Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Detail

Mississippi Delta, 2012.

“The photographer is tied to the facts of things, and it is his problem to force the facts to tell the truth. He can not, outside the studio, pose the truth; he can only record it as he found it, and it is found in nature in a fragmented and unexplained form – not as a story, but as scattered and suggestive clues. The photographer can not assemble these clues into a coherent narrative, he can only isolate the fragment, document it, and by doing so claim for it some special significance, a meaning which goes beyond simple description. The compelling clarity with which a photograph records the trivial suggests that the subject has never before been properly seen, that it is in fact not trivial, but filled with undiscovered meaning. If photographs can not be read as stories, they can be read as symbols.

Intuitively, he sought and found the significant detail. His work, incapable of narrative, turned towards symbol. “- John Szarkowski

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I love this quote. It gets to the heart of what comprises the unique character of traditional photography as an expressive and creative medium. Even if the expressive truth of a photograph is symbolic, its veracity is premised on the basic distinction between recording the truth and “posing.” Its character as a means of faithful recordation is the bedrock basis of photography’s uniqueness. Of course, when Szarkowski wrote this in 1966 it was premised on the assumption that photography in some sense faithfully records a state of affairs ‘out there.’ Can we still make this assumption now that digital has severed the link to the photograph’s ‘indexicality’?

I Hate to Say “I Told You So” But…..

A “FaceApp” Photo Edit

It’s happening faster than I thought. The “photography” you and I know and love is dead. If you think I’m being alarmist, you’re obviously not paying much attention…or you’re just not very bright.

Read about it here: https://fstoppers.com/originals/death-photoshop-warning-photographers-399501

Reader’s Comments are especially instructive.

William Klein’s New York

William Klein was born in New York City in 1928. He graduated from high school early and enrolled at the City College of New York at the age of 14 to study sociology. After City College, Klein enrolled in the Army and was stationed in Germany and later France, where he would permanently settle after being discharged.

In 1948, after discharge, Klein got a scholarship to the Sorbonne in Paris and started doing abstract painting and kinetic sculpture. He was taught by the French artist Fernand Leger. He didn’t talk arty-farty,” says Klein. “He would say, ‘That is cool, that is strong, keep it up.’ And that’s it. No fancy-schmancy art talk.” Leger told him: “Get out of the galleries. Look at buildings; go out onto the street.” It was at an exhibition of his sculpture that he met Alexander Liberman, the art director for Vogue, who convinced Klein that the best way to follow Leger’s advice was via photography. Despite having no formal training as a photographer, Liberman hired Klein as a fashion photographer for Vogue.

Klein won the Prix Nadar in 1957 for Life is Good and Good For You in New York, a book of photographs taken during a brief return to NYC in 1954. Klein’s work was considered revolutionary for its uncompromising rejection of the then prevailing rules of photography i.e. the mannered aesthetic of Cartier-Bresson. He was, in effect, the predecessor of Garry Winogrand.

Bruce Gilden’s work owes an obvious debt to Klein. Klein was the Cartier-Besson anti-hero: where HCB remained private and discrete, Klein enjoyed and encouraged confrontation and offense, and coupled his approach with a purposefully gritty style that he felt spoke to the reality of the New York street. “I didn’t relate to European photography. It was too poetic and anecdotal for me. The kinetic quality of New York, the kids, dirt, madness – I tried to find a photographic style that would come close to it. So I would be grainy and contrasted and black. I’d crop, blur, play with the negatives.” For Klein, Cartier-Bresson’s exactitude didn’t fit the realities of street life in New York. “I didn’t see clean technique as right for New York. I could imagine my pictures lying in the gutter like the New York Daily News.” Where Cartier-Bresson remained unobtrusive, Klein relished intrusiveness as a working method: I work on negative energy. If you get me mad in the street, I’m flinging my camera in your face.”

Surplus to Requirements

Sigma SD Quattro w/ Sigma DC 17-50mm f2.8 EX HSM Lens w/ box, charger; pretty much new. I bought both body and lens new, maybe 500 shutter actuations since then. I refer to this Foveon camera as “digital Panatomic-X.”  Shot at 100 ISO the 29.5/59 mpix files are stunning, easily the equal of 6×9 medium format. The Foveon files make for beautiful B&W conversions. Shots DNG RAW files, which makes for easy RAW conversion. Just don’t shoot above 400 ISO. $675 shipped

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On a related note: A year or so ago I sold my Hexar RF to a reader; can’t remember who. That person hopefully wants to sell it back to me. If so, they should contact me at leicaphilia@gmail.com

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Ricoh GXR w Leica M Module (12 mpix) and Ricoh EVF (Electronic Viewfinder). Like New $575 shipped.  The M Module features a 12.3 MP APS-C CMOS sensor with no low-pass (anti-aliasing) filter and a micro-lens layout tailored specifically to optimize the short flange distance Leica M lenses. The lack of a low-pass filter means sharp images, as one would expect, better, in my mind, than the 18 mpix M9.

What I especially love is the ability to use various adaptor mounts that allow you to mount old Nikkor MF non-AI, E-Series, AI and AIs lenses on the M Module. Given it’s live view, you don’t need rangefinder coupled adaptors, which means you can put anything on it via the correct adaptor (eg. Nikkor to M, Pentax to M, Leica R to M etc etc. Plus, Steve Huff, who communes with dead people, likes it, so there’s that too.

My absolute go-to camera for street photography – these are incredible bargains for a digital body for your Leica optics. (Most everything “street” I post is shot with this camera).

I’ve got three of these I like them so much. Seems a little excessive, so I’m selling one. These are getting harder and harder to find in new condition, so don’t be a dummy – buy it. You know you want it.

 

Baudelaire’s Eyes and What They Tell us About Photographic Truth

Charles Pierre Baudelaire (1821 – 1867) was a French poet, essayist, art critic, and translator of Edgar Allan Poe. He’s best known for Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil), an extended Modernist prose poem about where one might find beauty in modern, rapidly industrializing mid-19th-Century Paris. Baudelaire influenced a whole generation of Fench poets including Paul VerlaineArthur Rimbaud, and Stéphane Mallarmé, among others, and also 20th-Century artists as diverse as 60’s rock star Jim Morrison and Portuguese author Fernando Pessoa. He coined the term “modernité” to designate the fleeting, ephemeral experience of urban life and claimed that the primary responsibility of modern art was to capture and, in so doing, transform that experience.

While Baudelaire lay on his deathbed, dying of syphilis, his mother found two photographs of him he had secreted in his overcoat; apparently, he’d been keeping the two photos on his person, a hidden, guilty pleasure of some sort.  In one (that’s it above), he stares aggressively at the camera as if trying to directly meet the unmediated gaze of the ultimate viewer of the photo. Frankly, he looks pissed off, as if the camera itself were his enemy, something put between him and viewer, something that obscured the potential of a meaningful relationship between him and the person who’d view him as the subject of the photo. 

Baudelaire had been interested in photography since the 1850s. French photographer Nadar, (Gaspard-Félix Tournachon (1820 – 1910),  was one of Baudelaire’s closest friends until Baudelaire’s death in 1867 (Nadar wrote Baudelaire’s obituary in Le Figaro). Nadar remains one of the great early photo-portraitists, his portraits held by many of the great national photography collections. 

In spite of his interest in photography and his friendship with Nadar, Baudelaire never much liked photography as a means of getting at anything subjectively truthful.  He thought the camera’s lens “a dictatorship of opinion,” a device that made an end-run around the active self-questioning required of a viewing subject. Photography could not, according to Baudelaire, encroach upon “the domain of the impalpable and the imaginary”; it was competent only as a means to document objective facts.

According to Baudelaire, only with an “embodied vision”, actively interrogating what one looked at, could you possibly gain any sense of mastery over the perceived object, and such active interrogation only became possible when the subject of one’s gaze could gaze back. Real subjective visual truth came only when there could be a reciprocal interaction of the viewer and the subject.  Rather than the one-sided transaction implicit in much of Western visual art – painting or photography – Baudelaire’s idea of a truthful visual representation would be a “forest of symbols” that looked back at you “with familiar eyes.” Using this criterion, photographic portraiture was, at best, caricature.

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In secular Western culture, where science and rationality are presumed to give us insight into what is “true,”  we are used to seeing the material world through the lens of science, where subjects are turned into objects and placed in categories. Photography aides that process by its ability to document objective facts, and Baudelaire saw that as a legitimate use of photography. For Baudelaire, the problem came with photography’s attempt to capture the subjective. It can’t, because it can’t look back. There’s no real interaction between the viewing subject and photographic subject. Relationship, that which underlies subjectivity, is impossible in the one-sided encounter offered by a photograph. The image will always be distorted.

Compare what happens when you look at a photograph of a woman, how you look at it, with the way you look at that same woman encountered in the flesh, on the street; how you do so determines whether or not you let her look back.  “Truth” is found in the reciprocal gaze, between subject and object, between the man and woman walking past each other in the street.

Baudelaire would say that modern man suffers from a distorted visual culture created by the ubiquity of photographic images.  Given the extent to which photography has been normalized and now embedded in our societal consciousness, it has led us away from the truth. It has distorted our ability to understand others. It gives us only a superficial caricature, a false representation of other people, visual images of persona as opposed to the person themselves. Capitalist consumerism uses its distortions to make us want things, playing on our imagination because the image can’t interact with us.  We see other people in this “post-truth” world, where photographed people are real only to the extent they conform to our imaginations. The image world it gives us is of strangers-as-passersby who never make eye contact. It’s hard to see, really see, someone else in this world of images, surrounded by people who are all doing the same.

Jason Momoa Has a Leica

I have no idea who Jason Momoa is, but he sure likes his Leicas.  Apparently he’s famous and he’s buddies with Lenny Kravitz.

The State of Film Production 2019

Interesting presentation by the CEO of ADOX at the Finnish film fair in Helsinki, March 15, 2019, addressing the current state of film production. ADOX is one of the few remaining manufacturers committed to film production. We should be supporting them.

ADOX is the brand name the German company, Fotowerke Dr. C Schleussner GmbH of Frankfurt am Main, the world’s first photographic materials manufacturer, founded in 1860. The current rights to the ADOX name were obtained in 2003 by Fotoimpex of Berlin, Germany, a company founded in 1992 to import photographic films and papers from former eastern Europe. Fotoimpex established the ADOX Fotowerke GmbH film factory in Berlin to convert and package their films, papers and chemicals using machinery acquired from the closed AGFA (Leverkusen, Germany) and Forte Photochemical Industry (Hungary) photographic plants.

The currently constituted ADOX company has resurrected former ADOX films and AGFA films, paper and chemicals including the entire Agfa B&W chemistry line with the help of its former employees and it now holds the trademark for Rodinal film developer.  Chemistry is currently produced by Calbe Chemicals, formerly a part of Agfa (OrWo).

In 2010 ADOX test- produced a slightly improved version of the original AGFA APX 400 as ADOX Pan and started full production of ADOX CHS II (100 ISO, equivalent to Efke KB 100), a black and white film using modern coating, which eventually took priority over attempts to re-introduce Agfa APX 400. In February 2015 ADOX purchased the  Ilford Imaging, Switzerland (Ciba Geigy) machine E, medium scale coating line at Marly, Switzerland to coat photographic film and paper. ADOX CHS (II) was coated by ADOX in Marly from 2018. ADOX are also (2017-19) doubling the size of the film factory in Germany to add a small coating line using a former AGFA machine as well as space for small scale chemical production and film materials storage.

ADOX Products

Films:

  • CMS 20 II ISO 20 An Agfa-Gevaert ortho microfilm converted by ADOX offering very high resolution, needing a special developer for contrast control. Format: 135, 120 [Editor’s Note: CMS 20 is an incredible film for large prints – high resolution with super fine grain.]
  • CHS II 100 ISO The original ADOX R/KB21 film (Efke KB100 to 2012) classic 1950s ortho-panchromatic B&W print film. Introduced 2013 as a modern coating, but sold out by 2016. Due to Adox acquiring own coating line, it was not re-introduced until 2018, initially as sheet film. Format: 135, 120, Sheet film.
  • Silvermax 100 ISO panchromatic B&W print film (Similar to the original Agfa APX 100). Coated at Inoviscoat. Format: 135
  • SCALA 160 ISO panchromatic B&W reversal film (Same as Silvermax) Format:135
  • HR-50 50 ISO Super-panchromatic ultra-fine grain – Agfa-Gevaert Aviphot 80 modified to enhance usability. May also be used as an infra-red film with suitable filtration. Introduced in 2018. Format: 135
  • IR-HR PRO 50 ISO 80. Super-panchromatic fine grain film – Agfa-Gevaert Aviphot 80 as HR-50 without modification. Initial trial batch introduced 2018. Format: 135

Photographic Paper:

  • MCC 110. Fibre based paper ( the Old Agfa Multicontrast Classic) emulsion made using original Agfa machinery.
  • MCP 310. Premium Resin Coated photo paper with outstanding image quality ( Agfa Multicontrast Classic) emulsion made using original Agfa machinery.
  • Fine Print Variotone. A newly developed warm tone paper made in cooperation with Harman Technology and Wolfgang Moersch
  • Lupex. A slow speed contact fiber paper made with a silver chloride emulsion and replaces Kodak Azo or Fomalux.

Inkjet Photographic Paper:

  • Art Baryta. Pure uncoated baryta base for coating with liquid emulsions
  • Fibre Baryta. Inkjet paper using fiber-base from analog photo paper manufacturing (100% alpha-cellulose with a barium-sulfate coating) and is coated with an inkjet receiving layer plus a backside coating to minimize curling behavior.
  • Fibre Monojet. An inkjet media optimized for the reproduction of black and white images.

Film Developers:

  • RODINAL Liquid concentrate developer dating from 1891 and produced according to Agfa Leverkusen’s latest Rodinal formula from 2004
  • ATOMAL 49. Powder-based Universal ultra-fine-grain developer for all types of B/W materials with good speed utilization and high compensating factor. (Development of Agfa Atomal with currently available chemistry)
  • FX 39 II. Geoffry Crawleys FX-39 was a development of Willi Beutler’s formula for Neofin Red.
  • Silvermax Developer. Specially formulated to increase tonal range in the Silvermax 21 film, formulated by SPUR

Paper Developers:

  • ADOTOL NE. Liquid concentrate Neutral black working paper developer. Former Agfa developer
  • NEUTOL WA. Liquid concentrate warm tone paper developer. Former Agfa developer
  • MCC Developer. Liquid concentrate fine art developer For Multigrade Papers for neutral-black image tones. Former Agfa developer
  • NEUTOL ECO. Liquid concentrate without hydroquinone based on ascorbic acid.
  • ADOTOL KONSTANT Powder developer, which produces a neutral black image tone
  • RA-4 Kit Liquid concentrate color paper developer kit

Other Chemicals:

  • ADOSTOP ECO (2018) Liquid concentrate 100% citric acid based odorless stop bath.
  • Acetic Acid 60% Acetic acid liquid concentrate for stop baths.
  • ADOFIX Plus Liquid concentrate, high capacity express-fixer with a maximum capacity for black and white photo papers (RC and fiber), films and photographic plates.
  • ADOFLO Highly liquid concentrated wetting agent
  • ADOSTAB Liquid concentrate, image stabilizer, and wetting agent.
  • SELENTONER Selenium toner for black and white photo materials (films or paper)