Spotted From A Mile Away

I open the Sunday Magazine; there’s a piece on Fred Hersch.

There is no doubt whose photographs accompany the text: a certain Mr. Lee F.

How Very “AP Apropos” comes along just as we are working on current drafts of the commentary for the Concentration section of the AP portfolio; how fortuitous.




Here is Tod Papageorge’s recent explanation of the relation of photographic picture-making to other creative activities:

“Photography is of course an analytic, not a synthesizing, medium: photographs are commonly produced all-at-once, as light strikes a piece of film. This is unlike the other visual arts, where paintings and related kinds of pictures (including the most rapidly sketched drawing), are built through a process of accretion, stroke by stroke. Writers, too, even the most fluent, parallel these synthesizing procedures as they shape their texts one draft after another, but their practice at least suggests that of photographers, since it involves, in part, an editing process applied to words — and, by extension, to the things that words signify. As W.H. Auden put it, ‘it is both the glory and the shame of poetry that its medium is not its private property, that a poet cannot invent his words,’ an observation also true when applied to photography and the photographer’s inability to invent his “worlds.”

“But where a poet combines, over time (be it minutes or years), the words of a shared language to make a poem, a photographer combines, instantaneously, a jumble of things ‘out there’ (which often share little more than their adjacency) to make a picture. Individual photographs, then, are less like poems than unique ideograms, or picture-complexes that freeze the moment when the objects, air, and dimension framed in a viewfinder are incorporated and fixed together in an unalterable mix by being exposed on film. Because any shift of lens position or subject or light (to say nothing of the camera operator’s concentration) irremediably changes the picture the photographer will make next, his only strategy for clarifying or amending his thinking is to yield it up to making yet another exposure, and, as he does so, to add to an unseen store of images. Unlike the artist or poet, who can revise a given work without accumulating a series of physically distinct versions of that work equal to the number of changes made to it, the photographer builds just such an archive simply by photographing.”

The role of contacts (proofs) in picture-making is substantial; those who are out of film look back on what we do with a hint of nostalgia. Enjoy this summary of the recent exhibit at the Whitney:

The Contact Sheet, by Steve Crist, is another worthwhile overview:

Lastly, in the era when just about everyone dropped film off at the drugstore, “Photo Finishing” was the term that described enlarged printmaking done commercially after the making of the negatives.

Post Script: The first time I encountered the noun “slide” was as a pre-pube science geek: I built a collection of slides, which are the slivers of glass that support whatever is being viewed through the lens of a microscope. Likely, when illuminated projection of images (on glass) became a medium of presentation, the term was transferred to photography. Now the word has carried over to screens in a PowerPoint presentation.

Samples will show you sections of admirable portfolios from the past few years. You can see Quality samples, Concentration samples and Breadth samples, and read Commentaries and rationales for the College Board scores, scoring guidelines and more.

Pinhole Photography

You can make a camera out of a cardboard box easily, in under a half-hour. You’ll need a sturdy box, like a snug-lidded shoebox or an oatmeal box; flat black paint to darken its interior; hmm… maybe I can supply the rest. Watch these:

Choice Camera Choices for Class

You will prefer a reliable brand of 35mm SLR (single lens reflex) or RF (rangefinder) camera for the course at Barrington Huge School, among which are Canon, Minolta, Nikon, Olympus and Pentax. Only one lens is necessary; a flash attachment is not. Likely hunting grounds these days include Alpine Camera in Des Plaines,, and Cash Converters in Hoffman Estates. Maybe you’ll need new merch from a place such as Batteries Plus; maybe you’ll need a rushed overhaul at a service joint like Digicam in Arlington Heights, or Alpine.

Whatever you do, don’t get this model:

Stock Solutions & Capacities

One of the regular PhDs, “Eli,” writes:

“I purchased 5 gallons of Dektol developer, but it didn’t come with clear directions. How much do I mix for a use of a day? I also have Ilford rapid fixer, 1 liter. I need help/directions for diluting both. I would appreciate your help/input. Thanks!

PS. Where/how can I dispose these chemicals?”

Well, Eli, the standard dilution for Dektol is one part stock solution to two parts water to make a working solution, e.g. 10 ounces Dektol and 20 ounces (tap) water. That can be altered by you in order to affect contrast in the print: 1+4, for example, might help a negative that needs a (mythical) 3 ¼ filter. This developer throws a little sludge in the tray with use, and it’s no problem. The working solution does not last overnight for a second session.

Mix the powder in about 4/5 the eventual volume with around 100 F. water, and finishing the correct measurement with cool water. The stock solution keeps best in brown glass bottles, or opaque plastic away from the light. Kodak’s standard statement regarding storage of liquid developer concentrates is that they keep reliably for six months in full closed containers, and two months in partially-filled containers.

Rapid fixer is commonly diluted 1+7 in room temperature tap water for fixing RC paper. For a long time, I’ve been diluting the Kodak Rapid Fixer in Barrington Huge School darkroom at the stronger 1+3 dilution for a variety of reasons (occasional fiber paper short times to match RC; exhaustion insurance; unreliable fixing habits endemic to adolescence). Count your prints and test strips to ensure good fixing and to avoid overuse of the batch; I recommend 40-50 8x10s per liter for your darkroom (see to know why). I save the used fixer for regular trips to the IEPA drop-off in Naperville:

W. o’ W. from, of all places, a meditation on crosswords

“The environment reinforced an observation once passed on by a musicologist, who explained that chaotic societies tend to give rise to highly organized art. Think of Motown, or bel canto opera. This is how it works.” -Dean Olsher

A (Dubious) Diversion

Is this useful, or just candy to you?