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.
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.
This is a very dear old friend of mine who I’ve known for close on 20 years now. We originally met on an IRC chatroom (that’s really dating me – how many of you out there even remember what that was?) and stayed in touch long after. Simon came to visit me when I was living in Baltimore, then I ran into him again several years later at Chatuchak Market in Bangkok, quite unplanned and unexpectedly. Several years after that, he returned to Baltimore, this time as a graduate student. Now he lives outside DC and we get together periodically to keep up with what’s going on in our lives. We were having dinner the other night at a newish Italian restaurant in my neighborhood when I took this- he was just perfectly lit by the setting sun coming through the window. I think this perfectly captures his jovial inner spirit.
I had the Rolleiflex sitting on the table next to me after taking this picture, and the women at the table next to us saw it and remarked on it. We ended up having a good fifteen minute conversation with them about photography and using film and old cameras. This is why I call the Rollei “the happy camera” – it gets so many people talking with you about photography, and always in a positive way. Everyone has good feelings about this camera.
I drive by this place every morning on my way to work. I watched them working on getting the place ready to open and kept telling myself I really ought to stop in and try it out. Well, this weekend, I did. It was my treat to myself for having sold four prints. The restaurant is right on U Street, and the space is not large – they have perhaps ten tables and bar seating for another ten or so patrons. The ambiance is classic Italian eatery, down to the red checkered tablecloths and the mid-century pop and light jazz (think Sinatra, Louis Armstrong and Tony Bennett) playing at just the right volume. And most importantly, the food is FANTASTIC. I had Bronzino with roasted beets, pears and almonds, and a Valhrona chocolate cannoli that was just to die for. I will be adding this to my roster of regular haunts.
Here is a streetscape including the marquee for the restaurant.
Alphonse has their own wood-fired pizza oven. One of their pizzas is next on my list of things to try. I had the Rollei with me as usual, and everyone on the staff was particularly appreciative of it. I was trying to take a shot of the pizza chefs working at the oven, but one of them caught me out of the corner of his eye, turned, and they both mugged for the camera.
This is the view of the restaurant from my table in the back by the pizza oven. As you can see, it’s a long, narrow space, but with charming atmosphere. The front of the restaurant has a small shop where you can buy desserts and Italian specialty grocery items like salamis.
With the sun down, the ambient light outside is pretty much equal to the illumination inside, which means that with the Delta 3200 film loaded in my camera that I was shooting, I could hand-hold pretty much equally well inside and out. You can see this in the shot of the market door – there is no brightness difference (and no manipulation of the image to equalize the brightness level between inside and out).
As many of you know, I like walking around my neighborhood with the Rollei on my neck, photographing what I find. I went out this past weekend to put some Ilford Delta 3200 through the camera, to test how it performs as a low-light film. I wanted to shoot some interiors and some street scenes in low light, hand-held. Ilford Delta 3200 is really the last man standing in this game, as Kodak has discontinued their Tmax 3200 in any size, and even when available, it was only available in 35mm.
I was out to meet a customer who was interested in my photography – I made a print sale! (that will be a different blog post). In celebration, I was out exploring the neighborhood and took a different route home and came by this (relatively) new coffee shop, simply named, “The Coffee Bar”. It’s very cute inside, and they serve a really tasty chai. They did a fantastic job renovating the place and gave it a very inviting atmosphere. I love the sayings on the chalkboard menu – “decaf coffee is like a hairless cat – it exists, but that doesn’t make it right”.
One of the things that happens when you test out a new film is that you discover character quirks that help you decide how and when to include it in your palette of options. Delta 3200 is a high-speed yet (at least in 120) relatively fine-grained film. Since my Rollei has a top shutter speed of 1/500th of a second, the film’s speed severely curtails my ability to use it in daylight situations. In low light, though, that vice becomes a virtue and I can hand-hold photos that I would ordinarily need a tripod for. That was, as Donald Rumsfeld would have put it, a “known known”. A characteristic I did not know until I actually developed the film was that apparently Delta 3200 does not have an anti-halation coating. Anti-halation coatings prevent ‘blooming’ in highlights that give a “glow” to light sources within a scene. When you don’t want that, having it can be bad. However, in a scene like this, it really works and gives a warm atmosphere to the scene. This is a shot that I think when I make a silver-gelatin enlargement of it, I’ll sepia-tone the print to give it that extra warmth, and give it a real ‘coffee’ atmosphere.
The doors to The Coffee Bar were catching the last blush of sunset in the sky, and the reflection of the street lamp just starting to glow in the twilight. I love this kind of light at this time of day, where the sky is dimming to be just as bright as the landscape below. This is one shot where I wish I had the second Rollei with me and some color film loaded, as I would have liked to capture the deep blue sky, the patina’d green lamppost, and the orange glow of the street lamp globe reflected in the window, the gold leaf of the street number and ‘The Coffee Bar’ on the glass twinkling in the sun’s last rays. Another time – I know where it is, and I can always go back in for a good chai to warm me up on a chilly fall evening.
This didn’t really ‘fit’ with any of the other neighborhood photo groups I posted earlier, so it’s getting its own post. The Industrial Bank branch at 11th and U Streets NW is the original location for Industrial Bank, which was founded to cater to the African-American community in the early 20th century when many mainstream banks wouldn’t lend money to black people. They have kept the vintage neon sign with the clock outside, probably a 1930s addition from the look of it. They never light the neon, though. The clock does work, but nobody seems to be bothered enough to get the time right. When I took this shot it was around 1pm, but the clock says a bit shy of 5pm. But hey, it’s 5pm somewhere!
I went out on one of my neighborhood walkabouts and found these scenes. I’m still not good with getting people’s faces in street photos because when I try for a portrait, it inevitably becomes non-candid because I take too long trying to compose and focus, they see me, and at best the moment is lost. So I do photos of people from behind. Maybe I’ll work on making it into a thing.
Scenes with activity in them, though, work better. I guess because I’m standing off at an angle to the action and people can pass through without being aware, so they get included from a variety of angles.
And sometimes they get included because they’re completely unaware of the camera’s presence, like the worker inside Ben’s Chili Bowl.
All shots taken with my Rolleiflex 2.8E on Ilford FP4+. The Ilford FP4+ is part of a large stash of it that I bought more than a few years ago when there was a scare that Ilford would go out of business. I bought a box of 100 rolls (B&H was running a special on the bulk lot). Well, Ilford stayed in business (thank heavens!), and my use of medium format waned for a while (I sold off my Hasselblad outfit to finance a large format camera), so the bulk lot sat in my basement, going past its expiry date. Now that I’ve found and fallen in love with the Rollei, I’m finally making a dent in that box. It’s a great compliment to the quality of Ilford that I can still use this film this many years past the expiration and I have yet to need to tweak the chemistry to compensate for the film’s aging.
It “snowed” here in DC on Tuesday, and we got the day off for what amounted to a little more than a dusting that rapidly turned into slush and never really interfered with traffic or public transportation or anything. But, since I had the day off, I took a walkabout in my neighborhood to burn some film.
I’m always looking for images of things to add to my “Portraits of Everyday Objects” series. This mailbox, outside the Industrial Bank building on U Street fits the bill, looking somewhat forlorn with all its graffiti.
Industrial Bank was started at the beginning of the 20th century by African-Americans to cater to the African-American community. Their main branch is at the corner of 11th and U Streets, and has this really cool metal and neon clock sign out front. Alas they have allowed the sign to lapse into disrepair – I THINK the clock functions but it is not accurate, and either they just never turn on the neon or it no longer works. I really wish they’d fix it up so it would work, as it would make a very nice neighborhood landmark and a visual counterpoint to the yellow saxophone sign across the street outside the Bohemian Cavern nightclub.
Up the street there is the Soul-Saving Center Church of God – a storefront community church with a primarily if not exclusively African-American congregation. It’s a sign of the gentrification and transformation of the neighborhood – across the street from them is a brand-new condo building with units selling for up to $1.2 Million.
You can see the real estate bonanza still happening in the neighborhood – small row houses are being converted and expanded into multi-story multi-unit condominium buildings. Here is one with a “Fabulous Interio”- the agent broke off the “r” to get the sign to fit inside the fence. I wonder how long it will be before the Soul-Saving Center Church decides to sell their buildings plus the adjacent lot they have – they’ve got perhaps $10 Million in land alone now.
Up the street is another landmark of the neighborhood, almost as famous as Ben’s Chili Bowl. The Florida Avenue Grill has been around since 1944, serving up good old-fashioned soul food to locals and celebrities alike. The Florida Avenue Grill once owned a large empty lot next door, which served as their parking lot. About five years ago the family that owns the grill sold the empty lot and now a five story condo building has filled it. The average unit in that building sold for north of $500,000 each.
I was out walking around in the late afternoon and found these. I like the simple graphic compositions they inspired, combined with the long shadows being cast. They’re remnants of the old industrial component of the neighborhood that is quickly being usurped by gentrification.
After a LOONG weekend of playing with my printer to get it to cooperate (running out of four different inks @ $60/cartridge, figuring out how to solve problems with head strikes on my prints, running out of paper at $115/box thanks to the aforementioned ink shortages and head strikes), I now have my show completely printed. Eight prints are already framed and ready to go, the remaining 12 are going to be framed tomorrow, and the show hung on Tuesday after work. I’ve done shows before, and of course it’s always hard work, but this is the biggest show I’ve done in terms of volume. Even my biggest past Artomatic was probably 12 prints. I’m very psyched about the show. Here’s a recap for those who can’t make it to the opening (REMINDER: August 2, 7-10 PM, Mad Momos Restaurant, 3605 14th Street NW, Washington DC). This exhibit pays tribute to the parts of Washington I pass through on a regular if not daily basis. I want to show what this town looks like to a resident, as well as showing it in an unfamiliar way even to those folks who do see these things all the time. As I mentioned in my blurb about the reception, I love the way color distorts and transforms at night because we no longer have a single, unidirectional light source of uniform color and quality. I’ve started these photos with late evening/sunset/twilight and progress into deep night to capture the feeling of that time of day. I hope these photos express that sense of drawn out time and transformed space, be it through blurred motion or the interplay of lights.
If any of you have ever produced a photography exhibit, or any other art exhibit for that matter, you’ll have an understanding of just how complicated an effort this is. I’m lucky in that I am able to do my promotional work online for the most part (this blog, email blasts, internet forums, etc), and I already have promotional postcards printed from the last time I exhibited some of this work. It would not surprise me if I did a truly serious accounting of what it cost to put this show up on the wall and the bill came in somewhere north of $2500. I know the framing bill alone is in the region of $1100-$1200. Postcards? about $200 for good quality printing from Modern Postcard. Paper and ink? $300. And that’s just the obvious, not counting the two years it took to shoot the images, the film and processing, the editing process, the dinner bribe for my friend who helped with the editing, and all the hardware and software (21.5″ iMac, Epson V750 scanner, Epson 3880 printer, Photoshop CS5, SilverFast AI 8, Gretag-Macbeth EyeOne calibration software and hockey-puck). To say nothing of 20 years of accumulated experience required to produce images like these.