Sunday, October 26, 2014

alfred wertheimer 1929-2014

i would like to take a moment to remember al.
alfred wertheimer died a few days ago.  i worked with al for many years, and frankly, i wouldn't have known much about elvis otherwise.  i mean i knew the popular songs and obvious facts, like everyone else.  al was a great storyteller, and you can certainly see that in his pictures.  he would mix his unbelievable recollection of details and his own impression of the events simultaneously in a way that kept you wanting more.  i know more about elvis than i care for really, but i also love a good story, so i listened. now, i'm glad i did.
one thing i have to mention though: either i'd give him a perfect print (meaning perfect for al) or no print at all.  i could not just casually print for al, i had to make the extra effort, sweat a little, push my abilities in the darkroom.  my reward was to know that i gave him the best prints possible from his negatives. i mean, these were images that were also reproduced in books, as postcards, posters etc, so a fiber print from the original neg has to bring something else to the table, a personality if you will. al did not take this lightly, i always liked that about him.
each time he would leave negs to me, i'd have to sign my life away and feel like it too. he knew they were in good hands, but the exchange was never casual. i understand a negative, i understand it because i've held negs like alfred wertheimer's of elvis presley in 1956, just a few strips at a time. that's another reason why i couldn't show al an OK print, it had to be a great print. and then he would say: "now, that one's good. let me see the others". my heart would skip a beat at every print i was showing him that day. al kept me on my toes.
i will miss al.

al taking a picture of my son clayton at the "who shot rock'n roll" exhibit
opening at the brooklyn museum, oct 2009.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

everything just changed

well, for me at least.  my sense of timing is off.  i am re-learning how to coordinate my day, how to set the pace in my activities.  it's been a real struggle, a daily readjustment.  i've stopped smoking.
forget the cravings and other blah blah blahs, just how do i know to take a break now?  how do i know when a print is done if nothing stops me from staying longer in my darkroom?
as a smoker for 30 or so years, everything in my life was related to smoking, including my work, and my photography in general.
honestly, this is why i haven't been able to write about the darkroom for a while. it's all behind me now, so perhaps i shall try and remember these past four months. i'll admit it's a bit blurry, i had to focus on something other than the photographic print, yet a few episodes will stay with me for a long time.
i had the chance to work with ken schles, making prints from "invisible city". we got along great, prints were taking shape, a few were even finished... but, and it can happen at any stage, the project was finally made differently. i always look for challenges, projects that make me think, really difficult prints to make, with great satisfaction to see done. it's a way to never take the darkroom for granted. i can't really phone-in a 54x68 in. print for tina barney. i have to be paying really close attention, take deep breaths and go. she is mostly a color photographer, but the process of making her black and white prints was quite challenging, and very rewarding. no cigarette break any more. coffee yes. i find new ways to re-focus, i walk around, listen to even more story-telling radio.
while i was sweating my nicotine habit away, i printed the entire "in and around the house" book (twice) as 8x10's for laurie simmons. she knows these images by heart, i can't miss a print. well, maybe 2 or 3, but more than that would be annoying. so i spend some time on the first print of the series, and then i jump, find a rhythm, and print away the hours. the days, the weeks, and still no smoking.
i may be listening to music louder as well. i can't tell, i've lost the moments of reflection i used to take throughout the day. sometimes i don't even know what time it is any more.
know i was listening to loud music while making prints for chris buck, his images inspire that in me somehow. yet, they fall on the paper so delicately, they almost print themselves. and chris has stories about them all. stories to get me through the day, one more day not smoking.
no cigarette either as i pick the right piece of wood to print through with lisa oppenheim. different shades, different types, different patterns, to be turned to negatives on black and white paper. i liked the project a little bit more with each print. a break in my rhythm of printing negatives as positives.
a big part of my summer -and now the fall- was spent with more 8x10 negs from mitch epstein, printing new images since new york arbor. i approach these negs in a different way, for a print as a colder object. i don't need a cigarette, even if i hallucinate sometimes, i know it's just temporary. so i just keep printing, as usual, and then i realize it's the same again, i print in my darkroom. i just don't smoke anymore. it's all good.
life goes on.