Category Archives: Photography

Publication – Hallowed Ground, the Journal of the Civil War Trust

I just had an image of mine published in Hallowed Ground, the journal of the Civil War Trust. It’s a photo I took of Ed Bearss on one of his battlefield tours through the Smithsonian. The theme of the issue is “30 years of battlefield preservation”, and Ed is, rightfully, the star, as he has been one of the greatest champions of historic preservation over the last sixty years.

HallowedGround_Summer17_COVER150

Reading the article clipping below, along with my image (see credit at the bottom), you can get a sense of Ed’s larger-than-life personality. I’m very happy that my image is the one being used to depict and honor Ed.

HallowedGround_Summer17_EdBearss_ScottDavis

The photo of Ed was taken at the Balls’ Bluff battlefield site, which he was involved in helping secure and preserve against development. Were it not for his work, all that remained would have been the smallest military cemetery in the United States surrounded by townhouses. Instead, thanks to his work and the efforts of a local/state public/private partnership, we have an exceptionally authentic battlefield to walk and understand how the events of the day played out.

You can find out more about the Civil War Trust on their website: CivilWar.org

For those who care about such things, the image was made with Kodak Tri-X in my Rolleiflex.

More Ed Bearss

If you’ve been following along and paying attention to my blog, you know I’m a huge history fan, especially with regards to the US Civil War. I have had the great opportunity and privilege to attend perhaps a dozen tours through the Smithsonian Associates program led by Ed Bearss. Ed is the Chief Historian Emeritus of the United States Park Service, a combat-wounded World War 2 veteran, and even today at 93 he is still leading history tours over 160 days a year. He has an inimitable speaking style, a beyond encyclopedic knowledge of US history (especially military history), and a boundless energy rarely found in people less than half his age.

 

EdBearssAtKellysFord

The trip where I took these photos was in the early spring of this year, to visit a lesser-known early battle of the Civil War, known as Kelly’s Ford. The battlefield is just down the road from Brandy Station, where JEB Stuart faced off against a now-competitive Union cavalry, and Robert E. Lee’s son Rooney was injured in the leg.

EdBearssKellysFord

Kelly’s Ford was a smaller engagement and marked the beginning of the rise of Union cavalry, where previously Confederate cavalry had utterly dominated the field. Despite the relative minor character of the engagement, Ed, with his signature presentation and his admonition “if you want to understand the battle, you have to walk the battlefield”, manages to make such minor events and historical footnotes compelling.

EdBearssProfile

I love this last photo of Ed as it really captures his spirit and personality.

U Street Graffiti – Palladium Print

In my latest iteration of my Intro to Platinum/Palladium printing class, I dug up some old negatives I had made, since my student this time was sufficiently skilled with wet darkroom processes and not interested in getting into shooting large format (in my standard group class, we take my Canham 5×7 out around Glen Echo and make a dozen or so negatives for students to work from). This was a print from that session.

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It’s a memorial to the transitions on U Street. This is graffiti art that has since been obliterated by gentrification and re-development – the alley where this was has been re-graffiti’d, but with “sanctioned” artwork a bit more sanitized and easier to interpret.

This print is a 5×7 palladium print. The usual chocolate-brown color is missing because I gave this emulsion mix a shot of NA2 contrast agent to give it a bit more snap. The NA2 contains platinum, which is what cools off the image and makes it more neutral. If you’d like to learn how to print this way, contact me through the blog and we can schedule a class, either one-on-one or I can fit you in to an upcoming class at Glen Echo Photoworks.

New Arrival – Storytelling by Alex Timmermans

I came home from work today to find a wonderful pleasant surprise on my doorstep: Storytelling, by Alex Timmermans. 

Alex is one of the modern masters of wet plate collodion technique. But far more than a mere technician, Alex is a true artist with a camera. His images are true creative narratives in a frame. 

As another nice plus, Alex personalized it to me. I’m one of the credited backers in the afterword. I’ve had the great fortune to know Alex through online photography forums like APUG and Facebook, and watch this body of work grow and evolve over time, and now I’m thrilled to have his book in my collection. 

Meet And Shoot – Columbia Heights

Today was my session of the “Meet & Shoot” class I co-teach with several other instructors at Photoworks. The class is a five or six session workshop on street photography where each instructor takes a group of students out for a guided photography excursion to a location of their choosing. Students can sign up for all sessions, or pick and choose which ones they want as their schedule and/or instructor preference dictates.

This time, I had three new students and three repeat students from the last time I taught this class. Due to some last-minute scheduling snafus, three of the students were unable to make it, so it was a very intimate walkabout, and I was able to teach as much as I was playing shepherd.

We met at the Columbia Heights Metro station, and once the crew was collected, we took a walk up to the little plaza in front of the Tivoli Theater where a saturday farmers market was in full swing. My three students, seen below (L to R: Matthew, Suzan and Bobbi) wandered around and took full advantage of my guidance for the session to use color as a foundational theme. The farmers market was a perfect opportunity, with all the fruit and vegetables on display.

Columbia Heights is an ethnically diverse neighborhood, with a strong Latin-American presence. This is very obvious in the colors and styles of signage on shops and restaurants, and makes for a great subject for a color-based exercise.

Here Bobbi, Suzan and Matthew are examining some signage on a Dominican restaurant on Park Road.

We continued along Park Road over to Mount Pleasant, another neighborhood in Washington DC that also has a significant Latino presence. I took the opportunity to discuss including graffiti and public sculpture in your work as a “street” photographer. If you’re going to include other peoples’ art in your photography, make sure that you have a solid reason for doing so- it’s fair game as documentary, or if your capture and interpretation is transformative (abstract/close-up, for example), but if you’re planning to exhibit and market photos of other peoples’ art, even if it is displayed in public, you’re at best in an ethical gray area, and potentially in a copyright violation scenario.

Street photography is very much about found images – you’re not setting out to intentionally create compositions, but rather responding and reacting to things you encounter, like this poster that fell into the street and got run over until the rough pavement surface pierced through turning the whole thing into an abstract composition.

We had a great morning of shooting, and wrapped up for a chat at a cafe on Columbia Road in Adams Morgan (another neighborhood bordering on Mount Pleasant and Columbia Heights). I’m very pleased with my students, and I’m looking forward to seeing their images from today at our recap class in three weeks.

Alternative Process Revolution – Philip Jessup

Another artist interview from the Alt Process Revolution series – this one with Philip Jessup, another Canadian photographer. One of the great things about this touring show is that it brings greater visibility of Canadian photographers to the US audience – I think many US photographers are aware of many other photographers from their own country, but with the possible exception of Yusuf Karsh, most could not name a single Canadian photographer living or dead.

Philip Jessup

Tell us a bit about your photographic work:

  • How did you get interested in photography?

My landscape photography is an extension of my professional work over the years advocating solutions to climate change. Many of the effects of climate change—rising sea levels, warming global temperatures, increasingly erratic precipitation patterns—are placing wilderness and communities that depend on them under unbearable stress. Many of these areas are likely to vanish, like low-lying atolls in the Pacific. I see my job as documenting such areas, so that if they do vanish or change in some unrecognizable way, humankind will remember them.

  • Do you feel your work is influenced by other media/periods/genres? If so, which ones, and why?

I’ve been influenced stylistically by other landscape photographers whose work I love. Eliot Porter, who was the first landscape photographer to work extensively in color, has always inspired me, his ability to find the abstract in the real. Other photographers who work I admire include: Fay Godwin, Harry Callahan, Brett  Weston, Toshio Shibata, Wynn Bullock, and the Canadian Edward Burtynski, who has taught us to find beauty even in the devastation being inflicted on the environment.

  • What is your experience with analog photography? Digital photography?

All of my early work dating from 2003 was shot with medium format film, Fujifilm’s Velvia 50. I love its wide color gamut and detail. From the start, however, I had my reversal film images scanned at high resolution and then printed on a Lambda using Cibachrome and later Fujiflex media. Today I shoot with a digital camera, process the images myself, and print on my own Epson P7000. I’ve been able to achieve rich, long lasting color prints this way. I would go back to Cibachrome if the media were available. Today, I occasionally shoot using film just for the pleasure and self-discipline, but in Canada availability and processing is limited and quite expensive.

  • What brought you to participate in the APR show? 

I’m always interested in exploring new ways to create an image that deepens the experience of my work with the viewer. Multiple gum over palladium produces a highly subjective final print that feels to me like a memory or a remembrance of something that is past or lost. The theme of my own work, which is trying to capture the beauty of landscapes and communities that may vanish, is a good match for this process. I also like the extreme longevity of these images. Again, it is a good match for my own goal, which is to memorialize imperiled landscapes so future generations won’t forget.

  • Do you see a continuing role in your photography practice for alternative processes?

I’m keen to explore the potential of alt processes to emotionally charge the images I place in front of the viewer. The exhibit at Glen Echo is the first step.

Alternative Photo Revolution – Alan Dunlop

Alan Dunlop

I sent interview questions out to a number of the Alt Process Revolution artists. Artists, being artists, don’t always respond in exactly the way you expect 🙂 So I didn’t get answers to my questions in a literal, 1:1 response, but here is the photo of Alan Dunlop and his bio/response.

My name is Alan Dunlop. I currently live in Toronto, Ontario.

Photography has always been a part of my life. I remember my dad taking photographs with his Rolleiflex and watching him develop prints in the closet of our tiny apartment. I wasn’t hooked, however, until I was studying advertising art and one of my teachers handed me a camera to experiment with. I eventually became a news photographer and worked for a number of local papers for more than two decades.

In my personal work, I always like to push the limits of photography and explore new perspectives and alternative realities. Over the past decade, my focus has been on collaged images. My work is influenced by my background in technical illustration and advertising art. I am also inspired by the works of contemporary artists David Hockney and Robert Birmelin. I am especially fascinated by how these two artists blend multiple images together to elicit a sense of movement and space to convey the myriad complexities of a single moment in time.

The image I submitted to the APR show is from a series of self-portraits shot over several months exploring reflections. It was created in camera, not Photoshop.

I grew up with film and spent many hours in the darkroom. The move to digital photography was an exciting one which I embraced wholeheartedly. I now work only in digital and do my own printing. The immediacy of digital allows me to explore and create images in a way that film never could and gives me more control over the final results.

After becoming familiar with Bob Carnie’s approach to alternative processes, I was curious to learn more. I am drawn to the richness of the images created using this method. I have spent time with Bob processing a number of images, including some of my own, using alternative processes.  The results were quite intriguing. The alternative process prints have a uniqueness of their own and have a very tactile feeling about them. I am curious to see how this will work with more of my own photos.