Saturday, August 31, 2013

Possible Photos Of The Future

I am thinking of taking a trip to Africa, possibly Rwanda. The book I am reading that was quoted earlier deals with the genocide that happened there in 1994. If I can manage a trip in 2014, I could do work related to the 20th anniversary of that terrible event. I have wanted to visit Africa for a long time but have been unsure of which country to visit maybe Rwanda will be the one. 

The other thing that I have thought of for years but have never done is to photograph a war. I told myself I would photograph a war by 30, then by 40 and here I am on the edge of 50 and I still have not accomplished that goal. Maybe I can photograph a small action somewhere in Africa? Some small forgotten conflict, with soldiers that have an important stories to tell. Donald McCullen and W. Eugene Smith were both severely injured shooting battles, there is nothing glamorous in that and its something I am frightened by, but to make important anti war photographs that is a worthy goal. War photography now at my age and lack of experience might be a bit to much, but its still something I think of often.

Hey we can't live forever and the photographs you leave behind is what matters most. Here are a few new scans of images not posted before, one of a very young mother with her baby and the other of 3 young children  on the exterior dump road in Mae Sot. I feel the photographs are quite strong,  this is the future of my photography.

Young mother with her newborn baby Mae Sot garbage dump, Thailand 2013
Three children near their home in the Mae Sot garbage dump, Thailand 2013

Something More Than Just A Pretty Picture

Art should have a larger, deeper, more important message than simply " That's Beautiful!". Great art has a multi dimensional message that reaches past the average, past the mundane and past simply beautiful, it should instead speak on multiple levels. Frankly I have often thought of the "Its Beautiful" critique as sort of an insult. It is like they were comparing your work to the countless trite postcard and calendar images we are fed daily, pretend art produced in the millions to feed the masses, pretty boring and mundane stuff.

Beauty has its place, but artists should try to achieve  more than simply create pretty pictures. Art should push the viewer out of their comfortable box, it should challenge them to think in new directions, suck them into different ideas and ways of viewing the world, wake them up from their indifference. The world is filled with beautiful pretty pictures, why not try to do something no one else has ever done or say something than no one else has ever said. This is of course much easier to write about than do but heck to not even try, to just fall in line with the others and do what they have done countless times before,  where is the beauty in that?

A Need To Make Photos

Scanning the latest work shot in Mae Sot dump with the Burmese families has gotten me excited and frustrated. I feel these photographs are some of the best I have made but here I sit trapped in Canada unable to make more. I need to have patience but I want to make pictures every hour of every day, I want to tell the stories of the people who allow me into their lives. Looking at the faces of the Burmese families living in the dump has taught me a frustrating truth, I need to be there making pictures not here doing security patrols.

Their are so many stories I want to tell, so many places and peoples I want to meet and photograph. Time is running out on me I am 49 and getting older, fatter and slower by the day. I feel that now today I am making the best pictures of my life, so now is the time to be out there creating, not sitting here on my fat ass thinking about making photographs.

Quote: Jeanette Ayinkamiye 17 Year Old Rwandan Genocide Survivor

From the book "Into The Quick Of Life, The Rwandan Genocide The Survivors Speak" by Jean Hatzfeld

"I think that once you have seen your mother being chopped with such wickedness, then suffering so slowly, you forever lose a part of your trust in others...... I mean that the person who has looked for such a long time on such a terrible suffering cannot live amongst people in the same way as before, because she will be on her guard. She will not trust them, even though they have done nothing to her."

Monday, August 26, 2013

A Third Sink In The Darkroom?

While I was printing tonight I came up with a plan to incorporate a third sink in the darkroom. I could add this new sink and stand fairly easily to my existing darkroom. If I add the sink to my current darkroom I would not need to develop a second darkroom somewhere else, it would be cheaper and much more practical an idea. I would have to move out several items from my current space, including a  light table and a large storage cabinet but I believe if I do I could have a U shaped area with 3 sinks on one end of the darkroom and my 5 enlargers in the other end. The design would mean I would have to walk a bit farther then I do now when using my main enlarger but setting it all up would be fairly easy. I would need to remove the items mentioned earlier, move one enlarger table (with 2 enlargers) over to the new space, move my drying cabinet about 10 feet and add drain pipes and hot and cold water to the new sink but that would be about it.

I could use the new sink for alternative processes and as a deep washing/storage work area, it would probably be a better more efficient way to work than I am now. I would certainly have more room to do all my wet work like pouring collodion on plates, coating platinum papers etc. There is no rush to get this done, the new sink is safely in storage and can sit for several years until I need it.

Last Night Off

Well it was a good last night off, I accomplished a fair amount. To start the evening I picked up another darkroom sink along with some useful extra darkroom tools. I got all my computer stuff (Imac and small scanner) into the car so that I can work on various projects at work this week during my nightshifts. Most importantly I got back into the darkroom and struggled my way through 2 difficult negs for the PhotoNOLA show, one of a male working, one of a female. I am currently working on a photo of a ladyboy worker,  I am writing this blog as I wait for the test strips to dry in my drying cabinet.

I did not get a much printing as I wanted to get done this week because I was distracted by the PowerPoint artist presentation, I spent most of the week scanning, scanning and scanning some more. I will continue to work on this presentation during my work week on nights, hopefully I can also squeeze in doing at least one more PhotoNOLA "Body Sellers" exhibition print after work sometime if I am not to tired. I have about 15 prints completed, thou some might not be included in the exhibition and some might need a reprint. I want to make up 25 aluminum mounted photos by late October. The show and samples of my work along with a write up I did (with some editing from my friend Thom in New Orleans) will be added to the PhotoNOLA website early this week, I will post a link when its online. Little by little I am getting this done, it will be a relief to get this all printed, mounted and sent out. I want to concentrate on shooting the new photos, the new work in Thailand should be exciting.

I might have to make up 2 different PowerPoint artist presentations, one for the latest documentary work for the UofA talk the other might be the history of the sex worker photos for the the PhotoNOLA talk. Well better get back into the darkroom and try to finish that last print, I need to get to sleep early so that I can be well rested for my first security nightshift tonight.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Latest Kijiji Purchase

I went out tonight before dark and did another darkroom equipment purchase. I picked up a very nice black fiberglass sink with sturdy metal stand (handmade). Peter the seller of the the equipment also was kind enough to give me for free a number of items:

- 8x10 paper safe
- approximately 100 sheets of Ilford RC photo paper
- grain focuser, contact printer, small safe light, tongs, cleaning brush
- 2 small Patterson tanks with 4 reels
- 2 graduates, scissors, nice 10x mini focusing magnifying glass (going to use it tomorrow)
- very nice and useful set of b/w spotting pens

The total cost for everything was $25 plus gas for pickup, thank you Peter for your generosity, the items will be put to good use. I now have 2 extra darkroom sinks I can use for my secondary alternative process darkroom.

The Possibilities Are Endless, Do High Contrast Work?

I have been thinking about the possibilities for making photos during the coming trip. Because I am traveling light I will be able to move quickly and easily, I have a greater knowledge and understanding of my tools and film. I have contacts and experience in my main shooting areas of Klong Toey slum, Klong Toey boxing gym, and Mae Sot garbage dump, my language skills have increased, the possibilities for strong photos are endless. I wish I could make pictures everyday for the rest of my life, nothing is better, nothing gives me more pleasure or a greater high.

I might try making some photos like the one below, close up portraits/nudes that I add a ton of contrast and grain to for effect.

Shirtless man Klong Toey slum,  Thailand 2012

Saturday, August 24, 2013

4x5 Dumpsite Portraits

I feel a bit a sad I will not be taking the 4x5 this trip, here are a few scans from the dump. Photos made with a 4x5 Linhof on Tri-x with a 150mm lens. I hope I am not making a mistake. I think these are new blog negs, I dug them out of a binder I had sitting around and did some scanning.

Woman working in dump, Mae Sot Thailand 2013

Boy cooking breakfast outside dump home, Mae Sot Thailand 2013
Woman pulling wagon on dump road, Mae Sot 2013

Self- Portrait with Doo-Aye, her brother and young girl, Mae Sot Dump Thailand 2013
Mae Sot dump #1, Thailand 2013

Boy with ethnic hilltribe hat, Mae Sot Thailand 2013
Mae Sot dump #2, Thailand 2013

Motion In Photographs

I have been thinking about motion in pictures lately and my friend Larry brought it up again at our last get together. Motion in b/w images can add a surreal effect that can be very creative, I need to try this more on this coming trip.

Here is a 1/2 accidental bit of motion shot I recently scanned, its a neg from Poipet Cambodia shot in 2012 and a few shots from San Francisco.

Mother and daughter, Poipet Cambodia 2012
San Francisco #1,  2012

San Francisco #2,  2012

Friday, August 23, 2013

Oops Almost Forgot A Show

Gosh I almost forgot the Alberta Photo Open including one of my sex worker images opens next week, I got to see that show as well. I can see the McMullen show (Black and White photo landscapes plus paintings) and the Kaasa show (Alberta Open) at the same stop. I can check out those 2 shows and the AGA show again on the same day, making it a photo show trifecta a real rare deal in Edmonton. I will comment on the shows after I see the work in person, it should be a good day.

40 000 000 Links

I googled "Black and White landscape photographer." and got 40 000 000 links! No wonder those type photos sometimes come across as trite and commonplace, how do you create uniqueness when millions upon millions of people are shooting similar stuff?

One of the difficulties with being a photographer in 2013 is most subjects have been done to death in countless variations. People are so inundated with imagery on a daily basis they become blasé about the whole thing. Cindy Sherman says "When you look at a photograph you should be sucked into it.", but how do you suck people into a style of picture they have seen hundreds of thousands of times before? To be a great landscape photographer you even have to be better than other styles of photographers, with other photogs they can often get by because their subject is more unique (people have seen those styles of pictures less).

8x10 Dad Portraits

Well I developed the 8x10 film from yesterday, there were lots of light leaks with the lightweight Mido holders, I have to solve that problem somehow. I read recently you can check holders for light leaks using the same size photo paper which makes economic and time sense. I will also try using the Kodak Master camera with these holders as it has a tighter spring on the back of the camera, hopefully this will hold the film better to prevent light leaks.

Looking at the negs, the ones that did not have light leaks or limited light leaks turned out nice. I need to do lots more work with this format and become much more fluid, at $4-7 a sheet the fewer mistakes the better! If I eventually get this working in Asia, with the 600 sheets of Tri-x I have, I could make some top notch negs.

Dad at 81, 250mm Fuji Lens, HP5 (200) at 1/15 and F 11.5

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Another Artist Talk!?!

I was not sure before but it now seems I am expected to do an artist talk in New Orleans for the PhotoNOLA "Body Sellers" show. Gosh that's 2 artist talks in a few months, one here in Edmonton at the University probably in September or early October another in mid December at the PhotoNOLA photography exhibition in Louisiana.

All this public speaking stuff makes me quite nervous, the thinking about it and the waiting for it is the tough and qeezy part, I know when I get going, when I start talking I'll be fine. I love photography and am passionate about my work so once things start rolling  and I get talking and talking and talking (maybe to much so) I will be OK.

I have to get more professional about these things, more polished and  competent, I need to treat these initial talks as great learning opportunities. Having the work seen, having the stories of the people who allowed me to photograph them told is very important to me, these talks are part of that process of getting to the next level with the work. I hope like this blog the talks will also help me to focus my thoughts to allow me to verbalize what I feel internally. Sometimes I have trouble expressing why I do what I do, why I feel so strongly that the work is important, writing about it or speaking about it public should help me work through those blocks to become a better photographer, a better artist, at least thats the hope!

This should be fun!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Off To Vegreville

Well have nothing planned for tomorrow so I arranged to take my father and mother to some places my father grew up and to see my grand fathers grave. It should be a fun day with some portrait making opportunities. I will take my 35mm bag (Thai set up with 3 cameras) and my 8x10 gear just in case. Tonight is my last night of scanning for the PP presentation stuff, things are coming together slowly but surely. Tomorrow I have to dive into the darkroom for the last 3 1/2 days I have left before I go back to work.

Update: I had a nice 9 1/2 hour day with dad and mom, we visited some of dad's childhood places, maybe for the last time. Dad new exactly what road to turn on, recognized landmarks etc even thou he might not have been in the area for 20 years plus. I ended up taking a few 8x10 shots and some 35mm film at my dads old farm and in the Mundare graveyard where my grand father is buried. A nice day, now I will do a bit of scanning before bed, tomorrow I wake up early and spend the day printing.

I want to see if I can go see a couple of shows in town, I will go to the Alberta Gallery of Art to see their photo show for the third time and there is also a show of traditional black and white photo landscapes at the McMullen gallery. The McMullen show opening is tonight but I was not invited so I did not attend, I will try to check it out later in the week or possibly in 2 weeks time. I expect this show to be first rate both production and technique wise but a bit to common place and traditional for my tastes in regards to subject matter. I will see how it goes when I get there, will make a review at that time.

Anyway a very nice enjoyable day, processing the film now!

Struggling My Way Through PowerPoint

Well last night with some helpful hints from my friend Larry including a lone of a CD with a special song I have started working on my PowerPoint artist talk presentation. It's a struggle to get this done as the PP software at work is different than the PP software I have at home, finding the right picture file size is also a bit of a mystery. Searching for all the negs and doing all the scanning is also very time consuming, I think thou I am on the right track now.

I want to do something similar to Larry (Larry's presentation is first rate pro level stuff), I will do 2 short 3 minute movie slide shows with music, one on Klong Toey slum residents and one on  the Mae Sot garbage dump families. I will also do a talking slide show where I can speak to each image one at a time during the lecture. The talking slide show will be made up of 40-60 images and include pieces from all my trips to Thailand from 1996 (lost some of those negs so might have problems with that time period) through 1999, 2003 and up to this last trip in May 2013.

I only have the first 5 slides completed for the Klong Toey movie so I have a long way to go, I expect about 25 slides in a 3 minute movie each with 7 seconds of screen time. I will be able to reuse some of the movie pics in the talking slide show section. When I get this all completed it will only be the first draft, there will be many alterations and improvements in the future (I hope).

I can only devote so much time to this PP Artist talk thing, I need to get back into the darkroom and continue to print the "Body Sellers" show for PhotoNOLA. To much to do, to little time to do it all.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Today's Deliveries

Today I had a number of deliveries, first UPS dropped my big 8x10 camera box (extra brokerage charge of $46), this box may be to big for my needs. The thing is very well made and looks like you can throw it out of speeding truck without damaging what's inside but gosh its fricking huge! I might have to get a smaller box for my 8x10 Thai work and use this one for wet plate or if I end up getting a 11x14 or16x20 camera someday.

The second package today was a post office delivery of my 20 bulk film rolls of Tri-x ($24 charge), I quickly placed the box into my freezer alongside the film from the last shipment. I should have a 10 year or so supply of 35mm Tri-x, thats a very comforting feeling. Now it's time to make some important photos with all that stock material. This film should be a joy to shoot, I feel so lucky and privileged to have that opportunity.

I also got a small book of Nicholas Nixon portraits (large format film photographer) called "People With Aids", I will go through that carefully today. The book is half portraits half text (the stories behind the people in the photographs),  the text is written by Bebe Nixon and by the individual subjects of the books. To read the thoughts of the people in the portraits and then to see the finally detailed large format shots is a very powerful combination. This is a strong important book filled with love, compassion and understanding, I need to learn from the photographs and text, I hope it will help me tell my own stories better. I got "People With Aids" for a bargain online through

Tom Moran from "People With Aids",  Boston 1988 by Nicholas Nixon 

PowerPoint Artist Talk Presentation Started, So That's How You Do These Things

I started working on my artist lecture PowerPoint presentation last night. I have a friend at work who ran me through all the basics of the program and now its up to me to get it together this coming week off work. The lecture will focus on my Thai period :) (pretentious Picasso moment). I want to start off with my first trip to Thailand in 1996 then finish up with the latest work shot with the Burmese families at the Mae Sot dump. I will include a couple of music slide shows, a video or two and a section where I just tell stories about favourite pictures. This thing will be lots of work but it should be fun to put together (as most photo related thing usually are).

Update: Going to view my friend Larry's photography PowerPoint presentation on Tuesday, that will give me a real insight into how to professionally design one of these things, seeing his should help me make mine.

Here is the PowerPoint opening title slide that I might use, thanks Michel for your help making this up, it looks pretty cool, thank you for taking the time to teach me some PowerPoint tips. I need to give both Michel and Larry a credit-thank you at the end of the file, their contributions have been important to this little project. Friends are always very important to learning and improving your photography, I owe a great deal to friends like Rob, Jim, Michel, Larry etc. etc. for all their help through the years.

More Lessons On The Way?

I might be doing more lessons soon, I have 2 students scheduled for a day in September, they plan on taking both the camera and darkroom workshops at the same time on the same day. The workshops run 2 and 3 hours a piece but I will probably do 6 or 6 and 1/2 hours with them and not charge extra. If these workshops happen the money will come at the perfect time for me. I can use the dollars earned to help pay costs for my coming photo trip to Thailand, I have no money saved for that trip yet.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Might Be Doing An Artist Talk

I got an invitation from a teacher/friend (I am an old student of hers) to do a talk at the local University. The talk would be for students of the UofA Art & Design class (photography) and last about 1 hour. A few years ago I did a talk for her students at the Larry Louie gallery for the "Fading Lives" show, this might be a bit different,  last time all 3 photographers spoke, this time it will be just me.  If this happens it should be challenging and fun. I think I will speak, show prints and a few videos, I might even make up a PowerPoint presentation like my friend Larry does (if I do not use it for this talk I can use it for future talks).

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Families Of The Mae Sot Garbage Dump Submissions

I am going to put together a few submissions for closer Canadian galleries (to save on show production costs). I want to submit work from the families of the dump photographs, this will hopefully raise awareness of these peoples lives and might even lead to some financial help for them. One of my submissions will be to Visual Arts Alberta here in Edmonton, they pay a generous artist fee which would offset the printing costs for the show.

A Book To Take To PhotoNOLA

I decided tonight I need to design and do a Blurb book for the upcoming New Orleans PhotoNOLA show. I have started to design the book at work tonight as time permits, using my laptop. The book will be called "Tears of a Butterfly, The Photographs of Gerry Yaum". It will be a 50 page (50 or so photos) 8x10 inch hardcover book in the landscape format (the longer length will be the vertical dimension). I will limit myself to 35mm Leica photos made in the last 3 years in Poipet Cambodia, Klong Toey slum in Bangkok, Thailand and the garbage dump in Mae Sot Thailand. I have already put together a 50 page basic draft of the book, hopefully I can get it refined and focused by Monday. The problem with doing these books is getting the pictures right, I will have to find all the negs I am using and rescan them to produce larger files, then I will have to touch them up with Photoshop Elements. After everything looks good on the computer I will need to send out  for two or possibly three soft cover test books to blurb before printing the more expensive hard cover version. This all needs to be accomplished and completed before my next Thai trip. It will be lots of work and the end result is only so so in quality as black and white photos always have a bit a bit off (color tint) in them when printed by an online publisher like Blurb.

This is the best I can do, no book publishers are lining up to print a REAL book for me so I have to try to do something acceptable by myself. I can take this book down to the PhotoNOLA show which will allow the guests at the opening to see a larger selection of my work.

Friday, August 16, 2013

B&H Rocks And Film Almost Ready To Go

Well both my orders from B&H Photo have arrived from New York. The large selenium toner order was made last Friday and arrived this Thursday, the 2-50 sheet box order of Ilford FB 16x20 paper was made on Sunday and arrived on Friday, fricking fast service! Using the B&H website you pay for everything up front using Paypal, including border duties/GST and in a week or less you have the goods in your darkroom! I will do more and more business with this company in the future, they are fast, efficient and easy to deal with.

I am loading my last 19 rolls of 35mm Tri-x tonight. I am rolling 200 rolls for my coming Thai trip, I have 181 done now, all neatly packaged in their individual plastic segregated compartments. Each plastic box contains 10-35mm cassette films, I have 20 of these boxes. I bought the 35mm film  containers a few months back, they work great,  and protect each roll of film, thou it will add a bit to the overall weight during transport. Having the film protected both before and after shooting will be worth the extra weight (less accidental film cassette openings). I can also put these small boxes directly into my hotel fridges and do not have to worry about leakage from other things in the fridge. The 20 boxes of 10 films will wait patiently in my Canada freezer for the next Thai trip. What will be captured on these rolls? What stories will they tell?

Anyway the film is almost ready for the trip, all my PhotoNOLA printing supplies are waiting for me in the darkroom. Everything is pretty well organized and ready to go. Now like always I have to find the money to pay for everything. Next months credit card bill with the air flights and darkroom supplies will be over $2500 CAD, yikes. It is all money well spent thou, no new gear, the money goes towards making more pics, printing old negs and showing work.

I expect my second large box of outdated 2012 Tri-x bulk film to arrive sometime in the next 10 days, this box will contain an additional 20 rolls or 2000 feet of Tri-x 35mm. When I have this film safely stored in the freezer I will have about a ten year supply of 35mm Tri-x waiting to be shot. Ten years of film waiting for me!!, thats a comfortable feeling, I now have much less Kodak bankruptcy worries.

Quote: Larry Clark

I have been re-visiting some of my old "American Photographer" magazines, I found this simple, direct  quote in an interview with Larry Clark (October 1986).

"In my best pictures I'm trying to give the viewer the same emotional response I had when I took the picture. I want viewers to feel what I was feeling."

Going Simpler And Smaller Yet?

I am have been thinking over what I really need to take with me this coming trip. I need to go even smaller, simpler and lighter than I planed. If I take only 3 cameras and 3 lens, a flash and film then that should be enough. My current kit thinking:

- 2 Leica M6 bodies
- 1 Leica R6 body
- 35mm F1.4, 21mm F2.8 and 60mm F2.8
- 200 rolls of Tri-x
- small Leica flash with cord for bouncing light
- small light digi camera for vids and blog shots

I would be cutting out one more lens, sacrificing my expensive 28mm F 2, the lens is faster and a bit smaller than the 21mm but I really like the wider field of view the 21 offers. The ideal situation would be to use a 24mm F1.4 then I would have the speed and the wider angle but that’s a $6000+ piece of glass, can't afford that.

With this newest smaller kit I would never have to change lens, I would be a bit limited thou, if anything breaks down I would be down to two working cameras. The plan would be to travel with 1 small Domke camera bag, and one very small knapsack for film, clothes and odds and ends. With two simple light, small bags I could travel with ease. Five weeks with 2 pairs of light pants, a few shirts and very little camera gear, it should be a challenge but also very fun! I am getting excited about the possibilities to make photos. My thinking has to be all about the photos and what works best, what system will allow me to do the best work.

Should I abandon the 28mm? 

Update: After working on my Blurb book I found I had many of the photos I liked were made with the 28mm, I got to take this lens! 21mm, 28mm and 35mm are are very different looking lens. I also might need the speed of the F2 28mm. Having a 28mm F2 and a 35mm F1.4 plus the capability to push film successfully to at least 1600 ASA opens up many photo ops for me.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Tripod Update

Gosh this Gitzo tripod is a wonderful tool, light, strong and smooth to operate. I think the Tripod might be a bit big for 4x5 (5 inches longer than my old one, and wider) but I will give it a try and see how it goes. For 5x7 and even 8x10 photography this tripod should be ideal. The Gitzo G1325 has a max load of 26lbs, I weighed my Deardorff (13), 250mm Fujinon, film holder (3) and the big Manfrotto geared head (6.5) and it came to 22.5lbs. I think I should be able to use this tripod with both the Deardorff and Kodak Master cameras. Even when I set up the fully loaded 8x10 with the tripod legs fully extended and the center post all the way up, everything was very solid and stable (pic below).

The possibility of doing 8x10 photography in Asia, the possibility of showing the beauty of people through the photographs seems more real to me everyday, I can do this! 

"Ain't Photography Grand!"

Gitzo tripod with Deardorff 8x10