Dead laptop part 2

I’ve transfered my photo business to a $350 netbook I bought last year.

60,000 images on the peripherals. It’s running lighttoom and i’m installing PS.

This is the bottom of the barrel.

But i’m getting orders out and it gives me a breather to research the switch to mac.

Of course after PS was installed I couldn’t get the guy to boot up. Stops at the welcome screen. Trying to get it into safe mode now.

” composed and sent from my iPhone”

Advertisements

Photo Biz Vendors

Since I’m at this for a long time,  I thought I’d write a bit about my favorite suppliers.

1. ULINE.COM

Stuff I regularly buy: Cardboard, cardboard and more cardboard.  Fragile Don’t Drop stickers.  Tons of packaging tape and dispensers.  White gloves. Mailers and more mailers.

What I like about them I can say in a few words: If you place an order before 5 p.m. you are almost 100% sure it will arrive via ground the following day.  The web site keeps track of the items you’ve ordered, so for me, that’s a great plus as I’m basically ordering the same stuff over and over. The strategy they use is having warehouses all over the country, so this cuts down on shipping costs, and enables the ultra quick delivery.

They tell you how much the package will weigh, which is a big deal for me since the UPS guy often begs for help schlepping it up the two flights to my apartment; and it’s nice to know ahead of time if I’m going to be schlepping with him.

It’s not a place to order five cartons.  In fact I don’t think you can order five cartons.  Most cardboard is going to be 40 or 50 items at a time.  They get five Beckerman stars and have no faults that I can see.  During the recession they began to waive UPS over-sized shipping prices which was a time for me to stock up on stuff that normally costs a lot to ship.

2. DickBlick.com

Archival tape (to tape the back and front of mats together).  Archival tabs for attaching the print to the backing.  And of course, mats.  They are only missing one size mat that I need, 7.5 inch x 11.5 inch opening on 16 x 20 mat.  But I’ve only found custom places to do that, so I ended up buying 7.5 x 11.5 opening on 12 x 16 mat which seems to be the standard that everyone has.  Clear bags. And other odds and ends such as blades, erasers for removing a smudge on a mat, yes they also have white gloves, and their website is easy to use and keep track of your orders.  Nowhere as fast in terms of turnaround time as ULINE but nobody is that fast.

3. LightImpressionsDirect.com

They are expensive.  I only use them for some archival item that is a one-time order only.  But on the other hand, they have a wide selection of easy to assemble frames, and once in a while I’ll point a customer in their direction.

4. ShadesOfPaper.com

All my paper and ink comes from them.  They are located in Jersey and for me, this means that I always get next day service even with Fedex ground.  Their customer service is the best.  They regularly have sales, and the owner informs me when new beta fine art papers are coming out, which is how I ended up being a beta tester for the Crane/Museo silver rag.

Given that they are shipping expensive paper, it’s important to note that I have never received a damaged shipment from them (and I’ve been with them now for a long time).  Best thing – is when they have a paper sale.  Example, when they did a sale on Epson Fiber Gloss F paper a few months ago, they had limited it to two sizes.  It was a nice juicy sale price, something like 40% off, and I called and asked if there was any way they could offer the same discount on the larger (24×30) paper, and sure enough, they got back to me within a few minutes and said – no problem.  I really stocked up then – though I’m going through the big paper faster than expected and hoping they’ll have another Epson paper sale soon.

They also get five Beckerman stars.  Both for turnaround time, and for friendly customer service.  They are geared towards the fine art printer – rather than the typical consumer of inkjet paper.  So they are a good place to check when new fine art papers are announced.

5. WestCoastImaging.com

And when I get an order for a print that is larger than I can do (my printer can go up to 24 inches wide by whatever length), I use West Coast Imaging.  Again, I can only say that they are professionals who are used to dealing with finicky artists (myself included) and I personally like them because they are perfectionists.  Example, just recently I had to do a 40 x 60 inch print and I also needed it rushed.  They turned the thing around in a few days (on silver rag paper) and called me to say that the print they had done the night before had some flaws in it, and that they were going to reprint it.  I mean – that’s what I’m looking for.  A lab that will take the time to do it right because frankly, half the time I am drop shipping the print directly to the customer who may have paid a thousand dollars or more for the print.  And after several years with them, I’m confident enough to have them take the last look at it before it goes to the customer.

Once you get into pro labs, I’m sure there are many that are equally good – but they are worth mentioning because I have had nothing but good experiences with them; and if you want an example of professional packaging – order a large print from them.

It’s taken a long time to learn which suppliers to use, and so I just thought I’d pass it on to you.  Feel free to add other suppliers that you’ve used and are very happy with. I’m not including places like B&H for the obvious reason that they are well known and not really in the supply business; though of course I get all my camera gear from them.

6. FOTOMOTO.COM

And of course since I wrote this about vendors, I have been using Fotomoto for most of my selling and printing.  Fotomoto offers a simple way to add a cart and printing capabilities to an existing website.  I have my ups and downs with them.  When you outsource your printing, there are always going to be some issues.  With Fotomoto (as of this writing) I am still waiting for them to offer the ability to have the user send the print to the photographer for his approval, stamp, signature etc. before sending it on to the customer.  I feel that once this is working, many of my issues with them will go away and I’ll be a happy guy.

The reason this is so important is that I am mostly selling “fine art.”  I’m not selling wedding photography.  And I’m selling mostly black and white images and these are by far the most difficult to get printed correctly.  So I really do want to see them before they go to the customer.

Zazzle Notes

I received 3 products from Zazzle today and the envelope please…

– Three Mugs, each with a different picture

Terrible results. One was greenish, the other two magena-ish. (no such word but there should be).  [I looked at the cups again the next day.  They look even worse. I’ve removed the b&w mugs from the zazzle store]

– Dark T-Shirt with B&W Image

Perfect.  No color shifts.  Very beautiful.

– Notecards (two different sets).

Perfect.  I mean perfect.

If you end up ordering from my print store, you’ll also get one of the notecards.  For now, I’m going to have to remove the mugs.  I don’t know why this happens except that everything prob. gets done by different manufacturers.  Overall, the record with notecards and greeting cards has been best.  The T-Shirts have never had any color shifts.  It’s just that I didn’t care for the way they looked on light material, which is why I went for the dark fabric (which is recommended by Zazzle).

I’m sure that someone else can say that they’ve ordered a lot of mugs from Zazzle and that they’ve all turned out well.  But black and white?  It’s always tricky.  I’ll probably do some mugs again with various tints and color.  Printers are almost always better at getting color right as opposed to b&w.

As a note, all of the products were made with the same image files.  They rez down without any artifacts being introduced.  One other note, just really for myself, of the various posters I did – the one that was most poster like was what they call Bronze level which is on UV mat.

zazzle posters

PART TWO

Oh, and buried behind a pile of drying prints is an unopened Zazzle calendar which I forgot all about.  I’m going to take a look at it now.

They always do a good packaging job.

The calendar (the small one) is okay, but it does exhibit a fair amount of magenta metamerism that I find with Print on Demand services. It’s pretty easy to notice since one bulb is daylight temp. and another is tungsten, and you can watch the color shift from neutral under daylight to magenta under tungsten.

MyPublisher did the best job as far as calendar quality and lack of color shift.

Next step, to order a few posters.   I went through a year of futzing with all this when I was doing the print-on-demand book thing.  As I say in that article, MyPublisher was the best at printing b&w (given the price) and SharedInk was better in terms of thickness of paper and also did a good job with the ink but was more expensive.  Both, MyPublisher and SharedInk were too expensive for me to make any sort of decent profit on a book.

Zazzle allows you to set your own royalty percentage. They have a lot of tools for building up exposure for your products.  The one thing I have learned is that it is dumb to spend a lot of time working on a product that from the start is doomed not to make any money.

I’ve see people at Zazzle with a 90% royalty for their posters.

Okay, just bought three zazzle posters, (60 percent off today only) each on a different sort of paper, starting with their standard low end, and going up to gold.  When I first saw the different media levels of Bronze, Silver and Gold, I though they were talking about the tint of the print or something.  No, it’s the weight and archival quality of the print.  So this should be interesting and if nothing else – I can use them for Christmas presents. (UPS 3-5 days).  I’m really hoping the posters turn out well, at least at the Silver level.  I also want to try them on canvas.  According to their notes, there will be no color shift on canvas.

These are all either from large format or medium format cameras, and I put the largest files up that they allowed.

* * *

PART ONE

Today I’m going to order a bunch of my own posters from Zazzle since they are offering a 60% discount with the code: 12DEALZAZZLE

Even I can’t resist that, and frankly I’ve just gotten the posters into formats that make sense.  When I first began making the posters I was letting the software decide on the proper size, now what I do is decide what size (there’s a list of common sizes on the make poster page) and I pick the one that makes sense, and I don’t crop the picture but leave it in it’s natural proportions and just leave white space around it.

In other words, one of the differences between the posters and the prints, is that the image on the poster isn’t cropped whereas if you order a 5 x 7 print (for example) of an image that was shot at 4×5 proportions – of course it is going to be cropped.  No one can seem to understand that.  I have spent hours on the phone with designers trying to explain that when they ask for an image that began as a 4×5 negative and they want it at 40 x 60 inches, of course it will be cropped.  I have not met a designer or interior decorator that understood that idea without my explaining it first.

Anyway, this will give me a chance to check out the quality of the posters and whether the basic design stuff I’m doing with them makes sense.  I also had the bright idea of making a poster for two nearby stores that have offered to hang my prints.  Instead of a print – why not a poster, already framed, with my name and website.

Another cool thing, is that once I get my large png files up there (yes they fully support png) I can reuse them for various purposes, and marketing is one of them.  In other words, I’m going to make up something inexpensive that I can send along with orders.  If I order in bulk I can get a pretty good price on cards, etc.

Well, that’s it from the marketing people at Beckerman-Zazzle for now.  Today is my day to really get cracking at prints.  My plan is to try and get everything out this week.  Period.  I have my own Christmas shopping to do – and then it would be enjoyable to take a trip to a rest home that doesn’t allow cameras.

The Old Photoblog November 2001

Nov 1, 2001

My first day back at work was nothing more traumatic than total and absolute boredom. There was almost nothing to do. If there had been a clock in the office, I guess I would have watched it.

My boss, who I really like, and have worked with for eight years send he was retiring in December. He had been talking about retiring from the first day I met him. And I guess he’s had enough.

Received some prints done with the Pieziography system, and wasn’t too impressed. The best I can say is that it is like the difference between a watercolor (inkjet) and an oil painting (darkroom). There is just a certain luminous quality that you get in a good darkroom black and white that I haven’t yet seen in this inkjet process. Color is another story. I have seen color inkjet prints that are every bit as beautiful as good Cibachromes.

* * *

Nov 2, 2001

For the first time since the WTC I actually did a bit of relaxed shooting this morning by the East River. Even though I wasn’t actually shooting the water, just the feeling of the breeze and the slight fog coming off the water made me feel great. Felt very loose, and calm, and seeing things sharply. I’m still shooting with Delta 400. Haven’t actually seen results of it yet. Left two rolls with the lab yesterday, and will pick it up on Monday.

* * *

eBay has really been a great way for me to get more exposure, and their feedback mechanism is a great way to get reactions from customers. I just added this link to my eBay feedback

* * *

Nov. 3, 2001

Excerpts from News Conference…

Mr. Little:

Thank you for coming. As you all know, I have recently been appointed as the leader of the I.I.I., and I am here to make an important announcement. I am sorry to have to report this, but in our opinion, a great number of deaths are likely. In fact, we believe that each one of us will die.

Reporter #1

This is very startling news, Mr. Little. Can you tell us when this will happen?

Mr. Little

Unfortunately, I cannot say when this will happen, but we believe that for most of us, it will happen within the next one hundred years..

Reporter #2

The next hundred years?

Mr. Little

That is correct.

Reporter #3

But, sir — almost nobody lives past one hundred. That’s something that we know already.

Mr. Little

Yes. That is already common knowledge. Nevertheless, I felt compelled, to make this announcement because otherwise, as people die, and if your government said nothing about it, well, we might be blamed afterwards for not releasing this information.

Reporter #1

So, you are reporting to the people of Lompac that they are not immortal.

Mr. Little

Correct. As far as we have been able to determine, through extensive testing, there are no immortal people in our country. Of course, we haven’t tested people in every country, but I can say that your tax dollars, have been hard at work and we have discovered that most people will eventually die. We have made tests on rats, goats, and other…

Reporter #2

Are we to understand that the Lompac government has been using our tax money to kill animals in order to see if…

Mr. Little

Kill animals? Of course not. No animals have been harmed in any of these studies. In fact, we haven’t spent much money at all on this. For the most part, our research consists of reading obits in the Lompac Ledger and then going to these funerals to confirm that the people mentioned are actually dead.

These studies began in 1901 under the direction of Frank Spindlehoffer Sr. and were being carried on by his grandson, Frank Spindlehoffer Jr. until he took a nasty spill in the bathtub and proved his thesis. I have now been appointed as the new President of the Immortal Investigations Institute, which is why I am here. Thank you all for coming and have a safe trip home.

***

11-04-01

Just back from the NYC marathon. Shot four rolls before the first runner even appeared. It was fantastic. I was near the Poland Springs Water people — and there was loud rock music blaring, and a nice cool beautiful day, and there were moments, as certain music blasted — ‘Born in the USA’ etc. that I had tears welling up as I shot. And then they put on what always seemed a little corny to me — “New York, New York” and I really lost it. I felt like the spirit of NYC was coming back. That the defiance was there. That fear had disapated.

The cops were nicer than usual. I was standing in the middle of first avenue for a while, and no one bothered me about a press pass. The security was there — but a feeling of compradery was also there.

I have shot the NYC marathon for years, and you’ll notice there’s not a single shot of it on the site. I am sure that today I got a lot of good stuff. I was totally in the mood, and in the zone, and before I knew it, all my film was gone. I thought my spirit and feeling for the sweetness of people was gone, but it came back stronger than ever.

This was the first time I shot it with the Leica. Nuff said.

* * *

I had, from an early age, a feeling that everything, and everyone would disappear someday. My uncle who was sitting across from me would be gone. The view from my bedroom window would disappear. The apartment would dissolve. And everyone and everything that I knew would someday be gone. And if not gone, changed. I don’t think that at the age of 14 or 15 I could put this feeling into words, as I can now, but I can remember photographing my sisters, my mother and father, my friends, with this sense of trying to capture them before they evaporated into time.

The reason that I write this now, is that I was looking through some old negatives from thirty plus years ago, and was amazed at what I was trying to do. There are many photographs which are simply my feet in the foreground, on the window sill, with the Park across the way in the distance. Over and over, I took this shot. There are shots of my Uncle eating a sandwich at the table, where I seem to be about two feet from him and he is giving me that look of annoyance that I remember so well. I try now, to understand where this feeling came from. Even today, I seem to be attracted to just ordinary things that are around me that I feel will soon be gone.

Some of it must go back to the early years on University Avenue — where my world, my apartment, my school, and the things that I loved as a kid, disappeared as the neighborhood ‘changed’. We lived on the border of what was mostly an Irish neighborhood, that very quickly was eaten up by the projects, and crime, and when I was around 13 we picked our things up, and moved. By the time we moved, murders in the neighborhood were commonplace. The building that I grew up was abandoned. Almost the entire street across from where I lived was filled with empty buildings used for shooting galleries. The deli was gone. The candy store burned down. The place where I used to take piano lessons was leveled. And for a long time, that street, the street where I played, and dreamed — became one of those South Bronx pictures that you used to see in the papers.

I never worked in color. The images of my childhood are still in black and white. Color was something the neighbors had in their new t.v. set. My dreams and memories, the early films I saw, were all in black and white. When I see color photographs today, with their vivid eye-popping saturation, they don’t look like the world I see, or the world I want to remember.

* * *

11-05-01

I’ve been to this spot in Central Park a million times, but this time, something magical happened — surface tension on the pond — lighting, clouds, and the city in the background, and then turning the print upside down!

Here it is. I haven’t actually printed it yet, just scanned it, but I like the feeling where the leaves floating on the pond seem like stars.

11-06-01

Phew. The Big Order (33 prints) arrived in England in good shape, and the customer is happy! Here’s an excerpt:

“Photographs arrived yesterday!! Also had delivery of the frames from Nielsen (profile 73 which is quite deep).
We both loved the the prints which more than met our expectations. Obviously the internet does not begin to do them justice with a lot of the detail being lost. Am very happy with the size as well.”

Although I packaged it as best I could — I had nightmares that it would be destroyed in shipping, and then what would I do?

Now I have another four or five prints to get in the mail, and then I’ll get a chance to print the new thing (which I feel like calling ‘Starry Day’ .

Results from the Delta 400 film are promising. The speed actually seems to be higher than 400! This is the first 400 film where I might actually rate it higher than 400 for normal processing!

* * *

11-07-01

Asked my boss again if he would fire me. Two days back at the job, and I am determined to leave. Just too boring for words. Irony — everyone is so concerned about the economy and their jobs and I want to be fired. I don’t think I’d be eligible for unemployment insurance because of the photo business, (although I’m not sure about that) but I would like to get severance pay after 9 years; and make my 401K match for the year.

But I’m ready to cut back on the number of channels I’m getting on the cable box; pick up a bunch of rice and noodles; and as I told my sister and friends — you may find me dropping by more often than usual for a meal. Let’s see what can be worked out.

* * *

11-08-01

I had been having this email conversation with Grant about Piezography/inkjet prints etc. and I had received one inkjet from him (not Piezo) and a few from J. which were done with the Piezo process — and then I sent him two prints from my darkroom and here’s the reaction:

Dave,
Got your prints today. The steps of the met print is amazing. The black is just so, BLACK! It’s like there’s a life and a texture in the black areas of the print, whereas in an inkjet, the black areas are very dull and flat. The picture itself is fantastic as well. Thanks for sending it. I’ll have to see about doing some real printing…

To be honest, I was hoping that the Piezo prints would blow me away and make it feasible to toss the darkroom stuff, but no such luck.

* * *

I see, looking back at my journals that Dec. 25th will make it two years since I put up the web-site and I feel like its a good time to look back and take stock of the experience…

For all my complaining and whining in the journals — it has been a good two years. I remember when I started just wondering if any print would sell. Whether the whole thing wasn’t a dumb idea. Whether the work involved in making this a ‘business’ would detract from the enjoyment of photography. And the answer to that, at least today, is no — I am still as determined and excited, maybe more than before about the possibilities. The things that irked me, many having to do with packaging, and matting, have mostly been solved. The question about whether anyone would visit the site without advertising has been answered — yes — they will.

The big question, about whether it is possible to survive from sales has yet to be answered, but I am close enough to it that I am ready to take the leap of faith into the unknown. What have I learned?

– I can cut my own window mats.

– I can attract more visitors to the site by using eBay to sell and to market.

– You cannot, at least I cannot, sell expensively priced prints through the web, though it can be done in galleries.

– It is possible to do all of this from a tiny studio apartment, so long as you are willing to ‘think outside the box’ literally.

– This journal, which I thought would be a chore, is not at all. I have always kept journals, so there was nothing new about this, other than complete strangers are reading it.

– No one who orders prints is out to ‘rip me off’. In two years, there has not been a single returned print, or stolen credit card number or anything like that.

– And the bottom line, is that turning this into a business — has not killed the fun of it. I remember saying to myself that so long as this thing remained exciting and fun, I would stick with it. Though I can see how it could. I am lucky in that I like doing boring grunt work (or at least I can put up with it). There is no glamour to it. There is nothing all that ego-gratifying about standing in a gallery and pointing at work. In fact, so far, the worst experiences have all come from the cocktail type parties at galleries.

– What else have I learned? There are a lot of people who want to do this, but are not willing to spend the time learning the little things. I have received many emails from people, and generally, the most illiterate and ill-thought out ones were from photography students who I think were trying to get me to do their homework for them.

– If anyone remembers the movie ‘Treasure of Siera Madre’ — and you think of Humphry Bogart (Fred C. Dobbs) and Tim Holt learning what it really means to prospect for gold — that its mostly labor, that you don’t just stumble over nuggets and pick them up from the ground.

Well that’s is the paradigm for the photography business. And despite the labor, the old prospector is always ready to go back for more if someone will give him a stake.

* * *

Question:

I was wondering through B&W sites while I had down time at work today, researching for a shoot I have this weekend. I happened across your website and found a picture called “Newspaper Reader”. I was wondering what camera you used and all the other juicy stuff that made this the most striking photograph on the site (to my eyes anyway).

Answer:

Simply the result of shooting on the subways for about ten years.

But here are the details —

Leica M6 with a 35mm/f1.4

Open all the way at f1.4, handheld, and probably about 1/15 of second (hence the blurring of those just walking by).

But the secret — if there was a secret — was that the guy with the paper and the umbrella, was very strong side-backlighting that combined with very narrow depth of field gives the effect.
* * *

Printed the City, Clouds, Sky shot– (not much of a name) — but heck of a good print. Looks almost exactly as it does on the web. I remember that at the time, I had been just sitting on this rock looking at the way the surface tension on the pond was slightly distorting the clouds. I actually took two shots. The first one had a touch of the buildings, and then the idea of placing the buildings more prominently must have struck me because the second shot is just right.

Experiences with Delta 400 are making me happy, although I still think it is actually faster then the 400 its rated at.

* * *

11-09-01

Brilliant. After two years of writing my name and address onto Fedex labels, I just called them and asked for labels with my name on it. No problem. Should have them in 3-5 days. I don’t know about others but I love the Fedex people. The place where I drop the packages off is generally empty or near empty. I just sent something to the Netherlands and the guy on the other end just tracked it and said it left the States already.

* * *

Received two huge boxes of mailers from Brasspack today. And even figured out where to put them without fearing they’d come crashing down on my head. One thing is a box of 100 13 x 17″ flat mailers. And the other is a box of fifty 22 x 27 flat mailers for the big stuff. I have three large prints to send out — lets see how that works.

* * *

11-10-01

Packed my first two 20 x 24 mats into the BrassPack mailer. Not bad. Made some cardboard corners for the edges of the mats, and put in a few pieces of fedex cartons, and then taped an additional mailer to the package. Not bad. Now lets see what it costs to send it fedex to NYC.

The whole process took me about fifteen minutes and looks better than the old method I was using of taping and cutting cardboard boxes which I think used to take me about an hour to put together. Exciting stuff, huh?

* * *

Just dropped off the prints at Fedex — and the price is not bad: $10. That’s for two large prints, with the extra mailer on the front. So with packaging, my cost is probably about $15. I’m a happy guy.

* * *

11-11-01

Dear Dave,

Just a few quick questions for a paper I’m writing on my favorite photographers:

1. What do you like about photography?

2. What is your favorite part of the camera? The lens or the shutter?

3. Other than your own favorite photographers, who would you say has influenced your photography the most?

4. Do you think that black and white photography is more emotional than colored photography, and if so, why and if not why not?

Thanks in advance, and please answer as quickly as possible because my paper is already two weeks late.

* * *

I’m thinking about breaking up the home page into two pages so there isn’t so much stuff on it. Sort of a page one and page two. Page two would have links to all the other articles, bio etc. This would make the front page simpler and easier to find what is important. On the other hand, it may screw things up with the search engines which have been kind to me lately. Do I risk it?

* * *

11-12-01

Well, it’s 7am and I’m getting ready for my second week back at the 3-day a week job, so let me dash off something here… The picture of the City-Clouds was luckier than I thought, because in addition to the idea of turning it upside down, it is probably the only shot on 6 rolls of Delta 400 film where the development (way over) didn’t ruin it. That shot is apparantly a result of so many accidents including my own ability to see the accidents, that I remain flabergasted by it.

A friend (you know who you are) apparantly out of boredom (again you know how bored you get) went through the images on my site and quantified them by when they were taken and with what, and came to the conclusion that about 1/3 were now taken with the Leica M6. I don’t know if this is true or not, but considering that I have had the M6 for less than 6 months — that would be an amazing statistic, and as my friend said to me, “I guess you’ve found your camera.”

I do feel like “I found my camera”. I held on to the G2 just in case this was a passing fancy, and also because it simply isn’t worth that much in re-sale. But this week I’ll sell the G2 back (two bodies, all the lenses) back, and see if I can get enough out of that for either another M6 body, or the 21mm. I think that Ken Hansen offered me $1900, and B&H offered $1850. I bet that with the economy going down their prices will be less.

You know that song, “Band on the Run”? by McCartney… I have the strong desire to write something called, “Taliban on the Run” — but I will stop myself…

If my 3 days at work are as boring as last week, then I will have to take up doing the Times crossword puzzle again, which for me is a sign of utmost apathy.

* * *

I joined the mailing list for the LUG (Leica Users Group) yesterday. Just out of curiosity I guess, and since I’m really not a ‘joiner’ I thought I’d force myself.

Now, to the age old question du jour, or longer: WHAT IS STREET PHOTOGRAPHY? Does it mean that it must be taken on a street, or a sidewalk, or in the city? I admit, that I don’t know. Well, time for breakfast, but I would like to get back to this later. I remember the old arguments between the pictorialists and the realists like Adams — (although he had his own pictorialish phase) — the only thing that I can say about street photography is what it is not. Ansel Adams is not a street photographer. Gary Winnogrand was. These are the extremes. There is often a hard edge to the street photographer. Many shots are taken, and culled from all this are shapes and tableux that have some emotional imact. The reflexes are supposed to be quick. The movements snappy. Yikes… got to get to work, more later, maybe…

At any rate, the reason I ruminate on these classifications is really because I want to say that I’m getting sick of street photography — you know that shot where you just point the camera at people walking along the street, and usually get a kind of numb or bitter look because you are invading their space and they know it.

* * *

Dave,

I wanted to let you know that I have received the beautiful print. You packaged it very well. [The 11 x 14 of Promenade.]

Also, for encouragement and affirmation, my husband saw it and asked if it was an Ansel Adams picture… wonderful photography,

Thank You again.

Best Regards,

L.
* * *

11-13-01

Yesterday, my boss walked into my office and said that he had written out his new plan which included having my position terminated, and was I sure that I wanted to do this? Should he send the e-mail? I put my hands together in prayer and said, “Yes, please, absolutely.” He smiled and we both said that our era was over at this place, and he went back to his office and pressed the ‘send button’. Now I have to wait for the reaction of his boss.

I have been with the agency (sounds like the CIA doesn’t it) for almost nine years. It has been a thankless position. We made timesheet programs, and made sure the email system worked, and did workflow systems, and for a few years it was an exciting place to work. Users disliked us, or at least treated us badly. We gave them systems that we thought were making life easier, and they resisted like crazy. When we first presented them with the timesheet system, the creatives in the agency used to slip little notes under my door. The one that I remember was a picture of a clock with a dagger going through it, and the caption read, “I thought we had driven a stake through its heart!”

But as new people came to the agency, and as these systems were now de facto way of doing work, no one complained. And when we wanted to change the system to a web-based system, the same complaints took place. Why are you changing the system? We love the old system.

I sat around with my boss and went over what I had learned about management since I was there:

1. In order to get anything done, you need to be willing to make mistakes. You need to be willing to get fired if necessary. And I can remember sitting in these big meetings with the bigwigs saying to myself, if I tell them something, they’re not going to like it. But I’m going to tell them anyway.

2. Working in M.I.S. department, you must give people a hurdle to reach before you begin work for them. People will walk into your office with all sorts of ideas, and they will all be important, and they will all need them ASAP. So you sy to them, “That sounds like a great idea. What I need is for you to write up a one page description of the benefits of this system and perhaps one or two mock-ups of what the user screen should look like, or what the report should look like.”

And that hurdle would kill 90% of the requests. Once you asked them to do any sort of work, the ideas vanished, and became less important. The 10% who went through the trouble of actually doing some work, meant that they were serious about the project.

3. And most important — in most cases, the personalities of the people you work with, the people you hire, are more important than the particular skillset they might have at the time they are hired. The right people around you and you can soar. I gave many programmers their first job. I took them quite often while they were still in school. The only thing I looked for was the desire to learn new things. Once or twice this backfired. But for the most part, it worked well, and there was a tremendous loyalty that came from having given the person a chance. Now many of those that I hired, who had been students working after school in Pizza places and hardware stores, are making six figures in brokerage firms.

* * *

I was thinking of opening an eBay store but after thinking about it and reading through a bunch of discussions about it, I’m not sure it makes sense. I already have a store. I’ve put on my marketing cap, and I think what I’ll do instead is simply offer a few of the limited edition prints for auction each week, and feature them on my home page instead of the web-discount thing I’ve got now — which doesn’t work very well. I think the monthly idea behind that doesn’t work because there isn’t a feeling that the BUY is going to go away. And its actually easier for me to list things on eBay then to keep changing what is on sale on my site. In other words, I’ll put those small images of what is for sale on eBay on my home page with a link to the sale.

* * *

Here are a couple of new things off the first roll of HP5 Plus — basically just experiments, but there are a few interesting things here perhaps. Lips is somewhat startling at first glance, and slumping man is more subway stuff. All taken on one roll of film on my way to work. Its pretty gray stuff. Probably not as sharp as TMY. I’m going to do a few prints from the stuff, but it looks like I’m probably going to go back to TMY, shot at 200, and under-developed. This basically minimizes grain, gives the best shadow detail while still controling highlights. I guess I’ve just been sort of lazy about it lately, hoping to be able to shoot at 400.

Slumped Man

Doorway

Flat Iron 1

Gargoyle

Lips

Glare

* * *

Dave,
I received the prints today and am very, very pleased with them. It’s not all that easy to get a good night shot with detail, especially one with snow in it — but you did it.
Packaging was great, no dinged corners. [My new mailers from Brasspack are working out well!]
I hesitate to offer unsolicited comments, but if I may, I would like to say something about the limited editions.
If you get a really hot shot, why don’t you limit the edition to 25 prints. Then, if it sells out and someone buys a print from an original buyer at a higher price than you sold it, and this can be documented, you have gone from selling photographs to selling investments.
I realize the odds may be a bit high, but I certainly think they are much better than lottery odds.
My 2¢ worth.
Again, many thanks. I left two positive feedbacks [on EBay].

Much success in the future.

M.

My reply:

First off — thank you very much.

The problem that I have with limited editions — is not from a marketing point of view — but simply it means that perhaps my best work can only be held by say 25 people. This strikes me as odd, considering that part of the beauty of a good negative is that you can make many many prints (although in reality each one is a little different). There are many famous photographers who have not done limited editions for this very reason — the one that comes to mind first is Cartier-Bresson.

Maybe this is a mistake, in terms of the business side of it — but I am much happier to see 500 prints in the hands of people than 25. Also, even the limited edition thing is really a kind of fraud, because what many photographers do is print an edition of 25, and then if it sells out, print a second edition of 25 etc.

When I started, I did a few prints at the limited edition size of 500, but those are the only ones that I’m actually still selling as limited editions.

Dave

* * *

Dave,
I understand your problems with limited editions. Many, many years ago I printed for a photographer who had “limited editions”, and when one sold out, he’d start another edition. Then, and now, I consider it a complete lack of integrity.
Furthermore, in this litigious society, I would think that any photographer who started another edition could run the risk of being sued by an irate customer.
I was looking again at the detail in the front of the Flatiron Building — really remarkable, especially considering the dry down.
The best to you.

M.

* * *
11-14-01

Changed the home page to feature the prints that are up for auction on eBay. This may be a fluke, but sold 4 or 5 prints of Promenade.

* * *

Had a horrible time at the periodontist this morning — nearly freaked out in the chair. I’ve always been phobic about dentists — and they were digging around for 30 minutes — and my heart started pounding and I said, “Stop, I’ve got to get up”. So I get up and take a drink of water, and then back in the chair.

I guess I was in the chair about 40 minutes, but it seemed like hours. A lot of scraping with that cavitron instrument of torture. Maybe I swallowed too much novacaine or something. Felt pretty shakey the rest of the day.

My parents tell me that once when I was a kid, I ran out of the dentist’s office and the dentist ran out onto the street chasing me around in circles. I don’t remember this, but I believe it.

Some of these dental hygenists are the sweetest, kindest people I’ve ever met, and I figure its because they’ve taken out all their aggression on my gums. I once asked the dental hygenist if she had ever thought of taking up sculpture. She laughed. I said, really you could really put all that aggression to a more artistic use. Maybe not.

* * *
Also sold six prints to someone in Texas who believe it or not wanted smaller prints. That’s the first time anyone has specifically asked for 5 x 7’s.

* * *

11-15-01

Just put up Midnight at Grand Central, 2/500 on eBay. This is one of those prints that you really don’t get the effect of on the web — in my not so humble opinion. But what the heck. The first print sold at about $600 at my first show. Its opening price on eBay is $76. Its just one of those prints that I really think are special and would like to get into people’s homes. Especially seems poignent after Sept. 11th.

* * *

Hi Dave – Just wanted to let you know I received the photos this afternoon [Promenade and Equitable and Flat Iron] and they are absolutely beautiful, I cannot wait to see them framed and displayed. Thank you again for your help…The packaging was great, they arrived in perfect condition.

Best Regards,
V.

Ah, heaven. My new packaging for large prints is working fine.

***

I guess these accolades are boring to read through… maybe I’ll make a separate page for them. But what is great is that I am now selling the larger sizes, and that is where a lot of the quality and effort really come through. When I have time, I really would like to try a few of these at even larger sizes, say 20 x 24 prints — but I don’t have the right size trays, and am still not sure I have room for 4 20 x 24 trays. I might try the one tray method suggested by Lloyd.

* * *

After two years of selling, and ten years of shooting, I am really finding an audience, and am starting to see that I may be successful at this. That, I am sure, will bring my fifth mid-life crisis. I have generally run away from success in the past. I can tell a lot of stories about getting promotions, and refusing them or quitting as things were going good. I am as afraid of success as I am as fearful of failure.

* * *

QUESTION DU JOUR

Should I just keep sticking some of the nice things people say when they receive the prints in here… or set up a separate page called, Nice Things People Have Said …?

It might get rather boring to keep putting this stuff in the journals, plus I don’t know how many people (o.k. my business hat is on) actually read the journals. Maybe I should put a ‘nice quote of the day’ on the home page. Too slick for my own good? When I started the site, I used to have a page called ‘Dear Dave’ where I put the things that irked me in people’s emails up. Some of them were really harmless. Some of them were pretty funny. But I think it sort of stiffled people’s writing — uh oh, I might wind up on the Dear Dave page!

Anyway — matting and packaging today, and should have all the big prints ready for Fedex today.

* * *

The consensus is to keep putting reactions in… so here’s another that just came in today.

Hi Dave, I purchased an 8×10 of the same image a month ago. Really love the photograph. [Benches]

I’m looking at this purchase as my first real investment in art. A numbered print! I keep my 8×10 at work on my office wall and I’ll keep this new one at home. As I look into my crystal ball I see a very bright future for you and your work. I believe it will all come together and your name will go down in history with the other great
photographers.

J.P.

* * *
Dave,

I think that both feedback from your customers and visitors and your own reactions to what they write are important parts of this story. I suspect that more readers than just this one are watching the little drama of your
life and work. Maybe we’ve fantasized about doing the same thing you’re doing–walking away from corporate life and trying to make a living doing what we love to do. We’ve been to your shows with you. We cheered when you had a big day selling out on the sidewalk. We need to know what kind of reaction you’re getting from customers. We want to listen as you think out loud about pricing and packaging. (Makes it sound a little bit like that movie, The Truman Show, huh?)

M.M.

* * *

I put up ‘Midnight Grand Central Station’ on eBay — but this print is and always has been a problem to sell over the web. I just don’t seem to be able to get the detail to show properly. Yet the first and only time I took this print out to a show, it sold for quite a lot (don’t remember what but maybe $600). What I might do, next time is use that picture service on eBay where you can show various details of the picture. That’s one of the drawbacks of selling on the web — if the accumulation of a lot of detail is important — forget it. Another print like that which is really amazing is White Mountain, because you can just make out these tiny, tiny rock climbers inside a dark crevice, and I would say that each rock climber is about three grains of silver. When I first started with the web thing, I looked around for java applets that could be used to zoom in and out of a photo. These things do exist, but either they were too expensive, or people said that they crashed their computers. So I gave up on the idea. Its sort of like the pictures that sell the best on the web have the simplest, and most dramatic lines to them. If you removed the detail and just kept the major lines, there is a simplicity that can be understood. Think about it — best sellers:

Promenade — a bunch of dramatic trees in the foreground, and two converging lines that take you to the horizon.

Benches — almost the same classic type of composition. It would work equally well as a sketch. The lines of the wood drawing your eye past the blocks of benches to the horizon.

Night Storm — same thing.

But the Sprinkler and Tree which I really like to look at because of the splattering effects which you really have to look at closely — doesn’t seem dramatic enough on the web.

And the other thing that works well is faces. So long as the expressions can be seen you’re okay.

* * *

11-16-01

“A woman was seriously injured after being pushed into the path of a subway train at Grand Central Terminal last night by an emotionally distrubed homeless man, the police said” – The New York Times, Robert F. Worth

First off — there is that fact-stuffed, unemotional opening sentence that the Times is famous for. It glides ever so lightly over the horror like a skater on very thin ice. Who? Where? What? When? Why? Just the facts, ‘mam. There is no “Why?” That can never be answered.

This woman was struck by the number 6 train, the same train that is the subject of most of my images. How many times have I wondered, if I were pushed onto the tracks, would I have the presence of mind to roll over and try and squeeze myself beneath the platform? Or would the timing of the push just be too close to the oncoming train? What if I touched the third-rail, and was electrocuted and then mangled?

And that fear, that someone will come up behind you, and push you down onto the tracks, where you will try to get up, as the train roars at you, but you can’t quite reach up and get back onto the platform quickly enough — that nightmare will be raised again in New York today. The usual New York fear of death by being run over by tons of screeching metal will — at least for a few days — replace the fear of the terrorists.

* * *

11:22 am

Been up since about 5:30. Have been awakening very early lately, and then feeling lethargic for part of the day. Bad dreams. This is unusual for me — I don’t remember my dreams that often but now every morning I awaken with the most weird dreams. This morning I was in an elevator with my mother. I was working at the ad agency. And I kept trying to tell her that there were these two men who were after me and she kept laughing about it. Then I’m in a cab going to the United Nations building…o.k. ok., that’s the plot from North by Northwest. I’m not going to put my nightmares into this journal.

* * *

Did a couple of prints this morning, because I had to do the Flat Tire print for an order (I really do like this one) — anyway, some of the new stuff which was shot on HP5 — yikes, grain like boulders. I realize that in the last month I’ve tried Tri-x, Delta 400 and now HP5 Plus, and to be honest I’ve done better with TMY. I know that everyone has their recipes, and that any of these films will give great results etc. etc. — but I’m too pooped to look for the perfect film. So the TMY goes back in the camera.

* * *

6:10 pm

Slept a good deal of the day — seem to have a bad sore throat. Then got around to organizing some of my negatives, yes actually filed them away. You have to understand that I probably have ten thousand negatives in the house, so when I say that I filed them away, I’m only talking about those strips that are considered ‘portfolio’ material. I mostly only deal with the tip of the iceberg.

Maybe that amounts to two hundred strips of 6 (for the 35mm stuff). So now the glasine (sp?) envelopes are in little tabbed cardboardy things that I got from Light Impressions, and sorted by name. During this process I came across a few that I had printed but not put on the site, so I added them under new pictures. I did the one on the Staten Island ferry years ago with the Canonet, and it holds up really well at 16 x 20. What makes the picture is not so much the composition but the look — whether it is sadness, contemplation, reverence — I’m not sure, on the fellow in the sports jacket (left foreground.) I think it was Sunday. And I’m sure that this was on the way back to NYC. For some reason I was riding the Ferry back and forth for a few hours that day.

The other shot is nearly impossible to print. Its too easy to simply silhouette the kid in the foreground. But there is detail there. Maybe I’ll go back and give it another try. The shot reminds me (and of course this is just my association) of pictures taken in the Warsaw Ghetto. There’s a feeling of taking a respite from the destruction of some catostrophic event — and nothing at all fun about it. (That’s just my feeling). In fact, these kids were in the park on a hot summer day and running and playing and having a great time. Count on me to make associations with that and the holocaust. (Which was not an afterthought at all, but a feeling that I was after at the time I was shooting!)

* * *

11-17-01

You can probably skip all this stuff I wrote today… Looking it over, it isn’t particularly funny, and falls somewhere between banal and morbid. That’s just the way it goes some days, especially when I’ve got a sore throat…

From the NY Times, today — Richard Lezin Jones. Day two of the story about the woman pushed under a train.

“There was the time in 1987 that he fired a shotgun at the tracks of the No. 7 train in Midtown. There was the time last year when he groped a passenger on a subway car. He ended up in a mental hospital again.”

You know, about thirty years ago, I worked as what they called a Mental Health Therapy Aide at Brooklyn State Hospital. These types of characters were brought in all the time, but in those days, they were kept around and off the streets. Brooklyn State Hospital was a violent and ugly place, and like something out of Cukoo’s Nest, it was often hard to tell the inmates from the staff.

I was on the night shift. After one day of training, I have no idea what my job was supposed to be. I guess make sure no one killed anyone or themselves. At night the worst of the staffers were there. People who were one step above common street thugs. It was common for them to steal drugs from the cabinets, and pass them through the grate in the window to buyers. It was just as common to come in and go to sleep for the night.

The first day I arrived, they took us up to a ward where there were about two hundred men who were in the last stages of syphillis. Many of us left the room and lost our lunches. There was this kind of hardened shock treatment that the management tried on us. Many decided not to go back after that show.

I don’t think this story is going anywhere — but for all the sweetness or beauty that may show up in some of my photos, there has been a hard, scary experience. For example, there was a man, a very old man, with swollen feet, and each morning I would put his socks and slippers on for him. Always, the slight smell of urine and aftershave. Memories like that, jump out at me when I read these stories about the crazies in New York. Maybe there’s no point to putting them in here, but these are tidbits from my life and I feel like getting them down.

* * *

7pm. Still somewhat lethargic, but the sore-throat seems to be going away. Except for a bit of packing and shipping, didn’t do much of anything today. Still, just about all the orders are done and on their way.

* * *

Looking forward to the Dylan concert Monday night. (Yes, he’s still alive and still writes ambiguous but memorable lyrics). He’s been to the other side of life and back again more times than I’ve been to the supermarket.

Dylan is a giant in my book.

* * *

Web stuff — the site was switched today from Cybercash (out of business now) to Verisign Payflow (they bought that from another company) without incident. Even had an order on the site today, and it worked fine. Then I got a letter saying that the company that was doing the actual processing, I guess you’d call them the Merchant Bank, had been taken over by another entity. Whatever. So long as the money ends up in my bank account somehow because I’m gonna need it soon.

* * *

11-18-01

e-mail about the Dylan concert… i guess we were looking for a nice place to eat before the concert and I suggested a steak house nearby — Keens — why? because it was the only place I could find in Zaggats that was nearby and not a clip joint. So I suggested Keens and this is the beginning of of e-mails between myself and Andy:

Me:There’s not a lot in that neighborhood that is decent… but Keens might be the best bet — if we can still get a reservation… I don’t really know if I want a giant steak before the concert… but i bet its a nice place to hang out…

Andy:I wouldn’t mind a thick slab of bloody red meat amidst clouds of thick cigar smoke. You can deliver me to the Garden on a stretcher. Actually, that sounds fine if you want to call for reservations for 5:30. (I’ll take double dose of my cholesterol pills and a surgical mask)

Me: yikes, that sounds disgusting.
it wasn’t really the meat, so much as the idea of sitting around in Leather Chairs, like something out of Sherlock Holmes. I think what we really need is to hang at the ALL VICTORIAN CHAIR CLUB where you snort from Brandy
snifters or is it sniff brandy snorters, and fall asleep in the big easy chair. this seems like the perfect prelude to Dylan concert, and perhaps a good after-lude also… speaking of ludes, are they still made? but I digresss…

* * *

Found myself walking around the house shooting stuff like the toothpaste, and the shaving mirror, a corner of the garbage pail, the dishes in the sink etc. and then found this quote by William Blake, “To see a World in a Grain of Sand and a Heaven in a Wild Flower”

* * *

Dear Mr. Beckerman,
My name is [edited out]. I’m in a photography class at my high school and we’re doing projects. The project is to emulate a black and white photographer that does landscapes. I went to your site and liked your work. So, I was wondering if I could emulate you. I have some questions. What is your style? What kind of camera(s) do you use? What do you like most about photography? And if there is any other information that you would like share with me, I’d love to know. Thank you so much.

I replied: look at the journals and various other articles on the site and that each picture gave info on the camera that was used etc.

Hey Mr. Beckerman,
Thank you so much for replying. A lot of the photographers that I e-mail never write me back. I have some other questions. You don’t have to answer some of them. Where and when were you born? I know you live in New York, but I wasn’t sure if you were born there. Are you married and do you have kids? Do you have any pets? How many brothers and sisters do you have? Again, thank you so much for responding. I look forward to hearing from you again.

[this is an actual question, that I have not made up]

And my reply:

I hope you understand, but many of these questions are a bit too personal and can’t imagine how they would help write a paper on me … but here’s what I will tell you:

Born in the Bronx, NYC, 1951

I am a little weary of getting these requests from students, mainly because I have in the past given out a lot of information, and in return I just asked that the student send me a copy of the paper.

So far, in two years, not a single student has done that.

So maybe you’ll be the first.

* * *

I will let you know if I get any response to this. But so far, not a single student (with the exception of the fellow in Canada who did the transformation of ‘The Hug’) has sent me a copy of a paper. Perhaps this stuff is just a scam to find out personal information about me for whatever reason.

* * *

11-19-01

I took this from the guestbook — it is also a very common question:

I love youer work! I have just one question, though: A problem I seem to come across when dealing with others in my own photography… How do you not piss them off?! I’m a traveling artist, and I find that, in many of my travels, I see shots that are simply magnificent: detailing emotion, mood, light – without any help of meaters or models – but when I go to take the picture, it stops. The people move, or get upset and the mood changed. How can I avoid this problem? It would help me greatly if you could respond… -or anyone who may have suggestions on what I can do to capture the moment more spurattically… thank you.

* * *

One thing is, I don’t know what ‘meaters’ are.

* * *

I offered the following advice:

How do you shoot people, strangers, without disturbing the mood, scene, facial expressions etc.

Answer — it ain’t easy. But there are techniques that can be used. They break down into two camps:

Stealthy and non-stealthy.

Stealthy means that you are in some way not making it obvious that you are taking the picture. This might mean that the camera is hidden. Or that the camera is hanging from your neck, but you aren’t looking through it. Or that you are holding the camera in your hand, but not looking through it. Very often this type of photography depends on using a wide angle lens, so that there is a great depth of field, and being very close to your subjects… perhaps three feet away. Read about hyper-focal distance.

Non-stealthy
You must be quick, and you must know ahead of time exactly what you are going to shoot, and how it will be composed, and you’d better be pre-focused (either hyperfocal, or you have focused on something else in the same place of focus, or man you are just quick). The camera goes to your eye, and you shoot before the expression or the mood changes, and you smile, and relax, and hope for the best. Maybe you smile and relax first actually.

Both methods mean that you will be shooting lots of film and will be lucky to get a good shot. In my opinion, this type of photography is the hardest thing to do, and is generally not appreciated. For every shot of people on the subway or elsewhere, I have sold thirty times as many pictures of the trees in Central Park (which of course weren’t moving very much and didn’t care at all that I was shooting them).

There are other tricks that can help. For example, DRESS LIKE A TOURIST, even in your own city. And carry a map with you. Look like your lost all the time. Do not, in anyway look like a professional.

If you have a boyfriend, brother, girlfirend etc. significant other, other type, — and you see a scene or subject that interests you, again, play the tourist and tell your friend to stand near that scene, and it may look like you are taking a tourist type picture, but you really are focused on the people behind your friend.

Some situations you simply can’t do. Others are easy. For example, the easiest place to shoot without anyone caring is at a large public gathering — street fair, ballgame, etc. An event. No one really knows what exactly your shooting. People are drinking beer and eating ices, and could generally care less that you are trying to steal a bit of their soul.

Crowded places are not the same as events.

The hardest situations, that I have found, are on the subway. Although these are crowded places, people do not expect you to be taking their picture in this normal setting. Going to work in the morning is not an event. It should be an olympic event, but so far the olympic committee hasn’t taken it up — (bribes from the straphangers union anyone?).

One more thing. A quiet camera is always important advantage especially more the stealthy method. When someone hears a loud pop going off from beneath your coat — and the heavy slap of a reflex mirror, the fact that they camera is hidden, or hanging from your neck is not going to help you much, and in fact you may find yourself in a mildly threatening situation. And remember this, let a smile be your friend…

* * *

So yesterday, I’m sort of just lying around watching t.v. all day, when I get the idea to try and photograph objects in the house. In fact, to tell you the truth, it all started when I was taking a bath, and I sort of stuck my big toe in the faucet — which is right out of the old Dick Van Dyke show, and then I was thinking, wouldn’t it be cool to photograph my foot getting stuck in the faucet like Mary Tyler Moore. But don’t worry. I’m not that far gone. But I was thinking about stuff like that. What about trying to photograph the beginning of the shower scene from Psycho — that point of view shot where you see the water from the showerhead coming down at you, and then I started thinking, how the heck did they do that without getting the camera wet? I’m not taking my M6 inside the shower. No way.

So I put these ideas behind me. But a few hours later, I had this odd desire to photograph my bare feet, but in some jumbled up way. Something that would sort of make you just a little bit queezy — and then it hit me. How about putting my feet or foot up, with the spinning ceiling fan in the background. The blades would just be slightly blurred, and it would all be upside down, and maybe I could throw some interesting sidelight on the fan… O.K. I admit to doing this, and worse. I photographed the sink full of dishes. That’s right, the dishes that have been piled up and unwashed for at least a week now — became fascinating to me. I know you’re thinking that Dave has lost it — but wasn’t the idea I was preaching about finding heaven in a grain of sand, if taken for real, meaning that there could be found beauty in the dishes or an upside down foot? [actually I doubt it very much].

* * *

Got my check for consulting now and then from the agency. I was hoping that they’d give it to me without taking out taxes and all that, but no — 50% more or less got taken out — so I’m not as well off as I thought I’d be. Still waiting for the axe to fall over here at the agency. Like everything else, here, it falls in slow motion.

* * *

The flurry of Ebay sales dried up — but there were a few more sales from the website itself, and that’s great. My birthday is coming up soon (Sagittarius) and I’m asking everyone for money to launch me into the new year and the new career.

* * *

Tonight’s Dylan concert. Not sure what I’ll be able to do with a 90mm, although it is nice to have the F2. Will try and sneak up as close as I can.

* * *

How much do you want to bet that if I were to enact the most famous sit-com scenes with myself in the title roles, and photograph them that I would cause a stir? This would be my ‘urine in a mayonaise jar’ period. I don’t mean that I would dress the part or anything like that, I just mean that I would photograph myself in my normal clothing or lack of it as is appropriate to the scene.

1. Laura’s Toe Caught In Faucet

2. Lucy’s arm in the slop of Chocolate, or better yet, on top of the Empire State Building with a Ray Gun (might be dangerous these days)

3. Ralph Kramden giving the racoon salute?
(there should be something better for the Honeymooners)

* * *

Early Photo Blog June 2001

5-26-01

I bought a Leica yesterday. The M6 with .85 magnification. I traded in my view camera which I hadn’t used in over a year and a half, so it didn’t cost me anything. I had been shooting with a friend’s Lecia for a while, hoping to get this out of my system. But instead I fell in love with it.

5-31-01

Started with the m6 with the .85 magnification and the 35mm f1.4. The lens of course was great. I didn’t like the .85 magnification. Too difficult with the 35mm to really see the whole frame at one time. Also, the meter was off, about 1/2 stop more than it should have been. I returned it to Ken Hansen. No problem. Got the .72 magnification. Much better for the two lenses that I use most often, the 35 and the 50. Once in a while I will use the 90.

Some of the shots that I did with the 75mm wide open at f1.4, with available light were really beautiful. Took one of the best portraits of someone that I’ve ever taken. The problem that I had with the 35mm and the .85 magnification was that I simply saw things so well in the frame, i.e. details of expressions of people who were small in the frame, that I forgot the fundementals — don’t have stuff in the frame that is irrelevant. I also knew that the meter was wrong, so I didn’t trust it, and was off with a bunch of exposures. But with four rolls under my belt, the biggest obstacle is trying to keep my fingerprints off the viewfinder when I change film. Another downside of the .85 mag, is that you lose one of the really great features of the rangefinder, being able to see what’s happening on the edges outside the frameline.

Metering on the second body seems to be right on, and the frame lines for the 35 and 50 are perfect.

June 1, 2001

I shot a roll to test the 50mm f2, and the 90 f2 apo, (not to mention the new body) with XP2, just so that I could drop it off at the local color lab and get it back in an hour.

Its not a very scientific test, but I basically walked around with the 400 film, looked for stuff like writing that would be very, very tiny in the frame, and tried to shoot as much as I could in the shadows so that I’d be wide open, or nearly wide open. The results, looking at the negatives on a light-box with a 16x loupe — as good as I’ve ever seen. The best lens I’ve ever used was the Zeiss planar 3.5 on the Twin Lens Reflex. It could resolve beyond the capability of 100 film. And also gave a kind of depth to the photos. These lenses are right up there. But what was really interesting, is that both lenses had ‘pop’ wide open.

The metering in this second body also seems right on, and it rewinds more smoothly than the first one. I think the first one was a clunker. I guess that’s surprising from Leica, my friend also said he had trouble with the first body he bought and returned it.

And — none of this was done on a tripod, but I was shooting at either 1/500 or 1/1000 of a second.

I’ll give you an example. I’m shooting on across second avenue (a fairly wide street) with the 50mm. On the other side of the street is a Korean grocery. In the window of the grocery is a small cigarette ad. Now, looking across the street I can’t see this ad. But in the negative, with the 16x loupe, I can just make out the writing which must be less than a hundreth of the frame. Each letter is about two or three grains of halide and is still readable. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve gotten results like this from other glass — but not wide open.

So, that’s it for now. I’ll send in the registration cards, and get used to the camera over the next few months.

— Began wearing a contact lens is just my right eye. This gives me almost perfect vision, and at the same time I can see things closely very well also. The optomotrist said that most people have trouble doing this, and actually asked me to sign a piece of paper saying that I had been advised not to do anything dangerous while using this monovision technique. I told him that my ‘pilot’s license had expired’.

This method is perfect for use with the rangefinder, because you can get your shooting eye closer to the viewfinder.

June 3, 2001

I guess this stuff about the Leica won’t be interesting to many people. Eventually I’ll put my experiences on a separate page. Suffice it to say, that I’m shooting again. Of course, now I’ve let the printing slide… can’t have everything. Its weird weather today. Sun going in and out. The 2nd avenue fair is nearby, and if its not too sunny, I may get something there. The average person sees a bright sunny day as the perfect time to take out the camera. For me, I’ll take a dark overcast day anytime.

June 7, 2001

The M6 has given me a new lease on life. My shooting style is changing tremendously again. Example: there was a shot that I had been wanting to take for sometime in the subway at 51st street. Just a hoard of people coming towards me, but the lighting is pretty good, and I was able to get several shots at f2 without feeling that I was compromising anything by shooting wide open. I know walk around with the 50mm f2 as my normal lens. I even asked the optomotrist to pose behind the ‘eye machine’ whatever that thing is called… and took two shots, and the whole thing was just very easy going. I cannot explain any of this, but these are shots that I would not have taken with other cameras. Go figure.

I think that I’m going to take a leave of absence from my part-time job… It looks like the Soho show will be from Aug. 21st to Sept. 21st. Is that a good time? Who knows. People kind of away… whatever. The timing is good for me, because I will have the Westport and Soho shows within a month of each other and get it over with. The tiny little studio will be filled with frames etc. Also found out that I’ll need to put up some sort of tent/canopy thingy at Westport. Basically they just give you the space on the street, and you supply the rest.

***

What in the heck is an artist anyway? People write to me asking me as an artist to tell them what or why I do what I do. However many times that I explain it, it comes out wrong. The woman in the gallery says, “we try to make it as easy as we can for the artist’. The student in Wichita asks me, why I decided to become an artist. Somebody recently asked me ‘what contribution I had made to the history of photography.’ I’m not kidding. Somebody else told me that the artist needs to stake out a certain area for himself. Needs some kind of gimmick. Why did I first get interested in photography? Why did I decide to make it a career. The simple answer may be that its the only thing that I didn’t fail at. Ten years in the film business and what did I have to show for it — unproduced screenplays, little lighting touches on lousy films… What if that picture I wrote and sold had actually been produced? What if Lee Marvin hadn’t died before the picture was made? What if? My life has been more like a pinball machine. Picture the silver ball rolling down between the flippers… I keep trying to hit with various flippers… and then one of them connects. So I end up in photography. So the answer may be chance, and continuous attempts.

Anyway, I’m phasing myself out of the 9-5 world… so it sort of feels like walking off a cliff, but I guess that’s the way it has to be.

June 9, 2001

Finally had a chance to print two of the shots from the last week or so of Leica shooting — and the results are quite beautiful. One is a shot of a friend at work, shot with the 75mm f1.4 wide open, at about 1/125 of a second. What is amazing is the overall sharpness on the plane of the fellow’s face, and the way the focus softens as it moves towards his shoulders and ears. Now any lens wide open will do that, i.e. have a very narrow depth of field — but what’s amazing is that the plane itself is so crisp, and the way the rest of the picture moves out of focus so smoothly. Alright. I can’t put it into words. The other shot is looking down into a complex geometric structure — old cobblestones, stairs at strange angles, gates, fences etc. with a wide variety of light. This was shot with the 35mm f1.4, closed down a few stops. The picture has the feel of the old Leica stuff I remember from HCB books. I know the arguments about lenses etc. wage on forever, and I won’t get into that here. But there is something special about the look of these lenses that I am not able to describe.

June 10, 2001

Did some shooting at the Puerto Rican day parade. After walking around through the crowds, I thought to myself, I wonder if I can actually find anything touching or beautiful here. Not the normal type of street photography grab shots. And turned around and there was a guy who was selling flavored ice from a rig he made out of a wheelchair. Maybe I got something there.

I’ve been wearing one contact lens in my shooting eye, and have had trouble getting it out. I had the Leica pressed against my eye and turned it to do a vertical shot, and my contact popped out! Maybe there are other uses for this camera?

June 11, 2001

I had to raise the prices of the prints on the site. I was selling about four or five prints a week at the 5 x 7 size, and one or two at the larger sizes every few weeks, but it simply wasn’t worth the time and effort. Also, now that I’m doing more exhibiting, if someone finds that they can buy the same print for half-price on-line, they would feel cheated. My idea was to make prices on line about 1/3 less expensive than at the art show, with the idea that the person at the art show is actually seeing the print and knows exactly what they’re getting, while the person on the web is going on faith.

Last night I framed the picture of my friend that I had done with the Leica 75mm, and am very happy with it.

June 14, 2001

Yesterday, I took an extended unpaid leave of absence from my part-time job at the ad agency. For better or worse — I’m now doing photography full-time. The last day was full of sad partings from friends.

Did some testing of VC Fiber paper today because I wasn’t happy with some of the prints done on graded paper. Results are promising.

June 17, 2001

What is an artist? Here’s Laurie’s definition:

“An ‘artist’ is an extremely sensitive person that appreciates the view of the
world in a different light than a “non-artist.” They also tend to do what
they want to do, when they want to do it! ”

I don’t know about that. They may be sensitive, but many have been quite cruel to the people around them.

Is it the pursuit of ‘beauty’? Do they have a different take on the world? Ansel Adams described his work as trying to convey the same feelings he had when taking the shot to the person who looks at the print.

I like to think that it is an emotional experience for the artist to create the work. But Thomas Mann wrote 3 pages a day, or something like that, and its said that he would simply stop in the middle of the page if he had fulfilled his word count for the day. Doesn’t sound like he was exactly carried away by the moment, yet he wrote some beautiful work.

Michaelangelo said that you should be able to look at a blank wall, and envision something beautiful there.

Van Gogh, fought, bickered, and alienated all around him. Yet his quest and passion are in every brush stroke.

For me — I guess its always been a desire to create. I wrote movies, poetry, music, even at one point did some painting. Its as if I was always looking for an outlet for things that I thought were novel, or unusual. But were they really unusal? The best I can say is that it takes the form of some kind of obsession, that cannot be blocked by financial or societal influences. Its no different than wanting to be a great athlete, or a great accountant. But the target is different.

Anyway, if anyone has any other definitions or ideas about what an artist is, let me know. Its pretty unclear to me.

***

So, those tests that I did with the VC Fiber paper really paid off. They are dry now, and I compared them to the old prints I had — and the black are better in the new prints. I don’t put myself anywhere near the company of Brett Weston, but I remember seeing some of his prints at a gallery, one in particular of some trees along a canal in Belgium — and i had that in mind in re-printing ‘promenade’. I wanted to preserve good separation in the mid-tones of trees in the background, while getting a rich dark black for the foreground trees, and a sense of light to the walkway. And after much experimentation — I think I got this. Now I can’t say exactly how I did it, because I changed three variables at once: I increased the ratio of selenium toning and extended the toning for 6 minutes; I used Dektol 1:2 instead of 1:3 as I had been doing; and I switched papers to VC Fiber, which gave me better control of contrast. Now, I really like the print again.

6-18-01

Today was pretty much of a waste. It started off okay. I was all prepared to print, when I realized I had no selenium left. Now that I’m using higher concentrations, I go through it pretty quick. Too lazy to take a trip downtown, I called B&H to see how long it would take to ship some. That was stupid. At least a few days. So I got on the subway and went down to Adorama and brought back as much Selenium as I could carry.

On the way upstairs, I checked the mail, and received a money order for an order from Canada. So I decided to get those prints packed and shipped before setting up the darkroom. Big mistake.

First I put the prints in a Fedex box, and as I was filling out the international form, realized that it was going to a P.O. Box. I figured this would be a problem, but the thing was already wrapped and taped, so I walked up to Fedex. Sure enough — they wanted a phone number and would then hold it for whoever but wouldn’t deliver to a p.o. box. Somehow I knew this was true for the U.S., but thought maybe they felt differently about foreign p.o. boxes. Duh!

And I had no phone number. Also, they wanted $45 to ship it. I had quoted the Canadian $10. Okay, so I take the package back to the house. Look around for something to put it in. After some futzing, I get it into a U.S. Priority Box. I like those boxes. Then off to the Post Office. Nice long line. Really hot. Everyone gets to the counter and realizes that there’s some form they didn’t fill out. Things are dragging badly.

Finally get up to the window and the guy says, no way can you send it to Canada like that. You’ll need to get paper and cover every part of the box that says U.S. Priority. Anything that’s blue or red needs to be covered. I should have figured that. Why was I being so dumb today.

There’s a line to get brown paper, so I walk back home.

In the house, I unwrap this one again, and now try to figure out another way to wrap it. I finally hit on taking an old photo paper box. Wrap that in brown paper, re-address it, and off I go. Of course now the line is even longer. So I ended up sending it air mail to Canada for $4.50.

In case you’re wondering, I simply don’t have these problems shipping to the U.S. If its an inexpensive order, I can put it into a mailer, or a U.S. Priority box. If its a bigger more expensive print, I can do the Fedex box, or even take two cardboard boxes lying flat and tape the print between them. But once it goes foreign — watch out.

Time spent wrapping, walking, labeling, unpacking, standing on line, etc — I would guess at least three hours.

Oh yeah — but I did figure out what those damned things are called that you use for getting a credit card impression (for the upcoming fair) — imprinters. And placed an order via fax to the company that makes ’em.

Well — tomorrow’s another day, and I’ve got plenty of Selenium.

And one more thing — I did some shooting on the way to all these places. I’m getting good at focusing while having a package under my arm.

6-19-01

Gripe du jour: since I’ve been on the internet, I’ve probably received about 40 requests from students asking for more information from me about my photographic life. Everything from a college student who is doing a report on the psychology of creativity, to high school students who have selected me as their photographer to study. Each time, I ask the student to send me a copy of the report when its finished. So far, not a single one has sent me a copy of what they wrote. This must have something to do with the nature of the internet. But often I feel as if I was doing the person’s homework for them.

Today I’m trying to decide whether to re-print ‘Marsh’ or ‘Flat Iron and Equitable Buildings’. I have to admit that I’m putting more into the printing process now, since I know the prints will be on exhibit. I even went so far as purchasing some retouching inks (for spotting out dust etc.) — which I’ve never had the patience for. Its not that I haven’t tried hard to make beautiful prints, but there is a little bit extra effort going on here. Maybe like the athlete who finds himself in a race for the pennant or something.

Somewhere, not that far in the back of my head (since I’m aware of it) — I’m trying to match the brilliant printing I saw of Brett Weston.

Maybe its more like an actor who’s in a long run of the play. How do you get yourself up for the 200th performance? I guess I’m going to go for ‘Flat Iron’ because with the new formula I’m using lately, it should be interesting to see if I can achieve rich blacks and still keep some detail in the flat iron part of the picture.

Of course, the gallery wasn’t interested in anything but the ‘popular beautiful’ type of print. These to me are more about technique than anything really original. But hey, what do I know? I’ve sold more of Promenade than any other print, although I believe that the shot of the guy spitting out mouthwash, or the funeral chaufeur are much more unusual. O.K. enough griping, let’s go setup the 16 x 20 trays…

3pm Done for the day as far as printing goes. Ended up doing ten 16 x 20 prints of ‘Marsh’. That’s as much as I can dry at one time. Took from 9am to now.

One other interesting idea — instead of doing contact sheets, I’ve started scanning the negatives with a flatbed and transparency holder — which gives me the equivalent of enlarged contacts. Really a great thing, and I wish I had thought of it sooner.

It seems to me that this whole controversry about digital vs. traditional techniques actually went on in the music world when syntheziers were first introduced. Now, there are computerized instruments, samplers, that can give you the exact sound and quality of a Steinway Grand piano. Similar feel to the keyboard action also. But have the replaced traditional pianos? My guess is that they’ve cut into the market, but not replaced pianos.

Maybe twenty years from now, digital cameras will have 75% of the camera market. Maybe. But that will only increase the value of those who are still laboring in the darkroom. And I guess the real point is that its the person behind the equipment, whether its an old Hammond organ, or a Casio syntheziser (forgive the spelling) that will always be the crucial ingredient.

Or put another way — video monitors and computerized effects have taken over movies — but without a story, without some artistic innovations, vision etc. they are as useless.

6-20-01

Just spent $1000 for frames from lightimpressions. (about 30 frames ranging in size from 11 x 14 to 20 x 24). I hope that I sell a few prints, or my studio is going to be impossible to walk around in.

So I say to the guy at lightimpressions — don’t ship me a partial order. I want to get it all together. And he says, ‘I just want to tell you something.’

Me: What?

He: Right now, the 16 x 20 and 20 x 24 frames are out of stock. While you’re waiting for these items to come back into stock, another part of your order that’s currently in stock, might go out of stock. In other words, you might wait months for your order if everything isn’t in stock at exactly the same time (if you want the full order shipped together).

Me: Okay, forget what I said. Just ship whatever you’ve got.

In computer programming — this would be called ‘an infinite loop’. In philosphy, a tautology. And in the photo business, something to be avoided.

***

You have to put the frames together yourself. The thing that takes the longest is removing the sticky paper from both sides of the plexiglass. Maybe I’m doing it wrong (can there be a wrong way?) — but yesterday, it took about ten minutes to remove the stuff from one 20 x 24 plexiglass. This could be a new form of exercise. An olympic event perhaps? And oh yes — do it without getting any fingerprints or sweat on the glass or you get disqualified. Would the plexiglass removers form be important? On the adhesive paper, it says to make sure you have the correct side facing out? One side I guess has some non-glare coating or something. O.K. second part of the contest — which side goes out? Try as I might — both sides of the plexiglass look the same to me.

* * *

Latest screw up: Had stacked my fiber prints from yesterday on screens to dry. Usually, I spread them out all over the floor on the screens. So I go to flatten them in the dry mount (as I usually do) — and after about doing five flattening sessions, the sixth print seems to stick to the mat board in the dry mount. Huh? I gingerly pull it off with a slight sticking sound. I do another one. Then it hits me, the prints on the bottom of the stacked screens weren’t fully dry yet. I’m not sure if I ruined these prints or not — as I may re-wet them, and let them dry again.

6-21-01

Anyone who’s trying to sell prints over the web might be interested in this — after I raised the price of the smaller prints, I haven’t had a single sale. This was exactly what I expected. Maybe its coincidence and has nothing to do with the pricing, but I doubt it. Other photographers had told me that the prices were way to cheap for hand-printed work, but I had said that web denizens simply have a lower price in mind then if they were standing in front of the actual print.

Btw, if the prices are too low, they also won’t sell because the buyer thinks the print must not be very good if it is selling too low.

So here’s my experience — for a 5 x 7 on 8 x 10 mat, the price that has done the best is $25. For the 8 x 10 on 11 x 14 board — $40. Add ten dollars to each of these prices and sales drop to next to nothing. And as far as the limited edition prints go — I’d say about $150 is the top limit.

I feel like putting something on the home page like: Support Your Local Artist (Support Your Local Sherrif with James Garner was a great movie) — but like my father always said, ‘the world don’t owe you a living’. What I do find annoying is that its always so much easier to make a living doing something like computer work which in the long run has almost no value, or at least a transient value at best, then trying to ‘make it’ as an artist. Yeah, yeah, gripe and grrrrr. I’m probably feeling second thoughts about having given up the steady but unsatisfying lucre of the ad agency job. Still, if I don’t sell a couple of big prints at the next two shows — I’m going to question some of latest life choices.

* * *

I strongly suggest that unless you have a stomach for tedium, you skip this next session. I just want to document what the printing process is like for me at the current time. I implore you to read on at your own risk:

I live in a studio which is 275 square feet. That includes a kitchen you can barely stand in, and an equally small bathroom. There’s one window which has a black cloth that can be dropped over it. Its held to the wall with velcro. So the routine is something like this:

1. Drop the black cloth over the window, and press the sides against the velcro. Then, there’s a second normal curtain that is a few inches from that which you need to press against the walls with tape or something.

2. I have a fold-out table — with formica-like top, that I pull into the center of the room, and open up two leafs. Its a bit wobbly, so I have an old glove which I stick under one of the wheels.

3. Assuming that the chemicals are already mixed, pull the big 16 x 20 trays out from where they are stacked on top of the print-washer in the bathoom and place them on the table. There are four trays in all. Each a different color so I know which is for which chemical.

4. Walk back and forth from bathroom to table with 1/2 gallon pitchers filled with chemicals. Pour the stuff in without splashing too much — or I might splatter something on one of the boxes that contain mat material.

5. Turn on the darkroom light.

6. I have negatives in three formats: 35mm, 6 x 6 cm, and 4 x 5 inches. Each format has its own lens. So if the wrong lens is in the enlarger, you unscrew it, and put the proper lens in. This has to be done in the dark, with the enlarger light on — to see that the lens is screwed in at the right angle, parallel to the easel.

7. Hunt for the negative. I have four used 4 x 5 boxes filled with strips of 35mm negatives. They’ve been separated into various sections of the alphabet: a-f, g-k, etc.

8. Put the negative into the holder, and do your best to get dust off the thing. I use a ‘radioactive brush’ first and then use compressed air on both sides of the neg. Once in a while, you find a bit of something stuck to the negative that simply won’t come up. This means trouble later, as you’ll probably need to do some re-touching on the print.

Up to this point may take anywhere from a 1/2 hour to an hour, depending on how many of the chemicals were already pre-mixed.

9. Now you turn on the safelight, turn off all the other lights, and go for it. If you’re lucky, you’ve got notes from a previous printing of the neg. to refer to. I have been keeping pretty good notes for the last two years or so.

Its at this point that I usually turn on music. It can’t be too loud, because I’ve got to be able to hear the timer which beeps to tell me how much time the print is being exposed to the light. Assuming that you’ve done the print before, the rest is routine. If its the first time you’re printing, then who knows. You can go a day or more on a particularly tough print.

10. Frame the print again on the easel. No matter how many times you’ve done the print, this always takes time. Simply making sure that the image size is right, and that the thing is straight, or crooked, or however you decided to do it.

11. Expose the print. If there is dodging and buring (which there almost always is), do it. Practice moving your hands or whatever around under the lights. A little ballet goes on here.

12. 2 minutes in the Dektol. 10 seconds in stop bath. 1 minute in rapid fixer. Don’t get your hands wet or when you go to pull out the next sheet of paper, you’ll leave marks on it.

13. After the fixer, the print goes in another tray (the 4th tray) which is just tap water. Kind of holding tray until the final wash etc. is done.

14. Turn on the incadescent light and look at it carefully. Are the tonal qualities what they should be? Is the print composed correctly? Remember that when the print dries, it is going to lose about 10% of its brightness (the dreaded dry-down effect).

15. Assuming all is okay, repeat the process for as many prints as you’ll be able to dry. For me, I have room on the drying screens for TEN 16 x 20 prints. So that’s all I do in one session.

16. Turn off enlarger, safelight — and if its a nice day — open the window and get some air in the place. Then before anything else…

17. Start emptying out the trays of chemicals. This means pouring the stuff into a 1/2 gallon pitcher, walking the pitcher back to the bathroom, and pouring the stuff into either the sink or the toilet. Do this for all the chemicals. Now I…

18. Bring the empty trays into the bathroom tub to be washed. Once the trays are washed I can…

19. Attach the hose of the print washer to the bathroom sink, and start to fill the print washer with water. Once its filled I carry the prints from the wash tray to the print washer, one or two at a time, dripping water/hypo on the floor as I go.

20. Get all the prints in the washer; adjust the water-flow so it doesn’t flow over into the neighbor downstairs, and

21. Take the washing tray into the bathoom. Clean it out, and fill it with print wash solution.

22. After prints have been in washer for a while, put them into print washing solution (maybe four at a time) and shuffle them by hand in the stuff for about 10 minutes. The print wash solution starts to turn purple. Take them out and put them back in the print washer.

(wow, I always knew this was a tedious process, but didn’t know how tedious until I tried to describe it)

23. Finally, the prints are in the print washer (I won’t even go into what the process is if Selenium toning is to be done).

Now you are free for a while. Relax. Clean up the stuff thats on the table. Fold the table back and roll it back where it belongs so its not in the center of the room. And…

24. When the prints are done washing (maybe an hour) — get the drying screens out of the closet.

25. Pull each print from the washer, one at a time, and I place them emulsion side up on my refridgerator where I wipe them gently with a squeege. Then I place them face up on a drying screen. I continue this process, building a stack of screens about ten high until all the prints are being dried.

The next day (if its not too humid) the prints should be dry.

I’m not going to go into matting and framing, because it is even more tedious. Remember, I warned you!

* * *

6-23-01

Buried in boxes from lightimpressions — and all that packaging paper.

Into third day of matting and framing. When my sister suggested that I show at some fairs — seemed like the thing to do. OK, I’m learning a lot about framing — like out to stick those little metal pressure things in so they don’t pop out and hit me in the eye. If someone buys a print from me, and tries to take it apart and one of those pressure bars pops out and blinds them — am I liable? I think I need to put one of those manufacturers’ warnings on the back —

This frame contains no servicable parts. Disassemble at your own risk. Not to be taken apart by anyone without wearing protective safety glasses.

6-25-01

O.K. According to my schedule, I was supposed to do some more printing today — but I think I’m going to take the day off. I’ve printed most of the stuff that interests me and can’t get the energy up to re-print the few things that are left that don’t really excite me much anymore. I can’t do any framing because I didn’t order enough of the little things you use to put the frames together (ordered more this morning). Its a beautiful day in NYC (not particularly good for shooting) so I guess its time to get out and walk around a bit. And I’m pretty much ahead of schedule. My carton box is filling up with matted prints, and as I say, have done all the framing I can do for now.

* * *

So you see I was feeling burnt out, and finally left the house with the leica, the 50mm, and the contact lens in my right eye (in case you haven’t been keeping up with all this, i’ve been wearing the one contact lens since i started using the rangefinder) — and headed out to the east river. Sat in the sun for two hours. I figure ‘o.k.’ nothing much to shoot and head back to the house. As I’m walking along I see a very expensive framing shop — and sort of keep going, but then I feel like there’s something there, so I turn back.

There are these two large ornate frames in the window, and through them you can see two guys sitting at their laptops. Sort of. There’s a lot of glare. But I take a couple of shots. One of the guys in the store comes out. I explain that I’m just curious about the frames, etc. etc. and he invites me in. (was this because of the Leica luck??) — and I walk in and he says ‘you can take pictures of anything you like’. The two guys are on the phone. One is negotiating a price on a frame from $1 million to $1.25 million.

I look around, and take the neutral density filter I was using off — and notice a cat curled up with these amazing frames in the background. Click, click. No one in the shop notices. I can see the cat’s expression (do cat’s have expressions?) perfectly. And I get up and thank the guy. He asks me if I’m interested in any frames? I laugh, not quite in that ballpark. I tell him that I took a few shots of the cat. And that’s that. Time to try and get that contact lens out.

6-26-01

One of the side effects of preparing for Westport and Soho shows — I’m framing and matting prints that I’ve never seen framed before. Normally I don’t frame something unless its been sold — but now things are framed in hopes of a sale. I had run out of the rectangular window mats, and put ‘Birches’ into a square window to see what it looked like — and was surprised to see that it looked stronger to me. I cut out the right side, and the composition was better. It always amazes me how much you can crop out of a print and still preserve or heighten the feeling.

Still no internet sales after raising the prices. All in all, I think that the internet is a pretty ineffective way of selling fine prints. People make inquiries — ‘oh you don’t have a particular print in the size that I want’ or ‘i love your stuff but don’t want to use my credit card on the web’, etc. etc. but if the price is low enough, orders will start to come in again. whether its worth it to me to sell prints at these prices is another story. i suspect that if i were selling inexpensive posters of my work, i could do better. it costs penny a piece to produce a poster, and they can easily be shipped in tubes. plus, they are in larger sizes than many of the prints, so they can be used more easily to decorate a room. its something that i’ve thought about doing for over a year now — but somehow haven’t gotten around to. it may be because you generally want to print a lot at one time to get the price down — and at those large sizes, i’m not sure where i’d store the stuff. but i imagine that posters would do well and would eliminate the problems of wrapping, matting, and packaging. i need to remind myself to give this a shot after these shows are over.

* * *

Just an interesting technical point (well interesting to me at the moment). Since using the Leica, I’ve found myself shooting quite often with 2 stop neutral density filters. The reason is that I normally shoot 400 film, and in bright daylight with the Leica with a top shutter speed of 1/1000 — I may simply run out of f-stop, or be shooting with too small an aperature. This has worked out very well, and given the fact that with most of my hand-held type photography I like a narrow depth of field. Of course, if I’m using the old hyperfocal trick — I’ll generally remove the filter. The whole process works quite well. In bright sunlight, I’m shooting at around f8/f11 — and in shade, around f4/f5.6. (at 1/500) — and if I want to shoot at f2.8, just kick the thing up to 1/1000. Quite useful. Someday I’d like to rent the Noctilux (f1.0) for a weekend and do some handheld night photography.

6-27-01

I truly wonder whether all this all this matting and framing changes a man? I’m going to think twice before the next time I click that shutter.

Two of the larger pieces of plexiglass arrived with their corners shattered. Quite amazing considering how well they were wrapped — bubble-wrap, miles of packing paper, etc. but the box looked like it had been dropped several feet on its corner. Nothing else was dammaged.

I keep fooling with this inkjet handout I want to bring to Westport — but it looks awful. It started out as sort of an artist’s statement — but I showed it to my sister who really edited it down. Now there’s not much left but a picture, a few words, and how to contact me. It’s the kind of dumb thing that can draw you in and waste a lot of time.

6-29-01

Need to get the grid for displaying/hanging the framed stuff for Westport. That’s pretty much the last piece of the puzzle. Also sent in request to the Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit (212-982-6255). That’s Sept 1-3 and Sept 8, 9.

I guess that would be the easiest to do — but yikes — quite a schedule I’m setting for myself… Westport, then Soho and then Washington Square — ?? And there’s the possibility of Barcelona in Oct. Could be grueling. I guess you could easily spend half the year matting and framing and the rest of the time hopping through art festivals etc. Not exactly an easy life. I’ll try hard not to project too far into the future about this stuff.

Light Impressions were quite decent about the broken plexiglass and said they’d re-ship the pieces. As far as what I’m bringing to Westport — I’m erring on the side of bringing stuff that I know to be popular. Not necessarily what I like.

6-30-01

Received an email this morning, which made me think again about the ‘decisive moment’. Just to recap about the ‘decisive moment’ it describes a kind of school or style of photography. Cartier-Bresson was one of its practitioners. The classic example, is the man jumping over a puddle with a railway station in the background. The shot is blurry, and out of focus, and yet sort of funny because it seems obvious (at least the way I remember the picture) that in the next instant the man will land in the puddle. (At least that was always my take on it).

Some of my shots fall into that category — but many of them don’t. For example, during the last few weeks while I’ve been framing and matting, one of my favorite prints seems to be exactly the opposite — ‘Bike’. It is just a ‘Bike’ resting against a railing on a bridge in Central Park on a somewhat overcast day. It was taken on a tripod, with a medium format camera. And it went something like this — I was walking around with the camera attached to the tripod over a bridge in the park. I noticed the bike out of the corner of my eye, and also was struck by the angle of the wood slats in the floor of the bridge. But I walked past both on my way to… and I stopped in my tracks… i was thinking about the attachment I had to bike riding… i was thinking about a hill that i used to speed down on my bike when i was a kid… i was thinking… i had a feeling for this particular setting… had the slats of wood been going in a direction parallel to the bike, perhaps i wouldn’t have turned back to set up the tripod… or if it had been a bright sunny day… but there was a grayness that reminded me of cold Autumn days, and the feel of my hands stuck to the cold handlebars…

So I stopped and turned around. I remember trying to compose so that the lines of the wooden planks form a nice counterpoint to the plane of the bike… and thinking about putting the background just slightly out of focus, and the usual things… but then the sun came out and the look was gone, so i waited for a cloud, and then took the shot when it was overcast again.

Was this a ‘decisive moment’? Not really. The same picture could have been taken five minutes or maybe even an hour later with the same results, at least according to the subject. Can taking a picture of still life, perhaps a few oranges resting on a table under artificial light, have anything to do with a ‘decisive moment’?

I am tempted to say ‘yes’. I am tempted to try and expand the idea of the ‘decisive moment’ to something that happens internally to the photographer. In other words, it might mean the moment when all creative forces come together in a sort of unconscious way to produce a picture with meaning and feeling. But then I’ve gone to far, because it means that all great photography is about the ‘decisive moment’ and the term loses its meaning, or does it?

***

Hope about this? Timing and especially anticipation are important parts of photography, but so is tedium and slow careful, methodical planning. Sometimes there’s a little of both. Sometimes the meter points more to one end or the other of the spectrum. And the ‘decisive moment’ can be a part of even somewhat slow-moving static scenes. Example in my own work is ‘Promenade’ that shot with the view camera looking down between the rows of trees. Forgetting about everything else in the shot that is carefully composed — there are two dots, way off in the distance. I remember watching them walk away and thinking quite clearly to wait (anticipate) that they get to a certain spot in the frame so that the trees would have some scale. Not exactly static. But not a guy trying to jump over a puddle. Jazz or Mozart? The same piano is capable of playing both.

* * *

Here’s the letter that put that last diatribe in my head:

Hello Dave,
It’s been 18 months since I first found your web site and wrote you. You encouraged me to continue contacting you from time to time, and I hope you don’t feel that I’m intruding by doing so.

I note that my initial criticism is prominently displayed in your “letters” section, stating that I thought you had an editing problem, producing mostly “indecisive moments.” At first I was embarrassed that I had written so plainly and so critically, but on reflection it has given me time to recognize how far you have come.

Frankly, your work which had some very good but not overwhelming pieces at that time, has become terrific! Where your best pictures were gleaned from the endeavors of many years, now this year you are making great picture after great picture.

I no longer feel competent to criticize your work. Also, the web site has become one of the most usable and interesting that I visit.

So — my best regards to Dave Cartier-Beckerman.
Bill

* * *

You know, I really don’t take the time to put a lot of the more complimentary emails I get on the site — perhaps it feels like too much tooting my own horn (who elses horn am I going to toot?) But its definitely something I hope to do.