The Height of Something. I Mean, Really.

Feel free to pick your own perspective on the wrong-headedness of this marketing strategy.

“With compact bodies and simple functionality, classic 35 mm cameras paved the way for both amateur photographers and professional photojournalists everywhere. The first was prototyped in Germany in 1913 and went into production as the Leica in 1924. Our collection of found cameras, crafted by a variety of mid-century German and Russian manufacturers, has become vintage icons, making them perfect for display. Each one is unique; let us choose for you.”

W. o’ W.: Gene Lees

From “Meet Me at Jim & Andy’s: Jazz Musicians and Their World:”

“Aldous Huxley said that art is created in a state of relaxed tension. You must be relaxed enough to let the dreams flow, alert enough to know what to do with them, grab them out of the incorporeal air as they rush by and turn them into something that others can perceive and be moved by… Making jazz is a very naked thing to do.

“That anyone can do anything at all but stand there in paralyzed amazement when the chord changes are going by, that musicians can function with minimal premeditation and great creativity within the materials of a song’s structure, is more remakable than even the most expert practitioners themselves seem to appreciate. It requires both tremendous knowledge, whether intuitive or acquired, and the physical reflexes of an athlete. Jazz is not only one of the most remarkable achievements in the history of music, it is one of the most striking achievements in the history of human thought.”

The Documentary Style and Synesthesia

“Documentary: That’s a sophisticated and misleading word. And not really clear… The term should be documentary style… You see, a document has use, whereas art is really useless.” -Walker Evans
“Prose had to be invented, freed from its rhetorical (oratorical) and poetic origins. Imagine inventing a form of writing more effective when read silently than aloud. That is a real cultural achievement.” -J. Mayhew
“Whether he is an artist or not, the photographer is a joyous sensualist, for the simple reason that the eye traffics in feelings, not in thoughts.” -W. Evans

W. o’ W.: Dave Hickey

“The presumption of art’s essential ‘goodness’ is nothing more than a political fiction that we employ to solicit taxpayers’ money for public art education, and for the public housing of works of art that we love so well their existence is inseparable from the texture of the world in which we live. These are worthy and indispensable projects. No society with even half a heart would even think to ignore them. But the presumption of art’s essential ‘goodness’ is a conventional trope. It describes nothing. Art education is not redeeming for the vast majority of students, nor is art practice redeeming for the vast majority of artists. The ‘good’ works of art that reside in our museums reside there not because they are ‘good,’ but because we love them. The political fiction of art’s virtue means only this: the practice and exhibition of art has had beneficial public consequence in the past. It might in the future. So funding them is worth the bet. That’s the argument: art is good, sort of, in a vague, general way. Seducing oneself into believing in art’s intrinsic ‘goodness,’ however, is simply bad religion, no matter what the rewards. It is bad cult religion when professing one’s belief in art’s ‘goodness’ becomes a condition of membership in the art community.”

Mo’ Better Negatives

At our facility in the Wonderful World of Photography* we develop our film in Kodak’s XTOL, mostly. Kodak recommends a dilution of one part developer to three parts water for greatest sharpness and a slight boost in speed, to guard against underexposure.

Would you be willing to compute water temperature relative to developer concentrate temperature if the amounts were six ounces and two ounces? I don’t think so. I do it all the time, in my darkroom below the surface of the earth, by setting the metal container of working solution in a tray of hot water (cool water in summer) and stirring until the temperature reaches its goal. But we found that, if we dissolve what should make five liters in ten liters of water, it keeps just fine at that dilution for the length of time it needs to survive before being used up. (Most of us are not aware that the batch from which we work is already half-diluted.) Since it’s already 1:1, no rocket science is required to dilute once more, again 1:1, and arriving at a temperature for the water is easy to do in one’s head. Voila: 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Kodak also recommends that a minimum of 100 ml be used for every 80 square inches of film. That’s roughly three ounces. Most of us get perfectly usable results in an eight-ounce tank, and that means that we’re relying on two ounces of XTOL, not three.

On occasion (in lieu of extreme developing times; for unique films; in efforts to compensate for major exposure errors) we recommend using the intermediate dilution directly from the available batch, in which cases we generally resort to the sliding scale for correct developing times in room temperature developer.

Here’s my suggestion, available only online: process your single roll of film in a two-reel tank, leaving the top “spacer” reel empty, thereby using at least (more, actually) 100 ml of stock solution developer. Use eight ounces of water and eight ounces of the cut XTOL, then splash out a half-ounce and use only 15-1/2 ozs. of solution in the tanks we have, in order to allow for air space so that the (gentle) agitation will work. It’s not a waste, nor is it false economy; many workers use twice that amount per roll (one roll in about a quart of working solution). When you do this, you need never say anything; simply give an exaggerated wink, and we’ll know what you’re up to.


* aka BHS


Perhaps you recall how the work of one Vivian Maier is becoming known:; well, there’s more.

John Szarkowski wrote: ” A photograph may… be private in the sense that there is no designated public access to its meaning, no catalog of its constituent parts, its iconographic and formal resources. Each viewer, including the photographer who made it, must devise for the new picture a personal and provisional place among the other pictures and facts that the viewer knows. It is of course true that all good pictures contain unfinished meanings; only perfect clichés are perfectly complete. Nevertheless, good photographs are often more richly unfinished than other pictures, are wilder, in the sense that they have in them more elements that are not fully understood and domesticated. James Agee, pretending that the photographer was a fisherman and that the truth was a trout, said it was the photographer’s task to bring the fish to net without too much subduing it.”

and now we have this:

P.S. Not to alter the gist of this post, but you can keep up on Vivian Maier at

Abe & Teddy, together? Who knew?

 If I had been asked as, say, a trivia question whether the lives of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt overlapped, I would not have known. Apparently, here is proof that, at least at one moment, they were within sight of one another.

Ken, Ray, Joe, Chuck… RIP, Joseph Sterling

This is Joe Sterling’s cover image for Aperture magazine 9:2

…which featured work by the five graduate students of the Institute of Design in 1961: Ken Josephson, Joseph Sterling, Charles Swedlund, Ray K. Metzker, and Joseph Jachna. Each of them had their very best work ahead of them, and are still working — but for Mr. Sterling.,CST-NWS-xster12.article

“There is a world of a cowboy against the empty wastebasket, of the Bessemer converters and the cheap Montana hotel, a world that exists — but not for the adolescent. His world must be created — created for the physical and emotional self. Although highly affected by surrounding forces and opinion, the world of the adolescent is totally interlaced within itself and incapable of freeing itself… It whirls, rolls, and engulfs what it is allowed to engulf. Sometimes wavering… wavering… AND THEN opportunity is revealed and must be exploited. Exploitation exists for exploitation itself. A world created, enlarged, and accessible to those already interwoven… but his world will grow, move on and be assimilated.” (Sterling’s text in Aperture)

Lisa Swarbrick: The Leader’s Lens

It’s Bonus Karma time again: show up at the Barrington Area Library this Friday night for a reception for BHS alumna Lisa Swarbrick, and maybe hear about her ethnographic approach to picture-making.

“There’s a kind of power about a camera. You’re carrying some sort of magic that with a click of a button, you have installed a confidence in your subject to let down his or her guard and you have captured something that will never again exist exactly as it did. A photograph is a means to fix a person in time in a certain way.  Yes, at its very base level, an image is a two dimensional object with a glossy finish, but the legacy lives around the image, above and below its surface. A legacy is bigger than an individual, bigger than one idea, bigger than a single photograph, it is durable, it is memorable, it is communicable.”

Hang a Roscoe Mitchell

Read this review of Mr. Mitchell’s CD, despite the fact that it cannot prepare you for the music (you gotta scroll down a bit):

…then watch this more recent collaboration with two other geniuses: