Monday, June 9, 2008

So how long does it take a film photomontage guy to find a 'new voice' in pixels??

The short answer is: Don't hold your breath, I didn't hold mine - it's taking a while, and then some.
...& I'm still workin' on it.

Sometimes I feel like the lonely blades of dune grass above, straining to survive the onslaught of the ocean - the (digital)future is comin' on fast, ain't no denying it...but the grass will send out new roots & shoots, and so will I.
I'll never give up doing darkroom work, as long as there's something to work with -no way, no how - that's 'where it really happens', for me.
Finding the begininngs of a new voice in digital?.. has taken...oooh...4 or 5 years.
One thing that is VERY different about it?... it's color!
I've been collecting B&W negatives, & doing all my own processing and printing since 1974.
Being able to collect color images the same way?.. is....
a whole new ...'thing' / 'ballgame' / kettle of fish....!
(Chose the metaphor you like best - any of 'em will do, if it works for you.)

It actually took a lot longer than that to accomplish the same in the darkroom.

After an aborted stab at college from Fall '69 til late '70, I went back to school (Northern Va. Community College) in '74, and took as many art/photo classes as I could, in the evening.
At the time, I had a day job at a law firm in D.C. as a messenger, which happened to give me easy access to a copy machine - not a Xerox, but some other brand, that did copies of photos that were reeeally interesting - very hi-contrast, and grainy, on a slick semi glossy surface.
I made a ton of copies ( no charge, management didn't care about that - they were happy we showed up, returned from any errand sober, and didn't abscond w/ the with the petty cash for taxis! - It was a great job to have when you're still young and a bit crazy.)
I took all the copies home, cut 'em up into all kinds of pieces, and collaged them back together. That was the begininng, in '74 or so.
In '76, I started working in advertising ( 'ass't art director', which was a glorified title for what was essentially 'paste up artist') and photography took a back seat.
'Round about '81, I'd had enough of ad agency bullshit & politics, and since I had been working on a lot of real estate related accounts, and had started to do some of the shooting myself, I bought a 4x5 (Toyo Omega 45F, a 'monorail' design) & went freelance, shooting architecture.
I also bought a Beseler 45MX enlarger from Zone VI, with a cold light head - best purchase I ever made! - it is still at work today :-), having been schlepped from the east coast to S.F. in the back of a Subaru hatchback.

One thing I quickly discovered about shooting architecture in the DC area?....there's this thing called 'winter'!... and no architectural photog. wants to shoot anything, except maybe interiors - this is basically 'bad for business'.
So when I asked myself 'what can i do to perk things up?', the immediate answer was 'darkroom!?'
(since it was already paid for, & available 24/7/365.)

By the late '80's, I started doing some assignment illustration...and also some 'art' work.

But the things really kicked in when I moved to the west coast at the end of '91 -
the 'raw material'(negatives) I could gather were totally different from the east coast,
and infinitely more inspiring.
I finally felt like I had 'found a voice' for my montage work.
And it only took 15 years.

Once Photoshop arrived, I had a few friends who made comments like:
"Well, I guess you'll be melting down your enlarger now, won't ya Bob?"
Nope. And I'm not all that crazy about having 50 texture filters, and a zillion other options.
Photoshop is as responsible for the good work it has made possible
as it is for all the junk created by people who think owning the program makes them an artist of some sort.
Regardless of tools, making images is still about the same few things - having some amount of taste, focus, and vision.
I've always taken a lot of lessons from music, and one thing that sticks in my mind is this:
Jimi Hendrix played the same Fender stratocaster anyone can buy off the shelf....but it sure didn't sound like anyone else's playing, did it?
Enough said.

Here's a link to the first/older page:

And to the newer page/& images:

I still tend to 'keep it simple'... and I've lost count of all the files I started, added a bunch of stuff, just 'because i could'...and ended up trashing.
The images that survive tend to use the same techniques I use in the darkroom, good composition & choice of elements - and the various layer options, 'screen, multiply, overlay' used at varying percentages of opacity.
Here's an example, with a breakdown of all the contributing elements:

"I'll be back".... with some 'darkroom', real soon.