’s very efficient.

And the McDonald’s is always going to work better, because people are, by nature, conservative, and they want to know what they’re going to get. Walking into McDonald’s, they know exactly what they’re going to get, every single time. Yes, there are people who will, for one reason or the other, deflect to Joe’s, but it’s never going to run as efficiently. The passion will never outstrip the efficiency.

RB: Are there are enough people who are not that conservative so that it could work out?

JS: That remains to be seen. Furthermore, we live in this bubble – we live in freaking Portland, and the rest of the country is simply not like this. The idea of small business or shopping local still seems, to many Americans, to be some sort of vaguely leftist plot. Here, maybe Joe’s hamburgers could get some traction. Anywhere else, forget about it.

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RB: So, let’s apply this to a photo gallery. Say to yourself, what if Joe Gallery committed to beautiful, affordable artwork? And every month, he brought in another guy that was making work which Joe’s clients could relate to and could afford. People would start to go there, because they would rely on that gallerist to help them.

This would be different than the more mercenary approach – the thinly veiled efforts at making money through group shows. In the case of the group show, the gallery makes money, but what does the viewer get? He gets, she gets, disjointed groups of not particularly well-realised work. The photographers who are doing well, the committed people, they’re not participating in group shows. I’m not saying that there’s no good work in group shows – but a lot of it is people who aren’t the full-timers.

This model that we’re talking about here – emerging, accessible, and affordable, well that could work.

We need to stop complaining about how Portland doesn’t want to buy artwork which doesn’t cost much money. Guess what? Here’s where we live. If we don’t like it, we should move. I sell what I can to the market which I have available to me.

Look, art and commerce is a bitch. There’s no doubt about it. I’m sympathetic to the gallerists out there, and I know it’s hard. But my point is that we, as photographers, somewhere along the line, lost our nerve. It wasn’t about how much we charge. It’s about what our value is. Not dollars and cents, but the value of the objects that we’re making. This is why now we see inkjet prints stuck on the wall with magnets.

I’d love to see galleries buying frames – write a grant and get a set of gallery frames in three sizes, so that when Ray, or Jake, or Sarah gets a show, we’re not burdened with the expense of putting up work.

JS: Which sounds like a scheme for helping what you’re calling the “broken” gallery system. Probably about time to address issues on the artist side, as well.

RB: It’s all the same problem, really – a lack of realism. The bulk of living photographers want prices like they’re dead. I had ten pictures in the drawers at Blue Sky – priced like usual at $225, and I sold seven of them. I felt pretty good about that. Everybody else was way more. And when I say I sold seven, people ask how much and I tell them and they say “Oh, well that’s why.” But the pictures sold. And now I have seven more out in the world, and a thousand dollars to show for it.

How much do you make working a regular job? How many jobs can I get where I can work from 9-3 every day, nine months a year, have the summers off, and be able to take care of the kids when they’re sick? For me, that flexibility is everything. It’s a funny equation, and it ends with me making art.

I don’t think I’m alone in saying that the gallery system is broken. For most of us. There is a small percentage of the galleries and artists that work very well, and make tons of money. Julia just came back from Paris Photo and clearly lots of pictures got sold there. And I always felt like if that’s going to happen to me, then the best way is for me to arrange that is to do what I’m doing now. Because if I don’t get a lot of pictures out there, then how the hell will anyone know who I am?

And if suddenly I become that guy, then I’m ready. I can’t force it, but I can prepare for it.

rb

JS: Yes. Putting your time in in the trenches, over the course of the last twenty years, and working it: selling on eBay, selling to collectors, and working every day. The birthday sales, all of it, it all accumulates. I’m proud of you because you’re not expecting to make a photograph and suddenly become a rock star. You’re working for a living.

RB: I am working for a living. And if the other thing happens, then great, but that doesn’t happen very often.

JS: I know. I look around at some of the talent that we have just in Portland – really credentialed, mature talents who are collected internationally and published and exhibit regularly, and ultimately, they’re not super famous and wealthy. Most of them have day jobs. Stu Levy has a day job.

RB: And me, I don’t even have a job. I mean, I work every day, but it never feels like work. I mean, I’m not rich, and I won’t be rich, but then, again, I don’t have a job. And that’s all you can hope for.

JS: In fact. This is when you start calculating your wealth not based on money.

RB: Right. Although my retirement might suck.

JS: Well, there is no retirement. The good news is you’ll be able to be in the darkroom when you’re seventy.

RB: Which sounds great, except I think I’ll have that same existential problem: What’s it all about? That’s what keeps bugging me.

JS: The point of having the interview is for you to tell us.

RB: I think I obsess too much, and ignore the fact that I’m already doing it. My mother had the same advice for me, recently. She said “You spend too much time thinking about it. Just do what you do.”

JS: And that seems like an excellent place to sign off.

RB: Thanks, Jake. Thanks, Sarah.

JS: Thank you. And good night.

ray_jake_06

The Pinhole Makers

In celebration of Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day, we’d like to celebrate all you passionate pinhole photographers and camera makers. We sat down (virtually) with several pinhole camera makers and takers recently to pick their photographic brains about what draws them to pinhole photography, and what kind of cameras they make and use.

The Pinhole Camera Makers

Kurt Mottweiler

Pinhole Photography by Kurt Mottweiler

Pinhole Photography by Kurt Mottweiler

BMC: What is it about pinhole photography that draws you in?

KM: Pinhole photography is the closest thing to magic I get to practice in my daily routine. Combining magic with my love for historic camera design and the craft that goes with it is about as good as it gets.

BMC: What special modifications did you incorporate into your own pinhole camera?

KM: I like a camera that functions easily and inspires me as a beautiful object. Everything evolves from there.

BMC: Where has your pinhole camera been?

KM: The wonders of northern New Mexico (where I lived before Portland), the treasures of southern Utah (one of my favorites places), the top of the Tacoma Narrows bridge tower (one of the coolest places I’ve stood), the delights of Italy (what can you say . . . ), a lot of the rest of the U.S.A. and, of course, the best place on earth – Portland.

To learn more about Kurt’s cameras, or order one for yourself, visit his website.

kurt mottweiler

Kurt’s curved plane pinhole camera

 

Kurt wielding his pinhole creation

Kurt wielding his pinhole creation

 

James Guerin

Analog Phone Multi-cell by James Guerin

Analog Phone Multi-cell by James Guerin

BMC: Why do you like using your pinhole?

JG: The simplicity of a light tight box, a tiny hole and a piece of light sensitive material. The constraints it imposes are severe, no viewfinder, no focusing, tiny aperture and long exposures. As Da Vinci put it – “Art lives from constraints and dies from freedom”. This certainly holds true, some of the most creative images I’ve ever seen have been created by a pinhole camera. Aside from that I love the experience – the capturing of pinhole images. The long exposures slow me down, allow me to see and appreciate my surroundings and in some way to feel connected. When I first started photographing the image or result was all important, shooting pinhole has taught me that the experience, is as important.

BMC: What special modifications did you incorporate into your own pinhole camera?

JG: The process of camera conception, building, shooting and developing film/paper is also a huge part of it for me. I’ve built curved film plane panoramic cameras, matchbox solargraph cameras, 6×6 and 6×9 wide angles, 4×5’s, an 8×10” ultra-wide, anamorphic, a 4×10” panoramic multi-shot, an 8×10” multi-cell camera and couple of zone plate cameras. Recent features I’ve incorporated are off centre pinholes to create scheimflug effects and multi-cell images – a bit like a collage of separate images to come together to make one image. I also sell pinhole cameras and have just added a new 4×5″ model made from oak and walnut, with a 38mm focal length and 3 independent pinholes that will enable shooting with the central, or a vertical or horizontal rise pinhole (30mm of rise).

BMC: Where has your pinhole camera been?

JG: I’ve shot pinhole here in mainly here in France and in Ireland. I’ve currently got a few solargraph cameras stuck to some street signs in Limerick (Ireland) quietly going about their business.

For more information about James’ pinhole cameras, and to get one for your own, visit his website.

Matchbox Solargraph by James Guerin

Matchbox Solargraph by James Guerin

 

James Guerin and his pinhole creation

James Guerin and his pinhole creation

 

Darius Kuzmickas

Pinhole Photograph by Darius Kuzmickas

Pinhole Photograph by Darius Kuzmickas

BMC: What is it about pinhole photography that draws you in?

DK: Pinhole photography is my comfort zone! I also call it “slow” photography, because of long (or very long) exposures. Pinhole photography (or the camera obscura) is a heavily intuitive process where I’m more concerned about creating a mood rather than delivering an image wrapped in the trappings of reality. The moment is not important. Simple in theory and process, it predates modern photography, and it can be quite tricky. What isn’t left to luck is owed to plenty of practice, precision and experimentation.

BMC: What special modifications did you incorporate into your own pinhole camera?

DK: The ability to shift the pinhole for perspective corrections, for use especially in photographing architecture. I wanted to have this feature for a long time. So last year I designed a large format shift camera and master camera maker Kurt Mottweiler built it… one for me and one for himself. It is my No 1 camera right now.

BMC: Where has your pinhole camera been?

DK: Everywhere where I’ve been.

For more information about Darius, his pinhole cameras, and his pinhole photography, visit his website.

Pinhole Photo by Daniel Kuzmickas

Pinhole Photo by Darius Kuzmickas

 

Darius and his pinhole camera

Darius and his pinhole cameras

The Pinhole Photograph Makers

Zeb Andrews

Pinhole Photo by Zeb Andrews

Pinhole Photo by Zeb Andrews

BMC: Why do you like pinhole photography?

ZA: Two big reasons: they see the world in a way unlike any other camera I own, in a way I myself certainly cannot see it. They capture a span of time, they have limitless depth of field, they photograph with a certain serendipity. The other reason I like pinhole photography so much is that it slows me down, it encourages me to stop, step out from behind the camera, to look at the world and notice things while I am waiting on the five minute exposure to wind down.

BMC: What camera(s) do you use? Where have you taken them?

ZA: I have several, but my favorites are my Zero Image 2000, my Innova 6×9 and my Reality So Subtle 141 6×17.

Check out Zeb’s website portfolio for more images, lensless and otherwise.

Pinhole Photo by Zeb Andrews

Pinhole Photo by Zeb Andrews

 

Zeb and his Reality So Subtle pinhole camera

Zeb and his Innova pinhole camera

Shane Goguen

Pinhole Photo by Shane Goguen

Pinhole Photo by Shane Goguen

BMC: Why do you like using your pinhole?

SG: I use my pinhole camera because of the simple imagery it produces. The intial photograph that comes from a pinhole camera is usually what people spend hours on trying to create in post production work.

I also like that I can use 100 ISO film for almost all circumstances.

BMC: What special modifications did you incorporate into your own pinhole camera?

SG: I use a converted Holga. You can see unusual distortion in my photographs because I modified the pressure plate in the camera.

Pinhole Photo by Shane Goguen

Pinhole Photo by Shane Goguen

 

Shane Goguen and his modified pinhole camera

Shane Goguen and his modified Holga pinhole camera

 

David Paulin

Pinhole Photo by David Paulin

Pinhole Photo by David Paulin

BMC: Why do you like pinhole photography?

DP: I enjoy the different perspectives you can get with pinhole. The process is entirely unique, as well, and the slower exposures always lend themselves to interesting effects. You never exactly know what you’re going to get, but that’s part of the fun.

BMC: What camera(s) do you use? Where have you taken them?

DP: I have a Zero Image 6×6 camera, which I’ve taken all around the Pacific Northwest.

Find David on Flickr of more of his photography, pinhole and otherwise.

Pinhole Photo by David Paulin

Pinhole Photo by David Paulin

 

David Paulin and his Zero Image pinhole camera

David and his Zero Image pinhole camera

 

Faulkner Short

Pinhole Photo by Faulkner Short

Pinhole Photo by Faulkner Short

BMC: Why do you like pinhole photography?

FS: I like the mystery involved with pinhole photography; you never know what exactly you’re going to get until you see the results. I also like unique nature of the cameras and photographing process. You can set a camera down anywhere and most people who come across it don’t even know what it is. There’s something about the colors I get out of my pinhole camera. Maybe it’s the lack of a lens, but I always feel like the colors are more saturated and pop much more than from other cameras.

BMC: What camera(s) do you use? Where have you taken them?

FS: I have an older Zero Image 2000 6×6 pinhole camera, and it’s followed me across the US, Europe, and Argentina.

Find Faulkner on Flickr for more photography, pinhole and otherwise.

Pinhole Photo by Faulkner Short

Pinhole Photo by Faulkner Short

 

Faulkner and his Zero Image pinhole camera

Faulkner and his Zero Image pinhole camera

More Notable Pinhole Makers

Check out these photographers for even more pinhole inspiration.

Photographing Miss Daisy

If you’ve come to the store, chances are that you’ve noticed a beautiful dark haired lady sticking her head through the back curtain at least once. She’s hard to miss. She probably wagged her tail when you noticed her, which should have prompted you to ask her name. That lovely lady is Daisy. Officially, she is Jake’s, but we like to think of her as our shop dog. Daisy came to Jake a little broken, but eight years later, she’s still as vigorous as a puppy. Come by and you’ll see what we mean.

 

Photo by Jim Hair

Photo by Jim Hair

 

Photo by Faulkner Short

Photo by Faulkner Short

 

Photo by Katt Janson

Photo by Katt Janson

 

Photo by Sarah Taft

Photo by Sarah Taft

 

Photo by Peter Carlson

Photo by Peter Carlson

 

 

Photo by David Paulin

Photo by David Paulin

 

Photo by Nick Burdett

Photo by Nick Burdett

 

Photo by Katt Janson

Photo by Katt Janson

 

Photo by David Paulin

Photo by David Paulin

 

Photo by Zeb Andrews

Photo by Zeb Andrews

 

Becoming Medium Format

Let’s face it, film isn’t dead.  If anything, film is enjoying a bit of a renaissance particularly in the realms of toy cameras and medium format cameras.  In fact, you are likely reading this because you are part of that wave of photographers interested in owning your first medium format camera.  Buying your first medium format camera is a big decision, not so much because of the cost, but more due to the overwhelming variety of medium format cameras available.

So where to begin?  As you may have discovered on your own, there are a lot of different medium format cameras out there.  Some of them are boxy, some are sleek.   Some have interchangeable lenses, some don’t.  Some are old, others brand new.  Waist-level, eye-level, meter, no meter, square, rectangular, SLR, TLR, rangefinder.  Ay carumba!  Where to begin, indeed.

Begin with yourself.  You know your aesthetic tastes and preferences.  Hopefully you know your hopes and expectations for what kind of photography you would like to make.  Give yourself a quiz by running through the following flow chart.  It is designed to ask you some simple questions about your preferences and boil your resulting answers down to a few suggestions.  Following the chart, you will find additional information regarding aspects of this decision making process as well as a slightly deeper look into some of the cameras listed.  So if confusion rears its head, read further down.

One final note before delving on: this guide is not meant to be exhaustive.  You will not see every medium format camera ever made on the chart below.  There is no mention of the Brooks Veriwide, Kodak Medalist, Kiev 88, or the Holga WPC.  This chart is a streamlined primer to help an aspiring medium format film photographer with little direction and lots of confusion increase the former and reduce the latter.  Along those lines, the cameras mentioned below represent the most common choices made by those buying medium format cameras.  So, without further ado…

medium format flow chart colorV4

Having ventured this far, you hopefully have a much better idea about which direction you are heading.  In case there is any residual confusion still hanging around, let’s shed some light on a few of the more common points of discussion involving medium format camera.

Square vs. Rectangular:
Always a good place to begin the medium format discussion.  By deciding early on if you are more interested in continuing to make rectangular photos or experimenting with a square frame, you can pare down the overwhelming number of options by about half.  Medium format cameras generally produce negatives in one of four sizes: 6×4.5cm, 6x6cm, 6x7cm or 6x9cm.  Many of the most popular medium format cameras are part of the 6x6cm branch.  The format of the camera determines how many exposures you can fit on one roll: 6×4.5cm gives you 15 or 16 depending on the specific camera, 6x6cm has 12 exposures per roll, 6x7cm is ten frames a roll and 6x9cm a mere eight exposures before reloading.

TLR vs. SLR:
This stands for Twin Lens Reflex and Single Lens Reflex.  If you are coming from a digital or 35mm film background you likely already have experience with SLR cameras.  TLR cameras are boxy cameras that sport two lenses on the front of the camera.  The top lens is used for viewing, usually via a waist level finder on the top of the camera, and the bottom lens is the taking lens; it is responsible for exposing the image on the film.  TLRs are unique looking, quiet and relatively lightweight and small.  They have become very popular choices amongst photographers venturing into the medium format realm for the first time.

Rangefinder:
Unlike TLRs and SLRs, rangefinders do not use a lens for viewing and focusing, instead opting for a separate focusing window in the body of the camera.  Since you are not seeing through an actual lens, you do not see the effect of focus, depth of field or flare.  The upside is rangefinders have no behind-the-lens mirrors (which are required by SLRs and TLRs), making the cameras smaller, lighter and much quieter.  Rangefinders can be easier to focus in lower light conditions but more tricky to focus on moving subjects, unless one is very well practiced.

Toy cameras:
You cannot really have a discussion about medium format without talking about Holga and Lomography.  These cameras occupy a branch of medium format photography characterized by cheap (or at least cheaply made) cameras designed to give quirky and unpredictable results.  The relatively low cost (though some of Lomo’s cameras can be quite expensive) and unpredictable effects are the defining traits of this branch of cameras.  You can include old folding and box cameras in this section for the same reasons.  Historically mass produced and therefore easy to find, an old Kodak box camera can be a fun way to get one’s feet wet in the ocean of medium format photography before taking the full plunge.  All these cameras tend to produce low quality results and don’t usually provide the photographer with much control in terms of shutter speeds, aperture or focus.

Autofocus:
If autofocus is a primary concern of yours I would advise against medium format.  There are medium format cameras capable of autofocus but they are nowhere near as fast as their DSLR or 35mm SLR cousins.  If speed is not your main reason for wanting an auto-focus medium format camera then look at the Hasselblad H system, the Mamiya 645 AF or a Contax 645; be prepared to spend a pretty penny for any of these cameras though.  A less expensive alternative is the Pentax 645N and 645NII.

 

Camera specific notes:

Hasselblad 500C/M – If you have the budget you can potentially buy your last medium format camera first.  Long considered a pinnacle of camera evolution, Hasselblads are sublime mechanical cameras with some of the best lenses ever made.  A full kit (including the body, film back and lens) usually starts close to $1000 and can quickly get more expensive based on the model and vintage you are buying.  Considering that some DSLRs cost three times as much and that Hasselblads make negatives 3-4 times the size of a full frame DSLR, the Hasselblad makes a compelling argument not only for photographers who like the aesthetic of the older camera but are interested in getting as high quality an image as possible.

Mamiya 645 – Once the main camera used by professional wedding and portrait photographers, the Mamiya 645 cameras got left by the wayside when the digital revolution began and the aforementioned photographers transferred to DSLRs.  The 645 branch of medium format is full of cameras that are very well built, produce excellent images and yet are dirt cheap.  Additionally, with the surfeit of these cameras on the market and most buyers opting for Hasselblads, TLRs or other cameras, competition for 645 cameras is very light.  Cheap, easy to find, excellent quality, versatile.  What’s not to like?

Mamiya RB67 – If you are a studio photographer you cannot really find a better value than the RB67 or RZ67.  True, these cameras are beasts.  Large, heavy and about as easy to hand-hold as a car battery, the RB67 belongs on a tripod in a studio.  But once ensconced there, they really shine.  Their modular design allows you to not only change out lenses, but film backs and finders as well.  These cameras use a leaf shutter in the lens providing flash sync speeds up to 1/500th of a second.  Their focusing rails also make use of a built-in bellows permitting them to focus much closer than many other medium format cameras, making them great for product photography or still life.

Pentax 67 – They look like a normal 35mm SLR on steroids.  They handle just like one too.  If implementing the 6×7 format in the field interests you and the price of the Mamiya 7 does not, the Pentax 67 is a great option.  This beast is surprisingly easy to hand-hold and operate for a camera of its size.  They also boast exceptionally nice lenses.  If you go looking, make sure to pick up a later model 67 body that has mirror lock up.  The earliest version of the 67 lacks a mirror lock up switch which is handy to have with this camera’s giant mirror.

Mamiya C330 – Most TLR cameras do not have interchangeable lenses.  On a Rollei or Yashica this helps make the camera compact but is limiting to the photographer who wants to build a versatile kit.  Not only does the C330 have interchangeable lenses, but it can also focus much closer than the 3.5 feet typical of most TLRs. C330s also have parallax correction in their viewfinders to help accurately compose those close-focus exposures.  The C330 was the last in a line of cameras that includes the C2, C22, C220, C3, and C33.  There are minor differences between all the models but in broad-stroke terms they are all similar cameras and all make good options for those looking for a TLR with interchangeable lenses.

Bronica SQ-A – Bronica are the darkhorse underdogs of the medium format world.  Due to the earliest Bronica S camera’s lack of reliability, they do not have a terribly great reputation.  Later Bronica models were built in a much better fashion and as long as you avoid those first model S cameras you will probably have little to no troubles with the Bronica system in terms of durability.  Of course, Bronica didn’t support any of their systems for nearly as long as Pentax, Hasselblad or Mamiya so finding accessories, lenses or spare parts can be tricky.  Still, they make an excellent bargain option for someone looking for decent quality optics without the money to spend on a Hasselblad.

There you have it – enough information to be dangerous. The world of medium format photography is a vast place: large plains of well-established knowledge combined with a plethora of nooks and crannies for adventurous explorers.  This vastness can be intimidating and even confusing to the uninitiated photographer.  If you are eager to learn even more, here is our suggestion: tell your boss you are going to take an extra long lunch, get in your car, drive on over to Blue Moon Camera, then spend an hour at the counter holding cameras and generally geeking out with our staff.  Be warned though, you may just end up leaving with a happy new addition to the family.

Tele-Rollei Hasselblad medium format cameras

Like one of these beauties.