Sunday, July 29, 2007

Post #2 - 7/28/07

((An additional note on the nature of the blog:
I'll probably be posting something new every week or so.
And the posts will probably be 50/50 or thereabouts between digital and darkroom.))

The subtitle of this blog is 'a traditional film photographer... in a digital world...'
I do seem to be surviving....
but let's talk about something 'traditional/film', OK?
That's where my roots, heart, and soul are.
(I'll get to digital real soon, like the next post... with some photos of the California coast & fog).

For the last 30+ years, I have always had a B&W darkroom of some sort wherever I lived - that spans I-don't-know-how-many apartments & houses...( and a couple of marriages).
I started doing photomontage in the early 80's - If you'd like a detailed description of my darkroom techniques/set-up/etc., please go to my website ( and click on 'darkroom techniques'.
No need to repeat myself about all that, here - I would rather talk about the 'thought/ planning/ preparation' that goes into it all - that's the important part. Without that, all the technique in the world isn't worth shit.

So let's look at this 'stoneface' guy, a print I made just a few weeks ago...
(He's at the top of the page)
...he's a bit..uh.. 'stressed', isn't he?...a bit 'squeezed' between the other rocks?

The black shapes are big, BIG rocks... at Joshua Tree Nat'l.Park., California,
which is one marvelous place - if you ever have an opportinity to go there? DO IT!
If you'd like to see more photos of the place, you can visit my website, or search the web - there's no lack of photos of the place.
As soon as I see this, I see a 'negative/positive' thing going on - so I want to record it that way - i'll make the darkroom part of it *mucho easier* - I can dodge back any of the dark portions... and burn in to any of those areas something...'completely different', with as little 'dissonance/interference' from the rock texture, as possible. So I underexpose a bit...
I made this negative about 5 years ago.... it had been lingering on my proof sheets...just waiting...
I never worry about, or consider the 'passage of time'.. between when I make a negative, and when it might become useful.
"When i took the frame" is totally irrelevant.
On a regular basis, I sift thru my proofsheets, and let all the images 'collide'...
I especially like.. looking at alot of images(proofsheets), and then?...falling asleep!, and letting my subconcious work on all of them.
At some point thereafter, it all bubbles to the surface.

When I started this print (during a two day session that produced 5 images, each with some alternate versions) I gave most of the rocks a full exposure... but dodged back the center stone, so I could burn in.. *the face*...which is of a portion of a totem pole I photographed some where along the Oregon coast a few years ago (I think it was outside some kind of small office building that had closed - they managed to put up 'closed' signs... but didn't have the energy to deal w/ the totem pole).
The 'face' image is not tall, it's close to square/slightly horizontal... the space in the rock is definitely not.
Now if I were working digitally, with photoshop?.. I'd probably reach for the clone tool, and extend the face to fit neatly into the rock - but that's kind of the 'easy'/routine way of dealing with this. I've already exposed the rock onto 4 sheets of paper, so I'm stuck... or.. maybe not?
One of the things I like about working in the darkroom the way I do, with only one enlarger, is that there are no 'undo's, no going backwards. This is a lesson that came from a drawing teacher ( Michael Platt, at Northern Va. Community College in Alexandria, Va., circa 1975 ) who made the class 'draw from life' once a week.. with NO ERASERS! - "whatever you do, even if you think it's a mistake?, make it work!". Once he caught someone cheating on the 'no erasers' rule, and he rushed over to the students drawing board, scooped up everything except the pencil in her hand, and tossed it all out the (fourth floor!) window. These days, he'd probably get sued silly for that - back then, it just made for a very interesting and unpredictable class. Thanks, Michael, wherever you are...!

So I already had a drawing of the rock outlines on my easel... and started messing around with the size and position of the face, looking at it projected on the easel with the rocks tracing... hey, this is becoming alot more interesting!
What happens when the 'face shape' we are used to seeing ..*strains* against the boundaries it is in...?
What does that suggest/imply about the origin of this 'face'?
...was it part of this entire rock(extending far beyond the image frame), that was carved somehow, to reveal the face, in this egg shape rock, in such a way?
...or was the egg shape rock (&face) much larger, and eroded to it's present condition... on the way here?..
..and/or is it being squeezed and spun by the two larger rocks on either side..?
Your guess is as good as mine.
I also like that it's left eye is barely visible/receding into shadow...but the right eye?'s looking almost directly at you...
in.. ooh...a few million years, geological forces will have spun it enough that it'll be dead on.
I like the tension, I print two versions - the last one, I added some clouds to the spaces between the rocks.
You can see both versions a bit larger at:
And if you'd like to see more of the totem pole face:

Next week?
Color! Digital! California coast!!, & summer-time fog...