Archive for June 2008

Today was one of those days when I had planned to get a lot of things done, including filing more of my negatives from Tibet, scanning a bunch of negatives, taking care of housework, finally writing another blog entry (it has been nearly a week since the last one), etc.

Sadly, I had to put most of that on hold. My uncle died yesterday morning and so I needed to attend the funeral today. As usual on such occasions, it’s said to have to see members of your family under such circumstances but at least you’re still happy to see them. It reminds me of what the secretary of my department at Yale used to say about the only times that the family gets together: for a match, a hatch or a dispatch. I hope the next time won’t be for a dispatch.

I’m also trying to get my own medical problems sorted out, and I’m going to have another test done tomorrow. Hopefully it will be the last one for quite some time.

On a positive note, I’m happy to report that I will be flying out to Colorado for the reception at the Artful Nude exhibit at the Center for Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins. The exhibit actually runs from July 11 to August 9, but the reception is on Friday evening, August 1. (I think the Center’s website will post the photos on display on its website at that time, so I’ll post the link when it’s up.)

It seems rather odd that the gallery night will be only about a week before the show closes, but I’ve been told that this is to have the reception coincide with the monthly art gallery walk in Fort Collins, which is on the first Friday of the month. That’s also the weekend that the juror, Kim Weston, will be teaching a workshop there.

I really wasn’t certain if I’d be going due to the expense of the best airline flights I’d found, but after doing some more searching, I found a much, much cheaper deal by flying out of LaGuardia Airport rather than my preferred airport, JFK. Unfortunately, the flight departs at 6:00 in the morning and I should get to Fort Collins (via Denver) around 10:00, I figure – or about five hours before my hotel room will be ready. Still, at least it should get me there in plenty of time to attend the reception that night!

Overall, then, I didn’t get to do most of what I’d planned to do today – but at least I got the blog entry written and posted.

The photo, for those who are wondering, is one of Alison, made on my trip to Scotland in 2004.

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Irena Tanevska, 18 years old member of Macedonian fashion agency "Crnokrak" will represent our country on the "Miss Leasure 2008" in Shanghai, China. About 100 female models from all over the world are a part of this summer international miss beauty event. For the final night, Irena will be wearing creations from the designers Nenad Sekirarski and Maja Kikiritkova.

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Well, folks, it’s summertime – the time when lots of people go out and do some traveling. I was in Southeast Asia in March and I had originally planned to go to Ladakh – the Himalayan part of India – this summer. For various reasons, though, I decided to change my plans and will instead stay here within the U.S. of A.

I try to do some photography when I travel, so with that in mind, I contacted a model who I’ve photographed more than once over the past few years. She encouraged me to pay a visit to the area where she now lives so we could do another photo shoot. When I told her that I was seriously considering doing so, she was very enthusiastic about working with me again.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I received this message from her:

“No Dave, that wasn't the deal. I did stay longer than I had agreed to because I was trying to be nice. Honestly, I am tired of trying to be nice to you. You're awful to work with and your pictures are mediocre at best. Please don't contact me anymore.”

Naturally, I was rather taken aback by this. (I mean, “Whoa!!!”) I’d thought that we worked together well and we had a friendly correspondence. Consider, if you will, this message which she’d sent me following our last photo session:

Thank you so much for your sweet words and silly pictures! You are a doll :)

So what was it that turned her against me in such a manner? Why, the thing that has ended many a relationship in this world of ours. In a word: money.

Even though we agreed to arrange a photo session, we had not agreed on how much I’d pay her. As a means of starting off negotiations, I reminded her of how much I paid her previously and that our sessions were essentially full day bookings. That’s when she went ballistic on me.

To be honest, I hate negotiating over fees – especially with someone that I’ve worked with previously and that I like, as it’s more difficult to be impersonal about it. I feel a lot like the general manager of a pro sports team negotiating to re-sign a ball player. “We think you’re a terrific player and we’d love to have you play with us again – but we just can’t afford to pay you the kind of money that you’re asking for. Will you accept what we can give you?” (Or, perhaps, “We think you’re good – but not that good.")

When it comes to money, for me it’s a one way street. The money flows out of my pocket and little or none it flows back. As this is just an avocation for me (an important avocation, to be sure, but an avocation, nonetheless), I need to put limits on what I spend. Model fees are included in that just like things such as airfare and hotels.

As for what a proper model fee should be – well, I guess supply and demand applies here as it does to most other things economic. There are plenty of models I’ve tried to work with who have asked for more than I can pay. Some of them agree to work for less and I am grateful when they do so. Some don’t – and hey, if they can find a job that pays more than I can, more power to them. Even though I’d like the higher priced models to work with me, I always tell them that if they can get more from somebody else, they should go for it. I understand that models have bills to pay – but I have bills to pay, too, and overspending on something that brings no money in return will not improve my rating at the bank.

The one thing that should hold true is that anything that involves money is a business transaction, and that all people involved should act in professional, courteous, business-like manner. Clearly, the message that I received two weeks ago was unprofessional in the extreme – and if she doesn’t want to work with me again, then I have no desire to work with her. It’s unfortunate, though, and I hate to have to lower my opinion of someone for whom I’d had a lot of respect and admiration.

Of course, this message begs this question: were her earlier, happier messages to me genuine and then something just caused her to snap – or were they just a lot of bullshit designed to keep me coming back as a paying customer? Of course, if she thought that I was so awful to work with, why did she encourage me to work with her again? Was she simply so desperate for money that she’d be willing to work with anyone – even an “awful” person and “mediocre” photographer like me?

Regarding our earlier photo sessions, she never complained about what I paid her and the time she worked. Perhaps she really was trying to accommodate me (her “being nice” to me), but if she really felt that she was being underpaid, she could always have said “no.” I don’t hold a gun to a model’s head saying that I’ll pull the trigger if she doesn’t agree to my fee. I’ve been told “no” before and I dare say that I'll be told "no" again. Had she done that, I’d have either made a higher offer or I would have said “Sorry, but I can’t give you any more, so I guess the shoot is off.” I suppose that’s the chance people take when they ask for more.

As for my mediocre photography, today I sent out my two framed prints that were selected for inclusion in the Artful Nude exhibit at the Center for Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins, Colorado. Now I have to decide if I want to pay $500+ for airfare between New York and Denver to attend the reception for the event. I’d love to be there to see my photos on the wall and to meet the juror, Kim Weston. On the other hand, this photography thing is just an avocation – and as such I have only so much to spend.

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As I wrote in my last posting, I went up to Woodstock, New York, for a two-day photography workshop this past weekend. The Center for Photography at Woodstock is where I began to photograph art nudes and to take black & white photography seriously, way back in 1995, so it’s nice to go back there and meet other people interested in photography. It also makes a good getaway out of the city and into the fresh air of the country. For a number of years I attended two workshops each summer – one devoted to nudes, the other to something else such as landscape, architectural or aerial photography.

I learned the basics of art nude photography in my early days there, but now I’m at the stage where I can photograph nudes fairly well (or so some people tell me), so I’ve begun to think of how I can do things differently and perhaps more interestingly. This weekend’s workshop, though it had nude models on hand for photographing, was about photographic creativity rather than just nudes. The instructor, Josephine Sacabo from New Orleans, showed us some amazing images that she’d made by combining different negatives and using solarization.

I prefer to do my creativity in camera and not have to do too much in the darkroom, so I continued to work on my multiple exposure series. Josephine noted that a weeklong workshop is much better for giving feedback than a weekend workshop, and as I work with film rather than a digital camera, I wasn’t able to show her any of my images from our day shooting on Sunday. She did say that we could e-mail some of our images from the day to her for short critiques, so perhaps I may try to do that sometime once the film is developed – and take it from me, that won’t be any time soon!

At the urging of one of my fellow participants who I came to call “my agent,” I also showed my portfolio of nudes to the owner of a photo gallery in town. He said that they’re good but not what he’s looking for. Oh, well – you can’t expect success the first time out. I certainly wasn’t surprised, as most of the photos in the gallery were made through alternative printing processes or were in color. Little or no silver prints were to be seen, but that’s what I print.

On the other hand, he did suggest another gallery in town that displays and market the nude images made by its owners – so I guess that’s worth a try the next time I’m up there.
I was saddened yesterday to read about the death of Cyd Charisse, the beautiful dancer and actress who appeared in films primarily in the 1940’s and ‘50’s. I had been a big fan of hers ever since seeing Singin’ in the Rain on television quite a number of years ago. That film is set in Hollywood during the transitional days from silent films to talkies and it got me interested in the films of the silent era.

It also got me interested in the films of Cyd Charisse. In one very colorful and fanciful segment called the “Broadway Melody Ballet,” Gene Kelly slides across the polished floor on his knees – only to be confronted by the long leg of a woman in green wearing a Louise Brooks-style bob of hair. The ensuing dance sequences made my jaw drop – and it wasn’t because of Gene Kelly!

“Wow!!!!!!,” I thought to myself. “Who is that???” I knew it wasn’t one of the major cast members, and I don’t think there were credits at the end to identify the cast members. I did remember that the name of Cyd Charisse was in the credits and I knew that she was a dancer, so I guessed it was her.

I was right. From that moment on, I tried to see more of her films. With the exception of Brigadoon (also with Gene Kelly), I think I’ve seen her in most or all of her major rolls: in the musicals The Band Wagon, Silk Stockings (both with Fred Astaire) and It’s Always Fair Weather (another with Kelly), the comedy Meet Me in Las Vegas (with Dan Dailey) and the noirish crime drama, Party Girl (with Robert Taylor). If you’re interested in dance (and yes – I mean you, DL) or just want to see how great and entertaining a dancer can look on screen, I’d recommend seeing any or all of these films.

I actually had the chance to see her when she was appearing on Broadway in the early 1990’s in Grand Hotel, playing the part of an aging ballerina. I went to see that show with a number of people from my office on a freezing cold night in February, but the play was ruined for me before it even started. The dreaded white slip of paper was found in my playbill, and sure enough, it said that Cyd Charisse would not be appearing that night. I suppose I could have tried to go another night, but I never did. I guess the loss was mine.

In short, Betty Grable may have been the “Girl With the Million Dollar Legs,” but for my money, I’d have gone for Cyd Charisse’s gams any time. The movies would not have been the same without them.

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Tekstot e izbrisan po baranje na Valentina T.
This text has been removed at the request of the model

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Well, it’s Friday evening and the weekend is finally upon us. It couldn’t arrive soon enough for me. This week I’ve been forced to take a class at work and today was the exam – and basically, I need to pass this test to keep my job! It’s supposedly a means to train us, but this class had very little to do with the work that we actually do. More likely, it’s just an excuse for management to get rid of anybody who doesn’t pass all of the exams for these classes that we have to take. At any rate, I feel pretty confident that I did well.

Of course, I had to spend a lot of my own time reading and studying to make sure I did pass, so no photographic work was done until I got home today. At that time I got busy making some black & white prints on my Epson inkjet printer. (Yes, I still believe in making traditional silver prints, but I have nothing against making inkjet prints just to show people. I still don’t consider them to be art prints of any kind.)

The ones I’ve been printing have been my recent multiple exposure images – including the photo of Sarah Ellis above, made in Ohio last year. I’m attending a photography workshop this weekend and I’m planning to bring these photos in the hope of getting some positive feedback on what I’ve been doing with this technique and some ideas on how to proceed further with them. I’ll try write about it next week.

Have a good weekend, all.

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I finally got to work again today on filing my photos from Tibet that I made last year. Rolls 11 through 19 were taken care of, so I’ve now filed more than half of the images from that trip. Once I finish off the rest, I can get to work on starting to develop my film from this year!

After finishing the filing, I decided to scan a couple of Tibet photos from an earlier part of the trip. The tour began with a couple of days spent in and around the town of Tsedang, and we then headed east into an area of Tibet that few westerners visit, due to the need to have a multitude of travel permits, some of which are hard to get. (As a matter of fact, I just checked the itinerary of this year’s departures of the trip I took and, for some reason, this part of Tibet is no longer included.)

Along the way, we traveled on a road above a deeply cut valley and eventually stopped to admire the view at a small, newly built village called Shar Chang. A number of the residents came out to meet us and pose for photos, and they looked much like the Tibetan people I’d already seen.

Then one fellow appeared who looked different. Up he rode on his motorcycle, a young man with a swept back shock of dark hair. Well, upon seeing the hair and the bike, I thought to myself, “This guy looks like James Dean!” To be perfectly honest, I’ve not seen any of three films in which Dean starred (East of Eden, Rebel Without a Cause and Giant), but he is a pop culture figure and I have seen photos of him.

I think I would have taken some photos of this man had he not looked like Dean, but his appearance did make it more interesting – and I knew right then and there that I’d have to make a blog posting with him. Afterwards, I asked myself the question, “Is it a coincidence that he looks like James Dean, or had he seen some photos of Dean and decided to emulate him?”

I think I may have come up with an answer. Today I did a web search for a photo of Dean on a motorcycle to match my photos of the Tibetan guy. Until I scanned the Tibet photos there was no point in doing it earlier, but now I wanted to see how much he looked like Dean – or if he even looked like him at all. I figured a photo of the real Dean would look good on the blog, too, as a comparison.

Well, now you can see both photos, too. Looking at them, I find it hard to believe that the Tibetan’s appearance is a coincidence. It’s not just the hair. Notice how both men wear dark loafer shoes over white socks. Notice how each one wears a white T-shirt underneath a jacket. Of course, they’re both riding motorcycles, too – so in my mind, it’s no coincidence. There is one great big James Dean fan living now in Tibet!!!

Yesterday I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art here in New York for the first time in quite a while. As it happens, an exhibit about the first 100 years of photography recently opened (titled "Framing a Century: Master Photographers, 1840–1940"), so I made it a point to see it. I would have gone to the Met even without this exhibit, but a good photography show is always gratifying to see.

The exhibit isn’t meant to be comprehensive, but it does showcase the work of 13 very influential photographers, mostly European and from the 19th Century (William Henry Fox Talbot, Roger Fenton, Gustave Le Gray, Eugene Atget [photo left], Nadar, Julia Margaret Cameron, Charles Marville and Edouard Baldus) plus some Americans and 20th Century Europeans (Carleton Watkins, Walker Evans, Brassai, Man Ray [photo below] and Henri Cartier-Bresson). Some of the earliest photographic images ever made are included here (two Fox Talbot prints from 1835) but the show should be seen not just for its historic significance but simply for the beauty of the prints themselves. If you’re interested in the history of photography – or just want to see some great photographs, period – I would highly recommend that you try to see this exhibit.

On the other hand, I was completely underwhelmed by the adjunct photo exhibit, 'Photography on Photography: Reflections on the Medium Since 1960." While there are some good images, I basically said to myself, “Is this the best that the Met could come up with for more recent photography? Even I could do better than this stuff!” I basically did a quick walk-through for this one as it was getting late, so maybe I'll give it a closer look on my next visit. Regardless, the show to see is the one opposite it.

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I’ve been photographing nudes since the summer of 1995. I’ve put a lot of film through the camera since then, trying to capture the nude figure in as beautiful and/or interesting way as I can. Just a year or two into my photographing nudes, I began to ask myself, “How much longer can I go on photographing the same thing the same way?” About ten years later, that question is even louder in my photographic conscience (though I dare say that I’m not the only photographer who’s asked this of him/her self).

So, as I’ve written here before, in an effort to try something different, I’m beginning to experiment more with multiple exposures. This is something I’ve done from time to time over the years, but there was never any consistency to my doing it, no real effort to put together a body of work with this technique.

Here then are three photos that I made of Sarah Ellis while photographing her in Ohio last summer. For some reason the idea of somebody trapped or encased in a tree seems to have a lot of resonance for me. That’s probably because this whole idea was originated by a scene in “The Wizard of Oz,” in which an apple tree with a face in it comes to life. The idea of a face in a tree just intrigued me – and I guess it still does.

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It’s been a while since my last posting – more than a week. Quite honestly, I’ve just been tired. I’ve been told that I have a stomach problem, and my doctor told me to sleep on my left side to help fix the problem. I’ve never slept on my side before, but I’ve gone ahead and laid down on my left side every night for over a week.

The problem is that while I’ve laid down, I haven’t really slept. It’s just been too uncomfortable, and at times downright painful, with my left leg and hip really hurting me. I’ve even gone out and purchased a memory foam mattress topper, and while I do feel better lying on my side with it, I still haven’t been able to get a good night’s sleep. I managed to get some sleep two nights ago by lying down in a semi-sitting position, propped up on pillows, but it didn’t work last night – and neither did lying on my side.

So, I’ve just been too tired to do a lot of things, including scanning negatives to post here or even sitting down to write.

I did have enough energy today, on the other hand, to go ahead with the photo session today that I’d planned with Jessamyne from Australia. I would have liked to have worked outdoors with her now that the weather is good for outdoor figure work, but last week I told her that we’d better off in my studio setup. The extended weather forecast for today called for rain, and I didn’t want to commit to a long drive to an outdoor location not feeling well.

Well, the forecast was wrong. Today was a beautiful day in the New York area, as the revised forecast from a few days predicted, and while I could have opted to go outdoors, my lack of sleep told me otherwise.

And what about Jessamyne? She was fun to work with, petite in size but with brilliant red hair and beautiful eyes. Of course, the red hair won’t show up as such in my black & white photos (as was the case with Clara Bow in the BW silent film era), but you can see it here in some of the snapshots I made with my little digital camera.

Working in a studio setting has always been rather difficult for me. Without the allure of beautiful surroundings given by an interesting indoor or outdoor location, it’s just a backdrop to work with. I guess someone really needs to think out ahead of time what to do, but I had no plan today. I just got out my fabrics and had Jessamyne work with some of them. Later I got out some of the masks that I have but haven’t used for a while.

Overall, I think I got some good results from today’s session. Still, I think this will be my last studio session until the weather starts to turn cold again. (I expect to spend most of the fall once again developing film, however, as I now have about 60 rolls of film to develop, with more photo sessions coming up over the summer.)

As for short term plans, I just hope I can get some sleep tonight!

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