Saturday, June 30, 2012

More 8x10 Ladyboy Sex Workers 2012

Here are some more ladyboy sex worker images shot in 2012. I also included a before and after shot of Nui, a ladyboy I originally photographed in colour back in 2003 before she had her breast surgery. Nui in the 2012 b/w photograph is wearing a wig, Supposedly to protect the ladyboys from other inmates the police cut their hair when they are arrested and placed in jail. It seems to me to be more like a punishment than protection as ladyboys are generally extremely concerned with their appearance and their hair is very important to them.

Nui 2012 after breast surgery, Thailand 2012
Nui In Shortime Sex Room, Thailand 2003

Friday, June 29, 2012

5 Years of Film?

Today I received the final shipment of my big (panic buy after hearing the word BANKRUPT!) Kodak Tri-x order. I now have 75 cans of 100 foot Tri-x 35mm, and 1100 sheets of 4x5 Tri-x along with about 600 sheets of 5x7 Tri-x that I had from before. I think I saved money on this deal as Kodak raised their prices again soon after I had made the order.

I am not sure how long this film will last before I shoot it all up but I expect the 35mm to last 5 years or longer (10 years?), the 4x5 and 5x7 might go faster. Now its all the film is safely stored away in my upright freezer. I hope I can do justice to this film and have some of it become valuable negatives. Its strange but I sort of feel like I owe it to the film, I owe the film a good image so that it can live on as an important neg. Crazy shit when you start feeling you owe the film the chance to fulfill its purpose in an important way, and when you think/say stuff to the film like "Were going to do something good together, lets create something wonderful." If I can make a good photograph with the film then that little piece of plastic coated emulsion can live on and on in an important way as a negative, something that is valued and printed with love and care.

I wish I could have bought some 8x10 Tri-x but I only had so much money and it was very hard to scratch that together. I might have to go to HP5 for my 8x10 work to save money. I will try some HP5 8x10 when I photograph my father for the "My Father At 80" series in the coming days.

Cheap Chinese Made 200ASA 8x10 Film

Found these old exposed but undeveloped negs in 8x10 holders on my darkroom floor. The film is a generic Chinese one I was thinking of using as a cheap alternative to Tri-x. I gave this neg a ton of development 28 minutes at 24C, agitation 6 on the Jobo with 800 ml of straight D-76 in a 5 sheet expert  tank. Not sure I can use this film, the neg is ok with all the heavy development but Tri-x is so much nicer. I might try printing some of these negs for fun.

Larry #1, Canada 2012
Larry #2, Canada 2012

Thursday, June 28, 2012

My Father At 80 Series

This is the first photo from my Father at 80 series and the first I took with the Deardorff 8x10 and 250mm Fujinon lens. I got a tiny bit of vignetting at the top of this neg and its cropped slightly. This is also the first available light portrait I have ever shot with an 8x10 camera. I have lots of work to do to get better with camera fluidity, posing, subject interaction, vision etc, but heck its a start!

Sex Worker On White Series, Bla 2012

Bla is the only woman I photographed on white in 2012. I also photographed Bla in 2009, she was still working the same street as before, it took her a little while to recognize me.

Picked Up Two Wonderful Books Today

I picked up 2 wonderful books today, the first Richard Avedon's "Portraits of Power" and the second a book on Vincent Van Gogh called "Vincent by Himself", got the 2 used books for 1/2 the new price minus an additional 5%. I have to spend some time reading and studying these artists, learning more about Avedon's composition on white backgrounds and Van Goghs heartfelt passion for, nature, his fellow man and art.

Donald Rumsfeld,  by Richard Avedon 1976

Vincent Van Gogh Self Portrait 1888

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Video: Dauphine Bakery Photo Change Out

The guilt changed out some photos at "Dauphine Bakery" today, here is my new layout.

Here are Courts, mine, Rob Ms and Rob Ps photographs along one wall of the bakery.


I feel haunted by this photograph by Walker Evans, I am thinking about it all the time, I can't seem to get it out of my mind. The image is of the Fields family, Walker made it on their farm during the depression era for the Farm Security Administration.

I need to do some portraiture of this style when I am photographing the Burmese migrant labour/refugees in Mae Sot Thailand.

Walker Evans: Bud Fields and His Family, Hale County, Alabama, Summer 1936. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Ladyboy Sex Workers On White 2012

Here are the first 8x10 white background negs shot in March. These images follow in the footsteps of similar photographs made in 2007 and 2009. I like the way these turned out, I wish I had the financial resources to do photographs of other subjects in this same manner, Police/Military, Boxers, Monks, Tuk Tuk/Taxi/Motorcycle Taxi drivers etc. Oh well we do what we can do. I wonder if I could a grant to do the work? Maybe something to look into in the future, one grant attempt at a time!

JandC 400 Ok

Developed 10 sheets of JandC 400 (sex worker white background 2012 series) which I had in my freezer for maybe 10 years before I took them to Thailand. The negs from this old film look ok. Out of the 10 I just developed I only lost one, not sure why maybe I accidentally opened the holder.

I want to develop a 100 or so more sheets this week off and also do some printing. I really enjoyed the printing last week so want to get to it earlier this week. Maybe I should just develop 50 or so sheets of 8x10 film and spend the rest of my time printing negs from the last few trips and old negs from years past. I love the little 8x10 fiber prints, their fun and easy to make and yet quite beautiful when done right! The 8x10 printing has another added side bonus to it, it helps teach me the neg which will come in handy later if I decide to print larger. Later larger prints will be better from what I learn initially by printing the 8x10s.

HP5 8x10 Fogged

I am getting fogging on my sheets of 8x10 HP5 white background sex worker stuff, f-ck! Thats what happens when you do not have enough money for film, you cut corners trying to get by. I bought a older outdated box of Ilford HP5 off Ebay stored it properly (the problem was not on my end but the previous owner) and then used it in March in Thai. Now it looks like all 25 sheets of that stuff is garbage.

I hope the JandC stuff which I had frozen and for years is ok, I shot lots of that film. I have to develop some of that before I go to bet, but first some food.

I will only use fresh 8x10 in Asia from now on, preferably Tri-x but if cannot afford that I will go with fresh HP5.

It is an overal fog, probably because the film was quite old and not stored properly. I am not sure if I can print the negs, will try.

8x10 White Background Photographs 2012

Well I just developed the first 5 sheets of my 8x10 white background sex worker shots from this last trip in March 2012. I was a bit worried that maybe there was some kind of tech problem that screwed up the film,  I had not made these photos since 2009 so the flash equipment was that much older, I was worried about my f-stop, shutter and sinc settings workings, I was also worried as the film was older and that I was using 3 kinds, JandC 400, Ilford HP5 and Tri-x (the best but also the most expensive). I was also worried about all the X-ray machines I went through.  I just developed 5 Tri-x and they look very good, nice detailed full sharp negs. Here's hoping the other older films especially the really old JandC 400 turns out as well.

I will scan some of the 2012 sex worker on white shots this week for you all to see, its fun to have new 8x10 negs to play with, there so freaking beautiful. Hopefully if I ever get my promised show in Bangkok I can use a few of these latest shots. I think I shot upwards of 300 sheets of 15+people (all ladyboys but one), have to check the old records.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Quote: Shelby Lee Adams

"I am fascinated by the people and the place. A subject has to move me in a spiritual and creative way. I have to have a real positive response to a person, and really want to make a picture, otherwise there is no point."

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Burmese Studies

Am beginning my preparation for the photographs of the Burmese families at the Mae Sot garbage dump. Trying to learn to speak/read and write some Burmese from youtube! Am not sure this is even possible but I figure anything I know is better than nothing. I have maybe 11, 12 months to study so maybe I can pick up some of the language.

Am also going to read as much as I can about the country online and from books I ordered and borrowed. Learning some Burmese history along with traditions, religion, ethnic groups etc. should hep the portraiture.

Step by step will get this thing done, step by step builds the cathedral.

New And Improved Linhof Master Technika 2000

I made some small upgrades to my Linhof 4x5, which I hope will help me to be faster in the field when I am working with my portrait subjects. I added a new/used reflex viewer, its an older version form the Linhof III, IV cameras, I feel its a better design than the newer one I was using. The newer version comes in 2 parts which you have to physically take off and reattach to change from verticals to horizontals, this older version viewfinder just turns 360 degrees without removing or attaching anything. The worst part of the newer version is that it always came apart in my bag, sometimes  the whole thing popped off the back of the camera body, sometimes the top half would just come off in the bag or while I was carrying it in the field. I was always afraid I would be in the middle of a busy street, a dangerous slum area or on the back of a motorbike and the viewer would fall off and be lost. This older version is also slightly more compact, it is a about an 1-1.5 inches shorter. Compact is good when your hauling equipment around the world to all kinds of locations.

The other thing I upgraded was the bellows measuring tape numbers I had on the side of the camera. Over the last few trips I used dirty masking tape with felt pen marking to tell me the bellows extension in inches, I improved that hard to read stuff with a bright white tape and black numbers which should be faster to read in the field. I also added the bellows factor numbers for various lens to the back of the viewfinder, using the white tape. Using these tools I can figure out my bellows factor number without using a hand held card/chart and measuring tape, it can all be done quickly and easily now. The more I shoot I should be able to memorize these bellows factor numbers which will speed things along even more.

This machine is a wonderful tool, compact, very well built and completely reliable. I feel that I can take it anywhere to make any kind of photograph, you do not have to baby it, its robust and solid! Hopefully these little improvements will allow more speed and fluidity in my shooting style, it should allow me to concentrate more on my subject and less on my tools.

Here are some photos of the updated version of the camera:

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Image Bank Gallery: Profitshare Stock Photography

Got this email today, thought I would post it on the blog to help out the photographer and his new company.

Hi Gerry

I thought I would get in touch to tell you how much I like your work.

I am working on a conceptual project relating to the sex workers of Thailand.

That being said, to assist with funding the work, I have set up a profitshare stock photography site

I appreciate that this kind of thing might not be for you as a fine artist, but I wondered if you might be in a position to share the link with any of your friends of promote it anywhere.  I have sold stock images before on a variety of the market leaders Royalty Free stock photography sales etc, and I consider that the payment plans are not fair.

I am currently setting up the infrastructure of the site and so it is not presently perfectly perfect, however in time it will be.

I am confident it will work, since after it only existing for two weeks, I have already sold one image to an unknown in the US (the largest market).

In any event I would like to stay in touch and as soon as my project has got off the ground and into its own show somewhere I will forward you an invite. 

Keep up the good work! 

All the very best


Quote: Aung San Suu Kyi (Burmese Democracy Leader)

"If you can suffer, you can gain. What is valuable can not be obtained without effort."

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Grant Proposal Subject

I think I will change my Sept grant proposal idea. I need to think about it some more yet but I think I would like to go to the Mai Sot garbage dump along the Thai/ Burma border and photograph the 200-300 people scavenging and living there. Here is a CNN/youtube story on the place:

If I can go there and work for 7 weeks with the help of the grant I think I can tell an important story as well as document the lives of these forgotten people.

I have started to work on my Burmese, Thank you in Burmese = Jay Zuu

Monday, June 18, 2012

Quote: Mark Twain

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness."

Losing My Focus

I think I am losing my focus with all the worrying lately about grants, shows and magazine submissions. I need to get back to what's most important, the creation of photographs.

Today I did some research on a garbage dump in Thailand it's in the town of Mae Sot along the Burmese border. Upwards of 200 Burmese refugees scavenge in the dump to survive, they are trapped seemingly forever  scraping out an existence digging through garbage.

Mae Sot is a town of 120 000 people 80 000 of whom are Burmese. Many of the Burmese are illegals being exploited by local business men because they can pay less than the 135 baht ($4.39 CAD) a day minimum wage they would pay a Thai person.

CNN story on Mae Sot garbage dump workers:

I need to go to make photographs in places like Mae Sot. I need to learn some Burmese, learn about these peoples lives, and make photographs of what I find. I need to document and tell the stories of forgotten people like this. Later on when I have the photos the show stuff will happen as it has to a degree in the past. I must not lose my focus, making meaningful pictures is most important.

Tonight I am looking again a the book "Gypsies" by Josef Koudelka, these are the types of pictures I need to be taking. I feel that I am ready to make photos at the "Gypsy" level, but I need to put myself in a position to succeed. I need to save up some money and then throw myself in with people I have a deep compassion for, this will allow me to create and tell an important story.

Rejection: McMullen Gallery

Got another rejection letter today, this one from the McMullen gallery which is located in the University Hospital in my city of Edmonton.

This rejection letter is not really that much of a surprise as I kind of felt the work was a bit to dramatic for the mandate of the space. The McMullen caters to patients (some terminally ill) and visitors (some greiving) so tries to present work that is uplifting and positive (to help in the healing process). The work I submitted were photographs shot in the slums of Poipet Cambodia, not exactly uplifting stuff!

The gallery is quite nice and now they allow one person emailed submissions so I will probably keep trying with the McMullen people. In the future l will limit the submissions to more positive uplifting photographs. Possible submissions include, the Xpan landscape abstracts or a series I am thinking of doing, photographs of Buddha images shot through out South East Asia. Heck I might even try some of the Collodion wet plate photographs if that starts coming around after the workshop.

Printing Thoughts

Well over the last week off I managed to put 20+ hours of printing, not bad considering most of my previous weeks off I did no printing at all. I learned a few things this week:

- I can't leave my prints soaking for more than a day without some emulsion peeling. I had my prints soaking for about 1 day and 1/2 and ended up losing  3 of them because of emulsion damage, the rest look fine. From now on I will leave my prints wet for a maximum of 24 hours.

- Ilford normal/cool tone paper bleaches poorly. I used twice the concentrate for maybe twice as long as I do with the warmtone variety of Ilford paper but did not get much in the way of bleaching done. The paper seems to be resistant to bleaching, kind of strange how the warm tone paper bleaches nicely but the normal/cool tone stuff does not. This is unfortunate, I might have to look for another kind of paper to do my cool tone printing on because I love bleaching!

The most important thing I was reminded of this week is how good it feels to have a beautiful print floating in the fix/wash/toner, what a great f-cking feeling! To create something from nothing, to see it in its final formal staring back up at you, the highest of highs!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Joys Of The Darkroom

Woke up at 4am, started printing around 530 and just finished up at 8am. What joy it is to work in the darkroom, the classical music playing, beautiful prints in the trays, relaxing, refreshing and exciting. I love working in the darkroom printing, I think this 2 plus hours 4 times a week on my week off is going to work out great, I can experiment with different papers, I can learn negs I have never printed before, I can become a better printer.

I might try doing it on my work days when I come home from my night shifts, thou I have been using that time to develop film. Maybe I can multi task, develop film in the Jobo while printing my little 8x10 finer prints.

I feel rejuvenated, will go take a bike ride, help my father a bit and then its off to the AGA to see their latest art.

"Ain' Photography Grand!"

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Good Couple Of Days Printing

Did quite a bit of printing over the last few days, 5 hours or so yesterday and another 6 hours or so today. I only worked with 4x5 negs making them into 8x10 finer prints, that much neg and that little paper makes for some high res beautiful toned images.

I printed and got to learn 7 or 8 different negs which will help if I want to print any of them larger (16x20) for the Klong Toey solo show in March. I need to work hard on this solo show, choose the best images and make the best prints I can. I will need to save some money to buy some more 16x20 paper as I only have a few boxes now and expect to go through lots of during the printing process.

Trying to print 4 times a week on my weeks off is a good idea, I am bound to become a better printer as a result. I can trying new things, work with different papers and developers, get better all around. The 8x10 size paper is pretty small but it allows me to print and see many negs on fibber paper without spending to much money.

Was up all night printing, will clean up and then go down to place some new work at Dauphine Bakery with other guys from the guild.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Beauty Of Faces

Dang, Klong Toey 2012
I just love to look at peoples faces, their is something so natural so perfect in a face. I love to just look and look at faces. One of the great powers of  photographs is that it allow you a chance to stare, a photograph on a wall is a licence to look however long you want. If you stare at a real live person it is considered rude but with a portrait you can look for as long as you like, its very freeing.

Laos, 2012
Today as I am printing I am staring at a young girl (standing at attention like a soldier), a boxer and a young boy from Klong Toey slum I photographed in 2011/12, I wonder what their future holds? Their is so much promise in those young faces. Later I will work on a photo of Dang a head shot made on my last trip to Klong Toey in 2012 I like it quite a lot, you can see the effects life has had on him in his drunk eyes, his tired face.

A good head shot is like a good landscape photograph it allows you to stare and observe just the sake for enjoying the looking.

The Philosophy Of Minor White

This is from the November / December 2005 issue of View Camera Magazine.

Minor was known for his deep belief in the sacred and the spiritual quality of photography. What was seen in the image was important, but the meaning behind the image was ever more so...... He was devoted to the idea of "Equivalence" (first articulated by Alfred Stieglitz), a theory of photography based on the idea that any image, regardless of technical merit, should function as an experience, as opposed to a "thing". The photograph should act as a springboard for the viewer to explore feelings and emotions within himself or herself, the photograph acting as a metaphor for feeling.

The Simplest Of Pleasures

Am finally working in the darkroom printing tonight, it is only my first session of the week, hopefully I can squeeze in at least 2 more before next weeks work week.

As I was printing some small 8x10 I was watching the fish in my darkroom fish tank (yes I have a fish tank in my darkroom!). I am always surprised how the simplest things can give you pleasure and make you feel good.

A few weeks back when I was out cycling I came across an abandoned property with a house, garage etc. In the garage I found an old short piece of 4 inch black plumbing pipe, it was just a small thing off in the corner of the building, just some garbage no one needed. When I saw it I thought "hey I can put that in my darkroom fish tank" for my Jack Dempsey fish (Cichlid fish who love to hide in rocks and such). I picked it up, put it in my bag, cycled home, cleaned it up and put it in the tank.

Today as I was working on a boxing photo and a photo of a young girl in Lao I was watching 2 of the fish as they squeezed into this small piece of plastic pipe, happy as clams (err fish). Not sure why such a silly thing makes me feel good but it does. I guess its because I was able to salvage something that was being wasted and that I gave the fish somewhere to feel comfortable. Now the fish have a little home where they can watch me agitating my print trays.

I know this story is VERY exciting and your glad you wasted 2 minutes of your life reading it, but wait there is more, will post a digi photo later! So check back later for a Jack Dempsey fish update!

Now back to the dark and my printing, going to try to make up 5 or 6 8x10s today, am working on number 2 now. There is something wonderful and special about being in the darkroom, I have BB King sweet guitar playing along and the people I photographed in days past staring back at me in the yellow glow of the safe lights.

Ain't Photography Grand!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

More Xpan Spring Weekend Stuff

The Xpan long panorama format always looks a bit off to me to me when shot vertically (to long a vertical), but I included one shot here from the spring weekend for fun.

More 4x5 Asian Portraiture

I find with the "Common Live" photographs I seem to be mainly photographing men, there is the occasional women or young girl but maybe 75% of my subjects seem to be men/boys. Its seems rather strange all through the early years when I was doing the sex worker photos, it was nothing but women now its mostly men. I have to make more of an effort next trip to make more portraits of women. 

Here are a few more images developed in the new/used Jobo. I love-hate these machines, they breakdown a lot but boy do they give you consistent results and even development, plus I can multitask as I write this I am also developing film! 

Quote: Carl Denham

Carl Denham is the crazed director Jack Black played in King Kong.

"Defeat is always momentary!"

Boring Subjects

I got some constructive criticism from a friend recently regarding my "Common Lives" portrait subject. He felt that much of the work especially the tighter head shots did not engage him because he thought all the people sort of looked the same and once you had seen one you'd seen them all. In the past when I have photographed only sex workers who are more visually individual (more distinctive and exciting to view) and strong and I have been criticized for only photographing sex workers (why not try other subjects?).

The dilemma I face is that the "Common Lives" series of photographs deal with the common traits that we all have as human being, the theme of the project is to show the things we share. If I choose subjects that are wild and wacky characters at the extremes of our society then I will get more visually effective subject mater and more dynamic pictures but at what cost? We are not a world of wacky folk but on average are more average looking, more mundane and more boring.

How do I show our shared humanity in a compelling way without photographing the extremes of people within society. Its like I am working against myself a bit, I want to make strong powerful photographs but I also want to show how everyone everywhere is like everyone else everywhere.

As my friend critiqued I believe I need to include more of the persons living and working environment in the photographs, but I also do not want to lose the tighter head shots or head and shoulder photographs.

I do not want to make boring portraits but I also do not want to photograph only eccentrics, what to do and how to do it?

I can incorporate photo tricks, using flash, or wide angle lens to create distortion and interest in the pics, but I am not sure I want to go down that road.

I think I need to look for strong faces (stronger than I have found so far) that still fit into the theme and also where possibly make portraits that show their environment in a effective way. I need to need to make the portraiture universal so it says something about all of us. I need to make the work visually strong and compelling but I also have to be careful I do not walk to far over the subject line and lose the connections that bind us all.

More thought required.


Just did an email exchange with my friend, he suggested engaging the subject more and showing more emotion, nurturing the subject along, very good advice. I need to use the strength of the view camera which allows eye to eye contact, to engage and draw the subject out more.

More things to think about!

You got to love photography, its so frisking challenging and so rewarding when done right.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Crappy Darkrooms

Last night I pulled an old book of mine out of my little photo library room. The book was on building darkrooms, I think it might be one of the first books I ever bought related to photography. It was fun looking through this thing again but one section amazed me. At the beginning of the book in the opening chapters they had photographs of famous photographers darkrooms.

The surprising thing is the majority of these great photogs worked in crappy/shitty/lousy darkrooms. How the hell did they work in such shitty places and yet create such wonderful prints? A few photographers, Bernice Abbot, Jeanloup Sieff had quite nice darkrooms but others like Harry Callahan and W. Eugene Smith worked in tiny, dirty, ill equipped places. Callahan even had to do his printing in cycles (not sure how he managed that) as the wooden sink he had made was to narrow and short to hold all his trays.

Gosh I feel spoiled now, my darkroom is very nice and very large. If guys like Callahan and Smith could create the great work they did in the holes they were working out of then I have no excuses!

Dry side of W Eugene Smith's darkroom

5x7 Spring Shoot With The Guild Guys

Here are some of 5x7 shots done with the Linhof. Some of the mistakes I made on this weekend were the result of not knowing my equipment well enough. I ended up losing several shots to not realizing my lens did not have the coverage I thought it had, I ended up with vignetting problems on several negs.

Learn your equipment Gerry, or don't use the darn things! This falls under the to many cameras, to much testing category discussed earlier.