Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Printed Brother And Sister Cooking Breakfast

I printed the brother and sister cooking negative today. This photo was made in the early morning about half way through my November (I think) 2013 trip. The picture was quite difficult to print, I think I ended up doing 13 or 14 different dodge/burn steps in the final printing. I made 6 photos, 2 that I know are no good 4 that might work for the exhibition photograph.

I need to get to bed, pretty exhausted after two 12 hour night shifts followed by 2 exhibition printing session. It is much easier to develop film or make contacts after a night shift, that stuff is so mechanical. Making a show print thou is very intense, it requires lots of concentration and thought.

If I did manage to get the print today then I might be finished my dump prints for the show unless I have to do some reprints. I still have many negs I love but I only have room for 14 maybe 15 photos in my part of the gallery so I have to cut off the printing now. I will start up the secondary printing process of bleaching/toning and final wash next week. That will give me a much better idea of where I am.

I feel these photos are the best documentary photography work I have ever done. This is partly the result of hard work, partly the result of the influence of people like Larry, Salgado, Smith, Mark etc. And its partly the result of me finding my own path and not kowtowing to what is expected by the Edmonton amateur photo crowd. By stepping away from those folks and being on my own I feel like I am finally starting to find my own voice.

I need to do up a blurb magazine of the best 50 shots and then try sending that mag around to different publishers, who knows it might lead to something. I also need to continue to shoot the "Families of the Dump". I would like to spend 3 or 4 months with them next year, making photos and hanging out, learning more about their lives.

Yaum: Diary Of A Photographer In Asia?

Yaum: Diary Of A Photographer In Asia?, possible title of my non fiction book? Or can I do something part fiction part nonfiction? The poor mans photography version of Capote's "In Cold Blood": )

Am not sure where I will go with the writing a book idea. It might simply be a bunch of blogs put into book form so no extra writing needed. I think thou I need to make it more personal, more personal is always more compelling. Maybe I do something like a scrap book of adventures like photographer Bill Burke did. Photos, scans, writing, money, tickets, signs, all that jazz together in a compelling visual form scrapbook of some kind

I could go the opposite, just do a book of text, a novel? A day to day diary with no pictures? The stories of the people I photograph? A complete work of fiction? Not sure what to try and do. It will be exciting and no doubt extremely difficult to do but heck if it was easy where would the fun be? I want to accomplish something important my next long Asian trip, I am quickly running out of time, running out of life. I need to create something of value.

Write now my thinking is of doing a non fiction, fiction work about a photographer in Asia for 6 months. Parts of it would be my story, parts a fabrication. One thing I like about writing is you can do it anywhere or anytime even  later in life when your old and limited physically.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

One More Done

I really pushed myself today, I was able to make a show print on a work day. I printed the mother feeding her baby negative. I have 5 prints floating in the wash right now, 4 of which I think have the possibility to be the exhibition print. Two photos were made at filter 2 and two were made at filter 2 1/2.

For me the beauty of documentary photography is the people your allowed to photograph. To show a bit of their humanity in a photograph is exciting. Its the people, the people, the people. To be allowed into their worlds is an exciting thing, like Salgado says its a gift. Being part of their lives, spending time in their families, hearing their stories, its all great stuff.

The photo I made today I think tells an important story. It is a simple and straight forward composition that shows the love a mother has for her child. Sometimes I think it's to easy to get carried away with trying to only compose vividly and only shooting in awesome light, sometimes when your so focused on that stuff, you miss the substance of your subject. It can become a style over the true heart of the subject thing. The people are what matters and sometimes telling their story is more important even thou it might be in a less visually dramatic. Let the subjects eyes, expressions, their souls communicate the photos story.

Anyway am happy I did this print, I think I have only one more shot to do for the dump part of the exhibition plus any reprints. I still want to make a shot of a brother and sister cooking breakfast outside their dump home, then I will be done the dump pics. I have already done a bit of testing and cut the mask for this neg so hopefully I can get it done in one darkroom printing session.

I will have to move onto the final dad shots next week. Then the final printing process of toning, washing and spotting plus framing of all 19-21 prints and I will be done. I have just over 1 month left to complete this all. Things are coming together but I still have lots of work to do.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Dad A Bit Better

Dad was in better shape today. When I went over to the house he was laying on the sofa watching the new big  Sony 60" TV I installed on the 27th. He asked me to make him an orange pop with ice cubes, which I was happy to do. Its great to be able to make dad a bit more comfortable. He spent his whole life taking care of me, I am glad to give a tiny bit back now.

Dad is not walking anymore, something he took very hard, but he still has a good appetite. I bought him some turkey necks the other day which he likes to eat. He ate not only the Christmas dinner mom had prepared but the lunch of headcheese afterwards. People who grow up on the farm in poverty learn not to waste anything and eat pretty much everything, pigs feet, turkey necks etc. Dad worked his way up from nothing, and still craves the foods of his youth and middle years.

I lost the chance to photograph him against the white background. He cannot walk downstairs any longer. I waited because I knew he wanted to get his hair cut and dyed first, when that finally happened to much time had passed. I will have to try to photograph him with the 5x7 in available light, which is problematic in dark indoor light but we will see what we can do. I might have to make 10 negs to get 1 sharp enough to print.

Around 13 weeks till our joint birthday, I hope dad can make it, he is trying his best.

4 Prints Made On Week Off

Managed to get up before work today and print 4 hours on the child in dump shack photo. The Edwal no scratch solution worked very well again, this time I placed it only on the negative plastic side not on both the emulsion and plastic. The product is designed for film so after a rewash and photo-flo the neg turns back to its pristine state. Today I made up 4 prints of this neg which I will wash on returning hope from work tomorrow morning.

This last off work week was a big positive. I made prints of 2 hard negs and 2 average negs. I think I managed to print 4 possible photos for the show. I still have at least 2 more dump negs I want to complete plus 3 or 4 dad photos. I will then need to do secondary printing on all the prints made, plus the spotting and framing. I have about 4-5 weeks to get that all done. I expect to be hanging the the photos sometime the first week of February (probably the 5th and 6th) for the opening which I believe will be on Saturday February 7th 2015.

I am not sure of my "Families of the Dump" print count, probably have to many especially if I do up 2 more. The dad print count is at 3, I will probably need about 6 photos. I also still have to do up the dad artist statement. I also still need to order the final cuts for my 3 blurb magazines which I will do this week. I am awaiting Larry's raw video to do up the final cut of our joint video presentation.

Artist Statement For "Families of the Dump"

Here is a possible artist statement I am thinking of using for the coming Exposure photo festival show "Life on the Margins". I included a new poem at the bottom of the statement that I just wrote. I am not sure I will use the poem, and if I do it might be in a completely different form. I will also need to write one of these statements up for dad. Larry and I plan on mounting the artist statements to foam core board and placing them on the wall next to our photographs.

"Families of the Dump" Artist Statement

"As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest."

Nelson Mandela

I make my photographs in the dump and elsewhere for one reason, to tell the stories of forgotten people. My hope is that the work will show the humanity, the dignity of the exploited and raise awareness into their lives.

The "Families of the Dump" documentary photography series was made at the Mae Sot, Thailand garbage dump. At the dump 400 people in 50 plus family groups live and work scavenging for recyclable goods. The families are made up of Burmese refugees mostly from the Karen ethnic group; who travelled illegally from Burma into Thailand. In Burma these people faced political and economic persecution, they came to Thailand to work in the dump hoping for a better life. These photographs tell their story.

Children Of The Dump
Flies in the sunshine
  Giggles with quick laughter
Garbage and long toil
  Play near barking dogs

Broken glass with sweet hugs
  Found food and lost school
Stomach worms and stinking waste
  Rat running with the rice

Hope and new life
   Children of the dump.

Please help the children and families of the dump by donating to:

Gerry Yaum

Update* Rewrote parts of the poem, I will use this version not the previous in the exhibition statement.


The coyote trots
Travolta walks
Each to their music

Poem: Hotdogs For Dinner

Will probably play with this free verse a lot, change it up, experiment, try different words, different memories. This needs lots of work wrote it in 15 minutes.

Here is the first effort, not sure what it is (I sound defensive), just random things I heard and saw in the sex scene world of Thai. I think writing free verse you need to let your mind wander, to flow freely, to go here and there. I tried to do that with this poem. The lines span several years from around 1999 to 2012. Everything here was said to me, and is written as I remember.

UPDATE* I made many changes in this second and now third version of the poem, added, removed stuff. So many different ways this can go.  Will probably never finish it. I guess some poems never end, they are constantly in motion, always fluid and changing.

Maybe with more work I can eventually include this poem as part of a gallery show or in a book. To show the faces, and tell the stories is always my goal as a documentary photographer. Poetry is just another way to do this.

Hotdogs For Dinner
I want to eat your hot dog! The ladyboy spoke
  I snicker and smile and shake my head no

The streets filled with noise, look out it's a rat
  Food to the left, deserts to the right, look its a cockroach quickly in flight

Handsome man come here, where you go sexy man? Stop! Stop!!
   Cheap drink, sexy girl, free food yelled the bargirl from her bar

Man on the street begging for baht
  covers his bandaged leg in red sauce, looks like blood

I suck your cock for 100 baht said the old lady
  She came out of the dark, looked all wrinkled and sick

The street filled with workers, looking for men
  Take me, no take me, not my friend

Mother with baby, hands up, eyes down
 Sitting on cardboard on the walking bridge as people march by

These girls are as horny as I am said the 70 year old sex pat
  But they always say jyeb, jyeb, jyeb (hurt, hurt hurt)

Come her sweetie he coos with a smile, eyes so large, your so beautiful!
 Let me touch you, here’s my card, call me, bring a friend

I smile on the outside
  but cry on the inside said Long the gogo bar dancer

I have a wife I want to be honest to, I cannot do
  Good man said old Nok,  not many here, sit, have food

She had her bloody mehn (period), blood was everywhere!!
   The fucking lying bitch!!!, screamed the very fat man from New York

You want massage the Tuk Tuk driver asked, I take you, free! 
   He smiles, unfolds a brochure 2 feet long, all the pretty girls, young, you want? come, 
   come with me!       

I no have customer all week said 35 year old lek
  Farang not like me no more, I too old!!

You want something different? You should try me said the ladyboy
   Lady no good she not know how make man happy, I do!

I have baby in Khon Kaen said the girl on the bar stool
   My mother looks after, husband go, I send money her

Time to go home, enough of this world
   I need to develop my film, will forget and remember.

Poem: "Those Two" By Allen Ginsberg"

Those Two
That tree said
I don't like that white car under me,
it smells gasoline
That other tree next to it said
O you're always complaining
you're a neurotic
you can see by the way you're bent over. 

Apartment For Rent

Here is a cheaper apartment for rent in Bangkok Thailand, not too far from the Klong Toey slum area where I did the "Train is Coming" photo series.

-42 sqm
-8000 Baht ($281 CAD) a month, plus water and power
-Location is OK, not great not terrible
- 1 room empty so I would have to arrange for TV, Sofa and Fridge. With all that added the room might be $350 a month plus water and power for the a/c and fridge.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Free Verse

Been studying the work of Allen Ginsberg recently. I love reading his free verse maybe even more so that Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass". Ginsberg is more modern, more explicit, more wild to read. I think he often wrote high (acid? marijuana?) With free verse you do not have to worry about the rhyme, you can just let your mind-heart flow. If I can communicate feelings, observations and thoughts through free verse, I could really have something. The words could be doubly effective if it dealt with important social issue, maybe in combination with photographs.

I need to read a lot more poetry and then write write and write some more. I hope that will free up my creativity and my ability to express myself. Can you communicate shear passionate emotion through words, through free verse? loss? hate? love?, beauty? anger? lust?

        Fishing With Randy
Water, clear, deep, riddled movement
   Yellow rubber hook bobbling, sharp, barbed
Jerk and dug in, pull, flop and flop
    Neck hot, brown painted wood burning
Perch in sun flogging, fighting, twisting
   Blood drips down, down
Watch, bloody black eye stares up
   Small, green and yellow, spiked, striped, floppity flop
Young, the joy, memory gone past,  smile quiet, freefree
   Days gone by, bye bye

12, 13 Hours? Who Knows

I put in a long session in the darkroom over the last day, something like 12 or 13 hours. Started work on the teenage boy sleeping in his dump lean too. I basically nailed the print with my first attempt. I ended up making 3 photos with only slight adjustments. I am washing those prints now, will take a nap, let the them dry and move on from there.

The one great advantage to not doing the drunken rabbit jump thing (constantly changing my tools) with film, developer and photo paper is you get to learn your materials. I think that helped me today with this first print of the lean too neg. I felt what exposure was required with the Ilford paper and the Tri-x fim I always use. From previous experience I just knew I was going to be close, even thou I made very limited test strips. You certainly cannot replace, feel and experience with your tools. This is something I learned on my own, through reading and meeting and talking to great photographers like Jock Sturges and Larry Louie. Today even thou I was very tired and not thinking quite straight I was able to work effectively. All because of my familiarity with my tools, no drunken rabbit hopping for me (or at least I will try to minimize it).

Todays Darkroom

Well the 3 child dump print was not quite there, the subjects were a bit to contrasty and the background a bit to muddy. I raised the contrast filter for the background burns and lowered the contrast on the subjects. I also did additional burns and dodges, the main added burn was in the lower left corner, I moved from 50 seconds to 110 seconds. I made up 4 more versions of this print, one was damaged during processing. I think I got this neg down now.

I still have to do the child in the dump shack negative. This neg has some scratches on it that I can hide with Edwals No Scratch solution. I think I will try a different neg first, the picture is of a young boy sleeping in a lean too at the dump and surrounded by garbage and a dog. I want to include this photo in the show to help tell the larger story of these people's lives. I am trying to incorporate a wide variety imagery to tell the whole story. The problem is I will only show 14 prints. To tell this story correctly a show like of at the Jubilee (Kaasa Gallery) last year of 37 photos would be much more effective. Still 14 is a hell of a lot better than 0.

Nex a quick meal of pyrogies and sausage and then I will get back into the dark. I am running out of time to print this week. I need to finish up at least 3 photographs to have an acceptable work week. I am standing at 2 right now.

I need to really get on my horse over the next month and a bit, time is running out on me. I need to work harder than I have been.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Got My Copycat Backpack

I went to the post office and picked up my copycat Chinese made National Geographic backpack today. At first I thought I had made a mistake but after playing with it a bit a pocket I thought might be to small to hold 5x7 film holders should be able to hold 10-12. This item should allow me to do my 5x7 large format portrait work in Asia as planned. The backpack has a secondary pocket that can hold 5 or so holders and a third smaller pocket for 1 or 2 lens and a spot meter. I am not sure I can carry my reflector but I just might be able to as well. The side pockets should can hold 2 extra bottles of water for those very hot long days in the dump and elsewhere. The bag is large enough to do the job and small enough to not be to much of a burden. I think carrying all this gear in a backpack instead of a shoulder back will help distribute the weight more evenly helping to reduce back pain.

This just might work out very well! I now have everything I need to create portraits in Asia, all the gear, bags, meters, film etc. I also have the drive and desire to get this done. I just hope I can convert what I feel in my heart to film. I also need to get in better condition to handle the physical challenges ahead.

Things are coming together nicely.

Update: I did a bit more playing with the bag. I can get 15 5x7 holders in the main pocket and also carry a small round reflector in the laptop pocket. I am not sure if I can carry my larger reflector but will give that a try in the coming days. I also need to see if it can carry my small harrison changing tend and extra film boxes. If I can carry them then I can change film in the field. With 15 holders that gives me 30 photos, so that will probably be enough for a days shooting. It would be nice thou to have the ability to change film holders in the field.

Printing: Girl In Garbage Print

Had a tough time with this print, ended up putting in an extra 2 hours at the end when I was quite tired. I pushed things a bit, if that's what it takes I have to make that extra effort. The burning on the upper left, right and lower left corners is extensive. The lower left and upper right require 900 seconds of burning at the max aperture of the lens 2.8. I have never burned that much in when printing a negative it seems to have worked well enough. Try moving a cardboard burning mask for 15 minutes, it's tiring!! Good thing I had a nice comfy high chair to sit on. I will let the 2 prints I made (one with some burn lines) wash and dry, then look at them after my sleep and probably make 1 or 2 more.

The strange part is the neg is not overexposed. There is in fact a black dog sleeping in the shot that is a bit underexposed. The photo was made in very very hot bright sun wit the main subject in deep deep shadow. This sort of subject pushes what you can do with film. I am sure in years past I would not have been able to handle this type of light. Through lots of work my photography has improved and this photo with this very difficult light might actually make it into the exhibition.

The girl in the photo was very photogenic, I have multiple negs of her that I like quite a bit. She had this intense stare that fixates you on her eyes. You wonder about her future.

The shallow depth of field in the photos below are not in the print which is pretty much sharp edge to edge. I love this new Durst 1200 Condenser enlarger, great contrast, great sharpness. I think the bulb it is more longer lasting and less hot (no fan in the enlarger). When I do long long burns like with this print for 15 minutes (900 seconds) there are no adverse affects, burnt out bulbs etc. It is a great machine probably the best enlarger I have ever owned, even better than my beloved Saunders 4x5 LPL with multigrade head.

Overall this was a good darkroom night. I dealt with 2 very difficult negs, and I think I won the battles or are at least near to winning them.

Here is print attempt #4:

Girl in garbage detail
Burmese girl in garbage, May 2014 Mae Sot Thailand

Friday, December 26, 2014

Quote: Sebastiao Salgado

" I don't want anyone to appreciate the light or the palette of tones. I want my pictures to inform, to provoke discussion---and to raise money."

Link: Leica Freedom Train

I just found out about this piece of Leica history. Leica may be a German brand, but the company saved many lives during the war. Shooting a Leica just became more beautiful, more humane and more compassionate. I am proud to shoot a Leica.

From the Wikipedia story:

Rescue Mission
To help his Jewish workers and colleagues, Leitz quietly established what has become known among historians of the Holocaust as the "Leica Freedom Train," a covert means of allowing Jews to leave Germany in the guise of Leitz employees being assigned overseas. Employees, retailers, family members, even friends of family members were "assigned" to Leitz sales offices in France, Britain, Hong Kong and the United States. Leitz's activities intensified after the Kristallnacht of November 1938, during which synagogues and Jewish shops were burned across Germany.
German "employees" disembarking from the ocean liner Bremen at a New York pier went to Leitz's Manhattan office, where they were helped to find jobs. Each new arrival was given a Leica camera. The refugees were paid a stipend until they could find work. Out of this migration came designers, repair technicians, salespeople, marketers and writers for the photographic press. The "Leica Freedom Train" was at its height in 1938 and early 1939, delivering groups of refugees to New York every few weeks until the invasion of Poland on Sept. 1, 1939, when Germany closed its borders.
Leitz was an internationally recognized brand that reflected credit on the newly resurgent Reich. The company produced range-finders and other optical systems for the German military. Also, the Nazi government urgently needed hard currency from abroad, and Leitz's single biggest market for optical goods was the United States. Even so, members of the Leitz family and firm suffered for their good works. A top executive, Alfred Turk, was jailed for working to help Jews and freed only after the payment of a large bribe.
Leitz's daughter, Elsie Kuhn-Leitz, was imprisoned by the Gestapo after she was caught at the border, helping Jewish women cross into Switzerland. She eventually was freed but endured rough treatment in the course of questioning. She also fell under suspicion when she attempted to improve the living conditions of 700 to 800 Ukrainian slave laborers, all of them women, who had been assigned to work in the plant during the 1940s.

Quote: Henri Cartier-Bresson

"A photograph is neither taken nor seized by force. It offers itself up. It is the photo that takes you."

Quote: Phlip Jones Griffiths

"The moment you are dishonest, you lose the game....the whole thing."           

Quote: Pedro Meyer (Photographer)

"The photograph as an objective representation of reality simply does not exist. The photograph does not explain to you what is going on to the left or the right or above or below the frame."

Back To Printing 3 Children

Am working on a rather difficult negative for the coming exhibition. It is a shot of 3 children on a road at the edge of the dump. The isolation of their small vulnerable figures in the largeness of the dump, tells an important story. What possible possible future could these children have? What opportunities would they have? They are faced with  limited choices, no matter how hard they work or how much their parents want a better life for them.

This negative was the first that I tried to print for the show before giving up in frustration. Today I took it up again and feel I am on the right track. To make this photo speaks requires lots of darkroom magic. I am becoming a better printer as as result of the shows I have made archival prints for, this is my 5 larger exhibition. When you are going to hang your work in front of a viewing public it forces you to push the envelope a bit in your efforts. When you try harder, you learn more and print better. I think this neg is a beneficiary of all that previous effort. I am doing things in the printing I have never ever done before, it's about finding new ways to tell my stories.

The heavy printing I am going though on this neg is pretty well hidden, I think the print communicates what I want to say. I will make 1 maybe 2 more then move onto another negative. Printing of the photo involves 2 filter grades, and heavy dodging and burning, plus 2 masks. Something like 8 different types of tools are used in making it. I will try raising the contrast of the background in the next print, I might also try lighting the contrast on the 3 children, am unsure. Prints like this take up a lot of time, that is my main worry as I am running out quickly. The show opening date is quickly approaching, around 6 weeks now.

The next photo to do is young baby on floor of dump shack. This week off I also want to print a shot of young girl with large eyes in garbage which will probably be another very difficult negative. The girl is in deep shadow with many bright blown out white garbage areas around her, basically a nightmare to print neg. I think its an important photo so I will try.

Here is attempt #2 of the  3 child in dump negative:

3 Children on edge of dump, Mae Sot Thailand May 2013
Detail 3 children on edge of dump

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Poem: "Randy"

This poem is about my cousin Randy who we all lost much too soon. It is strange how you take people for granted until they are gone, I wish I would have spent more time with him than I did. Some of the best times from my teenage years were when I would be with Randy, motorcycling, snowmobiling and fishing on our homemade raft, he taught me a lot.  As we aged we parted, I waited too long to get back to him. This simple little poem written today is about my memories of our adventures together, it's a last chance for me to say thank you to him.

Perch in the sunlight
  Polling through the weeds
Joys and fun laughter
  Silence of misdeeds

Lost but not forgotten
  Will remember till the end
Gladness of old memories
  Wish to see him round the bend.

Poem: "Xmas Dinner"

I had Christmas dinner last night with the family, dad was a bit quiet early on but later we talked quite a bit as he ate a late meal of headcheese and various nuts. During the main meal dad had most everything and was still eating after everyone else finished. He is wheelchair bound now which is a huge downer for him and us but life goes on. I am so thankful that I was able to spend one more Christmas Eve with my beautiful father. He made it to Christmas but can he make our joint birthday? It is still 3 months and a bit away.

The strangest part of the night was when I was given the head of the table chair and dad was put at the other end in his wheelchair. I guess it was the patching of the torch, it made me sad to sit there. Somehow it did not feel right to be sitting in dads chair.

These poor things I call poems are of low quality but they offer me an creative and unique method of expression. I find I am enjoying writing them more and more, they allow me to say things in an more universal and ambiguous way. Plus poems are fun to make, I can let my deeper thoughts and feelings come forth, clearing things that I need to purge. These poems are not much but they are at least honest, they are my feelings, my thoughts, my memories and hopes. What more, what else could you ask for as an artist than another way, another chance to try and express what you feel in your heart of hearts. Poetry is just one more way for me to try and tell the stories I need to try to tell. 

If my interest in poetry holds just like with the photography, the quality will eventually improve. Here are 2 versions of a poem I wrote today Christmas day, the second being a bit more optimistic because of the added stanza.

Version #1
                   Xmas Dinner
A broken Xmas not as times gone by
       Dad in a wheelchair, this will be his last
My sister wined and high, caught only in her past
       Mom lost, forgotten, trying to fill the holes
Me numb and timid unsure of my current roles

Oh the joys of past Xmas lost 
     Life was so much truer then
The answers straight and forward so
    No confusion or reflections, things so clean and clear
Only bright and brilliant joys, did our future lives behold.

Version #2

                   Xmas Dinner
A broken Xmas not as times gone by
       Dad in a wheelchair, this will be his last
My sister wined and high, caught only in her past
       Mom lost, forgotten, trying to fill the holes
Me numb and timid unsure of my current roles

Oh the joys of past Xmas lost
     Life was so much truer then
The answers straight and forward so
    No confusion or reflections, things so clean and clear
Only bright and brilliant joys, did our future lives behold

What tomorrows Xmas brings, we certainly do not know 
     I'm sure it will match not our memories of the gilded past
But push on forward as we must, uncertain of our fates
    Let us choose to smile, not to frown, our lives are ours to make
Merry Merry Xmas.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Poem: "Darkroom"

Red light glows in a place of solitude
    Dark chemicals flow through my fingers
Figures grow out of the whiteness
     Memories haunt my mind 

Allen Ginsberg

Been reading about the beat poet Allen Ginsberg. I got a book of his work called "Collected Poems 1947-1997 Allen Ginsberg" from Amazon this week. Ginsberg created activist type poetry that had a social message. I would like to try to do this kind of poetry, words with a social conscience. Here are a few excerpts from his famous poem 152-line poem, September on Jessore Road. The poem was something he wrote after witnessing first hand the suffering of the people in Bangladesh after their war for liberation in 1971.

This is from his linked Wikipedia page:
Millions of daughters walk in the mud
Millions of children wash in the flood
A Million girls vomit & groan
Millions of families hopeless alone
Ginsberg's poem also serves as an indictment of the United States:
Where are the helicopters of U.S. AID?
Smuggling dope in Bangkok's green shade.
Where is America's Air Force of Light?
Bombing North Laos all day and all night?
Out of the poem, he made a song that was performed by Bob Dylan, other musicians and Ginsberg himself.
The last few lines of the poem read:
Millions of babies in pain
Millions of mothers in rain
Millions of brothers in woe
Millions of children nowhere to go

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

More Writing To Come

I am excited by the possibility future writing projects may present. As the years pass and I write more and more blogs, I have grown to feel comfortable typing down my thoughts. In the coming years I might like to do writing in more formal forms. Poetry is lots of fun to play with, I would also like to try non fiction books and maybe even some fiction.

I might like to try to write some kind of short non fiction book of my next long Asian photo trip (6 month or more) and get it published. Long shot dream stuff most likely, probably nothing would ever get published or sold. I enjoy recording my thoughts so what can it hurt to try? So many people give up on things without even making an effort, I do not want to be one of those folks. The worse that could happen is I fall flat on my ass, so what, been there many times before!

The writing might be a unique separate book or it might just be a simple compilation of past blogs. It might even be a combination of photographs and text on a specific project.

Lots to think about, it's fun to challenge myself with such thoughts. Doing this helps me distract my mind from my fathers situation.

Non Fiction maybe book stuff brain storming:

1) "Lost Innocence", sold to the brothels
2) "Families of the Dump", The illegal desperate life of Burmese refugees
3) Migrant life in Thailand, working far away from home
4) Muay Thai Boxer, trying to become a champion
5) A photographs journey in Asia, travels through the countryside
6) Life in the GoGo, from rural life to bargirl world
7) Ladyboy, on the streets looking for love
8) Monk life, holy happiness
9) Living in the slum, life on the edge in Cambodia
10) Bangkok at night, story of a city
11) Khon Thai, the people of Thailand
12) On the lam, the life of a forgotten photographer in Asia (autobiography)
13) Drug rehab temple, curing the addict
14) Living with HIV in Cambodia

Haiku's: GoGo Bar Dancer, Sopheni

Haiku are supposed to be natured-season themed but I am not big on following rules when it comes to creativity, so am going my own way. I need to try to write some poetry-haiku that have a social documentary context, like my photographs. It is probably not really a haiku, but for arguments sake lets call it that.

These haiku is about something I saw in a GoGo bar when a sex tourist I have known for years took me on his nightly rounds to pick up a girl for shortime sex. This was back a couple of years around 2012. I of course had been in GoGo bars in Thai before that time but being with him that night and watching his eyes as he scanned the naked dancing girls, then looking on as he fondled them at the table really set my resolve. I wanted more than ever to tell the workers story. I can still see those women's faces, their eyes and their body language as they worked that night. Some were barely women,  they were like pieces of meat hanging in a butcher waiting to be bought, ugly shit.

One of the first Thai words I learned was the word "dyip" it came up when I spoke to the girls about their work back in 1999. The word means means pain-or to hurt. They told me how when they went with customers they would often "dyip". It is also something the sex tourist mentioned in the story above told me about once. He said the girls were as horny (his fantasy) to be with him as he was to be with them, but when they did sex all they said to him was "dyip, dyip, dyip! He was a 70 year old who bought 18 to 25 year old workers, mostly from the GoGo's. He had a working relationship with many of the mama sons at different bars, they would arrange for him to take the newest girls, the girls who had just entered the sex tourist bar world scene.

Here are 2 haiku I just finished writing about that long ago night:

Gogo Dancer

GoGo bar dancer
Eyes glossed, head turned
Body on display.

version #2

GoGo bar dancer
Hanging meat, buy, buy, buy
Come and get it boys.


Sopheni working
She lays down, he approaches
Start the pain

Note * "Sopheni" is the Thai word for prostitute.

Some More Of Tonights Dad Scans

A few more pics from the stand development films I scanned tonight. These pics were made over the last couple of months.

I like the space the 21mm gives..and the distortion. I think I will be using this lens more and more in the future. I had it rehabbed and fixed up awhile back so it should last years, probably the rest of my life. It might be my favourite lens thou it is a bit slow at F2.8. Years ago I got it a package deal with a couple of Leica rangefinder bodies, at a decent price, loved it ever since. They have a faster version 21mm but it's to expensive for me.

21mm Leica M6, Tri-x 800 stand development
21mm Leica M6, Tri-x 800 stand development
60mm Lecia R6, Tri-x 800 stand development
60mm Lecia R6, Tri-x 800 stand development
21mm Leica M6, Tri-x 800 stand development
21mm Leica M6, Tri-x 800 stand development

Dad Last Night

Dads health is getting worse. Last week he stopped walking with a walker and is now wheelchair bound. He is feeling down as anyone would in his position. We are all trying to help him look at the bright side of things, the problem is there is no real bright side to look at. Dad is a very independent person and not being able to walk is so hard on him. I wish I could help him somehow, but I can't. I took him candies and cookies today, tomorrow I will get him some medicine style adhesive bandages from Chinatown.

The top photo I made last night of dad. I pushed the contrast a bit in photo shop elements, its probably a look I could get in the darkroom with the Durst 1200 condenser enlarger.

Dad Leica R6 with 60mm lens, F2.8 1/30 Tri-x at 800, stand development for 2 hours in Rodinal 1/50

Monday, December 22, 2014

Haiku: "Old Pond" By Basho (1644-1694)

Here is a very famous traditional Japanese Haiku written by someone named Basho.  I posted two Japanese to English translations of the same poem. It must be very difficult to  translate poetry!, it would be like trying to explain the colour red.

old pond . . .
a frog leaps in
water’s sound
at the age old pond
a frog leaps into water
a deep resonance

Haiku (Poem) - "Cat"

Got my a book of Haiku poems today from Japan. Haiku's are short poems of 3 lines that have been created for centuries mostly in Japan but also elsewhere. Here is my first attempt, wrote it when my cat (Leng Mao) jumped on me for attention while I was reading the book. Nothing elaborate or deep, just fun to create. Uh oh better get back to my cat she demands more attention. Here is the Haiku:

Belly up, head down
Happiness in the hot sun.

Quote: Stephen Hawking

 On God.

"We are each free to believe what we want and it is my view that the simplest explanation is there is no God. No one created the universe and no one directs our fate. This leads me to a profound realization. There is probably no heaven, and no afterlife either. We have this one life to appreciate the grand design of the universe, and for that, I am extremely grateful."

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Quote: Karl Marx

Famous last words

“Last Words Are for Fools Who Haven’t Said Enough.”

Quote: Walt Whitman

From Whitman's epic book of poetry "Leaves Of Grass"

"Whoever degrades another degrades me...and whatever is done or said returns at last to me, And whatever I do or say  I also return."

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Quote: Sebastiao Salgado

"I believe  very strongly in something we could call the photographic phenomena. We decide that we are going to tell a story, we prepare then we integrate ourselves with the people we are going to photograph......What really interests me most in the photographic phenomena isn't choosing the most powerful pictures on a contact sheet but rather the phenomena itself, the integration with people in photographs. It's their acceptance to be photographed, to give an image of themselves, it's almost a gift you receive."

From Contacts Sebastiao Salgado 2: 

Quotes: Elie Wiesel

Remembering and speaking of his time in Auschwitz concentration camp and afterwards.

"But I have moral philosophies. I don't think I should accept other people's suffering because I suffered. Just the opposite, because I suffered I don't want others to suffer."

Explaining his use of anger:

"The anger here is in me. Hate, not. I'm against hatred. I write and I teach and my goal is in both cases to sensitize the reader or the student."

"Therefore, I believe anger must be a catylyst. When am I angry? When I witness injustice, and I feel helpless. That's when I'm angry. I'm helpless. I went to all the places in the world. Mainly children, children in the arms of their mothers and both are starving. And I can't do anything except use my words to shout. That's when I'm angry."

Large Format 5x7 Camera In Asia

After studying the work of Vanessa Winship recently I have a new fire under me to shoot large format negs overseas. Carrying the equipment 1/2 way round the world  can be a bit daunting, dealing with airports is tough but being lazy is not an option. For me my subjects are in Asia so I simply need to overcome the difficulties to get my equipment there. Going overseas allows me to grow, you see so many different ways of living, cultures, foods, environments, languages. Simply put you learn different ways of living and experiencing life. So many folks I know in Canada live in such terribly small worlds, it's like they live in their hallway closet. When you go out into the world, it changes you as a person. You become more tolerant, more accepting of others etc, its fricking wonderful.

In my 13 or so trips to Asia I have never had any film fogged so I am not worried about that. I have taken 35mm, 120, 4x5 and 8x10 Tri-x with me through the years and have faced no problems (even after 7 X-rays). I read today that in-fared films fog in X-ray machines. Personally I have always found that sort of film-print (infrared) very gimmicky looking so that is not a worry for me. I believe 3200 ASA stuff might also face some fogging issues at airports but I do not shoot that film either (still made by Ilford, not by Kodak).

Another advantage of shooting one film is you truly understand the film, you know how it responds to X-ray machines etc., so there are no nasty surprises. I know what to expect when I put my Tri-x in a machine, if I put other films in I am unsure, so why play games? Choose what works for you and use that consistently until you know everything about the film, how it responds in different light, how it handles different developers, how it is to print on different photo papers (preferably one or two) and how many times it can be X-rayed before it fogs. Simplifying allows you to grow as an artist.

What I want to do is to shoot the 5x7 Tri-x and the Linhof with one lens, and the Leicas with Tri-x and multiple cameras. Those types of shooting are so different it would be so satisfying to do both. One day large format, the next day 35mm. The trick is to overcome my laziness, and get the cameras over seas. Jock Sturges, John Sexton manage to do it now, Paul Strand did it back when air travel was even more difficult. Why can't I? Nothing is impossible to accomplish, you just have to want it bad enough. No excuses, the creation of the work is most important. Am really looking forward to the day I can have 6 months ahead of me in Asia to just make pictures.

Eventually I will take my 8x10 view camera to Asia to photograph. I need to use up my supply of 5x7 film first thou, it will be a bit easier to shoot and I have a ton of that stuff, all outdated.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Link: Oprah The Interviews

Here is a video link to the quotes I posted earlier. Nelson Mandela was a truly great man, I so wish I would have had the chance to meet him. The thing I find most remarkable is that he was held in prison for 27 years but held no grudges, there was no anger in his heart upon his release. Often in my life I hold little grudges, petty grievances. I know others who hold grudges over the simplest and silliest things, often for years, why? Yet here is a man who had true reasons to hate but overcame it so beautifully. We could all learn from Nelson Mandela,  he set a great example. Ugliness in our hearts destroys us bit by bit each everyday we live, it poisons our soul. If we could all learn to forgive and live life with joy, wisdom, compassion and understanding like Mr Mandela we would all be better for it.

Mr. Wiesel is at of the video 15 seconds , Mr. Mandela at 32 minutes.

Note* When Nelson Mandela became president of South Africa, 3 of the guards from his time in jail on Robben island were sitting in the first row at his inauguration speech.

Quote: Nelson Mandella

Speaking of his time in Robben Island prison when he worked in the lime quarry breaking rocks, beside other men of great courage and intelligence.

"I was in the company of great men indeed, some of them more qualified, more talented than I am and to sit down with them to exchange views was one of the most revealing experiences I had. To sit down with those men and exchange views it enriched your own life, it fortified your morality, it  gave you courage, to do better than your best."

On overcoming hate, anger and bitterness.

"You have a limited time to stay on earth. You must try and use that period for the purpose of transforming your country into what you desire it to be, a Democratic, non racial, non sexist country. That was our great task."

Quotes: Elie Wiesel

"To be free is important, but to help others be free, is even more important."

On lessons learned from the Holocaust.

"Not to be indifferent is one lesson"

"....I must have faith in the possibility of every human being to remain human in spite of everything....

Quote: "Oprah Winfrey"

"Turn your wounds into wisdom."

Quote: Martin Short

"The end result is a little less important than the joy of doing it."

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Link: Who Knew?

Who knew? Turns out I was number 9 on the list of thing to do a long while back. This was during my "The Train Is Coming" exhibition back in the Jubilee Auditorium last year. Weird thing that I am not sure how this all  happened. A photo I made in Cambodia in a Poipent slum is the one shown, and has nothing to do with "The Train Is Coming".

Go figure how these things evolve and develop online. That whole thing happened so long ago, not sure why its still online either. Like they say once its on the internet it never dies.

Quote: Walt Whitman

From Whitman's epic book of poetry "Leaves Of Grass"

"...And that all the men ever born are also my brothers....and the women my sisters and lovers..."

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Poems: "The Kiss", "I Shall Not Care" By Sara Teasdale (1884-1933)

             The Kiss
I hoped that he would love me, 
And he has kissed my mouth, 
But I am like a stricken bird 
That cannot reach the south.

For though I know he loves me, 
To-night my heart is sad; 
His kiss was not so wonderful 
As all the dreams I had. 

                     I Shall Not Care
WHEN I am dead and over me bright April
Shakes out her rain-drenched hair,
Tho' you should lean above me broken-hearted,
I shall not care.
I shall have peace, as leafy trees are peaceful
When rain bends down the bough,
And I shall be more silent and cold-hearted
Than you are now.

Quote: Tom Selleck

"Unless you treat failure as part of the journey, you're never going to get anywhere."

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Link: Battleship Island, Gunkanjima Japan

Not really a landscape dude but this looks like a great place to make some pics.

Battleship Island

My Second Poem "My Father"

Here is my second poem. Dad had a very bad day today which inspired the writing of the poem. The line "See you sonny" dad said to me when I kissed him goodbye before coming to work. The line "Today I'm going to die" is something dad said earlier in the day to mom.

I am thinking of including the poems "Burmese Child" and "My Father" at the bottom of my artists statements for the "Life on the Margins" Exposure festival show.

  My Father
See you sonny!
  Today I'm going to die

Strong but soft
    Large now small
Work then give
    All for them

Love and miss
    Laugh then cry
See you sonny!
    It's time to die

Now he's gone
    But lives on
Heart to heart
    And in song

Oops? Another!

They lowered the price on the Dollice 630 and I could not resist, cost was $45 CAD. I now have 3 sizes of these strong black bags, plus the backpack, I will have to see what works best for me but I will probably take 2 of the black bags and the backpack with me to Asia next time round. OK Gerry, no more bags! That's enough boy!!

Dollice 630 copy cat bag.

Monday, December 15, 2014

My First Poem "Burmese Child"

Here is my first ever very limited attempt at poetry. I have never written a poem before in my life, it only took me 50 years to get this done! I was inspired by the 2 pictures I made masks of today, you can see them in the previous blog entry.

I do not really know what I am doing with poetry. I do not really understand how poems work or the proper forms etc. I just thought it was important to try and write something about what I was feeling. It is important to express such things, to not hold them in. I just needed to get the emotions out. One of the things I like about poetry is that I can try (the key word) to write it anywhere, anytime.

Burmese Child
Looking left
      Lookin right
Miles of garbage
      What a sight

Child covered in flies
      Oh eyes, so large
Full of life
      Lost of hope

Who cares
     Who cares
For the child with flies
      Until she shrivels up and dies.

Complex Printing Ahead

I have two children in garbage negs I need to print for the show, but it will certainly be a challenge. The difficulty lies in blown out highlights. The dump negs are almost all hard to print, you have extremely harsh sun light, white bags and paper everywhere and subjects hiding in deep shadows. It is nightmare of film exposure and printing problems. Here are two masks that I cut today before going to work, these are future negs I need to print. All the cut out areas have terribly overexposed highlights. I would not be surprised if some of these areas require 5 minute plus burns at max aperture and softest contrast filtration. I do not see what I could have done different with these negs, maybe a bit less development of the film but with the negatives exposed for the shadows (main subject), overexposure of the highlights was inevitable. If I would have cut down to much on the film development I could have lost my subject detail in the shadows. I think burning the highlights during the printing is the best solution and I did as well as I could with this difficult light. I think if I had these to do over again I would do everything exactly the same technically.

Two cut masks

Update* Going over my dump prints so far and including the ones I want to do, I think I will be over the max 14 photos I have space for. I will need to make some difficult cuts with my picture choices.

Photo Story Videos

I have decided to follow James advice-idea in regards to making videos to put on YouTube discussing the photographs. In the past I have avoided showing my face online, just as I have avoided my real name. I have always been uncomfortable putting the real me on display, it seemed exploitative (of my subject) and immodest (of me) to do so. Now thou I think to tell the story of the families in the dump properly I need to open up a bit. I will do these things in the format James suggested. I will set up a static shot of myself and the photograph and then tell the story behind the making of it and the back story of the subject. I also plan to do some close up pans of the pics that I can cut in along with my voice over, this will help alleviate some of the boredom of a single wide shot approach. I need to incorporate both HD video and high quality sound to make these things work at a professional level.

If this turns out well I hope it will help raise awareness into the lives of my forgotten subjects. I will also include a link for donations to help the families. Larry expressed some interest in this video idea and if mine turn out OK and Larry wants to go ahead with it I will try to make some of him and his photos as well. I have found that the more stuff you show online the more opportunities that arise, you get more chances to show and make photos. I hope these vids will help raise awareness of the people in the pictures, its not about me becoming known but instead about my subjects. If I can tell their story and still remain personally as anonymous as possible I will be quite happy.

Hopefully these "Photo Story Videos" will have a positive impact (like that name!).

Near The End?

Soon I need to see how close I am to completely the show printing. I need to do the secondary printing process on all the prints I have so far. I know that I want to do at least 5 more dump pictures, at least 4 of these 5 are very important photos and I need to include them in the exhibition. I also need to print a bunch of dad photos yet. I will probably reprint at least 1 of the 3 I have of dad so far and I will need to do probably 1 or 2 more 35mm negs as well as a 5x7 and 8x10 white background negs. I plan on shooting dad one more time against the white background, this probably will happen the next time I am off. I might include one of those photos in the show and remove one of the earlier white background shots. I expect I can show 6-8 photos of dad, the work will be shown downstairs in Larry's gallery, there will be a bit more room than I initially thought.

I think this weeks printing went pretty well, I have 2 important photos printed and 2 more possibles. The white background negs are much easier to print so I expect those to be completed quickly.

Difficult Print

I wanted to print this neg of a mother walking with her 2 children as she holds a piglet for the coming exhibition but it's a tough go. This photograph requires lots of dodging and burning and a higher contrast filter. The neg has some flair on it from the bright background and back lit subject. This neg is made even harder still to print because I am pretty tired tonight. I spent the day traveling about, I ended up buying a bunch of groceries for mom and dad, By the time I got to the darkroom I was pretty much spent. It is 408am as I type this, I might try one more time at this negative tonight, it would be my third attempt. I took a few guesses when printing this. I did less testing. I ended up getting pretty close to the proper printing settings (dodges, burns, contrast) rather fast, I think that's a result of knowing this paper better than the others I have used. My guesses seem more accurate when I simplify my tools.

The three expressions are what makes this photo for me, the mother seems depressed and resigned to her fate, the daughter seems frightened and unsure, where as the little boy does not have a care in the world and is happily running along.

Here is the mother and 2 children walking photo:

2nd attempt at "Mother Walking with her Children" print, November 2013 Mae Sot dump Thailand
Note* I only made one more print of the "Traumatized child" image I was working on yesterday as their was a small hair on the neg and I had to rewash it.

Update* I pushed myself and managed to struggle through one more print. Sometimes even if your tired you can do good work, this last one my 3rd attempt is the best of the bunch. I will wash and dry the photos and see where I stand. I might have an acceptable print already made for the show and if not I am close to achieving it. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

AGA Photography Visit

Today I went to the Alberta Gallery of Art (AGA) and viewed a ton of photography. Initially I was impressed with the work on display, but after viewing the exhibitions in whole 3 or 4 times I realized there was more quantity than quality on display. Still all in all in photography malnourished Edmonton the exhibitions are worth viewing. I will probably go back and visit these photographs 2 or 3 more times. With my annual membership there is no additional cost to me. When I am in that sort of environment, I have time to contemplate my own work. Today for example I saw the value of printing pictures smaller than 8x10 and displaying horizontal compositions in larger vertical frames.

What I did like today included work by Orest Semchishen, George Webber and Edward Burtynsky. I felt that Semichishen's photos was the most compelling. I have seen his photographs many times and enjoy the intimacy he is able to capture. My favourite shot this time around was made inside a teenagers bedroom, the composition included a bed with a dozen or so movie posters on the wall behind it. The main problem I have with Mr Semichishen's photos is the coldness of his printing style, everything seems too cool, many highlights blown out  and with limited detail in other print areas. There is a coldness and distance to his style that works sometime but also leaves you wanting at others. Still all in all he is a compelling and important photographer who documented the province of Alberta in the 70s and 80s.

Hopefully in the future the AGA will show more modern photographers. They seem to be caught in a time warp showing the same Canadian photogs over and over again, Burtynsky, Karsh, Semchisen, Webber, Semchuk. They need to add more modern folks to their exhibitions with work that dates post 2000. Why not do something a bit daring, Karsh, Burtynsky et all are so traditional, so  by the books, in their subject matter and styles. Why not strike deep and exhibit something daring? Then maybe the AGA could correct some of their money problems, I keep reading how they are losing money year after year. Obviously what they are doing now ain't working, time to try something new. They need to show some balls and take some chances. Playing it safe is putting everyone to sleep.

Here is the AGAs current exhibition lineup:

More Books

A few weeks back I bought 6 books of poetry from Amazon as well as another book of Anders Petersen's, they arrived today. I will be posting more of the poems I like in the coming months. I also got 2 books from the library on Auguste Rodin, one of them is a book of drawing and watercolours, this book contains many extremely graphic (for there time 1900s) nudes of women, these works could almost be called pornography. The other book deals with his formal sculptures the work he was known for. I will learn about Rodin's work and life in the next few months, I hope this new area of study will help my photography. I am also hopeful the poetry will open my mind to knew ways of looking at things, maybe leading  to more openness and creativity.

None of this self education will hurt me, like always extra effort and working hard to improve yourself is a win win. Plus it's all so fun and beautiful to read this stuff. Art of all kinds whether it's photographs, painting, music, sculpture or poetry takes you into new and exciting worlds. I love to be a passenger on the trips the artist pilots me to.

Video: Traumatized Girl Photograph

This is my first attempt at my 3rd photo of the week, I am hoping I can finish this one and squeeze in another or at least part of another tomorrow before I start work again Monday night. This young girl had something terrible happen to her. With most all the children in the dump I could get them to laugh or to at least smile but this poor girl just gave me the death stare you see in the photograph the whole time I was was her. She lived in a small shack with her mother and sister next to the garbage you see in the background of the image. I have no idea what happened in her life, I just know it was not something good.