A Show Of Heads

Get yourself into an exhibition! The submission deadline for this one is August 31, 2009
A SHOW OF HEADS A thematic exhibition based on the portrayal and interpretation of the human head to be held at the Limner Gallery, November 6 – December 5, 2009. Open for entry to all artists working in any media. $2600 in publication awards. On-line entry form at: http://www.slowart.com/prospectus/head.htm by email at: slowart@aol.com, or send SASE to: SlowArt Productions, 123 Warren St, Hudson NY 12534


(Likely NOT judged by They Might Be Giants)

Get the Guinness Book of World Records on the telephone. The suspense is killing me.


Last year 23 rolls of film were processed in the first three days of school.

(Don’t ask me how I remember this.)

I have a suspicion that AML and OK et alii will surpass this record next week. We’d like to have everything ready for you, so how much will you have when you walk in? Leave a comment here.

Watch this space for updates.

Impossible? May the Supreme Being bless Harman.

Harman Technology — who acquired Ilford, re-introduced many of their products; who also manufactures Kentmere products and one or two more good brands; and who pledged that they were committed to “analog” photography for the long haul — has been conniving in concert with the Impossible Project! Read on: http://www.bjp-online.com/public/showPage.html?page=867790, and stop weeping.

Some questions:

1. Do you have Polaroid equipment you could resurrect if fresh film became available?

2. Which emulsions have you used & enjoyed?

3. If you have any experience with Fuji instant film, which (if any) make satisfactory transfers?

Another Parallel


“…I did not know that for a man who wants to continue with the creative life, to keep on growing and developing, this cheerful idea of happy establishment, of continuing now as one has started, is nothing but a delusion and a snare. I did not know that if a man really has in him the desire and the capacity to create, the power of further growth and further development, there can be no such thing as an easy road. I did not know that so far from having found out about writing, I had really found almost nothing … I made a first and simple utterance; but I did not know that each succeeding one would not only be … more difficult than the last, but would be completely different, that with each new effort would come new desperation, the new, and old, sense of having to begin from the beginning all over again; of being face to face again with the old naked facts of self and work; of realizing again that there is no help anywhere save the help and strength that one can find within himself.”

-Thomas Wolfe, speaking at Purdue, 1929

I realize that many of you do not feel this way, and in fact regard this statement as something of a bummer. Wolfe was 37 when he delivered this talk, entitled “Writing and Living.” He’s talking about dealing with the continual Now – not so different from Garry Winogrand, who would look through the viewfinder (yes, he did that) and, if he recognized the picture he was about to take, would stop himself (“Why take it?”) and would do something to change it (as opposed to the origins of creative activity described so well by Emmet Gowin in the same PBS Bill Moyers program). At some point we’ll look at this from the perspective of the career of Miles Davis, who summed it up thus (do your best hoarse whisper here): “Ev’rybody got to change.”


And now a media “blitz” (at least the jazz version of same) for Mr. Henry Threadgill includes this quote in an interview: “What I’m ultimately talking about is shedding systematic thinking,” he said. “You have to change. For me, it’s death otherwise. To stop seeking, to stop moving, is death.”


Where do your picture-making activities fall on this spectrum? How much do you find yourself making the same picture again and again, and in what way? If you do, how do you justify it to yourself?

Just Tell Me What You Want

(There was a Hollywood movie by that name once, unseen by me, with a promotional picture of Ali McGraw bludgeoning Alan King with her purse. I’d’ve posted it here but it exists only with text on it. [Sigh.])

Priorities for the Wonderful World of Photography include safety, excellent craft and manifestation of your sensibility. Puh-LEEZE lemme know what I can do for you in the course, in your role as an American consumer (of fine instruments for exposure of film, both new and used), and in your home improvement efforts to convert a lackluster living space into a sanctum for printmaking.

As well: the fledgling Fo-Do Club, which met off and on last year, needs a sense of purpose. Most (not all) of the activities we have discussed are things that happen in class, so… it’s a tad amorphous. We’ll work on that. What suggestions do you have?

On the Reduction of Silver

When I was a short person, I did not yet drink coffee; rather, pots and pots of black tea, and gallons of iced tea in summer. (Note: now it’s “ice” tea, and not because of the performer’s name. Language really does morph. Ice cream used to be “iced” cream, I’m told.) I did not get around to coffee until my late twenties, when I happened to sample un tres bon cafe in Paris. I came back to Chicago, wound (past tense of wend, but only when you’re in a spiral mall) up to the last storefront and whined to Bob Wells, “How can I make coffee like they have in Fraaance?” He pointed to the machines out of reach on the top shelf, machines that ran 500-800 dollars. I wanted coffee that gave the mouth feel of cocoa, but without the sweetness of added sugar. (Plus, coffee does not stain the teeth as badly.)


Junkies wish they could relive the exhilaration of their first-ever high each time they fix (so I’m told). Is it the same for coffee lovers? Maybe. Compare that to your (conscious or unconscious) attempt to replicate the thrill you had when your first good print came up in the developer. Whoosh, right? Just as a film and developer combination gives you a look that works for you, so can a pairing of paper and developer. Here are ideas about commercially available chemistry for your sanctum.

The K.I.S.S. approach to paper chemistry requires only developer and fixer. The standard developer is Kodak’s Dektol, whose advantage is a little contrast control through dilution. It does throw some sludge in the tray with use, however, and one may (will) acquire a sensitivity to the Metol in it over time. Those are reasons I replaced it in the Hah Thkoo with LPD, which lasts longer (get it? “L” PD), has Phenidone instead of Metol, and allows for subtle shifts of print color by dilution (and, of course, choice of paper). It comes as a can of powder to make a stock solution or as a liquid concentrate. At this writing a quart of liquid concentrate runs $13.00, typically to dilute 1:4. There are many, many choices among pre-mixed paper developers, but it’s unlikely to find anything better for the price.

The second tray in printing is usually water with acetic acid, to neutralize the (base) developer on the drained print. This stops the development, hence the term “stop bath,” and prevents that little bit of developer from contaminating the fixer. Kodak has long offered Indicator Stop Bath, which is a 28% dilution of acetic acid (like vinegar, only 5 or 6 times stronger, not food grade, and a bit more acrid one’s nostrils) with a dye mixed in. Two ounces of this in a gallon makes a yellow solution which appears clear under safelights. Once enough prints have neutralized the acid, the dye turns dark (purple) so you’ll know. In the Huge School we set up a larger tray with an overkill of just water (not “just water,” but probably the hardest tap water in the Northern Hemisphere) which does the trick and is easily replaced as the periods pass.

Fixer: simple. Once again, to avoid inhalation of nasty dusty powders, stick to liquid concentrate. Everybody has a fixer for sale. They all work. Our recommendations: Kodak Rapid Fixer, Edwal Quick Fix, or Formulary TF-4. Each runs somewhere from $10.50-12.00 for a quart of concentrate. As with film fixer, count how many sheets you run through a tray of working solution (don’t bother to add the hardener if any comes with it in a separate bottle), and retire the batch before it’s exhausted. The IEPA will receive your old batches from you (talk to me about that).

That’s it. Almost as simple as Edward Weston’s darkroom. You needn’t bother with hypo clearing agent if you use RC paper, nor fiber if you calculate a diligent wash of small batches and sufficient agitation therein. Let’s play it real safe, by you axing me a ton o’ questions afore ye shop.

Own This Print


KyotoStoreTo request the above photograph:

Send an e-mail (subject: Limited Edition #090814) to jdionesotes@prodigy.net with your name and mailing address.

If you are the first person to respond after the posting, you will receive the photograph via snail.

Update: this picture has been claimed & shipped.


The Catherine Edelman Gallery has incorporated video/audio statements from photographers who are included in its “The Chicago Project III” exhibit. Enjoy them all (and more, if you dig a little) at http://edelmangallery.com/currentshow.htm. They are, shall we say, elucidating. If you watch only one, dig around the web site to find Jed Fielding, whose pictures of blind Mexican children some of us saw together at the Cultural Center, last April.

“Artists are workers.” -Cecil Taylor

Evan Mirapaul, over at http://fugitivevision.blogspot.com/, had a perceptive comment about Ray K. that deserves repeating.

“How Mr. Metzker organizes space is manifest in a multitude of materials that crop up decade after decade. We see chain link fencing, stairs, bricks, and the geometry of dozens of city views rendered again and again into an abstract cohesion in his viewfinder. It seems that one could organize a show just of his use of fences. Examples from every series (except the landscapes) come to mind. I posited to Ann Tucker that a difference between Harry Callahan and Metzker is that Callahan is almost always more in close and tight; the figure is more personal, while Metzker takes the more distant, objective view. She replied that she thought that Callahan was about the figure represented in a cityscape, while Metzker was more about a cityscape with a figure or figures included in this view; a subtle but important distinction, I think, especially since, even now, people conflate the student with the teacher.”

It behooves us to keep this distinction in mind the next time we work on Metzker’s (and Callahan’s) turf, the Loop, during our field trip.

“Continuing the musical metaphor, I am reminded of a quote by the French conductor and composer Pierre Boulez. He said that, after twenty years, he was finally beginning to be spontaneous. This is not a comment on stiffness and lack of inspiration: it’s a paean to the creativity that comes from discipline. If you work and work and work, you become so entwined with the material that real improvisation is possible. It’s fashionable to just ‘let it all go,’ or ‘just go up and jam,’ but this approach rarely yields true creative fruit. The best jazz artists, indeed artists in general in my view, find spontaneity from a rigorous work ethic and a strict intellectual foundation. I see this in every Metzker photograph. He is a WORKING photographer. That he can riff on his blacks, or his whites, or fences or cityscapes comes from the foundation of a language rooted in visual philosophy. By taking pictures and working in the darkroom non-stop he anneals this language into a body of work that speaks in every picture of inspiration and freedom.”