All posts by dcphotoartist

My work from the Sinister Idyll series is appearing in the next issue of The Hand magazine, a monthly journal of reproduction-based art. This covers hand-made photography as well as most forms of traditional printing (woodcut, linocut, etching, collotype, and more).

The Hand Magazine’s
Weekly High Five!
SUBSCRIBE
GET ISSUE 24
SUBMIT

Issue 24 is in the distribution room. We are trying our hardest to get them in envelopes, stickered and bundled for the mail room!
Hey all!
We’re working hard to get your copy sent out early this week. After they are shipped, delivery can take up to 10 days, or longer outside the US. We hope you’re excited to get the magazine and we are confident it will be worth the wait!

This issue features an interview with Lyell Castonguay. Lyell is the director of the large-format woodblock press, BIG INK, and an accomplished artist in his own right. We also have an Artist’s Spotlight on Francesco Poiana. If you haven’t ordered yours yet, GET A COPY TODAY!

Below, you will see images by the artists we featured on our social media platforms over the past week. Please join us on Facebook and Instagram for more behind the scenes pics and fun stuff. We hope you will take the time to take a closer look at these wonderful artists. Please click on their links, go to their websites, and start a dialogue with them. Take care of yourself and each other.

Issue 24 contributor, Peter Ward (St. Albans Park, Victoria, Australia), “Lost Quilt”, Linocut on calico, quilted, 63″ x 63″ VISIT PETER’S WEBSITE

Issue 24 contributor, Molly Phalan (West Lafayette, Indiana, USA), “Decarlo”, Silver gelatin mordançage, 14″ x 11″ VISIT MOLLY’S WEBSITE

Issue 24 contributor, Rosalyn Richards (Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, USA), “Caught”, Etching, 12″ x 18″ VISIT ROSALYN’S WEBSITE

Issue 24 contributor, Trish Meyer (Sandia Park, New Mexico, USA), “Off-Axis”, Photo collagraph, carborundum collagraph, and gold leaf, 12″ x 12″ VISIT TRISH’S WEBSITE

Issue 24 contributor, Scott Davis (Washington, D.C, USA), “L’Hermitage Bachelors House”, Palladium print, 2.25″ x 4.25″

 

INDELIBLE show- Gallery O on H Opening February 22, 6-10pm

I am overjoyed to announce that I will be one of five artists participating in INDELIBLE: That Which Cannot Be Erased, at Gallery O on H, 1354 H Street NE, Washington DC, from February 22 to the end of May. I will have over 40 palladium prints in the show. I also want to give a huge round of applause to Mary Ellen Vehlow, the owner of Gallery O on H and curator of this show, for including my work in a very powerful exhibit.

INDELIBLE: that which cannot be erased. A multimedia two-floor installation curated by Gallery Director Dolly Vehlow of GalleryOonH and Busboys and Poets Arts Curator Carol Rhodes Dyson.

Opening Reception: February 22nd 6-10pm. On exhibit through May 2019. Daily Tuesday 5-7:30PM, Wed-Fri 12-5PM, Saturday 11-3PM.

Indelible: that which cannot be erased is a confrontation of an unjust and repetitive history. The works in this exhibition seek to highlight a narrative often overlooked by mainstream art history to illustrate a continuum of injustice in our nation, featuring artists working in its capital city. Inspired by Black History Month, the show seeks to focus on the cyclical nature of unresolved issues–from the legacy of slavery to modern day police overreach and violence. The works included are a visual embodiment of current events, linked to a sinister history of oppression. Indelible puts local artists to the forefront, selected to underline the long history of racial inequality within our collective past and contemporary society. Artists featured include Milton Bowens, Billy Colbert, Scott Davis, Nehemiah Dixon, Justyne Fischer and Rodney “BUCK!” Herring.

The DC Yacht Club, site of the former docks for the city where in 1848, the Pearl, a merchant ship, had been hired by a group of slaves desiring to escape to the north. The so-called Pearl Incident was the largest non-violent slave escape in US history prior to the Civil War. Seventy-seven individuals had arranged passage. They were betrayed by a fellow slave who did not participate in the escape. The owner of several of the slaves, a Mr. Dodge, sent a steam launch to pursue them down the Potomac. The Pearl had become becalmed near the mouth of the Potomac and was caught by the steam launch. Among the passengers were two of the Edmonson daughters mentioned in the previous caption. In the immediate aftermath of the incident, pro-slavery groups ran amok in Washington DC, attacking abolitionist newspapers and groups. The long-term outcome was that the slave trade was banned outright in Washington DC in 1850, although slavery remained legal in the District until April 16, 1862.

My artists statement about the work:

Roland Barthes wrote of how a photograph contains a “punctum”, an element that strikes the viewer to the spiritual core, something that provokes a visceral emotional reaction in them. I believe life has moments of punctum – the origins of this project, for me, was an experience that ran through me like a lightning bolt. I was taking a Civil War history tour through the Smithsonian one late summer afternoon. I was standing on the lawn of L’Hermitage, a farm just outside Frederick, Maryland. I was looking around at the gently rolling hills, trees full of green leaves, puffy white clouds dotting the sky, corn in the adjacent field taller than my head, and listening to the guide talking about the history of the place.

The “bachelor’s house” at L’Hermitage on the Monocacy National Battlefield. This house would have housed the young un-married male members of the family and their personal servants. Four to six people at a time would have lived here. In the field adjacent, just out of the field of view of this photograph, the three slave cabins for L’Hermitage were located. Each of those three cabins were not much bigger than this cottage but held roughly thirty people each.

The farm was founded by a family of French emigres from Haiti who had fled the slave uprisings in the 1790s. They re-settled in Frederick, Maryland, and proceeded to attempt to reestablish Haitian-style slavery replete with the same degree of brutality they had practiced before. These people were so brutal with their slaves that their neighbors, slave-owners themselves, called the sheriff on them multiple times. In 1810, the importation of new slaves into the United States was made illegal. After that time, if you wanted more slaves, you had to buy them from someone else, or you could breed them. This family ran a stud service with their slaves, treating human beings as breeding stock.

The stone barn at L’Hermitage. The family that built the estate were originally from northern France, and so built their barn in the style of construction they remembered from their home. This would have housed their animals such as horses and cattle, along with carriages or other farm equipment like plows or threshing equipment for wheat.

Hearing this, I was struck by the horrific irony of the pastoral idyll of the scene I was viewing being literally soaked in the blood of other human beings who had lived, worked, and died there quite possibly never able to look at that scenery with the innocence I had looked at it until the moment before that revelation. I felt compelled to respond to that epiphany artistically, because I knew from my own experience that all the academic reading in the world does not adequately convey that emotional truth I had experienced.

View of the US Capitol from the approximate location of the Capitol Hotel. The Capitol Hotel served as a slave market and slave auction site, and advertised in local newspapers that their holding cells in the basement were sufficiently secure that should a slave owner suffer a loss of property while staying at the hotel, they would be fully insured against the loss.

I grew up with a very specific version of the history of this country – it was built by great men of lofty ideals, who imbued it with a progressive spirit intended to raise up the dignity of all humans. As a child, and into my adulthood, I went to the houses of these great men to see the way they lived and the places that inspired them to deliver the great nation of the United States into being. We went to Mount Vernon, Monticello, and Montpelier in Virginia, the Paca house in Annapolis, Maryland, the Carroll estates in Baltimore, and dozens of other colonial-era grand homes – their grandness was signaled as direct proof of their virtue and wisdom.

The Mount Vernon mansion. Home to George Washington, first president of the United States, an extraordinarily wealthy man, and whose profits were built almost entirely upon a large slave labor force (over 300 persons) required to manage the agriculture and industry on his 3000+ acres. Look upon this house and remember that this nation was not only founded by slave owners, it was built by slave labor and the profits of slave industry.

It was never discussed that they had the wealth and leisure to develop these lofty ideas because they owned in some cases hundreds of their fellow human beings who labored for them to produce that wealth and leisure. Nor was it discussed that these men who wrote so eloquently about the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness saw fit to administer corporal punishment to the people they owned when those people decided that they too were deserving of the same life, liberty and happiness their owners wrote about.

A reconstructed slave cabin at Mount Vernon. This is typical of what the average enslaved worker would have lived in – log and mud construction, no glass in the very small window, poor ventilation, and two rooms (one under the roof, one on the main floor) shared by an entire family, perhaps two.

I still go to see those great houses because I am fascinated by the styles and architecture of bygone eras, but now I think about how they were paid for (and often built) with slave labor. It is a metaphoric and literal foundation to this country that we must acknowledge and recognize if we are ever going to make forward progress.

The landing from the Patuxent River at Sotterly Plantation, in southern Maryland near St. Mary’s City. At this location in 1729, a cargo of 220-plus people were delivered to the owner of Sotterly, George Plater, to be transported overland to St. Mary’s City where they would be auctioned off and he would receive a commission from the sale. This is one of five documented “Middle Passage” sites in Maryland and the first to have a memorial marker.

I chose to produce these images the way I have for two reasons. I made them as compact contact prints 2 ¼ by 4 ¼ inches in size to force the viewer to engage very personally with the images, so they cannot hold themselves at arm’s length from the subject. I printed them in an historic photographic process, palladium, because using a noble metal to make jewel-like images that can only be made with extensive manual labor was a metaphorical way of repaying some of the debt to the people who without compensation or recognition built and shaped the landscapes I photographed. I hope that these images will in this way produce moments of punctum for the viewers the way they have for me.

This is the slave graveyard at Mount Vernon. There are believed to be between 50-75 people to be buried here. Not a single one of their graves has even a headstone to mark their final rest, and in the Mount Vernon records, many of the slaves buried there are recorded by just a first name. No records of who was buried where in the plot exist, so it is impossible to say which graves belong to which individuals.

 

Come see INDELIBLE.

A Secret About a Secret – Photoworks Fall Fundraiser – Saturday October 20 @ Photoworks

Glen Echo Photoworks Annual Fall Fundraiser is just around the corner. The event will be held Saturday, October 20th, 2018 from 7pm to 10pm at Photoworks –

7300 MacArthur Boulevard, Glen Echo, Maryland 20812

SecretSecretPworks2018

We are doing something really amazing to support our community of photographers and collectors and friends – with each ticket, while supplies last, we are giving away a box of 10+1 photographs by Photoworks faculty and community members to EACH PERSON who buys a ticket. So you’re guaranteed not only to have some wine, look at some art, learn something interesting, and support a great cause, but you’ll also leave with a boxed set of prints by some of the DC area’s best photographers! Win-Win!

This will be a fun evening of photography – we will have film screenings, a talk by Sarah Gordon, Independent Curator and Lecturer, wine and nibbly things, and lots of photography on display! There’s a great show up on the walls, Places We Find by Sandy Sugawara and Catiana Garcia Kilroy, that you can check out while you’re there. Donated items for the silent auction range from photographs by faculty members,  a home-cooked Italian dinner for four, a vacation cottage on Squam Lake, New Hampshire for a week for up to ten people, one-on-one tutorials, to autographed books and college application portfolio reviews. There are items in every price range, with items starting as low as $25, so you don’t have to be a millionaire to bid.

I have donated a print of the featured image on this blog post, “Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso”, an 8×16 inch palladium print hand made by me, edition #1 of 10, as part of the silent auction that will be held both onsite and online.

img_9028

I am also donating two one-on-one workshops in advanced darkroom printing and platinum/palladium printing, so this is your chance to get personal instruction while supporting a worthy cause!

Items for the silent auction are available for online bidding in advance.

http://glenechophotoworks.org/2018/10/06/10-photographs-event-online-auction-catalog/

For tickets to the fundraiser:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/10-photographs-tickets-50622631654

I hope to see you all there!

 

Upcoming Class – Alternative Process Survey with Digital Negatives

I’ve got a class coming up soon – Thursday evenings starting September 27, co-taught with Mac Cosgrove-Davies. It’s an alternative process survey course, covering platinum/palladium, gum bichromate and cyanotype. We will be starting out by going through the process of making digital negatives for the platinum/palladium process, and then printing using platinum/palladium. I will be walking students through the process of how to create your own correction curve so that they will have the tools handy for making appropriate correction curves for their own personal environments and for whatever process(es) they want to work in. We will cover basic techniques, preferred materials and digital hardware.

In subsequent weeks, Mac Cosgrove-Davies will be teaching working with cyanotype and gum bichromate. Mac has been working with alternative processes, most specifically gum bichromate and cyanotype, for over 40 years.

MoreGoodStuffGum
Two-color Gum Bichromate print. ©2007 Scott Davis

This will be my first time co-teaching with Mac, who is an outstanding instructor as well as a meticulous artist and technician with historic photo processes.

You can register at the link below. Course meets for five sessions on Thursdays from 7-9:30 PM, starting September 27, and runs through October 25. Tuition is $350.

Alternative Process Survey with Digital Negatives

Artists Statement – Mac Cosgrove Davies

Photography has been my passion for more than 50 years, first with silver printing, and for the last 40 years with the historic processes.  I still delight in the hand-crafted uniqueness of gum bichromate, cyanotype, carbon, and oil printing, all printed from in-camera negatives (i.e. film).  I also enjoy making the equipment, and sometimes the cameras, that I use.  Working with large cameras feeds the more contemplative side of me, especially  in the solitary space under the dark cloth where the bright image is my entire perception of the world.  A successful photograph conveys the artist’s emotional, aesthetic statement in an engaging manner.  For me this turns out to be in images small by today’s standards.  I prefer to think of them as an intimate discussion with the viewer.  It pleases me to pull a 5×5 inch portfolio box from my pocket to respond to the frequently asked question of what I do for fun.

Artist Statement – Scott Davis

Scott Davis is a large format photographer working with antique and historic photographic processes. His work has been exhibited across the United States and internationally. He is a published author on platinum/palladium printing, and teaches classes in platinum/palladium. His personal work includes the DC cityscape,  the human figure, and wherever he happens to be with a camera. He is currently developing an exhibition plan for Sinister Idyll: Historical Slavery in the Modern Landscape, his documentary series about how the landscape of Maryland, Virginia and Washington DC have been marked by the impact of African slavery and its echoes that reverberate today.

Examples of past student work from digitally enlarged negatives:

img_7948img_7947-1

Prints and digitally enlarged negatives

 

Iron Railing, Russell Square, London

IronRailRussellSquareLondon
Iron Railing, Russell Square

This is all about using selective focus to emphasize a subject, and use of exaggerated perspective to draw the eye into and through the image. This is one of the things I like extreme wide-angles for – the exaggerated foreground-background relationships that happen when you put them very close to something give you a new non-eye-like point of view on your subject that really forces you to consider it formally, abstractly and within its context.

Lee Brothers Potato Merchants – London South Bank

A street find while walking around with the LC-A 120. This is under the railroad tracks that cross the South Bank pier of London Bridge, just across the street from Southwark Cathedral.

LeeBrosPotatoMerchants
Lee Brothers, Potato Merchants, Behind Borough Market

London – Street Signage – Look Right

LookRightFinsburySquare
Look Right

I happened to look down, and then saw this admonition to “Look Right ->”. I found it mildly amusing that traffic flow was considered so confusing that it was necessary to tell people which direction to look before crossing the street. And I love the crunchy texture of the pavement and sidewalk. This is at the corner of Finsbury Square where it abuts City Road in central London.

This is another image from the Lomo LC-A 120. The only real reason I ever mention the cameras I use nowadays is to prove a point about there being little to no correlation between the “quality” of camera you use and the quality of the images you make. I have very little control over the LC-A beyond what I point it at, when I choose to trip the shutter, the film I load in it, and the rough guesstimate of the distance between me and the subject. Everything else is really out of my control. But the decisions that are most important are the ones I do have control over – what to point it at and when to trip the shutter.

Knowing my camera and how it records images is also helpful to getting what I want out of the image, of course. But this image above would have not been any more successful if I shot it with a Hasselblad Superwide, a Rolleiflex TLR, or my Fuji XT-1, each of which offer far more control and precision than the LC-A.

London Images – British Museum – Greece

GreekTempleBritishMuseum
Greek Temple, British Museum

I’m entranced by the range of things happening in this photo. The geometry of the space (especially the grid on the floor) leading your eye back toward a vanishing point, the contrast between the stark modernity of the room structure and the gnarled, organic forms of the ancient Greek temple, the static, permanent nature of the architecture (all the moreso thanks to the twenty-five hundred year old temple in the room) providing backdrop for the hustle-bustle of people circulating the room, and the movement around the people stopped stock still to contemplate the temple. This was probably another 1/2 second exposure, maybe 1/4, hand-held with the Lomo LC-A.

London Images – British Museum – Egypt

A moment of serendipity as I was photographing the red granite pharaoh’s head in the British Museum caught the face of a passer-by in the lower right corner breaking through a beam of light, an equally enigmatic expression on their face as on the Pharaoh’s. In the far background, a second Pharaoh looks on.

EgyptianBustBritishMuseum
Three Faces, British Museum

Shot on Kodak Tri-X in a Lomo LC-A.

 

 

New Toy, On The Road

As many of you who have been following my blog for any period of time are now aware, I’m a camera-toy junkie. My latest foray in camera toy land has been into the world of “toy” cameras. I’ve been working for several years on my Sinister Idyll series using my Lomo Belair X-6/12. Many would call it a “toy” camera because it is a plastic fantastic body, with aperture-preferred automatic exposure only, only two aperture choices, and manual guesstimate focusing only. It’s upgradeable (as I have done) with two Russian-made glass lenses (which are absolutely superb), but beyond that, it’s a glorified point-n-shoot that takes panoramic images on 120 roll film.

Well, I just acquired its spiritual cousin, the Lomo LC-A 120. The LC-A has a super-wide lens, also a Russian glass lens, and a fully automatic shutter and aperture (you have no say whatever in the exposure other than if you game the system by changing the ISO, and no idea which aperture it’s using because there is no indicator in the viewfinder, just a slow-shutter warning light). Focusing is achieved by selecting one of four focus zones via a lever on the side of the body. I’ve been plinking around with it here around Washington DC, and just gave it its first serious workout on the road when I took it with me to London.

DiscoGrecian
“Disco Grecian”, British Museum

One of the most obvious characteristics of the lens is a noticeable vignette in the corners. Applied properly, this is a very effective tool. Thanks to the automatic aperture, it’s not always predictable how much you’re going to get (see comment above about the aperture – with wider apertures and infinity focus, you get more vignetting. With smaller apertures and closer focus, you get little or no vignetting).

GreekTempleBritishMuseum
Greek Temple, British Museum

As you can see from the people moving around in this scene, the camera is quite sharp even at a larger aperture, and the extreme wide-angle (the same field of view as a Hasselblad Superwide) lets you hand-hold at speeds that would be very difficult with a normal lens on a reflex camera. I’m guessing this was somewhere between 1/8th and 1/2 second.

PennyfarthingMuseumStreet
Pennyfarthing Bike, outside Thomas Farthing’s, Museum Street, London

Even with the lens being so wide, you can achieve selective focus effects with it if you get in close. I highly recommend getting in close!

RussellSquareTubeStairs
Exit, Russell Square Tube Station, London

An extreme example of hand-holding (yes, I know – I have supernaturally steady hands). This was at least a one-second exposure.

UndergroundStationOldStreet
Approaching Train, Waiting Passenger, Kings Cross Tube Station

The LC-A is a great travel camera because it’s so wide, it allows you to include a near-human-eye field of view, and the extreme light-weight and compact form factor make it very easy to take anywhere and carry all day. Ditto for the minimalist operation technique – you really just point, set focus range, and shoot.

OFOBikeLCA
No Smoking

Back here in DC, you can see another example of the vignette effect. I did tweak this a little to amplify it, but this is not a significant manipulation beyond what the camera did.

BarSinkRenovations
Under Construction

I like getting multi-layered images with partial reflections in glass. And it’s a bit of a self-portrait too, with my shadow falling in the image. I love how the construction workers have the microwave set up and working in the middle of a kitchen remodel – you have to have your priorities straight and keep the coffee warm!

ColumbiaPlazaClouds

A demonstration of not only the extreme field of view, but the color rendering of the lens. The camera has a reputation for deep, saturated colors. This was taken with 10+ years out-of-date Fuji Pro 400 H.

ConcretePineconeDupontAgain, you can never really get too close. This was a test of the close-focus/selective focus capability (the minimum focus setting is 1.5 feet).

FiveHousesDupont

Nice saturated colors even on decade-old film.

One of the things I’ve been enjoying about these “toy” cameras that give you very little control over your photograph is the way that they in many ways demonstrate the lack of need for that level of control to make good images. The extreme wide-angle of not only the LC-A but also the Belair force you to think very seriously about your composition, use of perspective, and manipulation of forced perspective to emphasize/de-emphasize compositional elements. With the Belair, I do have a “B” setting for the shutter to do long exposures and intentionally play with time, something I don’t have on the LC-A (but wish I did). Time is the one other critical component to a photograph that we do and simultaneously do not have control over – I can control when I open the shutter, and to some extent when I close the shutter (if I want a “correctly” exposed image, I must close it when it needs to be closed, not when I want it to be closed), but beyond that we have no real control over what happens WHILE the shutter is open. Things happen on their own. Movement is never fully predictable. Moving subjects speed up, slow down, change direction, or stop without warning.

I’ve started thinking of these cameras that I’ve been using – the Belair and the LC-A – as “serendipity boxes” because to use them successfully, they require an acceptance of serendipity, chance, and fortune. They’re life-metaphors in a way – just like in my own life, I can point them a certain direction, look at specific things, get closer, and turn away.  But if I don’t learn how to see through them, to take in the periphery, work within the uniquely skewed perspectives that they offer, I’ll miss out on things that are presented to me because they didn’t fit in the tightly-controlled box I wanted them to fit into.