Friday, April 30, 2010

Mystery photo

What happened here?

First correct answer wins a print.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


The "geniuses" of Steiglitz and Steichen are nothing more than a New York publicity trick in an era that worshipped at the altar of mass-market reputations. They were artists who lived in rooms decorated with soft gray velvet walls. The walls showed off their pretty pictures, and in the end they will be forgotten like the quaint haberdashery of another period.

—from the foreword to Berenice Abbott & Eugène Atget (Arena Editions, 2002), by Clark Worswick

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Forty-four cent collectible art

I've really been enjoying the new abstract expressionist stamps from the USPS. As soon as I saw them I stocked up and bought several sheets, and I've been gradually parcelling them out. I'll probably save a few just to look at. Not only do they liven up any envelope, they help spread the gospel of creativity.

Wouldn't you rather find one of these on a letter than another flag in the corner you've seen a million times?

The post office has also done stamps featuring photographers/ photography. Recent posts on PhotoEphemera show many examples. Generally I find these stamps less exciting. Maybe it's because they are black and white? Or maybe it's because they tend to focus on the photographer rather than an specific photographs? I don't know what it is exactly but I wouldn't go out of my way to buy a sheet of them, even the Winogrand one.

On the envelope these photographer stamps wait patiently on the corner like a fly-on-the-wall street shooter. If you're not already a photographer, chances are you'd hardly notice.

But the new abstract expressionist stamps just nail it. The sizes vary from large to way big. The colors are bold and eye catching. If I were an average person checking my mailbox, I'd feel like I just walked into a Chelsea gallery. "What the heck is that giant splotch in the corner?!"

Good wake up call, USPS. Now do the same for photography.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Shore goes digital

Digital screen capture of a film photo of a painted billboard of my favorite Oregon mountain, by Stephen Shore

When people discuss digital vs film, it often comes down to tech-talk semantics. People say film has a certain quality, or that digital is easier to control, or that one or the other is capable of finer resolution or capture or whatever, all of which seem rather boring questions to consider. At this point any effect can be digitally emulated. Worrying about which characteristics are specific to a digital or film image seems futile.

To me the more interesting question is, how do the tactile aspects of a camera effect the pictures you make with it? For me that is the big hump with digital. I hate the chintzy plastic feel of new cameras. They don't engage me. I'd rather look through a viewfinder than at an LCD screen. I enjoy dealing with film, unwrapping it like a present, spooling it, and winding the advance with my thumb. Like records and bicycles, film cameras may be old fashioned yet they feel real and unmediated and good. The result of all this, for me at least, is that I make different photos with a film camera than I do with a digital one.

I thought of this today reading a recent interview with Stephen Shore, and remembering another one he'd done a few years ago. Comparing the two interviews highlights the shifting effect of digital cameras on Shore's photography.

Stephen Shore Then: "8×10 color is very expensive. Back in the 70s it cost $15-20 a shot for the film, the processing, and the contact sheet, now it’s twice that. And to do good work, you can’t just take pictures that you know are going to be good, cause then you’re never going to learn anything or experiment. So the economy came in that I didn’t take two of anything. And so I realized I’m going to have to decide what it is I want. Standing in front of a building, where do I want to stand? Where in this intersection do I want to be — and not take five of them and try and figure it out later?

What I found happen was, after years of doing it, it forced me into a kind of sense of certainty. I figured out what it is I want, and so there was no reason to take more than one. And now when I take pictures with any camera, I still shoot the same way. When I look at students’ contact sheets and I see a picture of a lampost and there are five pictures of a lamppost from the same place - it drives me crazy. Why would the second picture be any different from the first picture?

...There a number of photographers who are fabulous photographers and they switch to digital and they produce a lot of crap. Somehow it affects their discrimination. Somehow this knowledge that it’s immaterial, that it’s free, is sort of the opposite of the $15 a shot discipline. It somehow affects how some people use it. I don’t think it’s inherent in the medium that it affects people that way, but what I’m saying is, there’s no reason a photographer can’t make every picture count.”

Stephen Shore Now:"I’m using digital more and more. I recently got a Nikon D3x. After using an 8x10 for almost 30 years, I find I think in 8x10 terms. I take only one picture of a subject, even with a digital camera, unless I’m photographing something that is in motion or changing. Still, looking through the viewfinder is not the same as looking through an 8x10 ground glass and working on a tripod. But I’m getting better at it, and much of my new digital work seems as focused as my view-camera work. Also I get to have the pleasure of making many more images in a day."

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Alternative color wheel

Untitled (Red Room), 1973, William Eggleston

If this Eggleston photo seems lucky, perhaps you live in Eastern Europe? Here's why. Something to consider for anyone making color photographs.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

What To Do? #69

205. SE 44th and Hawthorne, 2004

206. Hartman Gallery, 2008

207. SE 45th and Alder, 2004

WTD? is a weekly installment of old unseen b/w photos)

Friday, April 23, 2010


Sarah Palin is speaking in Eugene tonight at a GOP fundraiser. Unfortunately you're unlikely to see any photographic coverage because all cameras and videotaping equipment have been banned from the event.

Half of me is sort of angry about this. The other half thinks it is perfectly appropriate since it confirms my impression of Palin as a controlling megalomaniac. Despite the ban I'm going down there tonight to see what I can dig up. I sense a potential photo op in the photo non op. Will report findings...


If you thought this was interesting, you might like this. Thanks to Lisa for the tip.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Popularity contest

Some of you have probably seen this chart

It was first compiled here and then reformatted and published here which is where I first saw it.

So the most popular photo show of 2009 was the 2nd Photoquai Biennale at Musée Quai Branly in Paris which hosted an average of 7,868 visitors per day. That seems like a lot. Or does it? Here's how it compares to some other daily counts.

American Idol viewers Tuesday 4/20/2010: 19.1 million

McDonald's burgers sold each day in America: 4.2 million

Average Daily Minnesota State Fair Attendance 2009: 150,000

New York Yankees average home attendance in 2009: 45,363

Average daily attendance at Disneyland Anaheim: 40,000

Average daily Louvre attendance in 2009: 23,300

Average daily attendance at the most popular art show in 2009, Ashura and Masterpieces from Kohfukuji at Tokyo National Museum: 15,960

Average daily attendance at San Diego Zoo in 2009: 9,000

Average daily attendance at the most popular photo show, 2009: 7868

In other words, photography ranks in popularity somewhere below pop drivel, french fries, livestock, cotton candy, and baseball. What's my point? I don't know. I guess I just love thinking about photographers as outsiders.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Diana...and Nikon

(Warning: Gear talk ahead. Sorry, but in this case it is integral to imagemaking )

I've been shooting a Lomo Diana+ for the past few years. A few weeks ago the winder broke and I bought a vintage Diana as a replacement. It gave me a chance to notice several differences between the cameras that I hadn't been aware of. Here they are, in increasing order of importance:

1. Strap is noticeably more flexible on the original.

2. Slightly different teal color. Slightly different lettering and distance notations.

3. Frame counter pane on the original is circular, brighter, and doesn't move to accommodate varying frame counts.

Modern Lomo Diana+

Vintage Diana

4. Spool holding mechanism on the original has levers which flip out for loading. Newer model has stationary plugs which bend. On both models this component is easily susceptible to breaking.

5. Lomo Diana+ can shift between 12 or 16 images, with pinhole capability. Frame size changes with insertion of plastic masks, and pinhole is achieved by removing the lens. Original Diana has fixed lens, fixed small frame. Since I never bother with pinhole or 12 frame masking, this difference is neglible.

6. Original model has a noticeably crisper shutter than the Diana+. It goes Ka-Chunk with a satisfying snap. The Lomo Diana+ shutter is very quiet and not very satisfying. I didn't realize how big of an issue this was until using a vintage Diana. All of the sudden the shutter feels as if something has happened.

7. Lomo Diana+ susceptible to bizarre flaring. This is different than a normal lightleak. When pointed at bright objects the image content can wash out in low-contrast haze. Frustrating, but I just chalked it up to normal toy camera unpredictability until using a vintage Diana. Flaring is completely gone now, though light leaks still turn up occasionally.

8. Images from the original model have more vignetting than Diana+, and the border is slightly rounder and cockeyed on the roll. They have more of a "toy camera" look, for better or for worse. Images from the Diana+ have distortion but are still fairly resolvable to the edges, which are straighter.

Photograph from Lomo Diana+:
Center sharp, a bit of distortion on the edges, borders straight

Photograph from Vintage Diana:
Center sharp, blurry dark corners, rounded borders

This is really the most critical change since it alters the character of the photographs. I'm not sure why the lens was altered. Maybe Lomo couldn't track down any of the old plastic? In any case images from the newer model tend to feel a bit cleaner, more like a regular Canon or Nikon lens. Maybe sanitized is a better word? Whether one likes that look is open to personal preference. After using the vintage Diana, I'm starting to prefer its look but maybe that is because I'm conditioned by all the toy camera images I've seen.

I guess the upshot is that anyone considering buying a Diana should be aware that new and old models are not equally interchangeable.

(End of gear talk. Normal programming will now resume)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Someone might be gaining on you

Cafe, 1964, Dermot Goulding

There's an old saying in photography that if you don't find what you're looking for in a scene, you should take a look behind you and that's where the photo will be. I don't know if this diptych qualifies as a look behind (more like reversed) but that's what I thought of when I found it in Martin Harrison's book Young Meteors

Monday, April 19, 2010


When I swapped photos with Dalton a few weeks ago he was kind enough to send along some expired HP5 with his print. It was a win-win situation. He couldn't use the film because it was the wrong format, plus expired. I'm less picky. I'll take any film. I've been using it with good results, and I when I make a nice print from one of its frames I will send it to him to repay the favor.

Would you trade this for a photograph?

This arrangement wasn't really planned but it gives me an idea. If anyone out there has film they want to get rid of you can send it to me. I will shoot the film, print my favorite picture from it, and send you the print. It's win-win. You get an exhibition quality mystery photo for virtually nothing. I get film, which to me is like lifeblood.

But this is more than just a business deal. I think there's something karmically charged about sending a roll out into the world, then waiting to see what finds its way back to you from that very roll. If you agree, mail a roll to Blake Andrews, 85528 Christensen Rd., Eugene, OR 97405. I'll get you a print within 3 weeks. If you have any specific requests for the film please include them and I will do my best to accommodate. Keep in mind I am not equipped to shoot underwater or in non-Pacific time zones.

I will accept 35 mm or 120, color or b/w, any speed, any expiration date.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

HCB revisited

MOMA has posted hundreds of new Cartier-Bresson images online in conjunction with their current HCB retrospective, The Modern Century. If the name Cartier-Bresson brings a yawn of tired recognition, it might be time to take another look. The stuff that's been published already is just the tip of a very large iceberg. Browsing through the MOMA site confirms that the guy was basically oozing first rate images out of every orifice. It's amazing to think that many were never published and presumably considered rejects. I'd be quite happy to have shot any of them. Yes, maybe they are a little too perfect. There is that. Still, the site is well worth a look.

A few favs that were new to me:

Near Stasbourg, France, 1944

Rome, 1951

Christian Dior, Paris, 1953

Beynac, France, 1956

San Francisco, 1960

Louisiana, 1960

Mexico, 1963

Auto show, Paris, 1968

Matera, Italy, 1971

Suzdai, Russia, 1972

Saturday, April 17, 2010

What To Do? #68

202. Taylor Street House, 2003

203. 42nd Avenue, 2004

204. Hawaii, 2002

WTD? is a weekly installment of old unseen b/w photos)

Friday, April 16, 2010


When I look at work by a photographer for the first time, I can usually make a pretty good guess what photo books they own. Same with music. When I listen to a band I can usually string their sound back to some precursory influences.

I saw Portugal. The Man play a few nights ago in Eugene and I still have no idea what music they like to listen to, and it's driving me crazy. Malkmus? Barrett-era Floyd? Slint? James Brown? Maybe. Maybe none of them. The only hints from the show were a snippet of Moonage Daydream and at least one song in 13/4 (to go with the date: 4/13).

Portugal. The Man

Thinking about this more I realize that my brain needs to categorize. When something appears dropped from the sky with no context, I'm not quite sure how to process it. I think the lack of obvious ties can create a mental break that leads to Art.

I'm trying to think of photographers that seem to have no obvious influences, that appear dropped from the sky like Portugal. The Man. Eggleston? Atget? Fox Talbot? I'm not so sure about any of them. Fun to speculate.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Virginia photographer Gordon Stettinius is considering a run for U.S. Senate in 2012. This spring he formed an exploratory campaign committee and changed his name to Godfrey Damon Wright (which focus-grouped better than his current name). Most recently he protected his right flank by joining a denomination and mailing the following letter and photograph to supporters. I received mine yesterday and I must assure you that, for me at least, it put to rest any lingering suspicions of malfeasance.

The slate is clean. He's rested and ready. Isn't it about time we put a photographer into office?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Various Photo Book Doppelgängers

American Pictures
Jeff Dunas, Jacob Holdt, Peter Sakaer

The Animals
Giacomo Brunelli, Garry Winogrand

Drive-By Shooting(s)
Max Forsythe, David Bradford

Richard Avedon, Mona Kuhn, Luc Sante, Larry Sultan & Mike Mandel

JH Engstrom, Christopher Rauschenberg

Ray Metzker, Burk Uzzle

Living Proof
D.A. Harvey, Carolyn Jones

On The Beach
Richard Misrach, Elliott Erwitt

Self Portrait
Lee Friedlander, Man Ray

Time Frames
Michael Spano, Michael Lesy

Mitch Epstein, Helmut Newton

These are just a few examples. What others can you think of? Feel free to post them in the comments.