Wednesday, February 26, 2014

November Trip Scans 17

I now use the posting of photos on this blog as part of the learning process. Just as the blog writing allows me to formulate and articulate my photography thoughts the posting of pictures allows me to select and edit what will become a final print. I can post the pics in numbers here and then view them, think about what works and finally decide what to print. This blog is not only earning me a bit of film money and allowing the work to be seen by the world, it's helping me become a better photographer.

Another 15 photos from the recent trip:
"Families of the Dump" Series, Mae Sot Thailand 2013
"Families of the Dump" Series, Mae Sot Thailand 2013
"Families of the Dump" Series, Mae Sot Thailand 2013
"Families of the Dump" Series, Mae Sot Thailand 2013
"Families of the Dump" Series, Mae Sot Thailand 2013
"Families of the Dump" Series, Mae Sot Thailand 2013
"Families of the Dump" Series, Mae Sot Thailand 2013
"Slum Boxer" Series, Bangkok Thailand 2013
"Slum Boxer" Series, Bangkok Thailand 2013
"Families of the Dump" Series, Mae Sot Thailand 2013
Hindu on cloth, Katmandu Nepal 2013
Construction site, Katmandu Nepal 2013
"Landless People" Series, Kathmandu Nepal 2013
"Families of the Dump" Series, Mae Sot Thailand 2013
"Families of the Dump" Series, Mae Sot Thailand 2013

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

November Trip Scans 16

More scans from the last trip, I will be posting a bunch of these over the coming weeks.

"Leprosy" Series, Nepal 2013
 "Families of the Dump" Series, Mae Sot Thailand 2013
"Leprosy" Series 1600 ASA, Nepal 2013
"Families of the Dump" Series, Mae Sot Thailand 2013
"Families of the Dump" Series, Mae Sot Thailand 2013
"Families of the Dump" Series, Mae Sot Thailand 2013
"Families of the Dump" Series, Mae Sot Thailand 2013
"Families of the Dump" Series, Mae Sot Thailand 2013
"Street Kids" Series  1600 ASA, Kathmandu Nepal 2013
"Families of the Dump" Series, Mae Sot Thailand 2013
Guesthouse, Kathmandu Nepal 2013
Guesthouse, Kathmandu Nepal 2013
Grandma, Thailand 2013
"Street Kids" Series  1600 ASA, Kathmandu Nepal 2013
"Families of the Dump" Series, Mae Sot Thailand 2013

Monday, February 24, 2014

Loading Film Again

Tonight I started to load my 35mm Tri-x for my next Asia trip. Last time round I ended up taking and shooting 200 rolls of film so I plan on loading the same amount. I will probably only take about 150 rolls next trip but to have the extra 50 loaded will give me the option of taking up to 200 if I have a last minute change of heart.

You got to love bulk Tri-x, it allows you to shoot a great film (best ever made) at a cheaper price. I hope my blog advertisement check comes soon I want to order 300 more feet of this film (3 boxes). Two of the boxes should be paid for by the check and my $50 gift card from my artist talk, I will pay for the third box out of my security wages.

I ended up doing 38 rolls tonight, another 162 to go!

Steve McCurry's Blog

Here is a link to a blog by the great photographer Steve McCurry.

I found this blog when I was reading his thoughts on Eugene Smiths "Tomoko in her bath" photograph.

Dream Photo: My Own Mother With Child

While printing the last two photos both mothers with their children I was reminded of one dream photo I hope to make someday. A common theme in art is the "Pieta", Jesus dead in his mother Mary's arms. Great artists through out the history of art have created wonderfully powerful and moving images based on this theme. Eugene Smiths greatest photograph is of a mother holding her inflicted daughter (Minamata disease), her face glowing with love. Some time in my life I hope, I dream of making an important mother-child photograph, one that communicates an important universal message of love, hope and compassion. My photograph will not be in the class of the works below but I hope it can still be an important photograph.

Here are some other great mother child works that came immediately to mind as I wrote this blog, starting with the grandest of them all the "Pieta" by Michelangelo:

Pieta by Michelangelo Buonarroti 
Tomoko in her bath, Minamata Japan by W. Eugene Smith
Mother and child Korem refugee camp Ethiopia by Sebastiao Salgado
Mother with child Biafra by Donald McCullin

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Print: Mother Giving Her Baby A Bath "Families of the Dump" Series, Mae Sot Thailand

Tonight is my last night in the darkroom before a week back at work doing security, I have another 6 or 7 hours tonight to print. I just finished off the baby standing image and now am moving on to other, first the masks then the final fibre print. The 34th straight day of darkroom work is going well.

Next neg up is this one of a young Burmese mother giving her daughter a bath in the dump. I found this young mother at the front of one of the small dump wooden homes. You could just feel the love she felt for her young daughter as she bathed her in a small plastic container. The little baby girl was unsure of me, I have 3 or 4 variations of this photograph but liked the eye contact with the baby in this one best.

Update: This neg requires a ton of burning. I spent the last 5 hours on the negative, I am using 3 burning masks plus a lot of edge burning with a card and a tiny bit of dodging on the woman's upper hair. I am making a 4th mask to do additional work on the post on the left side of the photo. I want to burn down the post and the background box to the right of it at least an additional 30 seconds. I also need to burn down to whitish edge areas on the bottom of the post and the edge of the diagonal pole, will try 30 seconds at -1 filtration for that.

I have never used 4 masks on a print before so am entering new ground here, which is a goal in these daily darkroom sessions. Hopefully I am improving as a printer as I try and experiment with these new and exciting things. Below is version #2 of the print of the "Mother giving her baby a bath". I am quite tired but will try one or two more prints before calling it a night.

Update #2: I ended up doing 4 versions of this print tonight, after I saw version 3 I was inspired to make version 4 even thou I was very tired. In the coming days or next week at the latest I will do version 5, this time with a shade more contrast. Ended up working around 9+ hours in the darkroom, time for bed, working security tonight.

Version #2 on discontinued Agfa classic fibre.
Version #3 now the print is starting to sing.

Quote: John Keating (Dead Poets Society)

"We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race and the human race is filled with passion. Medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, "O me! O life!... of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless... of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?" Answer: that you are here; that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?"

Need To Communicate Better

I want to improve my Burmese enough so that I can speak to people a bit more next trip. I need to learn their names, their ages, what part of Burma they come from, what ethnic group they belong to etc. I will have to learn a lot of Burmese to be able to do that, but it is starting to come a bit faster than before now that I am using many Burmese apps. If it was in Thai I would not have any problems, can do all that sort of talk in the Thai language, learning from scratch again in Burmese is tough. I am turning 50 in a few months, learning new languages certainly ain't getting any easier! Still an effort must be made, it will help me understand the peoples lives better, it will help me make connections and friends and it will help the quality of the final photographs.

Print: Baby Boy Learning To Stand "Families of the Dump" Series, Mae Sot Thailand 2013

Here is another shot made with the new Burmese refugee families at the dump in November. The mother was holding up the baby to try to teach it to stand, her daughter is in the background (a young girl I photographed  numerous times). I made this print on Agfa classic fibre photo paper, it is a paper I loved in the past. Not sure if this paper is old and fogging or what, but it does not seem to have the same deep blacks and wonderful tones that I remembered and loved. Maybe I am more used to using Ilford and Oriental papers now which are more expensive papers with a thicker base. I will keep printing this and the next few photos on Agfa classic and see how it goes. Maybe I am out of love with Agfa classic fibre, which I believe is still available in Europe with a new manufacturer.

Update: Version 1 of the negative after the print dried, I like the tones much better in the dried print than what I saw in the wet paper. I will try to burn down the white areas especially the foreground and the mosquito netting. I also need to lighten the young girl in the background and maybe add or subtract 1/4 contrast. For my first attempt it's a good try but the photo can be improved in many ways, bleaching the mothers face might also add a bit of highlight focus to the subject. Anyway lots of fun to come, but first I need to watch the Canada Olympic gold medal hockey game then take a nap, more darkroom work tomorrow.
Version #1 printed on discontinued Agfa Classic fibre paper.
Update: Version #3, more contrast, more burning around edges and mosquito netting.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Print: Man Sitting In The Dump "Families of the Dump" Series, Mae Sot Thailand 2013

Number 32-33 of 90 darkroom days in a row produced this print:

Version 5 of print, I moved up to grade 3 1/4 from grade 3 and improved body dodging.
The photograph was made with the 60mm F2.8 and the SLR 35mm R6 camera, the latest tools I added to my Lecia kit. This will probably be the last film camera I buy for a long time. It is a great tool that goes very cheap on Ebay these days (under $275 USD).

Printing steps for version 5 of this neg:

- Basic exposure 56 seconds, filter 3 1/4 , f 5.6
- Dodge hair for 20 seconds.
- Dodge figure arms-back 25 seconds and a spread dodge over the whole body for another 10 seconds.
- Burn with card right edge 20 seconds, top left edge 10 seconds (curved card), all at filter -1
- Burn with mask #1, 40 seconds, filter -1.
- Burn with mask #2 40 seconds, filter -1.

Note* All the burning on this neg was to bring down distracting white background highlights.

Looks Like More Workshops Ahead

I am getting lots of emails showing a basic interest in my two photography workshops, I got another one today. I will probably be doing another camera workshop in March. It looks like these things are becoming fairly popular, I might be able to raise the workshop prices again in the coming year. Its fun to be teaching analog photography to a new generation of workers. I also am able to do good things with the money earned as it all goes into buying film for my Thai projects. Buying new film is very important, it is the seed that grows into final print. These workshops are a win/win for all involved, the student gets to learn something exciting and new at a relatively cheap price and I get to teach and buy the supplies needed to make more photos.

Artist Steffen Wehrum's Drawing Of A Klong Toey Slum Photograph

A while back I posted a request by a German artist named Steffen Wehrum, he asked permission  to draw one of my pictures from the Klong Toey slum series. Steffen was kind enough to send me his finished drawing, thanks very much, here it is.

"Bangkok Slum" 70x50cm, by Steffen Wehrun
This turned into a very nice art sharing experience, I got to make the picture in Klong Toey, then I had the opportunity to meet this new artist and share a bit in his creation, fun all the way around.

The drawing is based on this blog linked photograph, I like the drawing more, it has greater depth and empathy.

Update: I got another email from Steffen about his drawing, he told me the dimensions of the work are 70 x50 cm (27.6 x 19.7 inches), very large!

Print: Two Boys Sleeping With Garbage "Families of the Dump" Series, Mae Sot Thailand 2013

I continued my daily darkroom work today with a 6 or 7 hour session. My main work of the night was printing and experimenting with this neg from the "Families of the Dump" series. I ended up making 8 different 11x14 fibre prints mostly I played with slight contrast and exposure adjustments. It is surprising how the entire mood of an image can change with even a small contrast or exposure shift. There are an infinite amount of feels you can give a print. Working as I do now with no deadlines or printing pressures of any kind has opened doors of creativity for me. I am just doing this for myself, I can let go and be free and go whatever direction I want to for how ever long I want to.

Some history about this photo. I made the pic early in the morning at the dump before these two boys had woken up. They were part of a new group of dump worker-refugees, this group had not been in the dump in May during my first visit. The only shelters these new families had were very basic lean-twos. When I arrived that morning around 7am these 2 kids were sleeping maybe 8 meters from the active dump where people were already working, they're were flies everywhere and their lean-two was surrounded by debris. I remember thinking they looked so vulnerable, so helpless, so lost. This photograph is another possible final cut selection if I eventually show the work. I have a slightly wider angle neg version of this subject I might work on tomorrow.

I feel guilty I cannot get a show to tell these stories, its like I am letting all the people that allowed me the privilege of photographing them down. I need to work harder to find a show, somewhere some how. It is important that the families in the photographs have a voice, they must be allowed to speak.

Version 8, moved up to grade 2 1/2  and dodged left side an extra 10 seconds.
Printing steps for version 8 of this neg:

- Basic exposure 33 seconds (also tried 30 and 35), filter 2 1/2, f 5.6
- Dodge head of front boy 8 seconds, back boy 12 seconds.
- Burn with card top edge 50 seconds, left edge 20 seconds, bottom 30 seconds.
- Burn with mask #1, 40 seconds at filter -1

Not that difficult a print to make, it was a fun rewarding night in the darkroom. Now its off to bed I want to put in at least another 6 hours tomorrow, hopefully more.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Condo In Bangkok?

I have dreamed of having a condo somewhere in Thailand for many years. On a security guards salary it has remained a dream but maybe at some future date with lots of work it could happen. Condos in Thai run the gauntlet from cheap small places to lavish penthouses. I was thinking I might like to try to find a cheaper place, a place that had decent size but was older and easier to purchase. The condo does not have to be in the most prestigious neighbourhood but secure enough to store my camera gear there when I am in Canada.

The plan (hope) would be to buy a cheaper-larger place then fix it up (labor is cheap in Thai). I could store all my camera and flash gear there and have a small darkroom for film development. If things worked out properly I would only have to carry my film 1 way through X-ray machines and I would have to take less gear each trip as I get older and more frail. All my stuff would be waiting for me in Thailand, safe and sound, I would also have a cheap place to stay and I could prepare my own food etc.

This is something to plan and save money for in the future, I have been to Thailand 13 times I think (lost count) and will return yearly probably the rest of my life so having a place there makes sense. If I bought a place in Bangkok I would have easy access to all the photo stories in that large city. In the future if I decided to spend more time in Nepal, Burma or Cambodia more I could use Bangkok as my base of operations, cheap flights are easy to come by in Bangkok that go all over South East Asia.

If I did eventually buy something in 3 or 4 years I would have to pay the buyers fee along with lawyer and property title cost changes etc (maybe $2000- $3000). Condo fees on older places should be around $30 a month maybe cheaper, water and power are charged based on usage.

Here a are a bunch of older properties all in Bangkok that could fill the bill add another $5000-10000 in fix up fees and you can make up a very nice room for part time living and gear storage.

$24800, 51sqm

$22300 CAD, 51sqm

$24200 CAD, 63sqm

A nicer one $39000 CAD, large 2 bedroom 95sqm

Darkroom Day 30 And Going Strong

Well today is the 30th darkroom related work day in a row and I am still going strong, today I am having a very nice darkroom work session. I have 60 days to go and I do not see any reason why I should miss hitting the 90 days in a row darkroom work goal.

I have a photo acquaintance who has told me he can not work in the darkroom unless he was inspired and felt the need (that's code for not doing it very often). For a long time I agreed with him, I needed to be in a mood to print etc., I felt the same way. I think now thou I was just making excuses, we always make some kind of excuse or other to rationalize our lack of commitment to our craft. The only way to succeed at anything is hard work, repetition and commitment. In other words if you want to be a great darkroom printer, get off your lazy ass and get into the darkroom and work!

If I want to improve my printing I need to put into the hours, I need to learn (online study, books, workshops), I need to develop my craft and I need to work consistently as often as is possible. If I can work everyday in the dark for the rest of my life I will be a hell of a better printer then if I work 1 or 2 days every couple of weeks. No more rationalizing my laziness, I need to work hard to be good.

Now it's back to the darkroom to start work on the third neg of the day. I will make up some 11x14 burning masks.

Video - Print: Boy Carrying Large Box "Families of the Dump" Series, Mae Sot Thailand 2013

This is one in a series of 4 exposures I made of the boy carrying this large box like thing on his back through the dump garbage. All 4 images have some merit but I like the box isolated against the white sky (makes it look heavier) in this photo along with the positions of the back cardboard figure and the head looking down of the bicycle fellow in the background. If I ever get a show for "Families of the Dump" at a mid level Canadian Gallery/Museum this image will probably make the cut.

Here is a video of version 2 of this print::

Version 3, contrast +1/2 to #4 and 10 second extra burn on bottom edge.