Giclées, Pigment Prints & The Real Thing
Saturday, April 27, 2013
|The Bond Girl that wasn't|
Many moons ago I looked down on photographers who used colour negative film. I considered them to be shoddy photographers who could not handle the exacting exposure standards of transparency film (slides).
Then I read that National Geographic
photographers (remember many moons ago) took an extra camera (a Nikon FM-2 loaded with colour negative film) when they went to remote places they knew they could not return to. The colour negative gave more leeway for exposure judgement and the Nikon FM-2 (I own and use three, and I used one of them in the picture shown here) worked beautifully without batteries.
I have always taken pride in being able to print my own b+w negatives (in the late 70s printed my colour slides and colour negatives). I still do. All the photographs listed as gelatin silver prints (arts speak for photographs printed on photographic paper in a darkroom) in my show are all pictures I have printed myself. Many on the wall and about 100 8x10s I have printed in the last three weeks. Some are from negatives I have taken either weeks or just a couple of months ago.
A few of the pictures will be identified as giclées (art speak for an ink jet print and there is another term used now with increasing art speak popularity, the pigment print). I have had Grant Simmons at DISC
(someone I have trusted for at least 15 years to interpret my colour work) make an edition of small giclées (4 inches on the long side) which are 20 different and three of each.
These are inkjet prints done on beautiful and very heavy matte paper.
It was approximately 10 years ago when in a fit of anger I opened my living room window and threw my Canon inkjet printer out. I got lots of pleasure to hear it crash. I have not looked back since and when I want a good colour print I go to Simmons at DISC.
A silver gelatin print signed on the back in pencil by a photographer means (or should mean) that the photographer has personally printed from a negative in his or her darkroom. If the photographer is famous and or dead (Ansel Adams is a good example) and you find a vintage print (printed around the time it was taken) and signed in the back by Adams you might consider booking a long vacation on the Cayman Islands. You will be able to afford it.
Now what can be said about an inkjet printed by a photographer? You mean that the photographer pressed a button on his desktop Epson. The shine is a bit off until we learn that there is more to making a giclée beyond pressing a button. I leave it to artists (and an artist he is) to people such as Grant Simmons to make those prints for me. Does that make my giclées signed in pencil on the front less valuable? Probably except there is no way I could interpret myself in front of a very large inkjet printer that resembles the front end of an Audi with any degree of skill.
Something else I must broach here is the idea that a giclée cannot touch a “real” photographic print from a “real” film negative. As we who shoot film and print our own negatives is reduced to the same brotherhood of about to be extinct experts in French Polish or those who used to adjust spark plug gaps for a living, the idea that a giclée is somewhat inferior is preposterous. I would not have stated this just a few years ago except that I now find myself in making images in which the final result is digital and I cannot print these digital files in my darkroom. The pigment print then becomes the only avenue beyond showing the image on a computer monitor.
The bulk of my giclées for the show at the Duthie Gallery
comes from either scanned Fuji b+w Instant Film prints (the prints are 7x7 cm) or by scanning the peel (a sort of negative). I must use a scanner. The Fuji instant peel is not transparent like that of a conventional film negative.
Other giclées are film negatives where I have scanned but kept the negative as a negative. And there is one giclée (show here) in which I scanned one individual frame from a b+w 35mm contact sheet (film used was Kodak B+W Infrared Film) which is quite tiny at 300 dpi to four inches on the long side. I love the result. A purist would say, “Alex photograph that frame with a macro lens and then print the negative.” That, indeed, is a solution. But as I approach this digital age at my old age I do not think I am that keen on patience just to be a purist. I have my own standards and I will not ever exhibit a picture printed by an Epson printer that is on my desk. I have a desk but I do not own an Epson printer. What I have is an Epson V700 Photo Scanner. With it, I sometimes feel I can do anything.
Whence they came?
The medium of my message
People, plants & passion
My personal take on Eros
A day in the garden and a solarized violin
A respite from isolation
Art Phillips - City Father With A Mean Hook Shot
Friday, April 26, 2013
In 1991 I went to the memorial services for Harvey Southam at Christ Church Cathedral. I remember that day distinctly because the night before suffering a bout of insomnia I knew that I had to go. I sat as far back as it was possible, I could have rested my head on the back wall of the church. An Anglican minister spoke of summers at Qualicum Beach and of other events I knew were in the process of becoming past history for our young city of Vancouver. I did not spot any people of colour, people from the Indian Subcontinent nor anybody from the Far East. This was one of the last events that our city would host to what were the former powerful decision makers of our city and province. I thought that some day anthropologists would cite that day as the changing of the guard. After the service Malcolm Parry, Nick Hills, the very English Editor-in-Chief of the Vancouver Sun
and a few others and I went across the street to the Hotel Vancouver for drinks.
Today I returned not to Christ Church Cathedral but to the now Fairmont Hotel Vancouver for a warm and almost happy celebratory memorial service for our former mayor, Arthur Phillips.
As I entered the huge ballroom I spotted, little by little at least 50 people I have photographed in the past. I noted that there was an obvious but very small increase in the ethnic mix. I spotted Vancouver Police Chief Constable Jim Chu and Faye Leung, the Vancouver Hat Lady. If there were more non-Caucasians I did not notice them.
Again I felt, the day before that I had to go. I had a similar feeling that it was a Harvey Southam
kind of defining day. I ran into the very tall lawyer and entrepreneur, former publisher of Vancouver Magazine
and Equity Magazine
, Ronald Stern. I told him of that Qualicum Beach summers of the past and that it was a sad occasion for Vancouver with the loss of Art Phillips. Stern has the talent for going straight for the jugular and said, “These events are not really similar, Harvey was so young!”
The speakers were excellent but in particular Justice Grant Burnyeat, Q.C.’s listing of Art Phillips’s achievements as mayor of Vancouver was astounding as most of his initial goals were all realized. We now have politicians who give us campaign promises that few of us believe will be carried out. It seems that Phillips was part of a rosier, more honest and less cynical Vancouver. He was a mayor with lots of class.
Phillips’s wife Carole Taylor
told us that Phillips’s inaugural speech should be read by all of us. His promises and goals as Burnyeat had mentioned were all realized. Digesting such a speech might help straighten our present generation of politicians.
I left the memorial saddened and when I got home I found my wife Rosemary tutoring our 15 year-old granddaughter Rebecca in math. I had to tell Rebecca where I had been and what I had seen. But knowing that I would soon lose her attention I said something brief like this:
“Like any city in the world, Vancouver has its social classes. It has rich people, a middle class and poor people. In this 21st century those classes are mostly separate. Lawyers talk to lawyers and politicians to politicians. Access for the average person is denied to most stratospheric social circles. But Vancouver, to your grandfather the photographer, has given him access to everything and everybody. I once was asked by Harvey Southam to shoot a meeting at the Bentall Centre. He told me, ‘Alex we are going to decide on a chancellor for Simon Fraser.’ I have never been denied access. I have been made to feel part of this which is really not only your city, but finally mine, too. And I never felt more part of this city as I heard people talk about Art Phillips, a man I was lucky to have met and photographed, and perhaps like summers in Qualicum will be a history/man that will not be repeated.”
Our city has changed. I almost did not recognize those men I had photographed so long ago. Like me they are old.
Rosa 'Charles de Mills' At VanDusen Plant Sale
Thursday, April 25, 2013
|Rosa 'Charles de Mills' |
Some years ago I was taking photographs of the cemetery at the Tsleil-Waututh Nation (formerly the Burrard Indian Reserve in North Vancouver). My companion was Chief Len George. It was in the middle of winter and snow flakes were filtering down among the tomb markers and crosses. George told me, “We have the tradition that if you survive a winter you will probably live for another year.” When he said this it struck me that we who garden live with the same idea that if a garden and its individual plants, survive the winter, spring will bring the hope of another year of beauty and fulfillment.
We live in a zone that is somewhat similar to that of England so many of the plants that grow in that old country grow here. But we have those infrequent but deadly March frosts that kill many a plant ready to bud out.
This particularly affects roses in my garden and perhaps in the gardens of others.
I have many hostas and hostas are hardy in Yellowknife. They live year after year not fazed by anything. The trees of our garden, some are very old, succumb to that very human but really universal thing we call old age.
Roses are in a different classification. For me a rose is the plant incarnation of an individual human being.
All babies are born as pure potential. They are slapped and cry and breathe into the existence of our really unsheltered world even if in those early years they have the arms of their mother.
Roses are pure potential. You buy them and regardless of what catalogues will say about them, you buy an unknown entity that will seek your help or somehow survive (sometimes) in spite of your un-motherly instincts in the garden.
It is that unknown factor (that thrill of surprise)and hope, that a particular rose will thrive and give you fragrant and colourful blooms that explains why I now have about 80 roses in my garden. Some roses, the remontant ones will bloom once and then again and again. If your rose is in a sunny situation you might boast of having a rose bush still in bloom at the end of November.
Then there are those unremontant (a word that with the exception of Lazarus and his Master defines us all) roses, generally called once-blooming roses that are like generous fireworks that “come hither to me” once and they are gone for a year.
Amongst those once blooming roses is a Gallica Rose (and old rose that may have originated in France or in Germany, people are not sure, it is a mystery) called Rosa
‘Charles de Mills’. It is many petalled and in an almost impossible colour to describe that is a mixture of red, crimson and purple. The scent is heavenly and the individual roses look like some rosarian barber with a very sharp razor has flattened the front of the blooms to a precise perfection that astounds those who see my Charles de Mills.
No what more can I say about Charles de Mills to lure you into going to this Sunday’s VanDusen Plant Sale and to run in the direction of the Vancouver Rose Society booth to buy one?
This rose suckers. This means that after a couple of years you will note plants, identical brothers (or sisters?) will grow around your parent plant. You will wait a year and then you will carefully (this is easy) lift the rose out of the ground (best done in winter or in early spring when the plant is dormant) while severing its connection to its parent with a sharp knife or with secateurs (a nice French word for a rose clipper).
This means that you can give these little plants away and share with your friends that potential so close to a human that every rose is one’s garden.
Here is the complete list of roses being sold this Sunday at the VanDusen Plant Sale. Click on the image to enlarge. There is Mutabilis, there is Guislaine de Feligonde, there is...if in doubt ask any of the rose experts at the booth. I know them all and two in particular are dear to me:
|Peter Lekkas & Rebecca Stewart|
The Man That Was Brother Edwin Charles Reggio, CSC
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Once Mike O’Connell, HS Class of 67, found out this morning that Brother Edwin Reggio, CSC had died today in South Bend Indiana he decided he best tell me in person via the telephone.
I can still remember Brother Edwin’s last words in March when I visited St. Ed’s and stayed at the St. Joseph Hilton (St. Joseph Hall). I had asked him if he were going to miss Texas as he was headed for a 24/7 facility in South Bend, Indiana. He looked at me and with that half smile of his he said, "To miss Texas I will first have to remember it.”
For a person who was slowly loosing his mind and memory, that was pretty epistemological. It left me astounded.
Not too long ago I mentioned to a friend that we humans could scan situations just like a computer. As a photographer when someone comes into my studio I quickly know what I can do or not do. Is the face too narrow? Is it too broad? – that kind of thing. My friend startled me by saying, “Not like a computer but the very opposite, computers mimic our human ability to scan.”
That was the kind of person who Brother Edwin was. What a jolt, to write, Brother Edwin was!
When my fave tenor saxophonist, Stan Getz died in 1991, Verve issued his last recording, Stan Getz/Kenny Barron – People Time which is one of the most exquisite jazz recordings in my collection. Inside in the notes by French jazz columnist and author Alain Gerber I found this: ”So this is the first record by the man whose name was Stanley Getz. The first time that the silence has been defeated since a certain June 6, 1991.”
I feel that jolt, as I look beyond my monitor onto my spring garden in a rare Vancouver sunny day. I cannot cry and I was too saddened to even tell my Rosemary.
The one lasting memory (of so many memories that I have from one of the most hermetic men I have ever met) is of asking Brother Edwin, when he took me on a tour of the Congregation of Holy Cross section of the Assumption Memorial Cemetery, “Where are you going to be buried?” He looked at all the crosses, most of brothers who had been my teachers. I looked at the crosses as if all those brothers, all friends and mentors, suddenly, in one instant , had all been lined up against a wall and shot down in one swoop.
“It depends when I die. If in the next few years, it will be here and if later over there.” He looked at me with that half smile of his all with a grain of salt as something inevitable and like Epicurus something with no reason to fear.
In some respects in that moment I grieved for that death that was to come.
My only hope is that wherever he is he will recall where he was from (Texas so much of his life) and perhaps only then we might be just lucky enough to be remembered and be doubly blessed by Brother Edwin Charles Reggio, CSC.
Twenty Minutes To NIne
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
It was when I stood before her, avoiding her eyes, that I took note of the surrounding objects in detail, and saw that her watch had stopped at twenty minutes to nine, and that a clock in the room had stopped at twenty minutes to nine.
Great Expectations, Chapter 8
These crawling things had fascinated my attention and I was watching them from a distance, when Miss Havisham laid a hand upon my shoulder. In her other hand she had a crutch-headed stick on which she leaned, and she looked like the Witch of the place.
"This," said she, pointing to the long table with her stick, "is where I will be laid when I am dead. They shall come and look at me here." With some vague misgiving that she might get upon the table then and there and die at once, the complete realization of the ghastly waxwork at the Fair, I shrank under her touch.
Great Expectations, Chapter 11
Upside Down, Left To Right, Right To Left In The Darkroom
Monday, April 22, 2013
|Nina in Lith|
In the early 90s, until about 7 years ago, I shared a floor on Robson and Granville with two artists, Rodney Graham and Neil Wedman
. For as long as I was there (Graham left first, then Wedman and I well before the building was demolished last year). As far as I was concerned I was the hack and I enjoyed just being near these guys.
One day, in those early 90s, a very serious Graham asked if he could talk to me. Most think that Graham
is very serious but I know better. Behind those studious glasses you will find an “aw shuck” funny guy. He told me, “I have a problem, I have been taking pictures of trees with my 4x5 camera and the image is upside down (a standard state of affairs with those who use 4x5, 5x7,rare, 8x10, not so rare, and 11x14, particularly rare if the photographer uses a Deardorff.
Early in my photographic career I made the decision that I never wanted to see the world upside down so I eschewed the 4x5 inch format. I told Graham, “If you have the money there are expensive devices that will right side up the image for you.” He looked at me, barely smiled and that was it. His upside down trees are now a Vancouver, Canadian and worldwide history of success.
I have had a particular reason for not wanting to see the world upside down.
When we came from Mexico in 1975 I enjoyed watching TV in English. One day I saw a medical ad and called my Rosemary, “Guess what, I just find out that all these years I have been plagued by something called dyslexia.” It was my dyslexia, not that I knew, that made me fail typing in high school.
Now while I do not shoot with those ungainly 4x5s I have owned since 1977 a Mamiya RB-67 medium format camera. The first few years that I had it I could not afford to purchase the accessory pentaprism that corrected one of the “defects” of medium format cameras without the pentaprism. And this is the left is right and right is left. I remember going to a drag racing competition in Langley for Vancouver Magazine in the late 70s and I positioned myself just a few feet from a dragster about to bolt out. The idea here is to use a slow shutter and to smoothly move your camera in tandem with the moving camera. I had no problem doing this even though in the viewfinder that car was moving in the opposite direction of where the noise was headed. I had no problem because of my dyslexia!
Now at age 70 when I routinely use my scanner to scan negatives I have to remember to scan them with the emulsion (the duller side) up. To make sure I have to make sure that the Kodak or the Ilford on the edge of the negative is backwards (or is that a mirror image? Don’t ask me.). In the darkroom to project a b+w negative from your negative carrier the emulsion has to be facing down.
Now when I print a negative I know that anything that is white in my negative will be black on the print and anything black on the negative will be white on the print. If I want texture and detail in the shadows (beyond controlling the contrast by using variable contrast paper) I have to dodge it with a little device to prevent light from getting to the spot. If, on the other hand I want texture in the white (perhaps a white shirt or the bright side of a person’s face by a window) I have to burn or give that area more light. This is standard and I have known how to do this since I was 20.
Of late for my show at the Duthie Gallery
this Saturday, May 4, I have been scanning negatives and leaving them as negatives by reversing them in Photoshop. In itself this is a problem for me and more so when upon modifying the reversed negative I unreverse it.
The dyslexia issue became one last week when I printed a negative onto photographic paper and during the processing in the developer I turned on the lights a tat, on purpose. This produced a Man Ray-ish
solarized print. The print had parts that were positive and parts that were negative and even parts that were in between. I scanned the dried print. It looked pretty good. I then reversed the image and what had originally been reversed to a negative was back to being positive. I need not go on, do I?
Tonight I finally faced my bête noire. My obsession in finding negatives that look good as negatives has led me to scan them and then send the digital files to Grant Simmons at DISC
. This is easy and gives me much pleasure. But there is another way, the problematic one where I do the reversing in the darkroom. How is this done?
1. Project negative of choice onto 8x10 Kodalith (lith film). The lith film has to be emulsion side up. This product has been discontinued (Kodak uses the word discontinuance) for at last 10 years. I happen to have two boxes of 100 sheets. One of the little wrinkles is that normal amber safelights are not safe with Kodalith. It is orthochromatic and only safe with a red light. I have to then really be in a very black room in which I carefully screw in a little red bulb in my ceiling light (being carful not to slip my finger into the socket which just could be hot, did I turn on the switch or off?)
2. You process the Kodalith in regular photographic paper developer. The result is a continuous tone large (8x10) b+w slide.
3. Once the slide has been properly washed and dried you place it (emulsion side down on photographic paper. It is important to remember to take out the negative from the negative carrier as you want a nice uniform white light so that the lith film will contact onto the photographic paper.
And that’s it. Except if you want textures in the black and detail in the whites you have to do the opposite of what you normally do with negatives. To make the black less black (in my case in the printing of a nude to get texture in pubic hair, ha! Ha!) You have to burn it.
All in all I had a troubling, difficult day in the darkroom in which at long last I had some very nice results, in spite of my dyslexia. If I ever come back in some weird Buddhist reincarnation as a human being, again, I will become a lawyer and sue the folks at ToysRus. For years I did not notice that reversed R.
The picture here is a combination of the many test strips (not the woman but little bits of photogaphic paper that one tests for the correct exposure before using a much more expensive full sheet of 8x10 paper) which I placed on my scanner along with a lith film test piece (in centre).
Absalom Erickson A Living US Civil War Veteran
Sunday, April 21, 2013
|Jim (Absalom?) Erickson|
Most reading this will never have heard of a man called Absalom Erickson. He was Born in Valestrand, Norway on 22 Oct 1845. Absolom married Marie Nikkulsdotter and had a child. Absalom passed away on 17 Feb 1928 in Black River Falls, Wisconsin, USA. What few will know is that young Absalom fought for the Union Army and somehow survived not only the Wilderness Campaign but also the brutal battle of Shiloh fought on April 6-7, 1862.
Recently I photographed Salt Spring resident Jim Erickson who won an Oscar for set decoration of Spielberg’s Lincoln
. I had not seen Erickson since sometime around 1979 when both of us worked under free-lance status at the CBC.
For anybody who has seen Lincoln it is patently obvious that whoever did the set decoration (Erickson and his team) was into the smallest of details.
When Erickson came to my house earlier this week he showed great interest in all the old stuff I have and asked me questions about the wall paneling and how old my home was. He even remarked that the preliminary Fuji Instant film photograph that I took of him was reminiscent of the wet plates and tintypes of U.S. Civil War soldiers.
He leafed through some of my books featuring photographs of soldiers of the Civil War and I was astounded that he seemed to recognize some of them and even knew their first names. Most would guess that Erickson did an enormous amount of research for Lincoln. I think otherwise.
I asked him about the glass plates that Lincoln’s young son was obsessed about. I asked about the photographer John Gardner who had taken those pictures. There was something about Erickson’s answer that made it seem to me that they had met.
Erickson forgot his truck keys inside but with a coat hanger wire he fished them out in a record time that would have amazed the best of the car thieves. Erickson seems to be most mechanically inclined but eschews computers and all ancillary stuff. I think otherwise.
Erickson has a keen mind and I am sure that a simple computer would not test it in the least. I have heard rumours that near the Lincoln set Erickson had a tent to which he prevented anybody from entering.
While I normally do not believe in this sort of thing I suspect that Jim Erickson is not Jim, while Erickson is certainly his surname. I believe that in that tent Absalom Erickson appeared using one of those often written about time warps. Are they just fiction? I am not too sure. Absalom was careful to dress correctly as he left the tent.
But in the modern clothes that Erickson wore for my portrait he arranged his clothing and the cape surely in a manner of a soldier of the Union Army who would have worn it to battle not only Johnny Reb but the elements and the rain of the Wilderness Campaign.
Could it be that Salt Spring Island is home for the last living veteran of the American Civil War?