Thursday, April 9, 2015

A Steam-tastic Invention


While visiting Vancouver, one must stop into Gastown and take a look at the steam-powered clock that has become a major tourist attraction, and rightly so. While boasting a vintage appeal, the clock was actually constructed in 1977 as a means to cover a steam grate and also prevent the homeless from sleeping on it in cold weather. At first the clock was wrought with malfunctions and had to be powered electronically, but once the local businesses saw how much revenue it bought in because of the tourists it brought, they grouped together to have the steam mechanism completely rebuilt.

Once completed, the new steam mechanism worked by a miniature steam engine that drives a chain lift. The chain lift then moves steel balls upwards where they are then transferred to a descending chain. The weight of these steel balls on the chain controls a conventional pendulum clock escapement that is geared to the hands on the four separate faces of the clock. The steam also powers a whistle, instead of chimes, that have become known as the Westminster "chime" to denote the time.

The long exposure of this photo and the black and white aspect give it a very "Sherlock Holmes" feel while the lights on the trees add a fairy tale-esque dimension that draw you in and pull your attention to the clock itself.  Think Scotland Yard meets Peter Pan.

This image was taken in March 2014 using a Hasselblad 500C with a Zeiss Planar 80mm/f 2.8. Exposure time was f/22 at 1 minute on Agfapan APX 25 Film.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Glorious Fujifilm Superia 200

Mission San Francisco de Asis (Mission Dolores)
San Francisco, California, October 2014



It is not news that digital has almost completely overtaken film in the past decade.  Film users have been marginalized since around 2003.

But that does not mean that film photography has remained at a standstill.  Fujifilm has continually been improving the quality of its products, even in their consumer lines.  I was on a shoot in the San Francisco Bay Area  this past fall, and ran out of Kodak Ektar 100 print film, so I bought a 4-pack of the only film the Safeway in Petaluma carried.

I popped it into my Hasselblad Xpan, and hoped for the best.  But little did I realize I would get the best.  The tonal range, color fidelity, and saturation easily match Fuji's NPS-160 professional film of just fifteen years ago.  A most pleasant surprise, and a big thanks to Fujifilm!

Monday, December 15, 2014

What's In A Name








Berlin, West Germany, July 1987


Ricoh KR-5 Super / Rikkenon 50mm/f2

Agfachrome 100 film




When you walk into a store like Kroger, or Wal-mart, or any other store that has been built from the ground up by a family and bears the family name, you probably don't really think about the history. This is especially true in America where stores like that don't bear deep emotional scars such as this one in Berlin.



Behind the name Leiser is a history of determination, struggle, success, triumph and heartache all wrapped into one. The Leiser family was a Jewish family in the early 1900's who started their shoe company from the ground up. They became one of the most successful businesses in the area until Hitler and the S.S. finally forced them to sell off completely to Nazi run German government.










What a sign such as this that speaks volumes to the people who know its story. That through the destruction and through the history of all that happened, the name lives on and the sign, while such a simple thing, serves a reminder of perseverance and family.

Sources





Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Black Gold


U.S. Route 50, Capon Bridge, West Virginia, June 2013

Rolleiflex SL-66, Zeiss Planar 80mm/f2.8

Kodak Ektar 100 film

Oil. It's been a part of our history for generations. Rockefeller provided the nation with fuel for lamps and streetlights and then figured out how to use the "trash" as fuel for the horseless carriage. We have fought wars over it, rejoiced in the finding of it, cringed over the prices of it, all in the name of convenience and demand. 

Gulf Oil, or the company that we know as Gulf oil, was started in 1901 after the discovery of oil at Spindletop, near Beaumont, Texas. A group of investors, the largest being William Larimer Mellon of Pittsburgh Mellon banking family, joined forces to promote the development of a modern refinery in the nearby Port Arthur to help process the oil. 

Spindletop's output peaked early on at 100,000 barrels per day. The early peak and decline forced Gulf to find alternative sources of supply to sustain its substantial investment. The effort to do so resulted in the construction of a 400-mile pipeline connecting oilfields in Oklahoma with Gulf's refinery at Port Arthur. This pipeline was known as the Glenn Pool pipeline. 

The distinctive Gulf logo was an assurance of sorts for the "name brand" oil so people purchasing it knew they were getting good quality gasoline. At this time in the United States, non-branded gasoline was often contaminated or of unreliable quality. 

This photo shows a sign, though old and worn and riddled with holes, that defined a company. Logos are an influential part of today's society and oftentimes a logo is literally the first and last impression people get from a company. A brown and gold shield, a white eagle on a blue background, a blue oval or a red target. All these signs are what influence us and stay as reminders in our mind. 

Gulf oil may not be in its hayday anymore, but the distinctive orange sign will always be associated with it. 



Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Oh, Canada


Near Beardmore, Ontario, Canada, June 2012

Nikon FM-3A Nikkor 50mm/f1.4
Agfa RSX-II 100 film


Construction of Canada's Trans-continental highway began in 1950 and it is one of the world's longest national highways, stretching an amazing 8,030  KM (or 4,990 MI). It was officially open for business in 1962 and completed in 1971. 

The highway is recognized distinctively by the white-on-green maple leaf route markers, such as the one pictured above. 

As you travel across this highway, prepare to be awe-inspired by the scenery. A traveler will experience everything from the majestic peaks in Banff National Park to the prairie areas of Saskatchewan.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Los Colores de Coahuila

Sabinas, Coahuila, Mexico, May 2007


I've resumed work on my forthcoming book, Los Colores de Coahuila.  Stop by here for details on the release date.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Right Wing Art

Loop 335, Amarillo, Texas, February, 2001 

Apparently, I am a right-wing artist (See their December 3, 2013 entry).  Not that I make right-wing art, but I am a libertarian, and I am an artist.  But, I am not a propagandist.  My "political artistic credo" is here.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Ektachrome, Requiescat En Pace

Bathhouse, Coney Island, 
Brooklyn, New York, November 1988

Richoh KR-5 Super / Rikkenon 50mm/f2
Kodak Ektachrome  200 reversal film 

The Eastman Kodak Company, which operates on the business model of leaving their most loyal customers - i.e., film photographers - high and dry, while rolling out slipshod products in their never-ending quest to play catch-up in the digital photography arena, apparently got rid of Ektachrome, it's line of E-6 reversal films, that have been the poor relations to their proprietary process, Kodachrome, which they killed off (amid gnashing of teeth, wailing, and spinning Paul Simon's 45 record of the same name) in 2009.

But, unlike Kodachrome, the demise of which was known to film lovers well in advance, it appears that Ektachrome has gone out not with a bang, but a whimper.

The whimper came - at least to me - when I tried ordering some at B&H Photo and Video, and noticed only a few available rolls, in off-sized (such as hand-spooled 620).  I Googled Ektachrome, and found this on Eastman Kodak's website:

As of March 1, 2012, Eastman Kodak will no longer manufacture Ektachrome reversal film.

Well, then.  I guess that's that.  It looks as though Fuji and Agfa (reorganized after it spun off from Agfa-Gevaert as Agfa Photo) are the last men standing.  And, judging from the "Made in Japan" notation on the box of Agfa CT Precisa 100 I got last month, it appears that Fuji is the only manufacturer left in business.  And, even they have been winnowing down their selection of reversal films.

Thank God my Frigidaire is in good repair.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Vivian Maier and Sins of Omission

Vivian Maier, street photographer, c. 1950s



In all the reading I have done about Vivian Maier, the celebrated photographers (many of whom cannot touch her work - e.g., Mary Ellen Mark) and critics who now fawn over her work, all offer many theories as to why she never put her work out there.  Most are plausible: She was rather private, she lived for the trip of the shutter, not the adulation, and so on.

Yet, what goes unspoken in the thousands of words I've read is this: Vivian Maier was an intelligent, educated woman, yet took menial jobs to finance her own photography.  It would be wrong to say she was not ambitious. However, Maier kept her only work to herself and a few close acquaintances. Perhaps she understood the very nature of the sort of people who run the fine arts photography racket.

Perhaps Maier, living in New York and Chicago, had taken her portfolio around.  And, perhaps after the first couple dozen times being shown the door by the curator-in-black-turtleneck types, she gave up trying. 

Perhaps she got bitterly resentful of seeing lesser talents lauded because they had the social skills she lacked - running the gamut from schmoozing, sycophancy, making Faustian bargains, domineering, to backbiting - to "make it" in the gallery scene and the Museum of Modern Art.

And now, that she is dead, her estate having been purchased for a song by people who are at present living the good life, after she spent the last decade of her life living in penury, scraping by on her Social Security checks. 

The people now making a very comfortable living off her abandoned negatives and prints have brought in all sorts of the hangers-on of the art scene to laud her in death.  How magnanimous they are. Now.

I wonder what kind of experience Maier had when she approached the forebears of these taste-makers and gatekeepers of the art world.  I wonder if she even approached them at all.  Perhaps she was onto them, all along, and knew she would never last a moment among all those social climbers.

As long as this possibility goes unspoken (and it certainly is going unspoken, not even the bread crumbs of hints have been strewn in the wake of her sudden posthumous fame) - from people who know damn well what game they are playing, and who haven't the consciences to care when they crush the aspirations of young artists, and who call people who've already made it "emerging artists," we cannot help but assume that the praise they're heaping on her now is to cover their own asses and assets.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

HDR

Reyjavik, Iceland, August 2001

This is the only HDR photograph you'll ever see from me, but none of the earmarks that define that gaudy genre were done in the computer, but rather, through stacking an NDR filter and a mint-green filter (Cokin System A) over a circular polarizer.

As you can see, this is overdone, which is why I don't do it at all, except while experimenting.  

Monday, October 22, 2012

Russell Means, 1939-2012

russell means
Russell Means at his home in Santa Fe, New Mexico, March 2000


I just heard from a friend that Russell Means has died. The Lakota leader for American Indian rights was 72. To everyone who prayed for him, thanks.

Russell was a great man, a fighter for the libertarian principles he believed in, and the people from which he came. He spent the final years of his life establishing an independent, sovereign, Lakota Republic.  He was an inspiration to me, and so many others. May God rest his soul and watch over his family in their hour of need.

I photographed Russell in the spring of 2000, at his home in Santa Fe.  He and his wife Pearl were the most gracious hosts, and Russell gave an engaging interview.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Kodak Ektralite 10

Windmills, Grand Meadow, Minnesota, October 2012

What you can still do with a cheap pocket camera and a roll of 110 film.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Howard Johnson's, Harrisonburg, Virginia

Howard Johnson's Restaurant and Motor Lodge, U.S. Route 11, Harrisonburg, Virginia, June 1991
The iconic orange roofs of Howard Johnson's restaurants and lodges were once ubiquitous across the United States and Canada.  

Now, the motel chain is but a faint shadow of its old self, the poor relations in the Wyndham hotel consortium.  As for the restaurants, they have all but disappeared. There is now only one of the HoJo Restaurants left in operation.

But in 1991, which does not seem so long ago, there were still dozens of restaurants left in operation. This is a premier example.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Kodak Ektar 25

Erika Gross, Sharpsburg, Maryland, 1988  
When we left Shepherdstown, West Virginia - just five miles away - the sun was high in the sky, though it appeared a storm was coming in on the edge of the horizon.

Less than ten minutes later, these black clouds came rolling in, and transformed the construction site at which we were shooting into a setting for great visual drama.

For once, foreboding clouds were harbingers of an unforgetful composition, instead of a washout.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Autumn Is Here

Alisaith, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, October 2003



Tuesday, September 18, 2012

eBook "Looking Down" Released



I am pleased to announce the release of my second book, Looking Down: Photographs From the Sidewalks of Hyde Park, Boston, published by Middlebrow Books.
Looking Down is an intricate look at the ephemera found on the pavements of one of Boston's more quiet, outlying neighborhoods.  

This handsome edition includes a duotone monograph with 75 original prints. With a very personal essay by motion picture historian Dan Auiler, and cover design by Deidre Adams, Looking Down is a beautifully understated book that will lend charm, grace, and dry wit to your eBook reading device.

Looking Down is on sale at amazon.com, and Barnes & Noble.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Garish: Roadside Color Polaroids Released


I am pleased to announce the release of my first book, Garish: Roadside Color Polaroids, published by Middlebrow Books.

Garish is the culmination of many tens of thousands of miles and many thousands of Polacolor photographs I've taken over the decades since the late 1980s.  

This handsome edition includes a color monograph with 80 original prints in lustrous four-color, printed by master printers in Hong Kong. With an insightful essay by John DeFore, striking graphic design by Deidre Adams, and additional photography by Laura Klecker, Garish is a masterfully executed book that will enliven any coffee table (though it probably won't remain there long, whenever friends and family drop in).

Garish is on sale at amazon.com

eBook versions are available for sale for the amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, and Chapters Indigo in Canada for Kobo readers.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Belvedere

 Emily Tomlin, State Highway 30, Oslo, Minnesota, July 2012

I took this with my stalwart Rolleiflex SL-66, loaded with a roll of Agfa Optima II 100 film.  It expired in 2001, but thanks to the Frigidaire, it looks just as fresh as the day it was made.
 
Automobile courtesy of Chrysler Corporation.
Makeup by Estee Lauder.
Dress by Mod Cloth. 

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Gone Shooting

Emily Elizabeth Tomlin, Winona, Minnesota, May 2012

 

This past month, I got back into the swing of photography.  I hadn't been out with my camera in a long time, and had a most agreeable shoot with Emily Tomlin.  We got just the 1950s look we were going for at this ice cream and burger stand in Winona.  Thanks to Agfa Optima II, we got just the right color palette, too.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Los Colores de Coahuila to Open in Del Rio, Texas

Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico, March 2001

I am pleased to announce my first solo photographic exhibition in nine years.  My pictorial series on the frontier Mexican state, Los Colores de Coahuila, will be opening at the Firehouse Gallery in Del Rio, Texas, for their First Friday series, Friday, April 6, 2012, from 7 until 9 p.m.

Los Colores de Coahuila features 42 color photographs taken between 1999 and 2007, in locales such as Piedras Negras, Jimenez, Ciudad Acuña, Sabinas, Nava, Guerrero, and Villa Union. 

Exhibit information:

Los Colores de Coahuila
Photographic Exhibition
First Friday, April 6, 2012
7 - 9 pm
Firehouse Gallery

120 East Garfield
Del Rio, Texas 78840

(830) 775-0888

www.robertjonesphoto.blogspot.com
   

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Revisiting Old Negatives

Street scene, Lisbon, Portugal, November 1986

I took this photograph in Lisbon in November 1986, and never knew until now I took this. I had hand-developed these York Color labs C-41 negatives (rebranded 3M film), and never made a contact sheet. Then, tonight, looking through my old print files, I looked at this on the light table through my loupe, and realized I had something. Thanks to Lightroom and Color Efex software, I was able to pull a lot of color out of it. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Tuğba Yüksel

 All selections from Tuğba Yüksel's series, "The Bus"


Viewing a single print, or series of prints, by photographer Tuğba Yüksel borders on the sublime. I first became aware of her photography as she posted black and white renditions of these images in an online photography group. I was gobsmacked by the combination of simplicity of form and composition of her works with the seemingly contradictory layers of complexity of ephemeral streaks of condensation and swaths of frost on the windows of Istanbul's busses, obscuring her subjects. 




Whole areas of darkness would loom around the people she photographs on an almost daily basis with her Nikon, and it appears that for Tuğba, the dark is accorded the same importance that light is.







If photography is about light, then Tuğba Yüksel doles it out in selective, fleeting, and miserly doses. Somehow, this raises its value - like gold or alexandrite, a commodity's scarcity increases its intrinsic worth.





Later, upon further viewing her amazing portfolio of black and white images, I began seeing color versions of the same photographs Tuğba captured. To my way of thinking, my immediate reaction was disdain for the photographer not making up her mind as to whether the images ought to be in black and white or color. 




I am nearly 50, and not only was I trained in film photography, I still use film exclusively. When one loads black and white or color film, one is making a commitment to a particular style and the mode in which he wishes to present his vision; I regard most photographers in this digital age who share both versions as unable to make their minds up.





I still do. They do not think differently in black and white than they do in color, and the meaning of their photographs does not change when switching from one mode to another.





But, this is not the case with Tuğba Yüksel's series, "The Bus," and my I was wrong in my initial assessment upon seeing her color photographs.





For what drew me to her black and white method - the brilliance of chance streams of light, the infinite darkness of large patches of blacks and charcoal greys - defined the people in her images in stark tones as almost iconic. 




Their wearisome daily commutes, their stolen moments of precious rest and respite from their labours, the sudden and irrepressible smiles on two lovers' faces - juxtaposed with a solitary man's apparent loneliness, seemed etched in immortality in Yüksel's prints.





And yet, when one views them in color, one is technically viewing the same images, but enters an entirely different world: Here, the warm golden glow replaces the shimmer of antisceptic white. The colors are muted, but their presence is jarring in that amidst the darkness and cold, the presence of hue drops subtly festive hints and the sanguine into an otherwise gray daily commute. 




Now, we see not studies in shades of gray, but a rich aura of color that suffuses her compositions. Instead of the immediate made immortal through the freezing of time, we view the ride as part of life's continuum, of a rich panoply of emotions and experiences, her chiaroscuro studies of Licht und Schatten permeated with the bittersweet depth of life's attendant little triumphs and tragedies.





I do not know how old Tuğba is, but from her photographs she seems very young in years. Do not let that deceive you: She has what I once heard a rabbi describe as an "old soul." He meant the phrase as a compliment. 




In Yüksel's vision, we are not viewing a mere technical or even artistic achievement, but the emotional commitment of a very wise scribe of light. In fact, what we photographers call "vision" is wholly inadequate to describe what she is getting at.





Speaking through her chosen medium bilingually, in both black and white and color, Tuğba Yüksel imparts her artistic Weltanschauung with the deftness of an accomplished painter from eras long since past. Using modern tools, she reminds us that art was meant to be universal, transformative, and uplifting. It is as though through her photography, she has found a direct connection to people's souls.




Yüksel's prints recall the great photographic imagery of Paul Strand, Walker Evans, Weegee, and Chargesheimer.  But, when you hear the name Tuğba Yüksel, you also have to think Rembrandt, Degas, Goya, and Hopper.




Thursday, January 26, 2012

California Again

 Wool Growers' Restaurant
Los Banos, California, October 2009

I began my series on the farmers of California's San Joaquin Valley on this particular day, in October 2009.  I had begun photographing at the San Juan Reservoir early in the afternoon, and by the time I was finished, I asked the park guide where I could get a good meal.

He directed me to the famous Wool Growers' Restaurant in Los Banos, ten miles away.  Wool Growers' is a French Basque restaurant which serves its food - lamb stew, fried chicken, boiled cabbage and potatoes, and tons of bread and wine - family style.  I could barely finish half of my meal, though the farmers sitting nearby cleaned their plates.  Farming is some strenuous labor.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Los Colores de Coahuila

 Dam reservoir along the Rio Grande
Presa La Amistad, Coahuila, Mexico, April 2001

The one thing I learned from A. Aubrey Bodine's spectacular photography of Baltimore and Maryland's Eastern Shore, is that a great photographer can never leave home, yet show us the world.  I have been in Minnesota three years, and still I cannot develop an affinity for the place.  (That's not to detract from Minnesota as photographic subject - Chris Faust has done wonders with the Gopher State).

This is where my heart is, the Mexican state of Coahuila.

I shot this exposure on one of the greatest films ever, Kodachrome 64.  Sadly, it is gone now.  
 

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Shape of Things To Come

 Parachute ride, Coney Island
Brooklyn, New York, November 1988

I don't plan on dying like Eggleston, with more than 1,000 rolls of exposed film still in the icebox.  I developed this roll of Agfapan 100 when I was a student at Hunter College, and quickly contact printed it.  But a project of street photography took over my interest straightaway, and I never got around to printing this one until nearly a quarter-century later.

Better late than never.


Monday, January 9, 2012

Los Colores de Coahuila

 
Ciudad Acuña, Coahuila, Mexico, April, 2001

Great news!  I will be having my first one-man exhibit in nine years, at the Firehouse Gallery, in Del Rio, Texas.  Friday, April 6, 2012.

Mark your calendars!


Friday, January 6, 2012

Oh, the Humanity!

 Hindenburg Memorial
Lakehurst Naval Air Station, New Jersey, March 2004
This photograph is from, literally, the oldest roll of film I ever shot. I acquired this roll, which had been stored in a cool basement since bought new by an old photographer friend of mine. I shot this photo of the Hindenburg Memorial on a roll of Kodak Panatomic-X, the fine-grained film that Kodak stopped production of in 1989. 
The Panatomic-X film we film photographers all know was rated 32 ASA. This particular roll was rated 12 ASA back in the day, and had an expiry date of April 1939. That meant -- film usually given a shelf life of three years -- this roll was probably manufactured sometime in 1936. Which means the film I finally exposed in 2004 -- 67 years after the Hindenburg disaster of May 6, 1937 -- actually predated the crash landing by at least one year.
I developed this in Kodak D-76. I used that developer as I hadn't the foggiest notion how to develop the ancient roll of Panatomic-X. Fortunately there was a data sheet enclosed in the film's box, and D-76 was one of the recommended developers still in existence, and as I happened to have some D-76, it came out pretty well. The negatives were rather dark, as the film was fogged after almost seven decades of storage. You can see little black spots on the film, which resulted from heat exposure.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Concrete Cathedrals

 U.S. Route 66, Landergin, Texas, November 1999

It's hard to believe that it has been more than twelve years ago that I began the series I now call Concrete Cathedrals.  I was on my way up out of Texas to photograph the Anasazi ruins at Mesa Verde.  I never got there, because I was captivated by the cement grain elevators which dot the landscape in the Texas Panhandle.  These particular silos are found outside the tiny ghost town of Landergin, about 10 miles west of Vega.

Since I photographed this image, I've visited hundreds of grain elevators in the United States and Canada.  It's the longest series I've worked on, and it will be my last book.  I don't ever plan on stopping work on Concrete Cathedrals.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Pentax Auto 110

 County Road 1, Ostrander, Minnesota, October 2011

You can't find 110 pocket camera film anymore, but I caught this photo - on a negative smaller than a thumbnail - on the versatile Pentax Auto 110 with 18mm prime lens, on Kodak Verichrome Pan 125 ASA film.  Lovely stuff.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Concrete Cathedrals

Off Interstate 37, Corpus Christi, Texas, May 2000

Rescanned the original negative at extremely fine resolution, and found beautiful nuances in Photoshop I never knew were there before.