Monday, February 28, 2011

Two Cambodian Men

2 more 2003 Cambodia photographs. I have to go back to Cambodia soon and do some large format portraiture.

Cambodian Brothel: Ugliness and Sadness

Today I remember back to the time of these photos. In my memory I was in the back of the brothel behind the workers. I sat with the Cambodian family who ran the place. To be allowed in I had to buy a can of coke for $5 and so I sipped it for several hours and watched, listened and tried to practice my Khmer. I had started at that point to write in Khmer (since forgotten) and was trying to learn some vocabulary as well. I remember watching the backs of the brothel workers as they sat on these cheap plastic chairs facing out to the dirt road trying to entice passing Cambodian males. I kept thinking, I have to tell their story to show others their horrific world (many workers in the brothels of Cambodia are tricked or sold into a life of sex slavery).

What has happened to them in the 8 years since these photos were made? Died of Aids? Beaten? Forgotten? Or possibly/hopefully still alive and living away from the brothels, perhaps even happily.

Cambodian Brothel Contact Series

I have been developing some long lost films over the last few days, I spent upwards of 14 hours in the darkroom yesterday. Amongst a lot of so so work is part of the series I did in the Cambodian brothel at Poipet in 2003. These photos were some of the most difficult and personally dangerous I ever shot, at one pointed I was pressured into paying off 3 drunken Cambodian men who threatened me. It was a very ugly world and probably the hardest photos I have ever taken. Many of the people I photographed are no doubt gone by now, such a sad place and ugly life.

This sequence is of a baby that was in the brothel being raised there, the older women in the photo is the mama-son. I am not sure who the baby belonged to but I think it was part of the family and not from one of the brothel workers. The brothel was run by a Cambodian man and woman (lady holding the baby) and the brothel workers were Vietnamese with a few Cambodians. The clients of the place were 95% Cambodian males mostly low income workers such as drivers and laborers. One of the brothel workers I photographed had welts on her legs, she told me that the mama-son beat her with a wire hanger if she did something wrong.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

8x10 Sex Worker Color

For fun shot 10 sheets of color Portra at the same time I did the B/W white background sex worker photos in 2009, here are a few of those (finally got around to processing the film with the new C-41 chemistry). I think these color 8x10 shots work better than the street 4x5, the color being isolated on white sort of grounds them a bit and your not distracted by the red coke can in the background.

4x5 Color

Shot a few sheets of color 4x5 when this last trip and the trip. Not sure any of this works, I find the colors rather distracting. I think I need to isolate the subject more and watch out for colors in the background that might draw the eye of the viewer off subject. Will probably shoot all b/w for the Khon Thai series but might do a bit of experiment with color and flash.

2003 Bargirl Scans

Developed a few rolls of the old Bargirl series I shot in Thailand in 2003. I had the film (Agfa Optima, remember that film?) in the fridge in the garage for about 8 years and thought I better develop some of it now that I have the chemistry. The scans are rather ragged looking, some grit on the negs and also on the scanner but did not spend to much time fixing them up, maybe later if I decide to ever print any of them. There is a rawness to these 35mm on the fly images that I lose when I go to larger slower shooting formats.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Survivors Of The Khmer Rouge

Saw a photo today in B/W magazine of a lady from Cambodia titled "A Survivor of the Cambodian genocide". The photo was pretty good not great but quite effective. It got me thinking about doing a photo series of portraits on that subject, people who survived the Khmer Rouge (in Cambodia thats a high percentage of the people currently living there). I could also include brief biographical information. In book form the portrait could be on one page the short bio on the opposite. the problem is I can only speak a few words of Khmer, how to talk and learn about the peoples lives? Need a translator/helper.

I do not want to spread myself to thin with working on "Khon Thai" and all but I have always been fascinated by Cambodia ever since seeing the movie "The Killing Fields" as a younger man.

2003 Film

Dragged in 100 rolls or so of 35mm Agfa Optima film from the garage fridge. The photographs are from the bargirl series of 2003 and there might even be a roll or to dating back to the 1999 Thai trip. I have lots of C-41 film so over the next 6 months or so I want to develop all this old film, heck people on the film might even be dead by now, I do not remember what's on the film and what I shot. Will post any decent images on the blog, will be a trip down memory lane.

I also have quite a few rolls of Agfachrome 120 and 35mm (2003 Thai film) to develop as well, I have 2, 5 gallon E-6 kits in the darkroom getting old so should work on that film as well.

My Minamata?

I need to find a subject that I am passionate about, a specific small story I need to tell, my Minamata.

More More Ringflash Heads

Am reasonably happy with the color heads from this last trip. It got me thinking of using the 4x5 camera and available light with shallow depth of field head shots. I would like to try those type photographs in both color and b/w. I bought 150 sheets of color Portra 4x5 that is closing in on its outdated time to work on that idea next trip to Thai/Cambodia.

Some More Ringflash Heads

Weird Working/Sleeping Patterns

Working and sleeping weird hours. Two days ago I had 3 hours sleep before having a meeting about the May group show. I then came home and worked all night and into the day till 2 pm, then slept till 11 pm now up working again. Am trying to finish off all the 220 color film ring flash stuff. I might try to scan a few I did last night and put them on the blog, before my processor dies again. I have 6 more cycles of 4-220 films to do tonight and into tomorrow to finish off the 220. If I can do the 6 batches I will only have 1 roll of 35mm and 1 roll of 220 film along with a few sheets of color 4x5 left from the trips film.

I plan on developing the 4x5 color film this week also sometime and might also develop some 8x10 color sheets (10 total) I shot as sort of an experiment (never shot 8x10 color neg film before that) back in 2009 with the white background in Thailand. Who knows if I love one of those color 8x10 film shots it could be included in the May show.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Poked and Prodded

Well I poked and prodded and shook the process and the motor/agitation cycle started up again. I tested it with a 850 ml tank of water to see if it would keep turning and it did! So going to risk 4 rolls of 220 Portra hopefully it will work for the whole cycle and not stop agitating half way through.

Not sure how long my poke and prod fix will work but heck its working now and that's all that matters.

Jobo Breakdown

Lost my Jobo tonight, was testing to see if it worked before I started processing some color 220 and the motor seems to be burnt out, the pump works but there is no turning of the motor, no agitation.

Sucks big time!

Found one online locally in the city but not sure I can get it, will cost more dollars that I do not have at the moment., Damn! Saw a guy who put a donate paypal link on his blogspot, maybe I need to do that!

Need to develop the color film for the show! Looks like I will start my b/w printing tonight instead of developing the color film. First I had the processor and no chemistry to do the color developing and now I have $1100 of chemistry and a broken down processor!!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Some More 120 6x9 Scans

I so want to go back to Klong Toey in Bangkok and do more portraits, I only did 5 days a total of maybe 15-20 hours in Klong Toey last trip but it was a wonderful experience and yielded some very human portraits. What kind of images could be made if I spent 5 weeks there shooting upwards of 10 hours a day? How would it change me? Would I become angry? sad? depressed? joyful? more compassionate? I want to show the true nature of the people there, the good the bad, the sad the happy. I feel a need to tell a larger picture than I have told before. I need to understand their lives better to live with them if I can and to make as many friends as I can manage. Got to improve my Thai, damn its not good enough! It is fricking tough to learn a language, been working on and off with my Thai since 1999 but still far from fluent. How can I even begin to understand the lives of the people of Klong Toey if I cannot speak to them on any subject? If I could stay in the country 5 years in a row the words would come to me but this hopping back and forth between Canada and Thailand with shorter and shorter times just ain't cutting it. Just when my language skills start to improve I fly off.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Quote: John Wimberley (Photographer)

From an interview in view camera magazine September/October 2000.

"...the most important thing about photography is that it comes from the heart. Not that you're trying to gratify your heart. But if you follow your heart, in the deepest sense of the word, bring forth the love in your heart, and opening your heart to receive love, your photographs will works best when it's straight from the heart."

One More Nightshift

I have one more night shift and then will have the week off to work on my photography. I need to start working on some fiber prints for the May show this week. The idea is to make the selections then start working on 11x14 prints to learn the negs before proceeding to 16x20 prints that I will show in the group exhibition.

Before I can go ahead with the printing I need to finish developing all the b/w film from the trip. I found a few more rolls hidden away and have 4 more 120 and 1 35mm roll to develop before I am done. Once I get all the b/w film developed I can start printing. I still have a fairly a zip log back of 220 color Portra film to develop as well but that is not as urgent. I am unsure what the final selection of images will be right now I am leaning away from printing any color work for the show but that feeling might change as I develop the 220 stuff.

Am also working on getting the framing done, will check into 2 ways of doing it, one getting them made by a shop (expensive) and the second getting the help of a friend who is an excellent hands on type of guy, he has experience making his own frames so I might give that cheaper option a try.

I also want to do a series of photographs of my father this week and maybe even a few still lifes of dead fish. Will post snything thats halfway decent.


Lately my thoughts have gone back to Cambodia. I am thinking about the people, the history and even the language daily. My interest in Cambodia dates back to the first time I saw the movie "The Killing Fields", ever since I watched that movie I've been fascinated by South East Asia, especially Cambodia and Thailand.

Should I spend some time in Cambodia this year making photographs? I have between 5 and 9 weeks vacation time I can spend working on my projects, should I include a trip to Cambodia?

The American photographer Bill Burke has done some wonderful work in Cambodia and has always been an influence. One of Mr. Burke's images:

Friday, February 18, 2011

Quote: Steve Simmons (Photographer, Teacher)

Speaking of making a photograph:

"The first and most basic step is the visualization. More of my photographs have been ruined because I did not have a clear concept of what I was doing than by any other factor. It is true that a fuzzy concept leads to a fuzzy image, so I begin by looking and seeing, trying to feel the scene, to understand it."

"... I do know that trying to force a photograph does not work for me. It is for this reason that I have long felt that photography was a way for me to study, to spend more time with, or to look at something I was already interested in anyway, and that trying to photograph a subject that I was not inherently interested in has generally been not only tedious but a disappointing exercise. Many of the photographers whose work I have admired over the years have photographed subjects that they were already interested in and this interest and passion shows in the work. It is this interest and passion that has probably attracted me to their photographs..."

Speaking of the intuition of making photos and equipment:

" This intuitive process takes time to develop and certainly requires a mastery of equipment and materials. But once this mastery is acquired, the worker needs to move out beyond the camera to the subject. Constant obsession with the having the best lens, the best film, the best camera, etc., is not the route to making successful photographs. Frequent changes of your tools and materials will only add to the difficulty of making a successful photograph instead of simply making the process easier and more intuitive."

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Quote: Julia Margeret Cameron

"I longed to arrest all the beauty that came before me and at length the longing has been satisfied."

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Got A New Paul Strand Book

A new Paul Strand book (very nice magazine actually) came in today, Aperture 135 "Paul Strand The world on my Doorstep". This Issue of Aperture is a joy to look through, what a great photographer he was. The book included many photographs I had never seen before and also had wonderful reproductions of some of my favorites.

Love Strands work, something to look up at and aspire to! What was the deal on that varnishing thou? He used to hand varnish all his prints! He felt it gave them the final look he loved (a deeper darker, moody tone) but gosh it has to be bad for them from an archival standpoint. I wonder how some his older prints are holding up 80 years onward? I need to travel and see some of his original prints somewhere, sometime.


I have 2 group shows scheduled for this year and am trying to figure out the best way to frame them. I want the frames to look nice but I also want try and use as many as I can in both shows. The idea at present is to make 10 white metal frames measuring 20x24 that are about 1 1/2 inches off the wall. I will get the over mats cut professionally as I am rather lousy at that but will probably have one standard frame size. I can use the frames for my May show where I will have different size images (from different format cameras, 35mm, 6x6, 6x9 and 4x5) all printed on 16x20 paper and my October show where I plan on having all prints the same size printed on 16x20 paper or slightly smaller printed on 20x24 paper.

I do not plan on mounting any of the photographs as that is generally considered to be not archival (sorry Ansel!), they will be hung archivaly under an over mat in the white metal 20x24 frames.

Film Order

20-50 sheet boxes of 4x5 Tri-x
10-50 sheet boxes of 5x7 Tri-x
5-100 foot rolls of 35 Tri-x

This should carry me through the next trip to Thailand. I will take all the 35mm film plus 1 I have in the freezer along with around 750 sheets of the 4x5. It looks like the 5x7 will have to stay at home (even thou some of my 5x7 film is getting outdated). I find I can shoot faster and easier (lighter) with the 4x5. I want to really go gungho shooting large format next trip and the 4x5 will allow me to do that. The lighter weight plus the monocular reflex hood (no dark cloth) and brighter ground glass will let me set up and shoot faster and easier. Later on I might take a more slow approach to shooting but I feel now I need to flow a bit with the photos and find out what works and what does not before moving up in formats to 5x7 and possibly 8x10.

Excited About Photographs To Come

Starting to prepare for my next Thai trip. Next week plan to work with the Linhof 4x5 doing a series of head shots of my father. I am going to try to using a reflector during the shoot as Jock Sturges suggested. His words to me were something like "If you do not use reflectors in your technique then you have no technique." (or words to that effect). Will try do some heads of dad next week with the 4x5 and also some 1/2 and full body portraits in available light if it is not to damn cold outside (-15C now).

I am depressed thou that I cannot go to Thailand sooner and make photos. I so wanted to go early in the new year but I am not sure that is possible. The $2500 film costs, plus the $1100 for chemistry and the costs of framing the coming May show (another $1000? or more?) really put a damper on me returning to Thailand sooner. I will try my best to save a much money as I can over the next while, I need to return to Thailand to continue the Khon Thai work.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Some More 120 Shots

I like shooting the Fujifilm 6x9 camera, they call them Texas Leica's. The medium format negative are the same dimensions as a 35mm but with a larger negative and better quality. I wanted to limit myself to 35mm and large format next trip but gosh this 6x9 is making a case for me to take her also (are camera's hers or hims?). I got this camera the week before I flew to Thailand, its an older model and was quite cheap but did a nice job.

Some of the Last 35mm Work

This is from the last batches of 35mm Leica stuff shot last trip, all with a 28mm F2 lens (wonderful tool).

New Xpan

The last of the Xpan stuff. I had trouble composing with this camera, more work required there!