Lewis Hine; Newsies at Skeeter’s Branch (They were all smoking), A.M. Monday, May 9, 1910; Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, National Child Labor Committee Collection, LC-DIG-nclc-03489
On Black Tuesday, November 28, 1939, the thick gray smoke billowing from the many coal-burning furnaces around St. Louis literally choked out the sun. Noontime on Black Tuesday was described to have looked like just after sunset. Resulting from this, the city passed stricter legislation requiring infrastructure change and the use of cleaner burning fuels, which had the support of residents, who had foresaw something of their possibly catastrophic future in “the day that the sun didn’t shine”. Sometimes it takes a dramatic gesture to stir change… (more…)
It’s been a while since I posted something about the paid work that I do (which is pretty sporadic nowadays), so I decided to do one with my recent assignments that would catch everyone up to speed. It’s an eclectic grouping!
If you are local, be sure to tune into HEC TV this Thursday (10/17) at 7p! My organization, Photo Flood Saint Louis, is being featured on the program State of the Arts, alongside the new International Photography Hall of Fame. This is my first televised interview, and I am pretty excited about it. I will post a link to view the episode online soon.
Link to episode trailer: State of the Arts
This work deals with the idea of “home”. For me, home is a term that is complicated and certainly multifaceted. Home is my family, home is where I live, home is who I am and who I’ve been; “home” is layered. The paragraph is by John Fowles, and excerpted from his Journals:
24 September Two beautiful things. A big, spacious sunset sky – elegant and not ostentatious, but curiously in the east, to the west nothing but a bank of low, dark clouds. The end of a Spergularia in the microscope – like a minute green saturn. A tiny shining ball with a ring of gauzy skin around it. Also the sails of some Thames barges half-hidden by mist. A curious thing. About to throw a piece of screwed-up paper into the yellow jug which serves as waste-paper basket, I said to myself, ‘As much chance as you have of being genius.’ It fell into the jug without a murmur, a 20 to 1 chance, at the least. Another day of silence, listening to other people’s trivialities – a dreadful hour at night when all the completely banal information gained from a visit of relatives is repeated and reviewed. Two mathematical impossibilities I should like to see. One, a graph of the words spoken by me each day over a year – the rise and fall would be eye-opening. Near zero here, and normal everywhere else. Two, a count of words spoken by my mother and myself – David and Goliatha! The visit by unknown relations is frightening, slightly, to the ego, and being. I feel awkward, not because I feel superior, but because I feel that they feel I am. Probably oversensitivity. But they are definitely not at home with me. Trying to get at oneself is a continual unwrapping – each new skin decreases steadily in beauty and value after it is exposed. Always the seed of truth, the maximum fulfilment of self, appears to be just beneath the next layer. Plainly there is no end to this unwrapping, but the sensation is damping.
As I reported last January, the International Photography Hall of Fame has made its way to St. Louis, and its Grand Opening was last Friday. This excellent Museum houses over 30,000 photographic prints, from the likes of Ansel Adams, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Man Ray, and stores over 6,000 historically significant objects relating to photography (including a veritable “in the flesh” history of the camera). The Museum allowed Photo Flood Saint Louis to take a behind the scenes peek before the public, and those images are published here.
If you haven’t been out yet to see the new International Photography Hall of Fame, you should definitely put it high on your to do list.
Both the anthotype above and the lumen print below are examples of contact printing, like the cyanotype in the previous post. All three were also exposed by the sun. An anthotype is made by mixing together an emulsion based of plant matter, in this case blackberries, applying this to paper, and lying the sandwiched print, glass and negative out in the sun for 1-4 weeks (depending on plant type). The sun bleaches unobstructed areas the paper. For the lumen print, a simple piece of MC darkroom paper is used (RC in this case). The print and negative (and hair in this case) are then taped to a window and left to expose from 20 minutes to one week (in my case).
On a recent outing with Photo Flood Saint Louis, I decided to break out the black and white film, and shot some in 35mm and 120mm. Working in film is a cathartic process; it forces you to slow down and consider your composition and exposure in a way that digital does not. Also, once you’ve taken the picture, you are released from it, at least until you begin to eventually unwind it from the spool after development. You must trust in your intimacy with the camera. How well you know your partner corresponds to how well your photograph will turn out in the end. With digital, it’s the opposite. Even after you’ve used a camera for an extended period, common practice is to distrust it; to check on what it has been up to immediately after you take the photograph.
Of course, realistically, neither process is “better” than the other. They are just evolved to different tasks: digital is the master of exact color reproduction and instantaneous results, whereas film is the master of inherent expressiveness and, for the most part, resolution. Whether you use either may depend upon what you plan to do with the results. Or, like me, maybe you just have an itch to slow things down a bit, and concentrate on the picture-making.
St. Louis Gateway Mall, 2013.
By the way, all of these images were photographed while on events sponsored by Photo Flood Saint Louis. If you are looking for a good opportunity to explore the city and to be a part of its photographic community, PFSTL is a great way to start.
Missouri History Museum, 2013.
At 8 o’clock, on the evening of April 9, 1945, an important guest gave a lecture to a capacity crowd in the galleries of the Fifth St. Louis International Salon of Photography at the City Art Museum (now Saint Louis Art Museum). Ansel Adams had been lured to the city by the Camera Club Council of St. Louis, a major organizer for the Salon, who had booked the photographer for a series of his famous workshops, to be held at their headquarters, nearby the Museum. (more…)