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Belated Holiday Film Scans

We’re now almost 2 months into living in new Canadian place and things are falling into place. The house is done and decorated, as far is was humanly possible and we now have that typical ‘1 box of stuff that has not found its place yet’. Lucky for us, we have a lot of space to place that 1 box, so it’s not quite an issue.

I got round to opening a new Etsy shop. I would have much rather wanted to move the original UK one over to Canada, but apparently global organization Etsy does not cater for international moves. As I did not want to pay for currency conversions twice, only to then have my money sitting in a UK bank account – I opted for a shop Version 2.0.

I also managed to get round to scanning my medium format film images from all of my recent short trips to Gran Canaria, Italy and France. There are still more rolls to develop, but I’m sure I’ll get round to those in the next few weeks. But without further ado, here’s my best images from the lot.

 

France, Carcasonne and the Cathar Trail

 

Carcasonne by Yvette Bessels

Carcasonne view from the battlements by Yvette Bessels

The Cathar Trail by Yvette Bessels

The Cathar Trail by Yvette Bessels

View from Peyrepertuse by Yvette Bessels

Italy, Pompeii and Herculaneum

 

Pompeii Ruins by Yvette Bessels

Pompeii ruins by Yvette Bessels

Pompeii Ruins by Yvette Bessels

Pompeii Ruins by Yvette Bessels

Pompeii Ruins by Yvette Bessels

Pompeii grafitti by Yvette Bessels

Gran Canaria

 

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gran canaria - yvette bessels

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gran canaria - yvette bessels

 

 

 

California Honeymoon

Monday, May 4th

We take our own car to Heathrow, as parking there for 2 weeks turns out to be about the same price as taking the train. No hauling suitcases for us and we arrive well on time. The moment we try to check in, it turns out that I made a stupid little mistake on Sean’s Esta, putting in an o instead of an 0, and he cannot be cleared to fly until we book another one on my mobile. This is super stressful but I am very glad that for the first time in a long while my phone just does what it’s asked to do.
About 12 hours later we are in the USA, collect our upgraded rental car and drive to the hotel. I am happy we brought out own satnav as I wouldn’t have wanted to navigate the streets of LA by map at night. Or by map at all! We arrive around 22:00 at the hotel.

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Tuesday, May 5th

After a rough and restless night we wake up silly early and cannot seem to go back to sleep. We get up at 6.30, have breakfast at the hotel around 7.30 and off for Hollywood. We see the walk of fame and sunset boulevard (which is a bit of a…dump) but we’re too early for most thing to even be open! After a much-needed coffee and a view of the Hollywood sign through a tourist binocular, we are off to see the sign closer-up.

We drive to the observatory through an amazing neighbourhood to a fantastic view over the city and hills. In the afternoon we go to the Citadel outlet shopping centre where we spend money on things we don’t really need; apart from my wetsuit ofcourse!

We have out dinner at a diner, which was a poor choice and more for convenience sake than anything else. Sean is hoping to join a local Kyukushin Dojo for their Tuesday training session tonight. He can, and does, and I for one am very impressed as I sit on the side trying really hard not to fall asleep….

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Wednesday, May 6th

We’re going to Disneyland!!! The ride over is smooth and after putting down $17 for parking we take the little tram to the entrance. The day start off great; The bobsled ride (Matterhorn) that Sean wants to go into, is closed for maintenance. We head into Toontown and get stuck in a ride that’s breaking down! Then we find out that pretty much all the big rides are closed – in all fairness, there was a list at the entrance, but we were way too excited to get in to look at it properly. We still have fun in several silly rides, have a blast with the great purchase of a pair of  Malificent horns (small children are easily convinced you are a villain on a day off) and going on Splash Mountain was a baaaad choice. The Indiana Jones ride, as well as the Finding Nemo submarines were an unexpected success. Then, as a final stroke of genius, the park shuts early!!!! At 19:00 things start shutting down, restaurants closing and everyone gets kicked out at 19:30…..Boooo!

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Thursday, May 7th

After a broken night due to an alarm going off, we get up, pack our bags and have breakfast. We fail to find the address to ‘It’s a wrap’ vintage shop on the satnav, so we point it toward Jack’s Surf outlet instead. We find it (disappointing), we find a secondhand bookshop nearby (also disappointing) and finally and most wonderful antique shop, filled with goodies. Ellie, the owner of Gramma’s Attic is lovely (and also went to the early-closing Disneyland yesterday) and we end up taking away a gorgeous black dress and a 1920’s-1930’s ice cream scoop. We then continue to Huntington beach where we have a great lunch at a ‘good food’ place and shop somewhat for bikini’s and surfboards. The weather is cloudy and a little chilly and there is no waves.

Later in the afternoon we take the I-5 south to San Diego. Along the way we managed to slow puncture the front tire, which we keep filling up and after checking into the hotel we exchange the car at Dollar rental. Since we’re already in that area we go into Old Town for some Mexican food.

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Friday, May 8th

Tonight, and this morning in San Diego it doesn’t just rain – it pours! Bad news for us is that this means that we cannot go surfing, unless we’d like to risk infections and/ or becoming very ill. Apparently, when it rains after a dry spell, all the crap from the city washes into the sea. Not only that, they get the rubbish from Mexico on top of that! Needless to say, we stay on dry land today. We talk a while with a surf dude at ‘the Surf Bunker’ named Travis, who recommends going to the Wavehouse further down the road. With our luck though, its closed! Closed!!

Thank goodness there is an arcade next door that is open and we throw some quarters at our misery. Afterwards, we drive to San Diego antique district where we have beautiful burritos for lunch / early dinner and shop around a little. Sean even manages to find some retro games to take home. We then ask the satnav to take us to a cinema, to have a look if there is anything we want to see perhaps, it guides us to Sea World… which is closed….and after resetting the directions to another cinema it doesn’t have anything we’d like to see.

Back at the hotel, we walk to a pizza place for cake and margaritas and quickly jump into the hotel pool before it shuts for the night.

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Saturday, May 9th

We check out of our hotel in the morning, drive to the same Japanese-run fruit-and-crepe place we had breakfast yesterday and then go on to a secondhand board shop we passed yesterday (you may have guessed by now that it was closed at that time). Sean finds himself a great board, just what he was looking for. Across the road there is a kite festival going on and we decide to join in by getting ourselves a dragon kite. We have ice creams, enjoy the show and the great weather for today the sun is out in force!

At around 13:00 we set our satnav back to LA, first to the Anaheim center of photography. We arrive around 16:30 – it looks abandoned and it’s… CLOSED! When the machine wants to charge us $14 for the privilege of undergoing this nonsense, I throw a little fit and get back in the car without paying the ticket. Lucky for me, a kind lady actually lets us out of the complex. We try the Getty instead. The satnav guides us to the rear of the building and after some cursing, swearing and honking by my fellow road users, we arrive at the Getty. Which is open!

We view their photography collection on display and after being thoroughly disappointed with the (second half of the) day, we pay for parking and head towards our hotel.

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Sunday, May 10th

Today, we’re off to the Rosebowl, a giant monthly fleamarket held in Pasadena, LA. We get up at 6:30, enjoy our complimentary breakfast, pack up and we’re on our way. We get there nice and early around 7:30 and dang! They did not lie when they said it was big! We decide to skip all the new stuff as we won’t have time for that and focus on the antiques and vintage clothing sections as those will be hard enough to cover as-is. There is some amazing stuff for sale on this market – some cheap, some bizar, some wonderful and everything suited for every budget. We manage to find some amazing things: I get a short dress with apple print, a small musical box with a dancing man, a flight suit and a full leather sports / weekend bag. Sean finds a retro skateboard deck, fully made of wood and a bunch of retro games.

With pain in my heart, we leave around 13:00 to head for Vegas.

Driving through the Mojave desert is not as I imagined it. It’s not actually very desolate with petrol stations around every other corner – and what’s up with those little fences next to the Motorway? Are they afraid people will wander off into nowhere? We stop a few times and reach Vegas around 18:00. We booked a room at the Luxor (the pyramid) and after refreshing ourselves, I change into my old new black Cinderella dress for dinner and we take a walk on the strip.

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Monday, May 11th

We agree that Vegas is a little like Disneyland meets Times Square; the buildings are mad and everything is expensive around here. Even though we are – I am – happy to have seen it, we’re also happy to have been here at night time. It looks so …. dead… during the day! We drive towards the North side of the strip to try and find the ‘World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop’ from the TV show. It’s a lot smaller than we thought it would be and after checking out the other shops as well, just across the street we set off for Death Valley.

Today’s drive will be out longest, according to our planning so wanting a fairly early start we leave Vegas at 11:00. Within the hour, there are plains with Joshua trees, mountain ranges and vast open spaces of hostile rocky terrain. We see sand dunes, salt flats, gravel pits, dust plain, dust devils and snowy hilltops. This is amazing and I am a little sad that I ‘only’ brought my medium format camera with me, instead of a proper proper old big one.

We get to our destination, a hotel at a half-way point at around 20:30, half an hour before reception closes for the night. We settle in with some store-bought cheesecake and a B horror movie. And I can tell you that watching a B-horror movie, set in a small town in the middle of nowhere is NOT a good thing to watch when staying overnight in a small town in the middle of nowhere!

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Tuesday, May 12th

After a restless night we pack up and go find breakfast in the nearest town. We have a look around some small shops, get a drink in the saloon (it has horse ties and swinging doors and everything!) and set course for the General Sherman Tree in Sequoia National Park. Our hotel keeper advised us a different route than satnav wanted us to take, so we drove for many a mile through orange growing country before going off into the hills again. Along the way we stop at a lovely antiques shop where I manage to find a few stereo cards to add to my ever growing collection.

Going through Sequoia National Park is tough – an hours of slowly winding upwards, fortunately with stunning views to easy my pain. We reach the old man around 17:00, have a good look around – but not too good as it’s freezing cold up here – and then go find food and out hotel for the night.

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Sherman! Buddy!

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Wednesday, May 13th

We leave the hotel early in the morning, after some amazing complimentary self-cooked waffles. Today we’ll be setting course for Yosemite National Park. We drive a while and stop along the way at some random antique shops and I manage to find myself a beast of an X-ray lens. I don’t yet know how I should be using it – let’s just say it won’t be for original purposes. We reach Yosemite proper at around 13:00, drive a little further in but do not really have time to do a walk as we had planned as we’ll need to reach San Fran by the end of today. We also managed to miss inspiration point, but I suppose the Tunnel view vantage point more than made up for that. We also have our lunch there, on a log next to a stream….ahhh. Relaxation! It’s out first ‘normal’ sandwiches we have had here and the desert we got – a cake/custard vanilla/ banana whatever sort of pudding mix – is utterly delicious!

Then, we drive another 3+ hours to San Francisco, arriving at around 19:30. We check online for tickets to Alcatraz, but as it turns out, May is not a slow season around here and everything is sold out! The night tours are even sold out for the next 2 months! Oh well, we head out for a slice of pizza and dive into a book shop that’s open late.

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Thursday, May 14th

Today we’ll be spending the day in San Fransisco. Going up Polk street, we have breakfast at a ‘French’ Boulangerie place, having coffee from a cereal bowl (honestly, these Americans! ;-)) Visiting the Fisherman’s Wharf, we quickly determine this is NOT for us as the area is overly touristy and walking onwards to the Alcatraz landing dock we see that normal tours are booked up till Tuesday. Sean does receive some kind compliments on his wooden skateboard deck from the local bums, which is nice. We take a street tram towards Mission street – we are hoping to find a skate shop that can fit Sean’s deck with some trucks and wheels. We find one and he gets the work done.

We carry on a few blocks to a bunch of Antique and thrift stores before going towards Chinatown. Chinatown, like Fisherman’s wharf is unfortunately yet another tourist trap. We do sit in at a great teashop, having a full-on taster session with the salesgirl. We opted for dinner at the ‘Great Eastern Restaurant’, a place where apparently Barack Obama once had a Dim Sum take-away, or so the proudly displayed newspaper clipping tells us. We walk back to the Hotel UP the giant sloping hills, wandering what it would be like to live here (and having to carry shopping bags up this hill….and what if you forgot the butter….?)

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Friday, May 15th

We walk over to Lombard street ‘the crookedest street in the world’ – which was yet again, disappointing. We walk back to our hotel to check out and head over to Santa Cruz instead. Sadly for us, there’s not much surf going on. The winds are fierce (and a bit chilly). We park at the hotel, take a walk on the pier where we spot a group of sea lions chilling out, go over the boardwalk and have some hotdogs for lunch. The place we decided to sit down at, the picnic basket also does these amazing wild flavours of ice cream, most of them from local farms.

We take the car for a drive round some other beaches in the area and to a local surfshop to get Sean a boardbag. We visit the museum of surfing at the lighthouse and then lo and behold! There’s waves!! Sean heads out on his new board, we meet a new surfer in the area and help him out a bit. Afterwards, we head into the Santa Cruz main street for dinner and some late night shopping. I could get used to shops being open till 22:00!

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Saturday, May 16th

We have some complimentary waffles and head out to the beach. Again, no waves! Instead, we check out some of the sample sales advertised along the roads and make several unplanned stops for yard sales in between. At a local surfshop, Sean finds some tiny fins to go with his board and I find some vintage clothing to put on Etsy. Win!

We then drive South along the Coastal Highway, stopping countless times to take photos. When we arrive at our hotel for tonight, the historic Santa Maria Inn, it turns out that it played host to the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable, Eva Gardner, Judy Garland, etc etc. No=one famous stayed in our room, however. We take it easy for the night as there is nothing to do or see in this area.

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Sunday, May 17th

We get up quite late and re-pack all of our stuff. My hand luggage now has a killer weight due to that massive ‘radioactive’ lens I just ‘had’ to buy. We enjoy a continental breakfast and set off to Venice beach, where we booked the last hotel of this trip. We are hoping to meet up with James Cooper, one of Sean’s former colleagues who lives somewhere in the area. We arrive fairly early and after a bit of faff parking the car, we walk up to Santa Monica Boulevard, play a few games in the arcade and end up at ‘Hama Sushi’ in Venice for food. They are not the cheapest place, I’m sure, but their dishes seem quite original and sure were tasty!

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Monday, May 18th

It is our final morning and again, there are no waves! We have been unlucky on this trip with quite a few things, but thank goodness there was also plenty fun stuff and more than enough to make us want to come back!

We have out breakfast at a nearby cafe, complete with building site ambience. We grab the car, check out a few shops on the South side of Venice and then drive towards Santa Monica. There, we get bored real quick with the dime-a-dozen up-scale shops, but we do manage to find a massive charity shop. We have crepes for lunch and head back to the car. The car!! Where did that car go!!!!

PANIC STATIONS EVERYONE!!! WHERE DID THAT CAR GO!?!?!

Turns out we were looking in the wrong building…..sigh….

The rest of the day runs smoothly, dropping off the car, getting to the airport and faking my hand luggage really isn’t that heavy at all. Bye bye California! We hope to visit again soon!

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Wet Plate Photoshoot: Hisui

Right after the wet plate weekend at Lacock Abbey (see my previous post) I had planned to photograph a Cambridge based model called Hisui. I had found her profile via Purpleport.com and asked her to shoot with me. She agreed and we set our date on the 5th of August. With a day of work in between the weekend and the shoot, I did not have much time to prepare and unfortunately, it showed!

On my last day of the wet plate weekend, I noticed my collodion thickening up and showing more crepe lines than on the day before. I did mix up some fresh fix and developer, which were fully depleted.

Hisui arrived with her partner, spot on time. After explaining the process to them, we chose a few spots on the cemetery to shoot. I took a few Medium format film shots in between on my Rolleiflex (I must have had an inkling of what was to come) and we shot 6 wet collodion plates in total. Out of the six, there were two clear winners – which then both peeled off the plate! I chose to scan another 2, which I thought were OK, not as strong in form and execution as the 2 destroyed ones and 2 film stills. The film images I believe are good studies, but perhaps not final products. That will teach me to step away from digital….

Hisui, thank goodness, was patient and professional throughout the day and very understanding even after I let her know what happened to the plates!

 

The best 2 plates of the shoot *cringe*

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The second best 2 plates of the day

 

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The 2 best film images

there is a lot I like about the second image where Hisui flicks up the skirt, but it lacks the separation before fore- and background in the skirt that it needs to make it a true classic stunner!

 

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Photoshoot: Jack Cooke

A little while ago I had flung myself back on Model Mayhem, full of zest and inspiration, eager to find some fresh faces to photograph in order to maintain and further develop my photography skills. I soon got in touch with local man Jack Cooke, we met for a meet-up and a coffee and decided on a first test shoot – a digital one. Anyone following this blog would now notice this is a slightly odd choice, but I had my reasons!

Not only would going digital on this occasion allow me to get a good feel of Jack’s capabilities, it would also allow for both of us to see how well we would work together without wasting a lot of time, money and film. We would not have to deal with the off chance of the film not coming out well and, most important, I wanted Jack to have a wide selection of shots to choose for his portfolio.

Apart from all those (dare I say; good reasons) it allowed me to dust off the digital camera and take it out for some fresh air! If all would go well on the day, we agreed to do another session in which we will use film and wet plate only. I did take the Rolleiflex TLR with me with 1 sneaky roll of 400 ISO. With regards to my previous post on planning shoots: I did not know what Jack would be wearing before meeting him at his house, I had not seen his bike or the pub where we would start shooting. We agreed on a quiet road, but again, I had not seen it prior to the shoot.

Thank goodness all went well! Not only is Jack a funny and likeable fellow, he is eager to learn and worked hard throughout the session. Some images at the start of the session did not work so well due to an ill-fitting blazer but later images of the day will have to count amongst my favourites to date. Not planning a shoot seems to be working well for me when going digital and even though it might cause small fits of stress on the days beforehand – I quite enjoy working like this.

 

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Coalmine: Cheratte, Belgium.

Since I’m still working on the images from New York, and the house isn’t tidy enough to show any images of that en public, I’ll play a little catch-up and share some images I have taken on my first proper Urbex trip a few months ago.

In my last week in Dusseldorf, I met up with a group of like-minded photographers via Meetup. We were going to an abandoned coalmine in La Cheratte, Belgium, and spend a good two hours on site. We went on a Sunday and even though the weather was cloudy, it was dry and the place was magnificent. For the occasion (and because I’m a geek) I had brought 3 cameras. Please note that some of the pictures are near identical and you can see the differences between the exposure qualities of the three camera’s really well.

Camera 1

My small digital Canon Powershot SX130 IS to take non-important snapshots. I still have one or two moments during a day of shooting where I just cannot seem to guestimate my exposure correctly. I use this little thing in auto to see what it comes up with and check it against my own numbers. Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not. All of my failed film images are too dark.

 

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Camera 2

The Praktica Super TL2 for 35 mm color shots (1 roll of 36). The lens I used was a Panagor PMC 28mm 1:2.5 Auto Wide Angle with an Izumar coated UV filter, and I had it mounted on a small light-weight tripod. This is the camera I have used since my days of Art College in 1999-2001 and I still love it to bits. Some area’s of the coalmine were very hard to get into proper focus but I think I got a few nice images out of it. I used Kodak 160NC film, which is, ofcourse, NOT suitable for this dark environment, but it was the only 35mm film I had at hand – and non-perfect images are still a lot better than no images.

 

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Camera 3

The third and last camera I brought on this day was my trusty Rolleiflex Planar 2.8 with synchro-compur shutter. With 4 pictures left on a roll and 2 spare rolls of B/W film (28 shots in total), I had to think carefully about the shots and how I would set them up. It was a terrible shame I didn’t have my dedicated tripod handy for the occasion as it was still roaming around in a storage unit in the Netherlands, so I had to use it hand-held and hope that the camera-shakes wouldn’t be too bad. Eek! I used Kodak 400TX film and developed in R09 (Rodinal). I love how some of the images came out – especially those with a very classic feel – and I am currently using them to attempt salt-printing.

 

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Image update

I’d like to take a moment and greet everyone that’s recently signed up for the news feed or the newsletter – ever since I’ve started the Large Format Project, we’ve grown from around 200 to nearly 600! So: Hellooo! I hope my blog and/ or website will bring some inspiration or entertainment value to your life!

It seems I’ll be having some extra time on my hands now that my friend Georgiana has left Germany to move back to her home country Romania, to find work. She had trouble learning the language and it’s hard to find a job in Germany without that skill and sad as her departure may be, I do very much hope she’ll have more luck in Bucharest. I already envy her friends that get to see her on a regular basis!

Now, in today’s post, I will not be whining any more about my sad, sad loss. Instead, I’ll be catching up on some images I have promised in some previous blog write-ups, but never actually shared, and some images of an event I never even mentioned.

 

JAPAN DAY

A good number of weeks ago, we went to Dusseldorf’s Japan Day. You can read the original post here. I took some images on my Uber cool but highly fickle Hanimex Electra II using Kodak Ektra 100 film (35 mm color with 36 exposures). The film had been loaded since we lived in Sydney, and I already shot half the film at our local Bondi Beach. Unlucky as I was this time, the film had not loaded correctly, and must have slipped inside the camera. All exposures came out doubled up! Even though it does nothing to detract from the nice quality of the film, or the vintage feel the camera seems to lend to the images, or even the fact that it looks quite cool – I think it’s a shame I don’t have a ‘back-up’ of the images I had taken. But I suppose that’s the risk you take when shooting film….

 

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WET PLATE PHOTOGRAPHY

In the last session on wet-plate photography, I shot some images of Taz, that came out very well – and some of Angela, where I had more than one technical hick-up. I have since then scanned and given them their images and feel it would be only right to share a few of them here as well. I have taken some samples from the original scans and will be putting them into a separate troubleshooting section on the site, possibly within this week.

 

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SOEST MEDIEVAL FAIR

At the start of August, we went to Soest to visit their yearly medieval event. We were recommended this fair by a couple that attended the medieval fair at Xanten a few months earlier. They stated that ‘it was the biggest and best around and each year they were looking forward to it’. This obviously sounded great so we looked up the fair, planned and booked our trip. We had no car, so had to go by train, taking us nearly 2 hours to get there and when we finally did – it was such a downer! There was hardly any signposting and the stands and performances were dotted through the town center. Not that it’s huge, but searching for the next stall? That takes all the fun out of it! We were lucky enough to be at the right place when the parade hit the main street and I got a few nice shots of it too.

The main event was taking place between the inner and outer defensive walls, charging 2 euros per person to walk along a few stands and people sweating their pants off in re-enactment gear, having lunch. Truth be told, we COULD have stuck around till the evening, when they would be re-enacting the battle, but we were knackered and fed up and too cheap to pay the 20 euros to sit on an uncomfortable stadium stand! Needless to say, we were not impressed…..

I shot 3 rolls of film this day and managed to ruin one of them by not following the manual (what do you mean, I cannot stand develop kodak?!? Let’s just see about that shall we??__ please note: you cannot stand develop Kodak Tmax 100 in Rodinal -_-)

 

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Ford Foundry demolition: additional images

In the last few days in Sydney, I had spare time to scan some additional images to the Ford Foundry Demolition in Leamington Spa. I had already posted some images to this demolition on this blog, back in May 2012, in connection to the Exhibition and the Gaia Coop I had organized. Most these images however, were snaps taken off prints – the prints having been donated to the Archives in Warwick – and these are scans of the negatives. All Black and White 120 negatives were taken on Shanghai GP3 film, on Microflex and Rolleiflex TLR cameras. I have also included some images of slides I still had lying about, these were taken on a Praktica Super TL II, on outdated Fujifilm 35 mm slides (if memory serves), using various lenses.

 

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Hong Kong Film Images

Finally I managed to get round to scanning all those blasted film images – and you’ll have to understand that this is not to complain about using film. Oh no! My fun lies in shooting, understanding and developing film images, not so much the scanning part……but I suppose one cannot go without the other, especially if you intend to post any of this stuff online! 😀

These are images taken in Hongkong, September 2012, on a Rolleicord TLR camera, using 120mm Fuji Neopan 160 ISO color Film. Lab developed and scanned with Canoscan 9000f.

 

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The final images in Black and White are also finally finished. Because we’ve got another upcoming move, this time back to the EU due to circumstances around Sean’s work, I have been working hard to get everything scanned, backed up and archived before I entrust another load of my belongings to a shipping company. There will be insurance in place – but I doubt that will compensate for the loss of my ENTIRE archive of negatives, should this occur.

Black and white images taken with a Rollecord TLR, using 120 Shanghai GP3 100 ISO film. Developed in Kodak D-76 and scanned with Canoscan 9000f.

 

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Personal update: websites and new camera collection

Seeing it’s been a while since my last personal update, it was about time I shared some news.

I am currently still working for Linus Carr in Warwick and everything is going well. There is a website planned for his art business which both I, and a fellow named James will be working on. Thank goodness he will be using WordPress – I am getting quite familiar with all the ins and outs of this system. My main job will be providing the image content and there will be a lot of it!

On a personal project/ vintage photo front, with all thanks going to my parents, I am now the proud owner of a Rolleiflex, Rolleicord and accessory collection (see image). The father of an old high school friend of mine who’s wedding I photographed, had this lying about in his attic and offered it to me for a great price. Initially I declined as I couldn’t justify the expense at this time (we had just bought a car) but my mum and dad decided they would get it for me. And I couldn’t be more grateful! My plans for today are to test out both cameras with a comparison to the Microflex I already own and then slowly but surely test all filters, lenses and backplates. I can’t wait to get started!!

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Alvin Langdon Coburn

This week, we’ll feature an American Photographer, Alvin Langdon Coburn – I’ve known some of his portrait works and even though I personally might find it very pictoralistic at times, there is such an amazing quality to them that they deserve to be shown.

Alvin Langdon Coburn was born on June 11th 1882, in Boston, Massachusetts, to a middle-class family. His father died when Alvin was seven. After that he was raised solely by his mother, Fannie. She remained the primary influence in his early life, even though she remarried when he was a teenager.

In 1890 Coburn receieved his first camera, a 4 x 5 Kodak camera. He immediately fell in love with it, and within a few years he had developed a remarkable talent for both visual composition and technical proficiency in the darkroom. When he was sixteen years old, in 1898, he met his cousin F. Holland Day. Day recognized Coburn’s talent and both mentored him and encouraged him to take up photography as a career.

At the end of 1899 his mother and he moved to London, where they met up with Day. Day had been invited by the Royal Photographic Society to select prints from the best American photographers for an exhibition in London. He brought more than a hundred photographs with him, including nine by Coburn – who at this time was only 17 years old. He travelled to France to study with Edward Steichen and Robert Demachy, and to New York to work with Gertrude Kasebier. Here he became friends with George Bernard Shaw, who introduced him to a number of the most celebrated literary, artistic and political figures in Britain, many of whom, including Shaw, he photographed.

In 1902 he was elected a member of the Photo-Secession, founded by Alfred Stieglitz to raise the standards of pictorial photography. A year later he was elected a member of the Brotherhood of the Linked ring in Britain. His work was published in Stieglitz’ Camera Work multiple times and he was given a one-man show at the Camera Club of New York.

By 1907 Coburn was so well established in his career that Shaw called him “the greatest photographer in the world,” although he was only 24 years old at the time.He continued his success by having a one-man show at Stieglitz’s prestigious Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession in New York and by organizing an international exhibition of photography at the New English Art Galleries in London.

As a photographer of cities and landscapes (1903–10), he concentrated on mood, striving for broad effects and atmosphere in his photographs rather than clear delineation of tones and sharp rendition of detail. He was influenced by the work of Japanese painters, which he referred to as the ‘style of simplification’. He considered simple things to be the most profound. Coburn produced two limited edition portfolios, London (1909) and New York (1910), in photogravure form, which he produced on his own printing press. He claimed that in his hands photogravure produced results that could be considered as original prints, and signed them accordingly.

While in New York he met and married Edith Wightman Clement of Boston on October 11, 1912. They would move and settle in Britain permanently.

Coburn continued to build his fame by publishing what would become his most famous book, Men of Mark, in 1913. The book featured 33 gravure prints of important European and American authors, artists and statesmen, including Henri Matisse, Henry James, Auguste Rodin, Mark Twain, Theodore Roosevelt and Yeats. In the preface to the book, he says:

“To make satisfactory photographs of persons it is necessary for me to like them, to admire them, or at least to be interested in them. It is rather curious and difficult to exactly explain, but if I dislike my subject it is sure to come out in the resulting portrait . I had thought of using ‘Men of Genius’ as the title for this book, but Arnold Bennett objected seriously, saying, very modestly, that he did not consider himself a man of genius, but merely a working author, and absolutely refusing to join the throng unless I changed it, so I told him that if he would give me a better one I would use it. ‘Men of Mark’ is his alternative.”

In Britain, he became involved in the short-lived Vorticism movement. In 1916 he made a Vortoscope (a triangle of mirrors attached to the lens), with which he was able to take abstract photographs known as Vortographs, which he exhibited (together with a number of paintings) in London at the Camera Club in 1917. He made only about 18 different Vortographs, taken over a period of just one month, yet they remain among the most striking images in early 20th century photography.

From 1918 he dedicated himself to freemasonry, taking photographs only when on holiday; he spent most of his time at his home in North Wales, where he derived great happiness from his study of freemasonry and spiritual subjects. By 1930 Coburn had lost almost all interest in photography. He decided that his past was of little use to him now, and over the summer he destroyed nearly 15,000 glass and film negatives – nearly his entire life’s output. This same year he donated his extensive collection of contemporary and historical photographs to the Royal Photographic Society.

Coburn died in his home in North Wales on November 23, 1966.

Diane Arbus

Diane Arbus was born as Diane Nemerov to David Nemerov and Gertrude Russek Nemerovon the 14th of March 1923. She had a younger sister who would become a sculptor and designer and an older brother, Howard Nemerov, who would later become United States Poet Laureate, and the father of the Americanist art historian Alexander Nemerov. The Nemerovs were a Jewish couple who lived in New York City and owned Russek’s, a famous Fifth Avenue department store and Diane’s father had employed the likes of Mathew Brady, Timothy O’Sullivan, Paul Strand, Bill Brandt, and Eugène Atget to take photographs for the store’s advertisements.

Diane attended the Fieldston School for Ethical Culture, a prep school and at the age of eighteen, she married her childhood sweetheart Allan Arbus. Their first daughter Doon (who would later become a writer), was born in 1945 and their second daughter Amy (who would later become a photographer), was born in 1954. Allan and Diane were to be separated in 1958 and divorced in 1969.

In 1946, after the war, the Arbuses had began a commercial photography business called “Diane & Allan Arbus,” with Diane as art director and Allan as the photographer.They contributed to Glamour, Seventeen, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and other magazines even though “they both hated the fashion world.”Despite over 200 pages of their fashion editorial in Glamour, and over 80 pages in Vogue, the Arbuses’ fashion photography has been described as of “middling quality.” In 1956, Diane Arbus quit the commercial photography business. Although earlier she had studied photography with Berenice Abbott, her studies with Lisette Model, beginning in 1956, led to Arbus’s most well-known methods and style. She began photographing on assignment for magazines such as Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar, and The Sunday Times Magazine in 1959. Around 1962, Arbus switched from a 35mm Nikon camera which produced grainy rectangular images to a twin-lens reflex Rolleiflex camera which produced more detailed square images. In 1963, Arbus was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for a project on “American rites, manners, and customs”; the fellowship was renewed in 1966. In 1964, Arbus began using a twin-lens reflex Mamiya camera with flash in addition to the Rolleiflex. Her methods included establishing a strong personal relationship with her subjects and re-photographing some of them over many years.

During the 1960s, she taught photography at the Parsons School of Design and the Cooper Union in New York City, and the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, Rhode Island. The first major exhibition of her photographs occurred at the Museum of Modern Art in a 1967 show called “New Documents,” curated by John Szarkowski. The show also featured the work of Garry Winogrand and Lee Friedlander. Some of her artistic work was done on assignment. Although she continued to photograph on assignment (e.g., in 1968 she shot documentary photographs of poor sharecroppers in rural South Carolina for Esquire magazine), in general her magazine assignments decreased as her fame as an artist increased. Szarkowski hired Arbus in 1970 to research an exhibition on photojournalism called “From the Picture Press”; it included many photographs by Weegee whose work Arbus admired.

Using softer light than in her previous photography, she took a series of photographs in her later years of people with intellectual disability showing a range of emotions. At first, Arbus considered these photographs to be “lyric and tender and pretty,” but by June, 1971, she told Lisette Model that she hated them.

Associating with other contemporary photographers such as Robert Frank and Saul Leiter, Arbus helped form what Jane Livingston has termed The New York School of photographers during the 1940s and 1950s. Among other photographers and artists she befriended during her career, she was close to photographer Richard Avedon; he was approximately the same age, his family had also run a Fifth Avenue department store, and many of his photographs were also characterized as detailed frontal poses. Another good friend was Marvin Israel, an artist, graphic designer, and art director whom Arbus met in 1959.

Arbus experienced “depressive episodes” during her life similar to those experienced by her mother, and the episodes may have been made worse by symptoms of hepatitis. Arbus wrote in 1968, “I go up and down a lot,” and her ex-husband noted that she had “violent changes of mood.”On July 26, 1971, while living at Westbeth Artists Community in New York City, Arbus took her own life by ingesting barbiturates and slashing her wrists with a razor. Marvin Israel found her body in the bathtub two days later; she was 48 years old.

After Arbus’s death, her daughter Doon managed Arbus’s estate. She forbade examination of Arbus’s correspondence and often denied permission for exhibition or reproduction of Arbus’s photographs. The editors of an academic journal published a two-page complaint in 1993 about the estate’s control over Arbus’s images and its attempt to censor part of an article about Arbus. As of 2000, the estate would not release Arbus’s 1957 to 1965 images of transgender people. A 2005 article called the estate’s allowing the British press to reproduce only fifteen photographs an attempt to “control criticism and debate.”The estate was also criticized in 2008 for minimizing Arbus’s early commercial work.

Still, her work has been shown in a fair number of exhibitions and her life discussed in books and documentaries and has invited a wide range of criticisms.

 

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