I have been interested in the process of Gumoil Printing, a very unique way to make a photo. I will post examples here as I do them. In my quest to learn more I found a video on youtube of Karl Koening giving a demonstration. Watching the video you can learn a lot but not everything. I went to buy his book, but their is a small problem. It is no longer printed and people are selling used for $500. To me that is just crazy. The other problem is that Karl passed away a few years ago so it is hard to ask him any questions. He was very good at responding online. I was able to get my hands on a copy of the book and I scanned it in for everyone else that wants to learn. I hope it helps.
I am currently getting ready for the Palm Springs Photo Review at PhotoExpo by printing out "The Iron Triangle" Series. I am using a printer on loan from my friend Antoon at Uptown Fine Art Printing Studios. The way I am doing it is a bit strange to print them but is really easy to do.
The printer is pretty big and doesn't really fit in my office so I have it set up in the basement plugged into an old Power PC G5 that I connect to wirelessly. I edit the photos on my 2011 iMac and connect to the G5 using the Share screen feature of OSX. I also connect to the computer like I would to a server. This allows me to transfer files to the G5 so that I have them in one location and if I need to make changes, I can with then iMac and save them. I then open them in CS3 on the G5 and hit print.
There are many advantages of doing it this way. I don't have to have the printer next to me. Having a computer dedicated to printing only means I can save all the setting without worrying that maybe I changed the gamma or color profile. Many times after printing, even if I saved the settings, I would go and print another image the next day only to find out that some setting defaulted back to the original. I am talking about things like the platen gap defaulting back to normal. With the Epson printers, I set the platen gap to wide or wider, otherwise the head hits the paper and causes streaks of ink. I am also more familiar with the way Adobe CS3 prints on a Power PC. After Adobe CS3 and the Intel Macs were released, something changed in the way images printed and I had trouble getting the images to like they used to.
I have printed out about half of the 26 images and so far have only had to make adjustments to 3 images and reprint them. I am getting used to telling how the image will look once printed. I am printing out in Black and White with a slight sepia tone and I judge everything by the numbers to see if the image is within the tonal range of the printer.
It is really great to see the images all printed out in a 16x20 inch size, recommended to me by Jennifer Schwartz from Crusade for Arts and David Bram from Fraction Magazine. I was going to mount them onto a mat board, but Jennifer and David suggested not too. Once I saw the prints I realized as well how big and heavy it would be.
This past weekend Eni and I with some friends went to Photoville. I had gone to the first one years ago and have not been back since usually because I had a conflict with the time. This year I was shocked at the size of the show. It has really grown tremendously. I really enjoyed the work of Rita Leistner "Looking for Marshall McLuhan in Afganistan" She printed them out as 4 color Gum Bichromate over Platinum. A Process I am trying to learn myself right now. Not only did she have the work, but she also included how she did the process. I also really admired the work of Daniel Berehulak "Scenes from the Ebola Crisis" from the New York Times. I have seen the work before but it is always a pleasure seeing the actual prints and the impact that they have. The one that really struck a chord was Stephanie Sinclair "Too Young to Wed" The work really stands out pictorially and emotionally. The photos show couples who are about to be wed where the man is 40 and the girl is 11. It covers places like Afghanistan and Guatemala where women are basically the property of the men and nothing more. One woman had been repeatedly stabbed by her husband because she disobeyed him. when asked what will happen to the husband, the female officer said nothing, Men are like Kings here. The female officer was later killed by the Taliban. "Upstate Girls: Unraveling Collar City" was visually overwhelming and very interesting in how it was displayed. Their were so many great photos it was hard to concentrate on them. Last but not least was "Constructed Identites" Curated by Crusade for Art Brooklyn. I took a workshop with Jennifer Schwartz who founded Crusade for Art. The work there was some of the most interesting there.
For making platinum prints, I normally use a NuArc 40-1K with a vacuum frame. It's the same as the 26-1K except the vacuum frame is larger. The 26 is for the size of the vacuum frame, 26 inches. While trying to calibrate my exposures, I was having a hard time getting good exposures. 100 units would take 4 minutes. I read on the Yahoo Carbon Printing Group about calibrating them to get the exposure closer to 1 unit = 1 sec. I contacted Israel Martinez from M&R Print ( http://www.mrprint.com 800-736-6431). He walked me through the steps of what to do. I am just passing along information and take no responsibility if you damage your unit or electrocute yourself, so proceed with caution.
First step is to unplug the unit and then remove the lid of the exposure unit.
In this side view, the front of the unit is to my left. What you see above is the lamp and the Photocell. The Photocell measures the amount of light coming from the lamp and shuts the unit off when it has reached the limit of what was set. There are three ways to adjust this to make it more sensitive. The first is to angle down the sensor. You will have to play with it, but I adjusted mine here to angle down by about 5 degrees. It doesn't take much.
The second way is to adjust the aperture on the front of the Photocell. 1 is the most sensitive and 11 being the least. You can see a swirl on the face, that is what controls the amount of light hitting the sensor. Unscrew just a little, the screw in the middle and adjust it by turing it to match the red mark. It is usually set at 5, I set mine at 1.
The third way to adjust it is to go to the front panel and adjust the resistor. IT is a blue square box with a white plastic screw on the inside. First you want to turn to all the way counter clockwise to as far as it will go and mark that with a sharpie. That makes it less sensitive. Then turn it all the way clockwise until it stops and mark that. This makes it the most sensitive. Now turn it back counter clockwise until it is about center between the two and check it. I would caution not to set it too far clockwise, it may strain the system itself.
My particular problem was caused by a melted aperture disc. Mine was pretty old and had many years of use and over time, the aperture wheel that protects the sensor from the light clouded up. If you are having problems, I would check this first. The part itself cost $22, but M&R have a $25 dollar minimum and they charge about $14 for shipping so it costs about $40 in the end. It's pretty cheap to replace compared to the rest of the parts. The new and old dials.
I put it in this morning, tested it and it was a little faster than 1 to 1 so I will have to slow it down a little. Thanks again to Israel Martinez from M&R Print, they have always been very helpful.
I recently finished Sally Manns book “Hold Still”. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and highly recommend it. Some of what she talks about is the ability of photographs to corrupt our memories, something I have been thinking a lot about lately myself. The idea began at the Flash Powder Retreat and I have been noticing more people write about memory in how it relates to what we are seeing with Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
Hold Still talks about how the photograph corrupts your memories of what happened, they are just a small sliver in time. For instance, if the only photo of me that survives me is one of me snarling and in a bad mood, will my great grandchild look at that and think I was an angry person? Maybe I am smiling because I am an evil bastard and did something bad. They are not very accurate depictions of people and their true nature.
The blog, Thoughts of a Bohemian Photographer talks about how photos are used throughout time. In the past, photos were taken to compensate for our poor memories of people, things and events we did in the era of Kodak. We would remember the photos better than the actual event, something Sally Mann and Paul Melcher talk about. With digital and Facebook, it became photos of things I am doing or eating, more a form of communication to show a highly curated view of my life. Look at the wonderful vacation I am on, the great food I am eating, and the cool people I am with. Now we have Instagram, where people are using it as a way to directly communicate. A Selfie of a sad face or even more directly, text over the image with apps like Over to express themselves because writing just takes too long. A photo of my food, regardless of whether it is a gourmet meal or a bowl of cheerios. In all of these things, image quality is not important as long as the information is there.
We have a generation of people who are becoming the most visually sophisticate audience ever. So many images are taken that most will not even be remembered or for that matter stored. They are constantly bombarded with images and they still want more. They also have the biggest risk of losing all of their photos, a whole generation wiped out due to outdated hardware, failures and lack of physical prints.
I grew up in a generation that used Polaroids for everything. The idea on an instant image was an amazing concept at that time. I guess that is why I have had such a connection to them lately. I have been working on a project for quite a few years using film from the Impossible Project. A lot of the film at that time was experimental and quite often faded or degenerated. I had scanned most of them before that happened, but two events in my life recently have made me take the project in a different way. The first was moving to Brooklyn. I had not looked at the Polaroids in a long time and while unpacking I noticed how much most of them have degraded. The second event was the passing of my Uncle Jim. Before his funeral I was trying to find images of him that I had in family albums. I was looking through a lot of old family photos and I noticed something as well. How the photos I saw represented a different reality than what existed, basically what Sally Mann was talking about. In my life, how could I go through life and not see something was wrong with what was right in front of me the whole time. Most of my work concentrates on the external world around me; the next series will be more internal.
I have never considered myself to be a great writer. I had recently went to a workshop (Flash Powder Projects which I highly recommend) to help advance my career as a photographer. The two people who run it, Jennifer Schwartz and David Bram stressed the need to write and write often, so here it goes.
Lately I have been working on building my darkroom and I think I finally have it in a state that is ready to use. The only problem is that the weather is too hot and humid for Carbon printing and Platinum printing so I have to wait. After years of trying to establish a place to do my work it can be frustrating to have to wait. I am trying to learn Carbon Printing on my own, with the help of Sandy Kings Carbon group on Yahoo, but so far it has been a disaster. A good one though, I have learned a lot.
I recently read an article in Time about the resurgence of film, I have been shooting with film since 1995 as well as with digital cameras, but I am really in love with being able to combine them in my workflow. Basically I am shooting film, scanning and then making contact prints in Carbon or Platinum. Two months ago, I acquired a free Nuarc 40-1k print that will technically make contact prints up to 30x40 inches. People often ask me where I get these things, I built my darkroom for about $300, and my answer is patience and Craigslist. Everything eventually ends up on Craigslist, a lot of times for free.
I have been talking with Carl Weese who taught me platinum printing and some of the issues that have been plaguing us lately. The problem comes from the fact that our favorite paper, Magnani Revere is no longer being made, or at least made in the way it was before. Quite often, paper companies change the way they make the paper and do no disclose it. Things like adding sizing can really change the way it works for platinum printing. The fall back paper for Carl is Arches Platine which is a standard in the platinum printing world, but again, they have made a change and the paper tends to bleed if you don’t add Tween to it. If you add too much Tween, the image will have streaks. I use Bergger Cot 320 which for most people is expensive (I get a discount because I work at B&H Photo so the price is the same as Platine) The Cot 320 is highly recommended by Christoper James in his wonderful manual - The Book of Alternative Photographic Processes I have not printed in a while, but it doesn’t seem to bleed or at least not as much a Platine. I am also going to test some Fabrino Artistico soaked in a Oxaclic acid bath to remove the sizing. I like using Fabrino Artistico in many of my other processes as well so it would be great to be able to have one go to paper and buy it in bulk.
One of the benefits of working at B&H Photo is having access to the photo library. I can borrow most of the cameras, lenses and a whole bunch of equipment we sell for two weeks. This allows me to test a whole range of cameras. I have been lucky enough to try the Sony A7 Mark II with a 35mm and 55mm lens - I had trouble focusing. The Samsung NX1 with a bunch of lenses - the 85mm is incredible. The nikon D610 and D800 with the 24-70mm lens - way too heavy for me. An Olympus OMD EM1 with just about all of the lenses that are made for it. My main digital camera is the Panasonic GX7 which after just a year and a half has broken. I would highly suggest you do not buy Panasonic, their customer service is terrible and did not offer much help. It’s a shame because I really loved the camera, but I think it’s time for a more durable professional camera. I am leaning towards the Sony A7RII. I was able to try most of the Panasonic lenses and I will post some images from all these cameras and lenses soon. These are just my person opinions based on limited use and I don’t want to turn this site into a camera review blog. I feel that if you are a good photographer, you can make great photos with any camera, it’s just that some make it easier and are more intuitive to people which is highly subjective. I do not shoot sports so the need of an optical viewfinder and 10 FPS are not high on my list. A camera that doesn’t scare people when I point it at them is important to me.
Thats it for now.
Some of you may know that I work as a designer for B&H Photo and one of the benefits is I get to borrow all kinds of cameras and lenses. This week I borrowed the Nikon D610. I usually use a Panasonic GX7 micro 4/3rd camera and I forgot how big and bulky DSLRs are. I have also shot with the new Sony A7 II and I will write about that as well.
Eni and I went for a walk today through our neighborhood of Crown Heights. We walked past this guy who I think was selling fragrant oils. I asked if I could take his photo and he was a bit shocked that I would want to. I told him he has an interesting face. As I got ready to take the photo he said to wait one second and he pulled his really long beard out of his shirt. I couldn't believe it.
We had not really packed anything until the final contract was signed and we had keys in our hands just in case something happened or we would jinx it by packing before we signed. I started to look around for some moving companies, I have heard of some horror stories. Most won’t tell you on their website and you have to call. When you do call they ask how many rooms and give you a price of about $1500 for a one bedroom.Read More
When it was time to get a mortgage, our agent suggested the company we used for the mortgage. It was The Federal Savings Bank. The Broker was a little pushy, reminded me of Joe Pesci, and we went to his office to start the paper work. We had talked to him many times before that, but had never seen him in person. The office is so far out there in Queens, I thought I would be flying back home via JFK. It was a small dingy office from the 80’s, just like you would see in movies.Read More
How do You Say FU in Brooklyn or Learning the Local Vernacular
It a cold winter night and our broker shows us a few houses in Bedstuy and Crown Heights. The first two house we really no good and the Agent turned to us and said “I have a house, it’s still being renovated and is not on the market yet but will be soon.” They key to finding a good place in Brooklyn is having an agent with connections in the neighborhood. Our Agent went to the same synagogue as the seller of the house. We pull up to the house and it was promising, three stories with a basement. The outside was in ok condition but we were told they would be redoing the outside of the house as well. It was a fake red brick. We walked into the second floor where the master bedroom would be. It was covered in a pink shag carpet and looked pretty bad. Eni gave me this look like she wanted to just leave, but I said wait, lets see. We walked through the house and saw 3 bedrooms upstairs and a huge open living room and kitchen downstairs. There was very little there, just a large empty hole. Next we went to the basement, which was a little short but had cool brick walls and we were told they were going to finish the ceiling with sheet rock. It can be very helpful to see a house in this stage before they are able to hide all the problems. I looked at the beam and it seemed like it was in pretty good shape. I could see the pipes, but it did not mean much to me at the time. We finally went upstairs and saw the two-bedroom apartment. It was a pretty good size and very nice, or at least better than what we were currently living in.
I managed to get a minute alone with Eni to ask her what she thought. She was not very impressed with the place, but I told her to wait and lets see what it would look like done. I could visualize what it would look like and saw the potential based on all the other places we had seen. The next day, the agent took us to a place the seller had also renovated in Bushwick and it was ok compared to the other houses we saw, usually they use the cheapest appliances and cabinets from Home Depot. To give you an idea, if we were to do the kitchen ourselves, we would spend $25,000-30,000 at least. Most renovated houses look like they spent $10,000.
Eni was convinced and we put in an offer without seeing it fully done. Our agent told us that the seller wanted to wait for the place to be fully done before he accepted any offers. This is a good and a bad idea. Good because sometimes it’s the only way to get a place in a competitive market like Brooklyn. Bad because the seller has not incentive to make any more upgrades to the house and will finish it off as cheap as possible. The other important thing we learned about biding on houses is that if the seller is asking for $800,000 he really wants $850,000. They hope that by offering it at a low price (I know, the irony is not lost on me) that more people will bid on it and raise the price. When it can time to make an offer, we bid on what the seller asked for, the agent was not very enthused. In the meantime while we waited for the house to finish; approximately two weeks, we looked for other houses. After about 5 more houses, we were still convinced that the one in Crown Heights was for us.
Finally the house is pretty much done and the broker submitted our bid. He came back saying that he really wanted $50,000 more. We were very disappointed because it was out of our budget and we really liked the place. I actually was pretty pissed off that the agent did not tell us this before. He said if he is going to have an open house next weekend and if he doesn’t get any offers he might sell to use. I believe they just suspected that we would say ok. The next day after talking it over with Eni, we told the broker thanks but no thanks. He was also pretty disappointed but I did not like the idea of not being taken seriously and being someone else’s backup plan. So I asked the broker to see more places. The next week we went to see three more places in Bedstuy and Crown Heights, two of which I found myself and forwarded to the broker. We saw all three of them and well surprise; all three were actually pretty good and all in our price range. So while discussing the places we found, the broker told us that the seller of the house we liked in Crown Heights would agree to our offer if we upped it 25,000 more and decided now. He would also not have the open house or accept any other offers. At that price, the place was now again within our reach and we said ok.
The next day I called Zack, the inspector to come and look at the place on Saturday. He gets there a little earlier than us, but I was surprised by the fact that they were still having an open house. Something the seller said he would not do. That should have been my first hint that the seller was less than honorable. Well we can play dirty as well. To begin with the two other real estate agents there were not happy that we had an inspector there during the open house, but they were not the brightest agents I have ever met either. We were upstairs with the inspector when a couple came to look at the house. Eni acted like she had never seen the place before and said to me in a very loud voice “Greg did you see how bad that leak is?” “This place has lots of problems!” and other similar comments when other buyers were around. Eni moved downstairs and heard one of the agents say to the couple ”Well these guys already have an inspector here and the deal is almost done.” What agent says that to people? What a dumbass. The couple was pissed and said to the agent “Why did you have us come here then?” We were all downstairs in the kitchen and the agent was eating fried chicken. The whole place smelled of greasy food. Not the kind of scent you want in a house you are trying to sell. Eni turned to him and said “You should pay me for letting you eat in my Kitchen.” The look on his face was priceless. She said I am going to buy this place and if you sell it to someone else I will kill you. When anther couple came in they had their back to Eni and the Real Estate agent was facing Eni. She made a motion across her neck like slitting a throat. I don’t think he knew what to do with us.
The inspector was finished and we went over his finding. The good news was that there were no termites he could see and no major problems. Most of them were pretty minor and what wasn’t, we asked the seller to fix. He agreed to most of the fixes. The only main problem was that the heating system had not yet been turned on and we would have to come back to check that. Two days later we went back for a final review and signed the papers. I gave him a check and told them that the money is being transferred from one account to the next and to wait a two days before cashing the check.
This is a pretty long series, but I feel that it is important other people know what is happening so they don't get ripped off too. The other two parts are written and I will post them next week.