Saturday, September 27, 2014

"Exposure Photography Festival" Featured In Canada Art Magazine

Here is a nice article in "Canadian Art" magazine about the "Exposure Photography Festival". I guess there are going to be talks given in Calgary by Mary Ellen Mark and Larry Towell, both of Magnum Photo Agency. I have been a huge fan of Mary Ellen Mark for years and have come to like Larry Towell's work over the last few years. I wish the talks were in Edmonton but I might make go down South to here them speak if I am not working. Larry Louie is mentioned in the same story as these 2 world class photogs, quite heady company. Larry is the best photographer in Edmonton, one of the best in Canada so that is not to big a surprise.

I guess Harcourt House is also going to show work as part of the Edmonton connection to the festival. That's a good catch. Hopefully more local people in Edmonton will join in.

Here is the link:

Update: I read the "Canadian Art" story wrong, I guess MEM and LT were speakers in past years at the festival. I missed out on hearing them, not sure how that happened, but it sucks! This year an accomplished Alberta photographer documentary photographer George Webber from Calgary is speaking along with my friend Larry.

Some More From Last Trip

I was looking through some old pic scans from last trip (November 2013) for the blurb show book and found these previously unposted shots. I might use the chid crying in garbage shot in the show.

One eyed man Mae Sot garbage dump, Thailand 2013
Child #1 Mae Sot Garbage dump,Thailand 2013
Laughing man Mae Sot Garbage dump,Thailand 2013
Child #2 Mae Sot Garbage dump,Thailand 2013
Child #3 Mae Sot Garbage dump,Thailand 2013
Family Mae Sot Garbage dump,Thailand 2013
Making cigarette Mae Sot garbage dump, Thailand 2013
Airport on the way to Thai, 2013
Wife and husband Mae Sot garbage dump, Thailand 2013
Man who lived under the freeway, Bangkok 2013
Child crying in garbage Mae Sot garbage dump, Thailand 2013
Woman who lived under the freeway, Bangkok Thailand 2013
Woman with pig Mae Sot garbage dump, Thailand 2013
Feet with flies Mae Sot garbage dump, Thailand 2013

Friday, September 26, 2014

Quote-Link: Ben Shahn

Speaking about his development as an artist from large themes to the more personal. Scotts Run was a poverty stricken coal mining community in West Virginia.

"It was on that visit to Scotts Run that I began to change, all my art up to that point had been focused on big social changes, social programs, protests that sort of thing. It was at Scotts Run that I started to see people and said to myself. 'My art from now on has to be about people, close up.'",_West_Virginia

Links: The Life Of Ben Shahn

Ben Shahn had a rather amazing life, such a compassionate and caring person. I will do some more research on him in the coming days. Here are some worthwhile link. In the first link you can hear Mr. Shahn telling his own story.

Ben Shahn Myself

Ben Shahn's Search For Utopia In America's Great Depression

Depression era photographs by Ben Shahn
Dustbowl reseltlemant poster, by Ben Shahn

Quotes: Ben Shahn (Painter, human Rights Fighter, Photographer)

Speaking of the threw subjects he strives to pro tray with his photography, from he book "Ben Shan Photographer" by Margaret R. Weiss.

"Aloneness; the impossibility to communicate with each other, which accounts for the aloneness; and thirdly, the sort of indestructible spirit of man to keep on going beyond the time when he thinks it would be impossible to arrive anywhere."

"I paint or photograph for two reasons--either because I like certain events, things or people with great intensity or because I dislike others with equal intensity."

Love this portrait of Mr. Shahn, he looks so determined, like nothing will stop him from achieving his goals.

Ben Shahn

Quote: Minolta Advert

Maybe 10 or 15 years ago I put this quote up on my darkroom wall, it is from a advertisement selling Minolta cameras (those still around?). This little statement says everything that I dream and hope for in my photography. Today when I was looking through an old "Photo Techniques" magazine I came upon it again.

"Can a photograph stop a war? Can it save a life? Can it lead to understanding, inspire someone to help, provide comfort and open the door to compassion?

Hope that it can.
Pray that it can."

Keeping An Open Mind

So many of the hobbyist photo folks I know seem rather rigid in their appreciation of photography. It is easy to fall into that trap, we all like what we like and shoot what we want but I think its extremely important to get past that limited type thinking. By opening ourselves up to work that we might not understand we enlarge our palette. It is like a person who only eats Western foods, if you open your taste buds a bit and start eating Japanese, African and South American dishes your bound to have better eating experiences. We all need to open our selves up to all types of photography, heck to all types of art! Do not be rigid in your thinking, do not make or follow stupid rules that inhibit you and your creativity.

Hopefully some of my former club people friends will show up at the coming group "Exposure" show. Even if you only like to photograph flowers, rocks, trees and or old farm buildings, why not try to see new things, in different ways?  That is why I try to visit exhibitions of all kinds, of all types of art (even the rock and flower stuff), not only subjects that are related directly to my main photo interests. It is so important as an artist to not place to many rules on your vision, we should all be able to learn from each other no matter what our photographic-art preferences are. Everyone can teach everyone something valuable.

Down with rigid thought and rules, lets learn from each other and create freely!

Super Sized Exhibition Contacts?

I was looking through a Sotherby's photography exhibition catalog last night and saw a large 16x20 contact sheet done by David Bailey of Andy Warhol. It gave me an idea to do some of my dump photo neg strips in the same form for the upcoming "Exposure Photography Festival" exhibition.

When I was in New Orleans I saw some Gordon Parks enlarged contacts exhibited to great affect and think its a nice arty type look but also fun and informative to the viewer. The people visiting the show can see the exposures made surrounding the final negatives chosen. To that end I would probably use selected negative strips, neg strips that have some of the prime show exposures on them. The contacts would be enlarged to 16x20, the same size as my show prints. I would probably make up 2 of these things. They also should be easier and faster to make, which is a bit of an added bonus.

I think this could really look cool, I might even mark my preferred shots, like real contacts. Not many people are still using film to make photographs so to give the average Joe public a look at contact sheets and an insight into the neg selection process seems like a winner to me. This would give people a view into old style photography, older techniques. Most folks probably have never seen a 35mm contact sheet.  I have the capability to do this sort of thing because of the 8x10 enlarger, so I think I will go for it. This should add a bit more fun to the exhibit, combined with the background video it will give more for the visitors to see, they can look at the prints, the moving vid footage and the enlarged contacts. We are also thinking of doing up a couple of photo books.

Hopefully Larry and I can do up a serious show that deals with important social subjects but also is an enjoyable, educational experience for everyone.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Graveyard Portraits 1999 Hong Kong

Here some more old T-max shots that are fogged somewhat and probably underexposed. I added some contrast in photoshop elements. These photos were made in a Hong Kong cemetery around 1999. Even thou there are stones and rocks in this composition the pictures are actually about the ladies pictured on the gravestones. I wonder what their lives were like. Were they happy, did they experience beautiful love and have a long meaningful lives?

Hong Kong gravestone #1, 1999
Hong Kong gravestone #2, 1999

Book Details And Tentative Book Cover

Here is the tentative book cover for the coming documentary show. The book in its current form is sort of a small retrospective of work, showing 2-8 photos of various projects through the year. The  book is simple, no titles on the photographs, just content pages for every series. I am letting the photos do the talking (or lack of talking) on their own. Every photo in the book is about a person, about a human being, no rocks for me!

The sections include:

- Dads last days.
- Families of the dump.
- Klong Toey slum.
- Thai sex worker.
- Brothel worker.
- Ladyboy sex worker.
- Muay Thai boxer.
- The people under the freeway.
- One week in Nepal.
- Tears (general topic of various photos).

Here is the first attempt at the cover, a simple layout with a recent photo of dad and my photo name. Each photo will sit by itself on the right side of the page with a blank page opposite. I will write up a short introduction as well.

Old JR Train, Train Station Shots

I was looking through some of my old negs as I am trying to design a simple Blurb book for the upcoming show (Larry's suggestion). I came across these photos which I do not recall making. The pictures were shot on T-max 3200 back in 1999 when I was photographing on the JR train line and stations in Tokyo Japan. This negs, shot in low light seem underexposed and is are very grainy but intriguing. I developed the film after it had sat in a box for 15 years in my darkroom.

I played with the pics in photoshop elements for a while and came up with these. I should be able to create something along this lines in the darkroom as well. Not sure if I will use these in the book, maybe. It is fun to go back and find old stuff like this and bring forgotten moments back to life.

Hmm "Forgotten Moments"! A book title for the future?

Here are the photos mentioned, the photos were made way back in 1999, some of the people pictured may have passed by now. It is like ghosts of their former selves returning, you got to love the power of photography.

Salary men Nikon F5 20-35mm F.2.8 and T-max 3200, Tokyo Japan 1999
Train station, Nikon F5 20-35mm F.2.8 and T-max 3200, Tokyo Japan 1999

Monday, September 22, 2014

Keeping It Simple, Staying Positive

I am a bit frightened by the prospect of getting 20-16x20 photos printed and framed for the February show. If you think of it as 20 prints it is really intimidating, each print involves a major darkroom effort. I am also worried about dads health and have many other responsibilities. When I will I find the time to do all of this? Will I be able to get it all done? I have a responsibility and must meet it.

I think its important NOT to think that way. I need to keep it simple, keep it positive. I need to make some kind of effort, some kind progress each and every day. Whether it is finding a negative, making a mask or printing int some way, it has got to be a step by step thing. Each and everyday until the show I need to do something towards getting those prints done.

Today I did some good work, tomorrow when I got off my night shift I need to put another 1-3 hours in. I will need to do that every security work day. On my days off I will need to put in 4 plus hours a day, maybe as much 12 hours a day. I need to keep tackling this, once I get 1/2 the prints done it will flow easier, everything will be down hill at point.

I have about 130 days to get this done, lets work at it boy, no excuses!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Links: Making The "Two Brothers" Print On YouTube And Vimeo

Here is a hi def 1080p version of the earlier darkroom video about the making of the "Two Brothers" photo on YouTube and a so-so quality version on Vimeo.

YouTube Version
Vimeo Version

Video: Making The Two Brothers Print

Here is a video I made up today of the printing of the "Two brothers in their garbage dump home, Mae Sot Thailand 2013"  'Exposure Photo Festival' show photograph. There are 8 steps in the printing process followed by bleaching and toning before the final archival wash.

Durst enlarger, 50mm El-Nikkor lens, Berger 16x20 paper, Dectol paper developer 1/1 for 3 minutes. The print will eventually be bleached and toned in Selenium. The photo will be signed, titled and numbered and then placed loose on archival board and over mat when framed. I do not dry mount my prints as it is not an archival process.

Printing steps:

1) 125 sec basic exposure at F4 with Agfa filter #1 1/2.
2) Dodge face of boy on left -15 seconds.
3) Dodge with cut dodging mask -85 seconds.
4) Burn left side with card +60 seconds.
5) Burn left bottom corner +40 seconds.
6) Burn background over boys head +20 seconds.
7) Burn boys lower t-shirts 15 seconds.
8) Burn right boys face +20 face and additional +10 lower face.
9) Burn with mask #1 burn +110 seconds at F2.8.
10) Burn with mask #2 +200 seconds with filter -1

Update: The print in its final version got more complicated, there were 14 steps in the end. I upped the basic contrast filter to #2 adjusted various burns, did more delicate dodging and added burns to the shirt and arm of the boy on the left. I also added more burns on the left highlighted area. Lots of work on this print and I am still not sure that I got it right. Printing is TOUGH! Tough but fun, often it is a you against negative type battle. You fight it out until the last man is left standing.

A Show Print

Am spending the day working on this photograph. Printing it with 2 masks, plus dodges and additional card burns. I am using the Durst condenser enlarger and Berger fibre warm tone 16x20 photo paper. The neg was made with my the only film I use Tri-x, a Leica M6, and the 28mm F2 lens. This is the photo that will be used for my part of the for advertising purposes. Larry spoke last night of trying to get some TV coverage of the show and the "Exposure Photography Festival" arrival in Edmonton so hopefully that might happen as well.

Two brothers in their garbage dump home, Mae Sot Thailand 2013

Just Take Photos Stupid!

All this search for and whining about grants and shows and the like is wasteful when it comes down to it none of that shit really matters. What really matters is the creation of a unique important body of work"JUST MAKE PHOTOS STUPID!" is what I need to do. Making pictures, saying what I want to say and then letting everything else fall into place. When  you do good work everything else eventually develops.

I need to concentrate 100% of my efforts into making the pictures, in the dark, in the field whatever, it should come down to the PICS, IMAGES, PHOTOS, PHOTOGRAPHS, WORK!! All that other stuff, I cannot control,  so who cares! I need to do what I can control, the making of the pics. Then if that is strong enough the stories will be told, and all the other stuff will follow.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Dad In Good Shape

Dad was in great shape today, it was almost like he was not sick. I talked with him and mom for a couple of hours, and moved around some furniture to his liking. I shared a bunch of stories with dad and he even told me a few which was nice. He smiled and laughed and seemed healthier, I know that is not the case but it was a welcome illusion. It is fun days like today I will miss so much later on.

I brought over some chocolate milk and some Chinese style chocolate treats, which he tried and liked. Whenever I bring anything over to the house dad usually eats it so I try to bring something each everyday now for him. Sometimes its meat or fruit other times herring, shrimp or fried chicken. Dad loves his sweets so chocolate of any kind is usually a good choice. Because of all the morphine and other medications dad is on his enjoyment of food is not the same as it was but he still likes to eat, so we try to get him whatever he craves.

It was a good day, not sure how many more of these we will have together, but today was good and that's sometimes enough.

Durst 1200 Enlarger Part 2

Gosh I have really started to love this new machine. The Durst 1200 is so bloody well machined, everything locks in and is set in stone. When I was making masks tonight I repeatedly took out and replaced the negative carrier, probably did it 7 or 8 times and the focus never shifted, everything stayed as sharp as the first print. I do not have to constantly refocus-check focus-adjust focus with this enlarger like I did with my old Saunders, I focus once and move on. Strangely enough I am starting to like the changing of the square filters as well. You do not have all the in between filter grades like you do with a dial system but the slowing down of the process that a filter door requires actually helps focus you a bit. It is like working a view camera because everything is so step by step in nature it forces your to think things out more clearly. I find that with these manual filters I am  do each and every step slowly and pro precisely, everything is so much more methodical.

I am going to try to get the 1 head I am missing for this enlarger. The head is called the VLS 501, it is a multi grade dial filter b/w head, similar to the one I have for my Saunders. I am not sure that I will use it but I love this 1200 so much I want to give all the heads a try. Durst is like a Leica, its just feels right, everything clicks into place securely and moves fluidly. It is an expensive enlarger and feels that way, most importantly it operates that way, so far working with it is pure joy.

If anyone out there in internet land is looking to buy a pro enlarger, I would highly recommend the Durst 1200. I would also recommend the El-Nikor 50mm lens for 35mm printing.

I better get to bed now its 417am and I have a full day of printing tomorrow, want to try to put in at least 10 hours.

Durst 1200 with condenser head, Agfa filters, Peak grain focuser and  Saunders 16cx20 easel

The Joys Of Photography

I spent 5 hours or so with Larry gabbing away about various mostly photography subjects before returning home. I wanted to go work in the darkroom but felt tired, I decided to push it a bit and make a 16x20 RC mask of a 2nd negative, taking the 3 children negative out to return to later. Once I got started making those masks thou the excitement of seeing the negs printed large and sharp with beautiful contrast for the first time was intoxicating. I could not stop printing masks of new negs, they just kept coming, one more, no one more, no just one more. The excitement the sheer joy of it all sort of overwhelmed me, the next thing I knew my one 30 minute RC print had turned into around 3 hours and 10-12 masks for 6 different negatives. You got to love photography its so exciting to create and to work in the darkroom. For me photography is pure pure joy, better than anything else. Whether it's meeting the people, entering their lives, making the pictures or printing the photographs, its all so f-ckin wonderful.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Slow And Steady

Am struggling along printing slowly, I am slowly getting closer to interpreting this difficult negative. There are both deep shadow (children) areas and blown out highlights (garbage, white plastic) in this photograph. I am getting closer to the values I want but its slow work requiring lots of concentration. I will take a nap then go to have dinner with my friend Larry and visiting dad before continuing the work later on tonight. I might also change negs for a change of pace and come back later to this one with a fresh mindset. This is an important negative I think tells an important part of the "Children of the Dump" story. I need to get this done right. I want to use this print for one of the opening images of the show.

Here is a scan of the negative I am working on:

Three children in Mae Sot garbage dump May 20013, Thailand

Durst 1200 Enlarger With Condenser Head, Love It!!

I am working on my first show photo using my new Jack donated Durst 1200 enlarger with condenser head. This thing is a fricking joy to use, I think its claims of a sharper image (because of the condensers) and more contrast are true. I made a fibre print with the diffusion Saunders and now with the Durst condenser and there is a notable difference in sharpness. The square filters are a bit unwieldy to take in and out (no simple dials) but the negative is definitely sharper and more contrasty. I also changed my lens from my old El-Nikkor 50mm to Jacks El-Nikkor 50mm so that might be a contributing to the added sharpness factor. I can put up with changing square plastic filters manually if the final print is of better quality which I think it will be.

Another big difference is that my old Saunders is not as stable and the focus can shift sometimes after only a few minutes. With the Durst I set the focus and the neg is still sharp days later. I can feel confident that the negative is sharp and do not need to readjust focus each and every time I make a new print as I do with the Saunders LPL. This is a rigid and extremely well made machine. Durst makes the best enlargers I have ever used, whether it is my 8x10, 5x7 or 4x5 versions.

I am going to try to make beautiful prints that SING with this new machine. I hope to print everyday from now until the show. With dad's health and my 12 hour night shifts it will be hard to keep up that pace but I am going to give it a good try. I need to work hard on this, I do not get exhibitions often this will only be my 5th, I need to bare down and create special work. The goal is to at least do a little printing each and every day. Some days I might print for 15 hours other days for 1 or 2 hours. I need to be moving my printing in the positive daily direction. I need to tell the stories I want to tell with some beautiful powerful prints. This new enlarger will probably be my main tool for printing the February 2015 show.

Using the Tri-x negs with grain and the added sharpness from this enlarger should yield some world class prints. I just need to work hard and keep at it until I get it done. I should also be able to produce larger size photos from 35mm negs with this machine, large 20x24 prints should prove no problem now.

The proper tools make all jobs so much easier. If I ever do platinum printing I want to get a high end machine to do the printing with, none of these home made rinky dinky half assed things. Some of my photo acquaintances claim that the home made stuff is of equal quality, I do not by that, you get what you pay for. Quality is quality, home made is home made. You got to love the Durst, Leica, Linhof, Hasselblad, high end equipment makes everything go so much easier. Not only is it much more durable and reliable but it also simply functions better and  is easier to use.

Thanks Jack for giving me a world class enlarger.


I have been thinking of nice ways to mount work IF I had the money to do it the way I wanted. Mounting the photograph like the image below would look great, a white wood frame, no mat, the print free hanging. I could also use a larger frame and double thick cut over mat to hold the photograph flat. No dry mounting either way as that is not an archival process. I think the frame thickness would need need to be about 3 inches off the wall to give the entire work more presence, more weight.

From the Getty collection photograph by Richard Avedon

Another Older Shot Of Dad

This photograph is a variation of the close up I shot of dad back on August 29th. I might like the shots done in available light more than the more gimmicky ring flash type light. Need to figure out how exactly I want to do the "Lost Innocence" portraits, I have man options. One of the problems is I might be faced with making photographs in near darkness.

With the sharpness and clarity you get out of a large digital file of dad, I could print this image very big. It might have some impact that way, thou it's a bit of cheat to do that. I see the work done in colour large with white wooden frames and bright white  double thick mats.

Dad Mark II 24-70mm August 29th 2014

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Dad Today With A Ring Flash

Here is my second attempt photographing dad with the Chinese ring flash and Mark II.

Dad ring flash #1, September 2014
Dad ring flash #2, September 2014

Quote: Mark Twain

“Religion was invented when the first con man met the first fool.”

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Dad Today

Dad was doing surprising well today, he ate a fair bit and was sitting in the front living room when I arrived. I am not sure how many more days we have left together but it was so nice today to tell him about my day and learn about his. I worry about how mom will be when she loses dad, they have been married for 57 years and known each other for about 60..

Photo was made with the Mark II and 24mm F1.4. I like the tonality-clarity of digi but miss the earthiness-contrast-grain of film when I use the Canon. I guess they both have their strengths. Will go back to shooting dad with the Leica's in the coming days.

Dad September 18, 2014

Darkroom Calling, Time To Answer

Enough gear talk, time to make some prints. I have been loaded down with yard work at both my house and my fathers over the last few days. I need to get into the darkroom and start printing! I would much rather spend 12 hours in the dark versus 6 hours of loading branches into a truck and cleaning up dried up gardens.

Things are coming together slowly thou. I have a bunch of negs for printing, I have my enlargers set up and I have things more organized in my mind. A big part of all shows is figuring out exactly what you want to say and the best way to say it. My friend Larry is helping me in this regard. So many photo people in Edmonton take a lazy ass come see come saw (“Comme ci, comme ca” ) attitudes toward photography.  They could care less if it is done or not, most would rather have a scotch or socialize for days before eventually getting around to the photo stuff. Or they do the old excuse thingy as to why they are not creating or printing or whatever, there is always a reason why they are not making pics.

It is good to be around hardcore folks who push you in the right direction. I can get lazy or distracted also so having people like Larry and the other few other hardcore photo people I know is a good thing. It is positive peer pressure thingy versus the negative kind. Being with folks who put photography 1st or 2nd not 7th or 8th is always a good thing. It is hard to find those type folks but when you do its a win win all around. When you do you become a better photographer.

Now I got to stop the talking, writing and whining, no more pussy footing around, lets spend extended periods in the dark! If your looking for me I will be the fellow in the smelly room, under the romantic red light covered in Dectol, see you later alligator!

I Cut Down My Filters!

I cut down some 6x6 filters to fit my Durst 1200 condenser head, OUCH! I had to cut down the 6x6 filters to 4 5/8x 4 5/8 to fit the filter draw on the head. I hated doing it but that is one of the advantages of having backups. I had 2 Ilford 6 inch by 6 inch filter box sets and also 2 Agfa 6x6 sets (in nice protective booklets). Once I remembered where I had hidden the filter backups I was set to go. Out came the cutter and waullau I had filters that fit the filter draws. I decided to go with a set of the Agfa filters first.

Luckily the filter drawer on my 5x7 condenser enlarger that I also got from Jack free uses the same size filters, so I if I do not use this 1200 condenser head for every day use I can still use my MUTILATED filters in the 5x7 machine. I am not sure how much if any difference there is between the Agfa and Ilford filter sets but if need be I can cut down my Ilford back up set as well. The Agfa product seems to be made on thicker less delicate plastic, which makes extensive handling a bit easier. Will give the Agfa set a run through, if I notice no differences I will just use them for all multi-contrast papers.

Going to try the condenser head for the first time after I eat some supper. My one concern is that the bulb does not seem super bright. I might switch to the colour head for b/w printing for that single reason. Even if I do switch I think the condenser head with the #5 filter will work best for max contrast on some of my more abstract photos (Daido Moriyama's influence). I believe the combination of the condenser and the #5 filter will give more contrast than the colour head at maximum magenta. I might try this super high contrast look on one of dads pics for the show.

Booklet of cut down Agfa filters for the Durst 4x5 and 5x7 condenser enlargers.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Got The Durst Condenser Head Working!

I got the Durst condenser head working a few minutes ago. With the stuff Jack sent me I placed the Femocon 50 and 80 condensers in combination along with a recessed lens board and the Durst 1200 condenser head and now everything is working A-OK!! It did not take long to set up once I had all the parts, maybe 20 minutes. All the years of enlarger experience plus a bit of research online in the last few weeks made everything go fast.

I also put together 2 negative carriers, one a glassless carrier with special metal inserts for 35mm and one a glass carrier. My third carrier needs a bit of maintenance, I will take it to work next week and fix it up. First I had no carriers, now I have 3, go figure!

Will take a nap and then start printing with the condenser enlarger tonight. They make the claim in the manual that the condenser enlarger is prints the sharpest photo and has more contrast. I think the contrast thing is true but not sure about their sharpness claim. I gues I will find out.

I had to set up a whole shelf area for my extra enlarger lens. I have another 7 set up on various enlargers as well. Not sure what the total number of enlarger lens I own now, probably around 30-35. The new ones I am most excited by are a 240mm Rodenstock for the 8x10 enlarger a new slightly different style 50mm El Nikkor 2.8 and a 60mm Rodenstock (cannot find a workable lens board for it yet). I will work with all these new lens and find out which works best and move on from there. I also now own 2 of those triple lens rotating boards for the Durst 5x7 and 8x10 as well as 2 more single lens boards for the same machines.

To many options I could definitely open up a second or even a third darkroom with no problems, I have enough gear to do that quite easily. It is always good to have backups as things break quite often. Recently I broke my Saunders 4x5 glass carrier and now I have one for my Durst 4x5. I also was able to cut down some extra 6x6 filters to 4 5/8 by 4 5/8. Having backups is always a good thingy.

Update: I forgot to mention another wonderful lens Jack gave me, a 135mm El-Nikkor. I now have 2-50mm, a 80mm, 2-105mm, 135mm, 150mm, 210mm and 240mm versions of this wonderful enlarging lens. I love both the enlarger and view camera Nikon lens, they are my overall favourites. When I make view camera photos I shoot a 150mm Nikon with my 4x5 and used a 300mm Nikon for all my sex worker on white pics. So the Nikon lens are on both ends of the process for me.

Durst 1200 condenser enlarger with peak grain longer neck focuser.
Shelf with some of my enlarger lens, got a ton of these things now.

My Friend Jack Comes Through

Jack came through big time. He sent me 2 large boxes of darkroom gear from Prince Edward Island, I picked it up at my friend Larry's shop today. He sent me 10 lens, 3 grain focuser's (two are the expensive high end ones).  I got a bunch of condensers for the Durst 1200 along with diffusion boxes (femobox) and 2 carriers! I even got anti newton glass for the carriers. To bad I am bidding on some glass now and bought another piece for $90 USD recently. I also bought a Durst 1200 carrier for $74 USD. To bad I bought those things Jack came thou and sent me everything I was lacking. I now have 3 carriers and enough glass to make 2 1/2 glass carriers (if I win an auction currently on Ebay).

There were also all kinds of odds and ends in the boxes that will be useful.

- Scissors
- Exacto knife
- Photo paper
- Large Thermometer
- Safelight filters
- 6x9 neg carrier
- Lens tissue
- Patterson printing texture screen
- 2 plastic loupes
- Extra bulbs
- Old style timer and 2 foot switches
- Various cords
- Enlarger lens boards, all shapes and sizes (6 or 7)
- 1 triple enlarger lens board rotating style
- Couple of 4x5 sheet hangers
- Cleaning clothes

One of my favourite items is a big end grain focuser with an extended neck. I will not have to bend down as much and use my monkey arms to focus my new now. Another highlight item is a 240mm Rodenstock enlarger lens with board I can use with the 8x10 enlarger. I also got 2-210mm lens.

I am going to try to set up the condenser head for the Durst 1200 tonight. If that does not work I will revert to the colour head which I know will work.

I have everything I need times 2 or 3. Now its time to use maybe the best equipped darkroom in Edmonton (Alberta?) to do some high end quality printing for the coming group show. I got the negs, I got the darkroom, I got the gear, and I got the photo paper. No excuses lets dive in and print.


One of the little add ons from the Jack boxes, a super sized thermometer, to use in old age?

Monday, September 15, 2014

First Dad With Ring Light

Here is my first head shot attempt with the ring flash and the Mark II. Dad looks kind in this photo. My whole life whenever I needed him for anything he was always there for me. You can kind of see that softness in his eyes, the soft heart he had inside to cover a sometimes gruff exterior outside. With dad it was always the kids first and himself second. It is one the reasons I want to do a book of 5x7 camera portraits of children living in poverty, dad always worries about the children, and helping them. Whenever we watched a documentary or news stories with suffering children in it dad would say "Why do they make the kids if they can't take care of them?" Must have heard him say that more than a dozen times through the years. I might put that quote in the forward of the book, where I give dad his dedication. Dad always felt it was so important to take care of his/your kids, to be there for them whenever and help them with whatever they needed.

I added some contrast, clarity and vibrancy in photo shop elements. I also played around a bit with the colour curves. The background was a nice red that went dark after my manipulations, I think if I was printing this photo seriously I would keep the red tones in. I also have the option of shooting at different light ratios with this flash unit. The flash is not a true ring flash it is actually two separate flash units placed side by side. I might try different light ratios in the coming day to see what that looks like. This photo was made with straight on flat even ring type light. I shot it at about 40mm up close to try and create a bit of distortion for visual effect.

Dad September 14 2014, ring light and Mark II

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Quotes: Frank Hurley (Photographer)

 Hurley was always searching to make the perfect photograph, he would go to any length to achieve that perfection. The first quote below was written by Hurley on his Antarctic darkroom wall.

"Near enough is not good enough."

 Hurley made photographs his whole life and died at 76, this is what he said near the end.

"I've eaten raw seal meat and caviar. I've drunken melted and ice and champagne. I've lived the life that suited me took risks and did not complain. If I could live my life over again I would do it all exactly the same."

Photo Story: Inside Klong Toey Slum Home

This photo was included in my "The Train Is Coming" solo show at the Kaasa Gallery in 2012.

"The Train Is Coming" Opening Night Video At The Kaasa Gallery

This picture was made in Bangkok's Klong Toey slum, in the home of one of the slums richer residents. I photographed the inside of the owners home and the owner as well as he watched TV. The home was owned by an older man and his wife who was sleeping as I visited. The thing I remember most is that I had a conversation with the man about the corrupt Thai police in the area. The owner (forget his name now, it is on the blog somewhere) told me that the police had arrested his son for drug use and that if he had enough money to pay them a bribe the young man would have gotten off but he did not have the money so his son went to jail. I guess the way it works is the taller the arrested person is the more the bribe cost (taller means they are older). I  also photographed the owner in front of his home (picture int he Kaasa show as well), he made a living by collecting bottles on his motorbike. He was a very nice and friendly fellow to me. The kings picture is very common in Thai homes, you can see him in the calendar on the wall next to the fridge. Thais love their king with good reason he does lots to help the ordinary people of Thailand. This view is rather typical of what you will find in most Thai homes, a TV, rice cooker, photo of the king and beat up old fridge. The house was kept in pretty decent order, very clean, I made sure I took off my shoes on entering. I was welcomed in with open arms and a smile by a man who did not even know me, try doing that in the West!

I want to do more household interiors in the future, they are visually compelling and important documentary images. On a tech note the pic was made with a Fuji 6x9 camera and Tri-x 120 with a bit of direct flash.

Update: Here is the original story from 2010, this blog was written just after I made this picture. I did not include the mans whole name in this blog entry to protect him in case the police or someone else read the story and was angry about what he had told me regarding bribery. The link gives much more information than I remembered, thank goodness for the blog, everything you write is stored for future reference. A good learning tool and fun to do besides.

Original Blog Entry

Klong Toey slum home interior, 2010

Photo Story: Bangkok Security Guard

I made this picture back during my 10 month trip to Thailand in 1999. The photo was made on Sukhumvit road in Bangkok during my nightly prowling. I used to walk the streets with 2 Mamiya 6 cameras and flash doing photos of sex workers and other night time workers and groups. Everything was shot on Tri-x, unfortunately I got some kind of reticulation from the Bangkok water when I developed the many of the films I had a small darkroom set up in my Bangkok apartment and much of the film was damaged during the development process maybe during the initial pre-soak which I extended to long at times. 

This man was a security guard at one of the the smaller hotels on the road. I love the blase, bemused, tired expression and the off kilter tie. I have never tried printing this photograph but might give it an attempt in my later years. I work security so have an affinity to photographing other guards (lots of weird looking uniforms), maybe a future series subject, series idea 999! Maybe shot with the new Mark II 5D and ring flash at night in colour.

Security guard on Sukhumvit road 1999, Bangkok Thailand

Frank Hurley Photographer

Frank Hurley was the photographer on the ill fated Shackleton expedition. At one point before the expeditions ship the Endurence sank he risked his life diving into freezing Antarctic water to get his glass negatives. You got to love that! The survivors would say later that he went to any length to make his photographs and films. Here is a link to a bit of his life's story. He became a war photographer in 1917 after his escape from Antarctica. The high quality work he created using the very primitive photographic tools he had is rather amazing, His extreme determination and hard work is an inspiration to us all. He didn't make excuses he just made photographs.

Photographer Frank Hurley
Elephant island party Shackleton expedition members around 1916 by Frank Hurley
Chateau Wood Ypres 1917 WWI by Frank Hurley

Quote-Links: "Shackleton" Film

"Find a way or make one."

From the script of the TV movie "Shackleton". The quote refers to the men's determination to survive their doomed Antarctic crossing in 1914. I think the quote fits much of life's difficulties (at least in the Western countries), no excuses, none of the I cannot do this or that BS. "Find a way to do it or make a way to do it." If your determined enough and work hard enough you can accomplish most anything, it usually comes down to desire and not giving up when things are stacked against you.

Here is a link to the 2 part A&E movie if your interested. Shackleton was made in 2002 with a wonderful performance by Kenneth Branagh and others. I love how the expeditions photographer Frank Hurley plays a central roll and is a bit of a hero in it all. It is because of his great work that much of the Shackleton Expedition is remembered, the power of photographs and film.

A Link to some of Hurley's photographs.

A documentary on the Shackleton expedition using much of Hurley's footage.

The expedition ship Endurance stuck in crushing Antarctic ice by Frank Hurley 1914

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Hardest Part

The hardest part of the "Lost Innocence" series is not all the tech stuff I have been discussing over the  last few days. The thing that is most difficult is entering the brothel world again. I did this in 1999 two times and 2003 a few times and those memories still haunt me. I can still see those lost souls when I close my eyes, the desperation, the waste, the destroyed lives. Going back and living that again is not something I look forward to doing, but if I do not do that then how are the photos made? If I do not enter those worlds the photos are probably not made and the stories are probably not told. The people that would have had been remembered at least a little through the pictures might never be recognized, the workers would most likely be used up and quickly forgotten then replaced by the next generations. It is a never ending cycle of abuse.

This first picture below is of a girl working a brothel in Poi Pet Cambodia shot in 2003. I forget the workers name, I will have to look it up in my records. I remember I photographed her 2 times and both times she seemed drugged. She had this vacant stare that said all you needed to know about the brothel, she was there but totally gone, totally used up, so young but so old. In front of the brothel where she worked maybe 10 women/girls were sitting in the dark under the pink brothel lights their faces painted white and red waiting for Cambodian  customers. All the workers were so worn out, beat down many used drugs probably to dull their pain. Cambodian males paid $2-4USD for service often arriving 2 at a time on motorbikes. Cambodian slang for going to a brothel was "Lets go invade Vietnam!" (many brothel workers are illegal Vietnamese people).

Vietnamese brothel working Poi Pet Cambodia 2003
One night I visited and was sitting behind the seated workers looking for customers. I sat with the mama and papason and other family members nursing a can of coke I paid $5 USD for. I was trying not to get kicked out of the place. I practiced some Khmer language skills with them and wrote stuff down in my little Khmer dictionary. The brothel owners (husband and wife) whole family lived together with the workers, they also had a young daughter and grandchild. I do not think their daughter went with customers. The Vietnamese and Cambodian workers were not much older than than the owners daughter. I kept on thinking "How can you sell these girls? You would not do that to your own daughter, why can you do it with these others??"  One kind girl from the brothel showed me marks on her body where the mamason had beaten her with a bamboo stick or hanger. She had 3 or 4 huge long welts on her upper legs.

What happened to them all after I left in 2003? How many are still alive? This Poipet brothel is the saddest place I ever made photographs, I am not looking forward to going back to those type worlds again.

The second photo is of Tan I still can remember the day I photographed her clearly even thou it was around 14 years ago back in 1999. I was very nervous and uncomfortable in that brothel area, Tan saw that  as I was walking by and took my hand, she walked me to a local area where they had rooster fighting stalls, a place they held those matches for gambling. I took her photo later on in the same day and visited her another time after that. On the second visit I remember just sitting with the girls from Tan's brothel outside next door to where they worked, we ate something and there was a small pet bird they had, a a beautiful thing that just flipped about outside its cage, the girls played with it. I think I photographed that bird with the girls or beside the girls, have to check back into my old negative binders.

Tan Vietnamese brothel worker in Svay Pak Cambodia 1999
Both these woman are probably gone now. With little or no protection from HIV and other diseases, with little or no medical care when they get sick, they are probably both gone. These two girls whose lives were destroyed by the brothels is the reason I must force myself to go back into that ugly and dangerous world. Stories like theirs happen daily all over South East Asia to thousands, tens of thousands maybe hundreds of thousands of lives, someone needs to record their lives, to tell their stories, to remember them.

It seems so much easier to be a photographer who takes pictures of rocks and trees like most folks I know. You don't get nightmares from taking pretty and pleasant landscapes. The thing is I do not want to do the same same photography everyone else does so I guess being haunted is part of that bargain. Maybe having the memories of the workers in the brothels is a good thing, those memories are pushing me to continue telling their stories.

Friday, September 12, 2014

"Lost Innocence" Thought, Dreams?

As I was walking my security rounds I thinking through the project. I need to humanize the workers more, photos are not enough. I need to learn personal information to connect the viewer with the subject more. If I can make the viewer think of the person in terms of their own lives, their own girlfriends, sisters, wives, daughters then the project would have greater impact. I need to find out personal info on each of the workers I photograph. How many sisters, brothers they have, their hometown, age (they sometime lie about this), their hopes, their thoughts, maybe a quote and of course their names. The quote might be the most powerful extra I could add.

The problem is of course language. If they speak English Thai or Laotian (similar to Thai) I will not have to much of a problem but I only know a few words of Burmese and Khmer and no Vietnamese or hill tribe dialects. Maybe a translator is the answer thou working with others always brings about extra baggage. I am used to doing 100% of everything myself, its been me, myself, and I on all my photo projects through the years, to bring others in would be difficult for me and problematic.

If I title a photograph "Brothel Worker #1" that's not enough, I can call the photograph brothel worker but I then need to hit the viewer with more personal information, I need them to relate and feel for the subject more. Maybe I can ask the worker what her dreams are, what she would wish for if she could.

The combination of the close powerful portrait and that persons name, age and dream quote could really work well. Imagine 10-36 inch on the vertical colourful  head shots on a wall. They would be framed in 4 or 5 foot white wood with the personal info and dreams of the subject written large directly on the print . It could all be be very powerful.

I might even be able to have a GoPro video of the making of the pictures at the exhibition so the viewer could hear the subjects own voice, that would really humanize and personalize this work. This could be the most important project I ever create. I wish I could start tomorrow but I first I need to earn the money to pay for everything. No public art folks are going to give me a grant for these photographs, its all up to me, today I work security tomorrow I will create.

"Lost Innocence" Two Visual Options

Tonight I have been thinking of two different ways of shooting the Lost Innocence" series of images. Both series would be ring flash variations on tight close head shots or head and shoulder shots. Am not sure which options works best will have to experiment.

1) Hasselblad ring flash Tri-x, square format images. I would print them onto large tintypes in the wet plate process. I would have to convert the negatives to positives first then use an enlarger to expose the plates. These images would have a unique strong old fashioned type feel to them. I would use larger size tintypes probably 8x10, 11x14 or maybe even 16x20.

2) Canon Mark II colour shots with ring flash, vertical images. I would print these images large, probably 20x24 or maybe even larger (30"+ vertical?) depending on what the image quality can handle. I would go heavy on colour saturation, vibrancy etc in photo shop and print on a glossy sheen type printer paper. Maybe high contrast as well, would have to play with the look.

Hmm do not have the money for it but large white wooden frames and maybe a bright white over mat would also give a nice finishing look to these high gloss colour saturated photos.

Note* Also thinking of taking some black cloth with me when I shoot.  I could tape the cloth to a wall behind the subject to get a uniform neutral background colour for the ring flash light.

Update* Scratch the name and age of the subject into the collodion of the tintype? Or write the name and age of the subject on the colour print with some kind of black or silver permanent felt pen. Do it digitally?

MEKE MK-14EXT LED Macro Ring Flash FC-122 Ring Flash For Canon Mark II 5D

Got my cheapoish (yes that's a word) Chinese ring flash today. I bought it off eBay a month or so back, they marked it as a gift valued at $7 so no extra taxes, the unit was not that expensive  $103 USD plus a bit for shipping.

It seems like a nice little unit and with the digi cameras LCD you get immediate feedback to see if the exposure is right or wrong. When I used various ring flashes with film cameras through the years proper exposure was always difficult. I have a nice set up with TTL metering and my blad ring flash that works well but all the other ring flashes I owned were difficult to use. This one so far seems quite good, quite simple to use. It is actually two 1/2 flashes not a complete ring but I think it should still work well. It also has separate lights for you can turn on so to focus/compose in complete darkness, a very nice feature. Not sure how long this Chinese product will work but if I get one longer Asian trip out of it that will be enough, I will be satisfied. Might get a back up to this one eventually if I find it works well. Currently I have it mounted on my 24-70mm, it vignettes at 35mm or less so I will have to shoot with at at 35-70mm only which is a bit of a drag but not sure how to avoid that.

This will be the last bit of photo equipment I buy for a while outside of extra batteries and storage cards. I have enough gear, time to make photos. I have been good over the last 5 years not buying much stuff but with this latest digi buying spree I sort of fell off the wagon, time to climb back on now. I have all the digi tools I need now, no more purchases until I buy a used Mark III in a few years. I need to save money for traveling back to Asia.I have enough funds for a 6 month trip but need to save more for future trips.

I bought the ring flash with 2 ideas in mind.

1) To do a series of portraits of dad while I can still make. I will start photographing dad with the ring tomorrow. Doing pictures of dad was the main motivation for all this digi camera buying. This is my last chance to do that style shooting, when dad is gone it will be to late. I want to record my father in the most complete way I can, to tell his story to the best of my ability. Whats a little money compared to the importance of doing that?

2) Possibly use it for the"Lost Innocence" project work. Do close up portraits of the faces of the exploited brothel workers. I was thinking of doing a series of tight powerful flash portraits that detail the humanity, exploitation and vulnerability of the workers. Not sure if I will print it in colour or b/w but with digi I have both options in one shot.

Note * I might also just shoot this series with the blad and ring flash on Tri-x. I will experiment with both systems to see what works best.
MK-14EXT LED Macro Ring Flash FC-122
Note** For those that do not know "Lost Innocence" is a project I have been thinking of doing for several years documenting the girls/women sold into the brothel life around South East Asia. The project would be an attempt to sledgehammer home the realities of those people's lives, lives that are so often forgotten. It would show the ugliest underbelly of the sex industry in South East Asia by highlighting, humanizing the invisible worker. Once the viewer sees the damaged and abused eyes of these women up close maybe they will remember them. Drawing awareness to a abuse is the first step to destroying it.  I want to brand the photo into the viewers mind. I want to make pictures the viewer will never forget.

As Steve McCurry said " What's important to my work is the individual picture, standing on its own, with its own light, tone, structure. I tell stories, but I strive for individual pictures that will burn into people's memories."

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Quote: Ernest Shackleton (Explorer)

"By endurance we conquer."

Quote-Link: Robert Browning (Poet)

Here is a snippet from a Browning poem. The entire longer Rabbi Ben Ezra poem is linked.

"What I aspired to be,
And was not, comforts me:
A brute I might have been, but would not sink i' the scale"

Link: Lee Miller And Picasso

Lee Miller had a long term friendship with Pablo Piccasso. Here is a link to a story about 6 works Picasso did of Miller in 1937.

In b/w photograph Miller is visiting Picasso soon after the liberation of Paris in 1944. She was working as a photographer with the Allied forces at that time.

Picaso and Miller  1944
Portrait of Miller, 1937 by Pablo Picasso

Quote: Lee Miller (Photographer)

I am reading a biography on the photographer Lee Miller tonight, she had such an extraordinary life. The book is called "Lee Miller A Life" by Carolyn Burke.

Here is a quote from the opening pages by Lee.

"I keep saying to everyone, ' I didn't wasted a minute, all my life--I had a wonderful time.' but I know, myself, now that if I had to it over again I'd be even more free with my ideas, with my body and my affections."

Boxes On The Way, Durst 1200 Almost Ready To Use

Just got word that my friend Jack sent out a bunch of boxes from Prince Edward Island last week. The stuff should arrive sometime soon. I am eager to get everything up and going in the darkroom. I might use the Durst 1200 as my main enlarger for the coming show. I guess there are several boxes of gear coming, I need to reimburse Jack's shipping costs, around $90 CAD.

Yesterday morning I hooked up the enlarger, attached the lens, timer, etc but I still need to figure out how everything is put together. I have gear for both the colour and a condenser heads. I am mostly concerned with trying to figure out which condenser configurations go with 35mm, 120 and 4x5 film sizes. Am printing out the PDF manual for the 1200 tonight at work. I could probably figure out the what goes with what myself but why struggle with that when they have written how to instructions online for free. Got to love the Internet!

Quotes: Roy DeCarava

"Art has the ability to speak many languages."

"Beauty is not in the camera, beauty is in the person."

Link: Roy DeCarava Video

I started looking through the work of the photographer Roy Decarava again recently. I have always admired the beauty of his prints and vision. Check out this 20 minute video profile on him, they show a bit of his shooting and photographic philosophy, they even show him in the darkroom, he was a master printer.

Hearing this man speak is inspiring, please take a listen if you have a chance. Roy DeCarava died at 89 in 2009. He left behind a vast, important and beautiful body of work.

Man coming up subway stairs,1952 by Roy DeCavara