We Love Our Work

April is the coolest month. Here are all of the important dates I can think of at the moment:

3/29   The darkroom is available from 6:00 to 8:30. Sam Thorne perfects time travel.

3/30   Your field trip form is due, signed by all, with $6.00 for the Yellow Safety Bus; we hang the AP Seniors exhibit.

3/31   Your field trip form is due, signed by all, with $6.00 for the Yellow Safety Bus; we tweak the exhibit.

4/1     Your field trip form is due, signed by all, with $6.00 for the Yellow Safety Bus; AP exhibit reception, 6:00-7:30.

You should host your own reception, and invite others to share in the celebration (at least one adult and one peer).

4/2    Classes are not in session.

4/8    We embark on the last en masse shooting trip of the year.

4/12  7th hour, the class meets in a library computer classroom in order to set up College Board accounts online.

4/13  We make up the aforementioned expedition if it was postponed due to acid rain.

4/15  Those of you who can spare the time away from class join next year’s class members on a trip (via RR) to galleries in and around downtown.

Eggleston Essay Excerpts

John Szarkowski wrote the essay for “William Eggleston’s Guide,” the catalog for the MoMA show he curated in 1976. (I learned recently that a decent copy may be worth $600.00 now.) Here are parts that don’t directly deal with the pictures in that show, but more with how John Szarkowski thinks of photography. It reads like a credo.

“Photography is a system of visual editing. At bottom, it is a matter of surrounding with a frame a portion of one’s cone of vision, while standing in the right place at the right time. Like chess, or writing, it is a matter of choosing from among given possibilities, but in the case of photography the number of possibilities is not finite but infinite. The world now contains more photographs than bricks, and they are, astonishingly, all different. Even the most servile of photographers has not yet managed to duplicate exactly an earlier work by a great and revered master.

“The reader can demonstrate the point by clicking off a roll with the family Instamatic or Leica without moving from his chair: point the machine at random this way and that, quickly and without thought. When the film is developed every frame will define a subject different from any defined before. To make matters worse, some of the pictures are likely to be marginally interesting. Even the automatic cameras that record the comings and goings in banks describe facts and relationships that surprise mere eye-witnesses.

“It is not easy for the photographer to compete with the clever originality of mindless, mechanized cameras, but the photographer can add intelligence. By means of photography one can in a minute reject as unsatisfactory ninety-nine configurations of facts and elect as right the hundredth. The choice is based on tradition and intuition – knowledge and ego – as it is in any art, but the ease of execution and the richness of the possibilities in photography both serve to put a premium on good intuition. The photographer’s problem is perhaps too complex to be dealt with rationally. This is why photographers prowl with such restless uncertainty about their motif, ignoring many potentially interesting records while they look for something else.

“Form is perhaps the point of art. The goal is not to make something factually impeccable, but seamlessly persuasive. In photography the pursuit of form has taken an unexpected course. In this peculiar art, form and subject are defined simultaneously. Even more than in the traditional arts, the two are inextricably tangled. Indeed, they are probably the same thing. Or, if they are different, one might say that a photograph’s subject is not its starting point but its destination.

“Gifted photographers, learning from the successes of their predecessors, quickly acquire the ability to recognize and anticipate certain aspects of subject matter, situation, perspective, and quality of light that might produce effective pictures. Original photographers enlarge this shared sense of possibilities by discovering new patterns of facts that will serve as metaphors for their intentions. The continuing, cumulative insights of these exceptional artists have formed and reformed photography’s tradition; a new pictorial vocabulary, based on the specific, the fragmentary, the elliptical, the ephemeral, and the provisional. This new tradition has revised our sense of what in the world is meaningful and our understanding of how the meaningful can be described.

“It could be said – it doubtless has been said – that such pictures often bear a clear resemblance to the Kodachrome slides of the ubiquitous amateur next door. It seems to me that this is true, in the same sense that the belles-lettres of a time generally relate in the texture, reference, and rhythm of their language to the prevailing educated vernacular of that time. In broad outline, Jane Austen’s sentences are presumably similar to those of her seven siblings. Similarly, it should not be surprising if the best photography of today is related in iconography and technique to the contemporary standard of vernacular camera work, which is in fact often rich and surprising. The difference between the two is a matter of intelligence, imagination, intensity, precision, and coherence.”

A Negative Aspect (Joel Meyerowitz)

Mr. Meyerowitz: “With digital, it is a negative aspect that you can immediately see what you have got. I observed it in other photographers, and it is a temptation for me, to look straight at the image just taken. When you only have film in the camera, and you start to shoot something, a small event is transpiring in front of you. Well, you move closer and keep pushing and keep moving all the time, only focusing on the event. But with digital, I have noticed so consistently that photographers take a picture and then look at the back to see what came out, while the event is still going on. The event might be getting better, but they are looking at the camera. I have been training myself not to look at the back of the camera, but to stay with the event. It is like a sin to be looking at the camera when the next moment actually was the best picture, but you missed it because you were looking at the last moment!”


Of late, due to the persuasions of advertisers and the fickle nature of consumers, many of us have been able to acquire quality equipment through closeouts, auctions, estate sales, craigslist, eBay, donations, hand-me-downs, and from little old ladies’ attics (Ah! My Leica!). The details of maintenance and repair, and the availability of parts and accessories, present no serious obstacles; however, make certain that film is currently made in the format that fits your new camera, and give heavy consideration to including in your arsenal a meter, a cable release and a substantial tripod.

(Ahem: wipe the drool from your chin.)

Case in point: Kim Lange, BHS class of 1988.

“Paydirt…2 4×5 Graflex field cameras. A Beseler enlarger. One large and one small dry mount presses. A box of miscelaneous flashes and lenses. A tripod.

Now all I need to do is remember how to shoot, figure out how to set up a darkroom, and purchase the rest of the accessories….oh yeah, and add a few more hours to the day. It is awfully fun to have cameras back in my life.”


Rules for Writ– I mean, Camerawork

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/feb/20/ten-rules-for-writing-fiction-part-one has a stellar roster of contributors, including an entry from Geoff Dyer, who has written books about jazz and photography; try substituting “creative camerawork” for “writing” and most of his points still make sense.

P.S. There’s a part two, too.

A Parable

Once upon a time there was a citizen who showed up at the band rehearsal. “I’ve come to join,” the citizen announced to no one in particular. “I’m a musician.” “What sort of musician?” asked a band member who happened to be within earshot. “A horn player,” the citizen replied. “Great!” another band member said. “We can always use another horn player. We jam tonight, so come on along.”

So the citizen went to the jam session that evening. When he walked in the door, the leader greeted him warmly and suggested he play a particular melody on his horn. The citizen said, “Oh, I don’t have a horn.” “But we thought you said you were a horn player.” “I am; I just don’t have a horn.” At this point it was unclear to what extent the citizen was, in fact, a horn player.

Is the citizen in our story a horn player? Does he now (or at any time previously, did he) own his own horn? Perhaps the horn is in need of repair. If the citizen did indeed have a horn at one time, was he able to make music with it? Could it be that he is just a musician in his own mind, and that he simply likes the idea of being a musician?

Can you discern any parallels to a citizen enrolled in a photography course?

Reciprocity Failure

1/30 second @ f4 is the same amount of light reaching the film as ½ @ f16 is, but not necessarily the same as 2 seconds @ f32: it turns out that equivalent exposure, reciprocity, is reliable only between 1/10,000 and ½ second. Usually. Since most of us won’t be dealing with the ultra-fast times, let’s become aware of the longer ones.

http://home.earthlink.net/~kitathome/LunarLight/moonlight_gallery/technique/reciprocity.htm is a good place to look at this because it provides a chart of some recommended corrections. This will come into play for some of us as the weather improves and the daylight extends further into the evening, and low-light exposures become a real possibility.

Another factor in all this is that, for many films, the ideal situation also involves modifying (usually shortening) the developing time to as well, to a calculable degree, and that the film that sidesteps this modification best is Acros 100.

Reciprocity Success

I don’t know the correct protocol for links in the world of blawwgs, but may I suggest that if I linked to your website, you might consider linking to me as well? Or, even, if I have yet to link to you, feel free to link to this place anyway. Communication is key; the more, the merrier. Thanks.

W. o’ W.: Chuck Close

“The thing that interests me about photography, and why it’s different from all other media, is that it’s the only medium in which there is even the possibility of an accidental masterpiece. You cannot make an accidental masterpiece if you’re a painter or a sculptor. It’s just not going to happen. Something will be wrong.

“This is simultaneously photography’s great advantage and its Achilles heel: it is the easiest medium in which to be competent. Anybody can be a marginally capable photographer, but it takes a lot to learn to become even a competent painter. Now, having said that, I think while photography is the easiest medium in which to be competent, it is probably the hardest one in which to develop an idiosyncratic personal vision. It’s the hardest medium in which to separate yourself from all those other people who are doing reasonably good stuff and to find a personal voice, your own vision, and to make something that is truly, memorably yours and not someone else’s. A recognized signature style of photography is an incredibly difficult thing to achieve.

“It always amazes me that just when I think that there’s nothing left to do in photography and that all permutations and possibilities have been exhausted, someone comes along and puts the medium to a new use, and makes it his or her own, yanks it out of this kind of amateur status, and makes it as profound and moving and as formally interesting as any other medium. It’s like pushing something heavy uphill. Photography’s not an easy medium. It is, finally, perhaps the hardest of them all.”


(Photograph by Paul Strand)

How do pictures refer to themselves? How can photographs be about photography and the nature of camera vision? Would such images be dependent upon subject matter, or would they be process-oriented, or does it have mostly to do with optics? I suspect that each of you will come up with different solutions for this prompt. Try a couple of approaches to see what happens.


(Photograph by Fred Lebain)