Friday, August 22, 2014

Another Workshop

Did another workshop today, this one was a view camera class that went fast and easy. Doug the student works in the optical field so has great experience with all types of lens. He was able to pick up the tech stuff very quickly so the most important part of the workshop for him was the camera handling and getting some hands on experience shooting. It was a nice afternoon and another $120 into the photography trip kitty. I think I have enough film now so am investing it into the next trip for now. I would buy photo paper but do not have any shows lined up so spending money there seems a bit premature. 


A friend Ray brought E-Books to my attention in a email today. I did a little search and found out that you can do E-Books on blurb then upload them to Amazon for sale through Apple iBooks store. Will do some more research into this stuff next week when I am working my nightshifts and have some time.  It might be a way to generate a tiny bit of income that would allow me to create more and do security less.

L1200 Almost Ready

The L1200 Durst 4x5 should be up and running and printing in the next couple of weeks. I was held back because of lack of a proper negative carrier. I found one on EBay which I bought and it has been shipped along with some anti newton glass. My hope is that I can get this machine printing by September. I have two different heads for it a condenser head of some kind and also a colour head. This added tool will help the printing because the light source is quite a bit brighter which will help with my dense negs.

My friend Jack is also going to give me his lens that I can use in the printing process. You can never have enough free lens to print with, they all have slightly different sharpness and feels.

"Lost Innocence" Portrait Style Idea?

I have been thinking of using the ring flash and blad to tell the stories of the "Lost Innocence" brothel workers. The idea behind these pics would be to raise awareness about forgotten workers inside Thailand. The brothels from what I understand (need to do read more about this world) use trafficked woman from Burma, Laos and Cambodia who work with Thai customers (mostly). I have very limited knowledge of this ugly scene and it would be dangerous to shoot because of the police corruption that is involved. Most of these places have police protection and pay bribes to stay open. In Cambodia some of the brothel customers are police getting freebees so I assume that happens in Thai as well. It would be dangerous series to work on, something that might get me robbed or physically attacked. When corrupt police and human traffickers see any danger to their illegal income anything can happen, lots of it bad.

The idea behind the series would be to do a series of portraits showing these forgotten abused women and tell the story of who they are and the terrible lives they live. I want to make stark portraits that show the ugliness of it all and thought that square format heads might communicate that message. Photos in the same style as the two I made of dad recently. The ring flash is also important technically. When I photographed brothel workers in Cambodia in 2003 the rooms were so crowded and dark that flash was the only viable option.

I might also try printing the work using wet plate in the darkroom. Having stark honest portraits of these workers and then print them large on wet plate might work very well. Showing the work nationally and internationally could not hurt the fight to end this kind of exploitation (at least a little bit). The pics might do nothing but they could also make a small positive change, its certainly is a goal worth working towards. This would be one of 4 or 5 projects I might work on during my extended Thai trips. Along with the  "Migrant Workers" project and the "Families of the Dump" and the colour "Sex Tourist-Worker Relationship" series. It would probably happen over many years maybe 10 or more.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Another Rejection And Dad

Got another rejection letter today, for the "Families of the Dump" project, this one from the Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery. Another polite letter with the word SORRY in it. One, two or three rejections and you can say stuff like well they are wrong and I am right, but when you get into the six-seven-eight rejections then you know the work is  simply not strong enough. I do have a much larger selection of images now than when I made these submissions. The work submitted was done after the May trip to the dump and does not include any of the November photos.

Still when you get 500 no's we do not want to show your photographs, that's a sign. I will work harder and try to do stronger work next time. The 5x7 portraits will be part of the next round of submissions from the dump so that will be a bit different, and add a unique flavour.

My one regret from this rejection is I wish that I could have shown acceptance letter to dad, it might have cheered him up a bit. I feel that this new failure let him down, let the people in the dump down, all because I am not good enough. Maybe later on in my photo career the acceptance letters will come but that will be after dad is gone so will mean so much less.

Dad looked a bit better today, he has been on a IV for the last few days and it has helped him. I bought him some canned ham, some herrings and peaches. He was eating some of the cut up peaches when I left. It's a good idea for me to buy dad food then he feels more obligated to eat them (because his son bought it). Me buying food for him more often will help him eat more and help keep him with us a little longer.

John Sexton Gets It

I was studying the work of the great landscape photographer John Sexton. In his book "Recollections" Mr. Sexton accomplishes all of his work with the simplest of tools. He uses one type of film Tmax in 2 speeds 100 and 400 ASA and 5-6 lens for the entire book. This really goes to show how a great photographer needs minimum tools even thou he shoots a variety of landscape subjects in all kinds of light. John S gets it, its not about using dozens of films and developer combos, multiple cameras and a truck load of lens. What makes a great photographer is learning and understanding your craft and tools thoroughly and then forgetting all that film, gadget crap and TRULY SEEING AND CREATING.

When photographers like the great landscape John Sexton and great documentary photographer Sebastiao Salgado can capture great images with simple tools it is a lesson to all of us.

Whenever I am teaching I tell my students limit yourself and by doing that your actually expanding your ability to create Use one lens, one camera, one film, one developer for a long time before branching out with a few more tools. There is no need at all to use multiple films, developers and cameras, maybe 2 films and a couple of developers at most, NO MORE. Four or 5 lens is more than enough, maybe to many, it is the photographers heart and mind that sees and creates. If you have to many options it can distract, confuse and destroy your ability to create.

Some hobbyists I think love the tools of photography more than the actual photographs, they are into testing more than creating, into fondling equipment more than making pics. I tell my students to not fall into that trap, do not buy and buy and test and test, never settling on what they want to do or how they want to do it, even after a lifetime of photography. The gadget photo hobby types are continually in flux and unsure, they shoot with a shaky hand and fragmentary knowledge of what works and what doesn't work, they simply have way to many variables, they become drunk with their toys. It is like their vision is continually out of focus. Simplicity in shooting creates better photographs than all the shiny lens and all the fancy films in the world.

My advise for what it's worth is do not be dazzled by all the bells and whistles of photography, use basic tools to tell complex stories. Make up your mind what works for you then use those simple tools to make pics, forget the never ending testing and experimenting, CHOOSE AND CREATE!

John Sexton is probably the greatest living landscape photographer, if it's good enough for him, it is certainly good enough for me! He does not need the extra shit to create masterworks, why should I?

Note* Sexton used Tri-x for some of his very early work but stopped using it after  the T-max came out. He limits himself to one film in two speeds now,  T-max 100 and 400.
Note* Salgado shot Tri-x his entire career with Leica's and 3 or 4 lens.

I am not to much into landscapes, I just feel that photos of people are a thousand times more important than photos of rocks. Still beauty and recording the landscape is challenging and worthwhile pursuit. Here is a wonderful John Sexton photograph from his book "Quiet Light", the composition works so well.

Rice Field and Pine Forest, Japan 1985 by John Sexton


Some very brave and courageous woman who have suffered horrific assaults pose for photographs.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Light That Shines

While driving back from dads tonight I kept thinking of him and what he his going through, then of the Cambodian migrants scammed and stranded in Thai, then of the girls working the brothels along the Thai border and of the Burmese families of the dump. All those faces, came flooding in.

I kept on thinking how unimportant I am compared to all of this, how trivial my problems really are. The stories behind these peoples lives and the worlds they live in are what I want to communicate through my photography. Gerry Yaum is a fabrication, a made up name of an imaginary person of no consequence. The people thou, the subjects in the photographs are of incredible importance, they're stories need to be told, their lives, their faces need to be seen and remembered.

My roll in all of this is to shine a bit of light onto those lives, to tell those stories and communicate their messages.

Migrant Workers Scam

One of the series I wanted to work on in the future was "Migrant Workers" a photo project that would document the lives of migrant workers in Thailand from Laos, Burma and Cambodia. I read this sad story tonight about workers from Cambodia who were scammed out of $20000 baht ($686 CAD), and had been promised 300 baht ($10.30 CAD) a day in wages. The 300 baht is a similar wage to the migrant workers I photographed near my hotel last trip.

Scammed Cambodian Worker
It is a sad, scummy thing when you steal money from 180 poor people who just want to work to help their families back home. It is important to tell the story of human beings like these. I am not sure how I can get access and meet all the workers etc. but I will figure out a way, somehow. To document their lives, donate some things to them, do a book or exhibition or just put the work online in this blog might not help a lot but it will help a little through education and raising awareness.

From the story:

Thailand is home to hundreds of thousands of undocumented Cambodian migrant workers who come to Thailand through smuggling networks. Their undocumented status often makes them vulnerable to abuse by their employers, smugglers, and corrupt authorities.

In July, six Cambodian women were allegedly raped by Thai brokers who smuggled them into Thailand.

Dad Tonight

Dad is OK with me continuing to photograph him so I will make pictures as long as he is comfortable with them. I bought him a hamburger 2 days ago but he only ate a quarter of it, yesterday I asked him if there is anything I could buy for him to eat or drink and he said no. I got to try to find something he will eat, his appetite is very poor probably because of all the medication, morphine etc. He has lost to much weight so quickly, but he is still walking with the help of a walker.

I like the look of film better in black and white than the digital stuff I have done so far. I feel especially comfortable with Tri-x and the Leica's. Shooting one film has helped me a lot. When you shoot multiple films your like a drunken jack rabbit bouncing around aimlessly, but when you get to really learn a single film you know what the photographs are going to look like before they are developed and printed. I think I have reached that level with my Tri-x and Leicas, I can pre-see the finished shot in my minds eye.

All the 35mm pics below were made with a 50mm 1.4 lens and a Leica M6. The room was very dark, I shot at 800ASA with the lens set at f1.4 and the shutter around 1/15 or 1/30. The film received 2 hour stand development in Rodinal diluted 1/50.

Even when Tri-x is out of focus or has very shallow focus like these f1.4 shots there is a grittiness and strength to the images thats very unique.

Leica M6 with 50mm  F1.4 and Tri-x 800ASA

Dad last night, ring flash with hasselblad and Tri-x