Thursday, September 6, 2007

Post #५ - A 'wild and crazy' improvisation opens a new door :-)

From 1993 to 2002 I lived in a very nice studio apt. in what's called the 'Inner Richmond' of SF. It was just a 'hop,skip, & jump' to go to Ocean Beach (true to it's name - what's west of here?... Hawaii!) - and to the 'Cliff House' ( a San Francisco landmark), and whatever goes on there. And I went there often...very often!
On the floor below all the tourist attractions/restaurants was a place called the "Musee Mechanique", which displayed many old fashioned (mechanical) 'amusements', from the days before there was radio or television - fortune telling machines, music machines, old fashioned 'movies' (you had to look into an eyepiece, and insert a quarter), stuff like that.
There were open windows to the 'end of day' light, which falls on some of the displays to various extents, depending on time of year/angle of the sun - including the 'mariachi monkeys' at the top of the montage above. If you inserted a quarter, the monkeys would play for you, a couple of horn players and a drummer. Without even inserting the 25 cents they are very amusing - foppish hats & garish clothes.
I photographed them many times, didn't know what to do w/ the images, montage-wise.
I just let 'em 'percolate'.

I've been down to the southern california deserts a number of times, drifted past & through many places, including the Salton Sea. One trip down there, I turned west from the S.S., and headed up into the Anza Borrego Mountains, late in the day. I drove a crazily switch-backed road that had many turnouts.
And took a few really nice frames of the waning light across some incredibly harsh hillsides.

Whenever I am out in these places, the silence is awesome.
But somewhere in my head, I feel there is a 'music' in this 'awesome nothingness' - it would sound like...uh.... bells, whistles and drums, all played at the same time, but only barely in synch with each other.
So...the hills and the musical monkeys happened to catch my attention simultaneously at the end of a darkroom session. The light hitting both was the same, and I decided to make just one print of the two blended together. Just winging it, entirely.
I exposed just one sheet, with the hills, leaving a triangular space... and then burned in the monkeys to the triangular space left unexposed.

(A lot of montage prints up 'til this point had been rather complicated - I'd make a few exposures on the paper, but still have gaps and holes that needed filling in, and I spent a lot of time finding something that 'fit', to some degree, which gives many of these prints a rather surreal/ 'non-sequitor' quality.)

This print ended up being a turning point - for it's simplicity, and for the idea of focusing more on really smooth blending between *just two* images, which can be done much more easily and smoothly in a darkroom than with a computer.
This makes the choice of images, and their composition, the real focus.
Exactly where it should be...
In great counterpoint to much that is done digitally, where you can 'do anything', and get totally lost.
I hope I can stay focused on making something 'mysteriously simple'........