Posts Tagged ‘Photography’
My neighbour Rajko Henigman is 87 years old and he was a photographer and cinema operator. His father Karel Henigman was a shoemaker and an amateur photographer who created amazing collection of photographs during the first world war. In the our little town of Dolenjske Toplice is a spa but during the first world war it was a rehabilitation centre for soldiers and Karel Henigman documented daily life of soldiers, during their exercise, rehabilitation, hospitals, preparing food and so on. Very impressive silver-gelatine glass plate negatives formats from 9x12cm to 18x24cm. Rajko is the keeper of his father heritage and he asked me not to photograph his fathers negatives.
Rajko was curios how am I enlarging my glass plate negatives, so I invited him to my darkroom and enlarged a portrait of him that I’ve done some time ago. He said my technique of dodging and burning is the same as he was doing it when he was young. He show me some tips and we enjoyed our time together.Some time ago I’ve visited Božena Pelikan, 93 year old youngest daughter of Josip Pelikan. I wrote a post about the Josip Pelikan few years ago, but this time she showed me the other facilities that Josip Pelikan was using after second world war until his death in 1977. What a privilege to enter the rooms of a great photographer, seeing how he worked, how much have he created. I could feel his presence in the coat that was still hanging on the door where he left it in 1977.
It’s an honour for me to pay tribute to elderly photographers. They are inspiration. I hope in the future I could make a series of art images with these objects. I hope I can make a sort of a conversation with photographs between three photographers, the present one, the deceased one and the one that is not born yet, but will look at the images sometime in the future.
Do you understand? A photographer who is not born yet will look at my images that are not created yet, but when he/she will look at it will have a feeling that they are here from forever. When we look at the old images we have a feeling they are here because someone has left them, but no, they are here because someone created them and the other preserved them. Photographs in front of you are not dusty objects, they are someones intention.
I’ve bought a Land Rover 109, year 1972, an old-timer. It took me more than a month to fix (almost) everything and the last thing was changing the tires. Last Friday I’ve registered and insured the car and went on the road to buy new tires. I took a short cut to Ljubljana, through forest, I mean that’s where Land Rovers are at home, but a maniac crashed in me with a Mitsubishi pick-up truck. He was speeding as hell and I couldn’t steer my car away, since the old-timer does not have a servo steering system or ABS brakes. The other car steered in the hill and then bounced back in me, crashing sideways. Look at the damage the impact caused with sideways crashing. And that’s a Land Rover not plastic fantastic car! The pick-up truck took another 30 meters before he could stop. Imagine what would happen if we would crash head to head… Luckily this did not happen and nobody was hurt. The very next moment a peculiar thought came into my mind, totally irrational in the context of the event:
Damn it, your life almost suddenly ended and until now you’ve published only one book! Only one fucking book!!! Who will publish all of your beloved book dummies if you don’t care to bother?!?
I think a book is a perfect medium for my photography and so in the middle of a forest, at completely inappropriate time I’ve made a resolution to start publishing my books, starting right now by writing down some thoughts on photography. I mean that was the initial purpose of this sketch book of mine, the Topshit Photography Blog – Original since 2006! ON BREAKING RULES… Breaking the rules is such a stereotype in our world. I’ve just googled the expression and it came down to about 217 million hits. I haven’t clicked trough all the 217 million sites, but the general understanding of the expression differs very much from my understanding! What are rules? Metaphorically speaking rules are like crutches. A person who can not walk use crutches to gain more support and crutches take weight from his legs to his hands, increasing balance. If you were one of the lucky ones who had never been seriously injured you don’t have a clue how difficult and complex activity is to start walking again. Walking is basically a continues fall. Imagine you’ve managed to stand up on your two feet. Fantastic, indescribable feeling that only champions can feel. The bad news is that if you want to start walking you need to lose balance by leaning forward, start falling forward, with one leg catch the fall, lift your body up into balance and then again leaning forward loosing balance and catching the fall with the other leg. Basically you are juggling with your balance while (usually) being in great pain. Crutches are your best friends :-) Once the person know how to walk again can use a simple walking stick and later start walking without. If the person wants to run or dance, can not do it with crutches! The same principle applies also to rules in photography. Rules and exercises in composition and aesthetics are like crutches. It helps you to focus, to gradually learn basics and then when the time comes, you put the crutches gratefully down and start learning the dance of creativity. I know photographers who could put down the crutches, but they do not. The crutches are the spine of their work. Then they start to judge the art through the prism of their crutches. That’s fine, that’s a necessary stage in an evolution of every artist. The true problem appears when a photographer start believing his story filtered through the prism of his crutches, mocking some people and uncritically following others. I get an allergic reaction when I see a debate in the line of thought “What is art?” I read and hear many times about the success stories of breaking the rules. In my ears that sounds so pathetic as an athlete would go in hospital and start breaking crutches because he does not need them. And that is actually a certain modus vivendi in contemporary art work – Let’s brake rules! Artist whose work was conceived with a motif of breaking rules is actually putting the rules that were meant to be broken as the fundament of the work. And there is nothing wrong with that! My bottom-line is that if you start the dance, don’t do it so you could brake your crutches, do it as the next step in your process of learning how to perform the miracle of moving through time and space. It’s so much more fun and free!
PS: the bottom line is that rules in any craft are like crutches. Crutches are not meant to be for dancing or for walking. They are for learning.
A collector asked me if I’m selling ambrotypes, I don’t, because they are unique and I want to leave behind me a work that will tell a story. If I sell an ambrotype, that image will be on somebody’s wall and I and anybody else will never see it again. That is one of the reason I’ve chosen wet plate negative in my artistic career. But on the end of the day, I am a professional artist, I do this for a living, it’s not my weekend hobby, so I need to sell my artwork too. So I’ve been thinking and I came to this business model.
Last week I’ve bought a “new” car, Land Rover 109, Station Wagon, model year 1972. It used to be imported in Yugoslavia (RIP) in 1982, serving as a firefighter’s car and in 1999 was a gift for a fiftieth birthday of a car mechanic which restored it entirely but never registrate it, so it was standing in a garage for last fifteen years. Last week I’ve bought it. In two weeks I’m turning forty and this is a gift and a tool I bought myself. Otherwise I hate cars. If I could I would rather spend hours on bicycle or running to do my travelings, but I can’t. If I need a car, I wanted to buy a car that is not boring and let’s face it, cars are boring as hell! They all look the same and the mantra of consumerism is “comfort über alles”. Guess what? COMFORT IS OVERRATED! And on top of that comfort is booooooooring to death!!!!!!
When I’m making my collodion landscape plates, I make two or three plates of the same motif and so if a person want’s to buy an ambrotype from me, he or she have two options:
Either pick it up from a gallery (that I’ve haven’t set up yet) and pay for the full price of an ambrotype 10×12″ that will be US $999.
Or the second option is that she or he can pre order a plate from me, so when I go next time out to do my art, I make another plate for the buyer. In this case the buyer can not choose a plate of his choice, it can only take the one I’ve made that day or decline it, no questions asked. The price in that case is less than half of it, US $399.
Sounds like a good and fair game right? Yes, I know, I would rather not be in a position that I need to sell my ambrotypes, but if you develop two habits like myself, you need to find a way to feed them!
PS: In my life I had several cars. They were all boring to death, except my very first car, Renault 4.
About a year ago I went to George Eastman House for a workshop of Carbon print process. To be honest before my arrival to Rochester, USA, I didn’t know what carbon print process is but if it was described as the king of all printing processes ever invented and I thought I might try it out. My main goal was to do the pilgrimage to George Eastman House and take a workshop under tutorship of Mark Osterman.
As I’ve expected the visit to GEH did blown my mind, I’ve seen original authentic prints of Julia Margaret Cameron, Eadweard Muybridge and many others. Mark Osterman shown us many gems of technical and aesthetic heritage from the history of photography. One of the things that stuck with me for the whole year was woodburytype process. Please take a look of the video at the bottom of this post, I’ve seen it so many times, I could repeat the words by heart!
Anyhow, down to the point, for the whole year I was thinking how to revive the woodburytype process. I have this vision to make my book in woodburytype process. The question why (almost) nobody (?) have done it in the last 120 years is obvious, it’s the most complicated process ever! For an 8×10″ print (20x25cm) you would need a press that would produce a pressure of about 500 tons per 8×10″ format! In 19th Century there were only two woodburytype presses in the world that were capable of making woodburytype prints size 8×10″. I will not go into technical details, it’s beautifully explained in the video below.
When I told to Mark Osterman what is my vision, he advise me to stay away from authentic woodburytype process, but rather go for Stanotype process. What is Stanotype process I wondered? It’s another invention by Walter Bentley Woodbury (British, 1834–1885) with the same result, just it does not require those huge press to make a mold, that I’ve mentioned before. I’ve read everything I could about it, even Mark Osterman and Nick Brandreth were so kind to send me a digital copy of Stanotype manual written by Woodbury himself!
Last half a year I was working a lot. I knew that authentic Stanotype is not the answer, I knew I could modernize the process. And I did! On the images above are four (modernized) woodburytype prints and a carbon print on glass. The carbon print on glass has very little pigment and it’s made in a way to maximize the relief from which I’ve made a mold and from that mold I’ve made those prints.
Before you will make a judgement about my prints, let me explain that you need a press to achieve a good print from a woodburytype mold. The press that Mark Osterman is using in the video below. I don’t have one. At the moment I was just testing different materials and different processes. I’ve made one mold and today I was playing around with it. I didn’t had the press, so I’ve used these clamps, what’stheycalled. As you can tell I was speculating, changing parameters and the forth print is perfect! Well, it’s perfect, much better than I could ever thought in given circumstances! Because I was not using a press, but clamps, the pressure was not even, so the resulting print has patches of highlights and patches of black. But that doesn’t matter! What it matters is that I’ve made a modern woodburytype print from scratch and the result has blacks, it has highlights, it has contrast and it does have sharpness!!! I’ve learned all the crucial steps how to manipulate the process and created a modern woodburytype print!
I totally understand that perhaps you do not see anything special in these experiments of mine, but I’m just as excited as I was when I was 11 years old, learning photography with my dad’s russian Kiev camera, which light-meter was showing very wrong meterings, so every photograph that I took and I could recognize a motif being photographed, I considered a triumph!!! And that’s the case here! Perhaps you just see a bad print, but I see woodbury process revived and modernized, I see a printing house that will be the best printing house in the world and the first book printed in that printing house it will be my The Great Depression project. I even see an option how to do woodburytype prints from a digital file and furthermore in color and that is why in a month or so I’m flying back to Rochester to bring my modern woodburytype molds and compare them with authentic woodburytype molds from 19th Century.
Oh, I’m so happy, my buttocks are applauding!
PS: It’s too early for explaining how I’ve made the mold. I have to nail down the process entirely and finish with testing. I have three more concepts to test how to make a mold and then pick the best one. This was my first attempt.
PPS: I’m sure there are few individuals who are still doing woodburytype nowadays, but beside Oliver Barret, whose book was a help and inspiration in my research, I haven’t found anybody who would nowadays produce woodburytype kind of quality images. If you could help me finding other contemporary woodburytypes, I would be greatful.
Last week I was again working on my project The Great Depression. This time was a bit different motivation. I wasn’t looking for new motives, but I was repeating shots I’ve done before. At the moment all my plates are exhibited in Lithuania at Kaunas Photo Festival, but two galleries asked me if I can exhibit The Great Depression plates, The Gallery of Contemporary Art in Celje and almost at the same time, Photon Gallery wants to exhibit my plates at ArtMarket Budapest.
What to do, what to do… No problem, I went again to Novoles company where I started my project almost three years ago and repeat few frames that I took in the past. Surprise, surprise my wet plate knowledge advanced and I’ve made such a beautiful plates, I can not believe it! Well, here they are, you be the judge of them.
Today when I was varnishing them, I’ve received an email from a very important museum, that I can not name just yet, that they want to buy few plates from the project for their permanent collection. YES! After all the hard work and I’m finally beyond the tipping point! Mom, I’ve made it!!!
This weekend I was visiting Vienna Photo Book Festival and it was really exciting place in time. So many books, so many ideas, so many people to talk to… Unfortunately I managed to make only one proper interview if I don’t count the one I’ve published on Monday. Since I’m very much interested in alternative photography processes from 19th Century I was overwhelmed with the work of Simon Weber-Unger! He has a gallery Wissenschaftliches Kabinett in Vienna and it’s specialized in 19th Century photography. Furthermore his project of reviving Nature printing process is breathtaking indeed. I’ve made this interview to share with you his work. I hope you will get a glimpse how great it is. I know it’s not photography, but it is amazingly beautiful print!
More about this topic you can find on
Wissenschaftliches Kabinett page of Simon Weber-Unge on FB.