This has been a wild week with a lot of ups and downs. I was in Sedona Arizona for a week. I did quite a bit of shooting, but Sedona was not what it once was. When I was there two years ago with the view camera, it had still had a certain isolated, western feel. Now it was filled with tourists. I couldn’t find a parking spot. Traffic was bad. Malls were shooting up everywhere. I was lucky with the weather — there were some pretty dramatic storms while I was there.
This time I returned with the 35mm G2. I was still shooting carefully on a tripod, using a spot meter etc. I think that I did better this time around, but we’ll see. I kept having to remind myself — these rocks, mountains may be red, but remember, this is black and white film. In other words, unlike shooting in New York, I needed to try and visualize what the results were going to be.
At one point, before going out to Arizona, I was actually thinking of relocating there. After all, I’m selling through the internet. I could be located anywhere. Why not spend a year in the Southwest where its cheaper to live? Where I’m surrounded by all that beauty?
I was there for about three days when I couldn’t wait to get back to my little studio in New York. When I arrived back at my apartment, there was actually a crack addict lighting up in the lobby. He turned to me and said, “To be or not to be, that is some question.” I was home.
I had been selling the inkjet prints, which really had great quality, but I started having problems with the printer. The arhival ink was clogging the inkjet pores. I went back to the old stand by of printing on RC paper. A bunch of orders came in and I was very busy printing for a few days. Sales finally seem to be picking up. Maybe its the holiday season. But often its from someone who has seen a print in someone’s house. I’m beginning to feel more encouraged that given another year or so, I can make a go of this from New York.
Today I’ll get back thirty rolls of film and contact sheets. Can’t wait to get back into darkroom and begin printing again.And oh yeah, my SSL (Secure Socket Layer) went down the other day, so even if someone wants to buy on the web, they currently can’t. Ugh. I’m on the phone with the hosting company to fix this.
Pretty bad sore throat today, but managed to do some printing — Promenade, Night Chess, and Midnight Storm on the Pearl RC Paper — this time using the 8 x 10 paper, which seems to be a bit more sensitive than the 5 x 7 multigrade. Also got back about 10 rolls from Sedona, and 20 rolls of my usual street stuff. The Sedona stuff was much, much better than when I was there two years ago. I proofed Pond 1 and Pond 2 with the inkjet printer, and posted them on the site.
It’s 4pm and I’m washing the prints now, and getting ready to take a nap. Thank God for the Kinks — the compilation CD kept me going. If I had a personal favorite it would be, “I’m Not Like Everybody Else”. Sort of an anthem for the individual, or the misfit.
I continue to get emails from students who want to or have written about me. In the beginning it was flattering, but its starting to get time consuming. Especially since I think that the study of photography is mostly a waste of time. Sort of like studying how to drive. It’s good to know the basics, but you can learn most of what you need by hit and miss. Maybe that’s my anti-school bias speaking up. I really don’t understand why you can’t learn English literature by reading lots and lots of books.
For the most part, the teacher is there to tell you what to read, and when it should be read, and to test that you’ve read it. This is not true for all teachers, but mostly true. And black and white photography is even simpler. Figure out the f-stop/shutter speed combination for sunny and for shady, and get going. I think that Walker Evans gave this kind of advise to a friend before they were going out shooting. Another problem (what else do I put in a diary but problems?) is — is it feasible to sell the RC Prints at $18? Obviously not really. The mat itself costs about $4.00 and the postage for a single print is about $3.50. I’ve got to print the thing, go to the post office, pack it etc. etc. I probably make a few bucks on each print — but on the other hand, I keep telling myself that each print is a sort of walking advertisement, and that as more people see them, the word will spread. Well, if the word does spread, I’ll have to raise the price, that’s for sure, or I’ll be working for 3.50/hour.
Printing ‘Promenade’ all day today in the large size… it was a painful printing process. I lost my good notes from the last printing, and had to go through it all again. I had a good artist proof (thank God) to compare against. But just had a lot of trouble with it this time… I really don’t know why. Dodging, burning, and nothing was looking right. Eventually I just left it and went downstairs and got some lunch. When I came back, what was sitting in the tray looked very good. Go figure. Then I did a few small prints of ‘Promenade’ on graded paper — something I hadn’t done before. Later on, I decided to use the hypo-clearing agent in the bathroom (no ventilation) and had a bad choking fit. Won’t do that again.
Anyway, it took me all day to print five large ‘Promenades’ and a few smaller ones.
I’ve got a bunch of new stuff from Arizona that I wanted to at least take a stab at, but was too tired.
What a weird day. I kept dropping the tongs in the developer. At one point, after I had the easel all lined up, I leaned against it as I was putting in the paper and it moved. Hopefully, tomorrow will be easier.
Yesterday I removed the ability to order custom screensavers. That was a complete failure. In six months, I think I received about two custom screensaver orders. The only regret there was that it took me a lot of time to program that part of the system… but its obvious that what is selling now are the inexpensive prints — which I have to say, I’m pleased with. I wish the lines at the post office were shorter.
I keep doing some digital proofs of the Arizona stuff, and I can’t wait to get to print some of those shots. After many years of trying to get expressive nature shots — I think I’ve found my way. And the secret to that was to shoot in 35mm, with the same camera that I’ve been using in the city. Apparantly, I’m simply feel more free to experiment and take chances in 35mm. I am very excited with some work I did at the Sunset Crater lava fields. When I was there two + years ago with the view camera, I came back with junk. Or at least I wasn’t happy with the results. When I returned again this year, I had the failures from the last trip in my mind, and was determined to do better. And I think I did.
Yesterday, showed prints at the Ad agency where I work… they have a crafts fair each year. I think there were more vendors than customers, but did o.k. Sold: Night Chess (2x), Promenade, Trees Silhouette, Mouthwash (first person that ever bought that), Two Women, and a bunch of others that I forgot to write down.
The day before, I had a lot of my stuff in my office and also sold about six prints.
It is a lot easier to sell in person than over the web. The web is really a souless place. You don’t know the person who’s buying and they don’t know you.
Interesting conversation with one woman who had seen my stuff a few years ago, who said.2how great it was that I was actually doing what I wanted creatively. I quiped back, “Yeah, after 30 years.” And she said, “Some people never do it at all.”
Point taken. But I have been wondering why it took me so long to ‘find myself’ — after all, I’ve been searching for a creative path since I was fifteen. Music, photography, screenplay writing, lighting director… who knows? So many twists and turns — I had sold screenplays, but the one that was almost made was cancelled when the lead actor died. What if he had lived? Do all paths lead to the same place? What if instead of going to college and studying Philosphy, I had studied photography? All I know is that for me, at that time, the idea of studying photography did not even occur to me… Whatever.
Orders for the smaller prints have been coming in, maybe one or two a day. They say be careful what you wish for, you may get it. And every once in a while a $40 print. To be honest, its hardly worth the effort as far as the smaller prints go. I think, for one thing, I’ve got too large an inventory, although there are still plenty of images I could put on the site. Oh, well. Lately I’m complaining too much about this stuff. I think that its just that you never know when an order will come in, or a streak of orders. Unlike doing an art show, where you prepare stock and sell and that’s the end of it. I’m still generally able to get the order out within a few days, but it’ll be tougher if there are ever a lot of orders. I remember, ten months ago when my first order came in, how excited I was. And that feeling of excitement lasted. But now its a lot of drudgery, and I have to psyche myself up to do a printing session.
My sister found a print that I did when I was about 15 — of two people sitting in the subway. Apparantly, the obsession goes back a long way. The print itself, although it is over 30 years old, looks as if it were printed yesterday. I guess, that even then, some simple fixer did the trick.
Big snow storm in New York today. I plan to go out an doing a little shooting. Snow is one of those things that gets me out of the house. Everyone complains about it — the t.v. is filled with reporters saying stay indoors. Don’t go out unless you have to, etc. etc. But its one of the most beautiful things in New York.