JOCO VX5 serendipity in Paris

Last June when I was in Pisa, I took a photograph that had a certain magic for me.  It was of a woman in front of the Leaning Tower, doing what all tourists do there, which is posing for a photograph with a friend, appearing to be holding the tower up.  But from a slightly different perspective, it looked like a magical dance in front of the tower.


A few weeks ago I was in Paris, staying very near the Champs de Mars, where the Eiffel Tower is located.  It was the day after Christmas, grey and damp.  I headed over, hoping to come across something equally surreal, magical, in front of the Eiffel Tower.  There were very few people in the park, it was grey, not much was happening.  And then I spotted this couple, posing for their wedding photographs.  I headed over and in time, a friend of hers started holding the bride's veil up at the direction of the photographer.  Holding it up, letting it go.  Holding it up, letting it go.

A companion piece after all...





Kodachrome, oh those last batches...

This past August, Chronicle Books in San Francisco brought out a set of notecards as a follow-up to their popular Polaroid Notes series.  I worked with Chronicle on this set, curating it from the body of images that had been shot as part of the Webster University Kodachrome Project, which I had spearheaded.  (more on that later)      

Kodachrome Notes is a handsome set of notecards. The image on the cover of the set was made by Scott Layne and it is what people call a twofer.  Since Kodachrome was discontinued in 2009 and Holga only began in recent years to manufacture a camera that takes 35mm film, there can't be too many photographs out there in the world that were shot with a Holga and on Kodachrome film.  This is one of them.

So what was this project?  It began in a color photography class in May 2010.  I had some very expired Kodachrome to hand out to students, donated by a photographer who had switched to digital and was getting around to cleaning out his freezer.  The students were very excited to have an opportunity to shoot this mythical film which had already been discontinued the previous June.  The idea quickly moved from 'let's shoot this film and see what we have' to 'let's ask the lab (Dwayne's Photo in Parsons, Kansas) to hold our film to the final day' to 'the final batches'. Pretty soon there were over sixty Webster photography students and faculty looking for Kodachrome on eBay, the freezers of other photographers and by October when I collected the rolls shot, there were over 110 to send out to Grant Steinle at Dwayne's (Dwayne's son and now running the lab).

On December 30, 2010, a group of us drove out to Parsons to be there for the final batches.  Well, so many rolls of Kodachrome from around the world had arrived in the previous days that although December 30 was the final day for accepting film, the lab continued to process what they had received until the actual dye couplers ran out.  That was January 18, 2011.  I was a bit on the edge of my seat because by this time the project had turned into a book and exhibit and the final content for the book was due asap.  The front end, essays by Arnold Drapkin, Grant Steinle, and me, was already finished and proofed.  We were waiting for the gallery section.  By the time Grant processed and overnighted the slides, we had three days till the book deadline.  But we did it!

Everything was as good as it could be.  A class discussion, a student idea, students and faculty working together to be part of photographic history.  And the icing on the cake, Dwayne Steinle was shooting a roll of Kodachrome on December 30 to be the final roll fed into the processor and he shot some group portaits of us.  So now we hold in our hands mounted slides from the final batches and our faces are on the very final roll of Kodachrome ever processed!


Available on Amazon....







A digital toy camera at last! 


Last summer I was heading for Europe for the first time in several years.  Somehow I just couldn't seem to face dealing with the TSA anymore and I grumbled "I wish someone would make a digital Holga."  Hours later, a colleague e-mailed me a link to a newly released digital toy camera.

It's called the JOCO VX5 and it's made in Singapore.   It doesn't have the square shape of the Holga or Diana, but it definitely is a toy camera.  It has a plastic lens, it vignettes, and the greatest proof, it sure takes getting used to!   Just like any toy camera, you need to fight it for awhile until you understand it, and once you and it are on the same page, things start to happen.  This was the first JOCO image I made that I liked.



And the rest flowed from that.   












The essence of Florence...

 In 2007,  I published a book of Polaroid Emulsion Transfers all produced between 2004-2006. They represented my response to a city that had greatly moved me.  I was hoping that in these images, I had captured something essential about the city of Florence, its genius loci.  The book that emerged from this body of work brought together my images with excerpts from texts that various writers and poets, critics and philosophers had written about their significant encounters with the same city.  Many books, especially about Florence, combine photographs and quotations, so I imagine that the concept per se might strike you as trite.

I worked together with two Florentine friends, Andrea Burzi and Susanna Sarti, who researched and found a great variety of texts to work with, written for example by Camus, Dickens, James, Brodsky, Luzi, Calamandrei and so many more.  We did not want the collaboration of image and text to be illustrative or repetitive in either direction.  We hoped for echoes across the pages and we found them!  

The images were not produced with specific citations in mind, nor were citations found for specific images.  We had a body of each and then we looked for echoes and correspondences.  That we found so many gives me hope that there is something essential about Florence in this book.  If I, in the 21st century, found so many of the same qualities and emotions that writers from many countries and other centuries also found, is that not Florence?                           

Here is an example that gives an idea of how images and text relate: 


In Pictures from Italy, Charles Dickens had written: 

Magnificently stern and somber are the streets of beautiful Florence; and the strong old piles of buildings make such heaps of shadow, on the ground  [and in the river] that there is another and a different city of rich forms and fancies always lying at our feet.


That's how it worked.  (You can still find the book on Amazon).








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