Photographer’s brain on a hot day with nothing better to do than photograph shadows and strange crushed cans that may have held wine at one time in the gutter and follow the instructions that were once on it: Twist to Open.
My Experiences with Print on Demand Photo Books
June 2008 (This is important. I did this comparison in for a few months in 2008. I haven’t repeated these tests. So if anyone has more recent information, feel free to email or comment.)
As far as I know, there are currently 3 printers being used for print on demand Photo books:
Xerox iGen (toner-based); HP Indigo (4 color inks, though it is possible to upgrade this to a 6 color printer) ; and Kodak NexPress (toner).
I don’t believe that any of the books ordered are using NexPress.
There are some things I’ll never know – such as how the quality of the book changes from one order to the next, since as I rule out various POD publishers, I’m not ordering any books from them.
With what’s going on in the mid-east, I don’t really feel like writing anything today.
It’s interesting that I haven’t taken any trips since I left work. Every time I’m making plans, it seems that something comes up. I’m wondering if, somehow psychologically, I’m nervous about leaving the business on its own.
Strange huh? Remember the three fire-building stages? I don’t, but there’s one stage where you are hunched over in the woods fanning or blowing on the twigs, and you’ve got to keep the fire going by gently placing twigs and then the next size wood at just the right place and at just the right time.
That’s what “the business” still feels like. Sort of like leaving a pet alone for the weekend.
Who knows what you’d find when you got back.
This is not the reality. I can check my email wherever I go, pretty much — but then you lose the sense of really “getting away”.
* * *
Speaking of pets, I’m thinking seriously about getting a dog. My sister was dog-sitting for a labrador and I just fell in love with it. A labrador is probably too big for my apartment, but maybe a cocker spaniel? We always had a dog in the house when we were growing up, and now that I’m not tied to the 9-5 world, I’d have time to walk the dog etc.
* * *
Sitcom City: When I was a hotshot vice-president of something technological, I used to bring my laundry in to be done. Cost me about fifteen or twenty bucks to get washed and dried.
Today, bored with photography, bored with writing, bored with cooking chicken, I decide to wander down to the basement where there are two coin-operated laundry machines. It’s a little scary down there at first — the laundry room in an apartment building is always the place where dead bodies are found. And it is dark down there.
A sign on the outside reads, “PLEASE TURN OFF LITE AFTER USE” in a shakey hand.
Hey, that’s my philosophy these days as well.
I stub my toe on something. Then feel around and find the light switch. Ah hah — one good-size washer and a dryer. Reminds me of going to the laundry with my mom on Gunhill Road. As a matter of fact — I used to do the laundry myself when I was a kid. Nothing to it. I wasn’t one of these helpless males…
So I flip-open the washer lid and read the washing instructions which are on the inside of the cover, and we’re off to the races. I put in too much soap, I guess, and the stuff is starting to foam over. Not enough to foam onto the floor.
About half-way through the cycle I get the bright idea of pouring in some bleach. Don’t have any bleach, so I run down to the deli where there is a long line, and by the time I get back the clothes are just sitting there. But the cycle isn’t over. I guess the tank is emptying out….
Either the amount or the timing was wrong. Several mauve shirts are now tie-dyed. Jeans have bleach burns. Black socks are now speckled. Eh, I saved $15 and it cost me about $50 in damages. But I learned something: find out when to put the bleach in and don’t pour it directly on the clothes… Man, did I ever do some tie-dying without the rubber-bands.
I didn’t know you could get such colors. My nice GAP shirts — burned up in the bleach, blown back into the psychadelic sixties. The socks, looking like negatives. As someone who is essentially superstitious, someone who looks for signs but doesn’t really believe in them, there is a sign here. Even my clothes have been burned. Bridges and clothes, burned. Back to the sixties (I never was in step with any decade).
* * *
March 1, 2002
Call me Argo. Continued.
I was lying on the computer-floor room when Mr. Joseph (Joseph’s Asprins) came in. Mr. Joseph was the head of the department. He was a cross between a porcupine and a warthog. He had hairs that bristled out of every pore, including his nose and ears. He wore the big suit in the agency. Broad pin-stripes which signified that he was high up on the food chain. I had discovered that the pin-stripes were more than just a fashion statement, but that they were part of some masonic ranking system. The further apart the pin-stripes, the more power the wearer had. Mr. Joseph had two expressions: a scowl, and a piercing glare. Right now he was showing both of them. He looked down at me, looked at the flashing lights in the computer room which signaled that the power supplies had been pulled apart, and bared his lower teeth.
“Well Argo,” he sputtered “what are you doing on the floor?”
Things were still spinning around and I had a bump on my head from where I had hit the corner of the server box, and Mr. Joseph’s question had an echoing effect on me. I heard myself muttering that I had tripped over the wire. Mr. Joseph reached out a hairy, bristling arm and jerked me up to my feet. He still towered over me, and I was looking up into his nostrils.
Mr. Joseph was no idiot. Far from it. He had graduated from Columbia University with some sort of post-doctoral degree in robot intelligence, or something like that. We had heard that he had designed robots for NASA at some point. So as I say, he was no idiot, but as far as management skills goes — he must have read the Ghangis Khan management handbook. In fact, those bristles that protruded from every pore were the most human thing about him.
As I mentioned, he had two expressions. He only had about two phrases that you could count on him saying everyday, “Is it done yet?”. And “How much longer do you expect it will take?”
Yes, he was a cold-hearted bastard.
This agency job was really my first “real programming” job. And I came in all eager and excited to prove myself. But no matter how fast I worked, I was always behind. And I always knew that first thing in the morning Mr. Joseph would be standing behind me, asking, “Is it done yet?” And I would always be abashed to say, “Sorry…I think it’ll be another few days.” At which he would turn around on his heel and march off.
It was a two man project. Me and Dudley were writing a program to analyze overnight advertising statistics. Dudley, unlike me, had been a college professor, and was a database specialist. I was just doing the front end. We sat in a tiny cube together, back to back, and one day Dudley told me that if Joseph asked him, “When it was going to be ready” he would just sit there and stare at his nails without saying anything. He advised me to do the same.
And sure enough, the next morning when Mr. Joseph asked the question, “When will it be done” Dudley just looked at his nails. The silence was unbearable. Mr. Joseph began scratching the hair in his ears. Dudley seemed to be counting how many fingers there were on his hand, as if something in the count might have changed overnight. I don’t know how long the silence lasted, but eventually I couldn’t stand it any longer and blurted out, “Soon, Mr. Joseph. Maybe tomorrow.” Dudley shot me a withering glance, and Mr. Joseph walked away.
* * *
Mostly spent the last day or two cleaning up and making room for the larger mat boards that are on the way.
* * *
Feb 01, 2002
Thank you. Those who bought prints; those who didn’t buy prints; those who left little notes of encouragement; those who just sent e-mails with good wishes. Thanks to everybody for giving me the push from the corporate world to the ‘little boat’ that sails along in its wake. January was an amazing month, not just in terms of sales, but spiritually as well. Yes, its true, I did a lot of hard work, and produced prints that were as good as I could get them, and I imagine that I would have continued to do these prints whether anyone liked them or not; but finding an audience through what is often a faceless, anonymous cyberworld, is still an astounding thing to a guy who grew up without seeing a computer until he was thirty-five.
* * *
Yes, another touch of commercialism has crept in. Imagine my surprise when I saw that the Amazon affiliate links for books had actually paid me or was going to pay me $35. So, I threw a general link up to Amazon on the Books Page. I’m not going to clutter up the pictures with all these ads, and I think I’m going to make the Light Impressions logo smaller, its getting annoying. I was surprised to see that Amazon actually gives a 15% commission when you buy a book through one of the item listings on the site, but 5% if you buy something else. I think that’s how it works. Not really sure yet. Anyway, I sent the link to my father who devours books.
* * *
Have to figure out some way to put the actual number of the edition that I’m up to on the site. Will have to write some sort of interface for myself to do this. Currently I just keep track of the number in a little database.
* * *
Also discovered something interesting yesterday about drying prints. Normally I put them on screens, and they are generally dry overnight. But yesterday, I printed so much that I ran out of screens, so I went back to the ancient idea of simply hanging the prints from a clothesline, with some clothespins on the bottom and sure enough they dried twice as fast and just as flat as drying them on screens, maybe flatter. After that they go into the dry mount press at a very low heat for a few minutes, and voila, flat. So I’m going to put somemore clothesline up in the foyer. I can probably do about ten 16 x 20′s that way.
* * *
I was thinking about all the nicknames that my former boss (from the Bronx) and me came up with for employees at the agency… here’s a few of them: Mumbo Jumbo, The Ice Queen, Carl The Truth etc. etc. and it got me thinking to nicknames of people that I grew up with in the Bronx, and I suddenly realized that I couldn’t remember anyone’s last names.
There was Fat Junior and Fat Linda (brother and sister) who lived next door. Fat Linda was the one who was famous for being struck by a bus and walking away. Fat Junior was the kid who chased me around University Avenue and pounced on me until either I ‘cried Uncle’ or knocked him senseless. There was Irish Mike who tried to throw me over the churchyard wall. And Hungarian Joe who owned the deli and would give us free hot-dogs, and Francis The Tailor Lady, who watched us when my mother was away, and the Meyer Twins who were smartest kids around, and Square Man. Square Man owned the first Square Pizza Place in the neighborhood. What they now call Sicilian Pizza.
How much of this was a Bronx thing, I don’t know. But the names were more colorful, somehow, more descriptive than the names that had been handed out by one’s ancestors.
And I got to thinking, did I have a nickname? Of course, Davey Crocket, King of the wild frontier. It was a popular t.v. show, and I had bought some silly racoon hat from the back of a Superman comic, and wore the thing around the neighborhood. Well, it seems silly now, but there were three of us with those fake racoon hats. Frontiersmen in the middle of the urban jungle. We had mop handles for rifles, and somehow knew that they only fired one shot at a time, and we had spoons that we used to pour the imaginary gunpowder into the thing with. And we climbed the firescapes, and hid out on the roof, and waited for the savages to approach. The savages were usually headed by Irish Mike and a bunch of crew cut thugs who were always waiting to pounce on us.
We had a fort, behind a billboard that was about three stories high. It was impossible for anyone to get up to that fort without getting hit by either water balloons, or rocks.
We were always out-gunned and out-numbered. One day Gary, who was the real brains behind our little gang, came up with the brilliant idea of trying to enlist Fat Junior and Fat Linda to be on our side. He and I swiped a bunch of candy bars from Max’s Candy Store and as Fat Junior was running at us, we held them up for him to see. He stopped dead in his tracks. There’s more where these came from, we said. All you have to do is help us with Irish Mike…. But Fat Junior was smarter than he looked, and simply knocked both of us down with one of his bear paws, took the candy, and ran off gleefully to his lair.
Gary then lost his job as chief strategist, and became simply another member of the Crocket gang.
* * *
Getting behind again in my printing. Even the big day of printing two days ago wasn’t enough. A good day tomorrow should get be back to even again. I still have a few things on the site at $35, and I’m going to remove these. Not worth the time and trouble anymore. I’m dying to print some of the new things, but so far haven’t had the time. I’m still in the routine of trying to get things done on the weekend so that I can drop them off at fedex on Monday morning on the way to work. Of course, there is no work anymore, but my routines die hard.
* * *
I’ve been watching the hype surrounding the latest Superbowl, that great pagan holiday, and I’m not impressed. I’m thinking that they’re having trouble reaching new levels of hype. And I would like to suggest a new idea. A modest proposal. Why not take the two biggest hyped days of the year and combine them into an orgry of hype. Yes, what if they combined the Academy Awards Cermony with the Superbowl game? It really could be done quite easily. What I’m thinking is that the half-time show, which gets longer and longer and more and more elaborate and fills with the current crop of pop-stars, just gets a little bit longer, and while the two football teams are bathing their wounds, the Academy Awards ceremony would take place. The beauty of this, is obvious. This combination would appeal to both the football fan, and the movie fan. In short, every single living American would be watching. In fact, its possible that every single person in the world would be watching. And with the pre-game and pre-ceremony and post-game and post-ceremony shows it would take up an entire weekend. Just imagine the cross-over demographics on something like that. It boggles the mind. Imagine the interviews where you could have Gods from both worlds together for a press-conference at the same time! And here, ladies and gentleman, for the first time on any stage, Gary Marshall and Marshall Faulk. Well, it’s just an idea.
* * *
Finally got around to printing ‘The Road Ahead’ formerly called Walking in Snow which was sort of a lame name. Actually, I’ve been thinking of naming new pictures with phrases from Dylan, such as ‘It ain’t dark yet, but its gettin’ there’. Anyway, did this at a new size, 12 x 18, and it’s one of the few prints that I might actually put on my own wall. (I don’t have any of my own prints up.) The idea of the print has been mesmerizing me since I scanned the negative. It’s complex and simple at the same time. That’s about all I can say to explain the attraction it holds for me. And I guess that the lighthouse, small, but visible on the right is finally in the picture. Its sort of a picture that I had been dreaming about taking for a long time.
* * *
Sent out my application for Cobra continuation of health care. It’s going to cost about $350/month. Not exactly chicken-feed, but I’m told this is much cheaper than buying your own insurance.
* * *
Making headway with the orders. I told myself I wasn’t going to put any more prints up on eBay for a week, but couldn’t help myself and listed the ‘The Road Ahead’ there #2. I’ve promised #1 to someone else. If I have a good packaging day today, should be halfway through the orders. A couple of things that need to go out for Valentine’s day gifts.
* * *
The Gods of Matting were lined up against me this morning. Perhaps I didn’t do the proper sacrifice. Botched three 20 x 24′s before I got a good one. Strange because as far as I can figure I’ve been doing it the same way now for a few months without a bad mat. I was counting the dollars I was throwing away when I realized that the middle part that gets cut out could be cut down again for 11 x 14′s so it wasn’t a total waste. Made pretty good progress eventually, and now I’ve got two medium sized orders left, and a few smaller orders. When I dropped the shipments off at Fedex, the woman that I’m become friendly with, commented that I had become quite the expert on cutting fedex boxes and asked if I’d like to have her order some more. I had been meaning to do this rather than constantly swiping boxes from the fedex office, so she ordered a case of 20. Probably will last me a week, but I’m not sure I have room for more in the apartment.
I’ve been stuck in the house too long doing this stuff. If its a nice gloomy wintery day tomorrow, I’ll leave the orders in the box and head out somewhere, probably with the tripod again. I’ve been using the M6 lately as if it were a view camera, doing very careful compositions. Might even put some 100 film in for a change and bring the spotmeter along.
* * *
Message in a bottle: mat cutting advice.
Anyone out there have a mat cutter that they really like and can recommend. I’m currently using a Logan 710, and am doing a lot of window mats. Sometimes it works o.k. Sometimes (like yesterday) not. Maybe its the operator (me). Maybe not. I generally am cutting 4-ply archival board. There are certainly more expensive cutters out there by C&H and Fletcher, but which one is better? Do I really need to spend $1200 to consistently cut these overmats? I find that hard to believe. This query was prompted by R.B who e-mailed me asking for mat cutting advice, and I went off into a rant about the problems I was having.
Here is an excerpt of my reply to R.B:
“i started with a Logan, relatively cheap, don’t remember the model, had all
sorts of troubles. then got a used one from a friend, the handle says model
#701. maybe this is the same one you have. has the straight edge and the
bevel edge cutters… and could never get the blade to go in exactly the
same way into the bevel holder… and ruined a lot of mats — its always the
same problem, either it cuts every so slightly too far or ever so slightly
too little…. and then bought a hand-held Logan model #4000, and ended up
using this on the rail of the model 701…”
sometimes this works, sometimes i get either overcuts, or a bowing, or undercuts.
* * *
Hit a new record in page views last week: Page Views (Impressions) 26,302. I had been averaging about 18,000 page views per week. Not exactly sure why, seems like a lot more hits are coming through yahoo and google.
* * *
A friend of mine is going to bring over a C+H mat cutter for me to try out this Friday. Fantastic. At least I’ll get to experiment with the thing, and possibly buy it from him. Don’t know what model it is, but he said it was in the $900 range.
* * *
Even though I was matting and packaging most of the day, I’m still not quite caught up. The Valentine’s Day thing threw me. I should really get out a calendar and see what holidays are coming up. I’m pretty oblivious to this stuff.
* * *
Enron hearings were on in the background today. Chairmen of Andersen Consulting was on the hot seat. Here are some phrases that he was fond of, and the translations.
“None of us are perfect. We all make mistakes.” Chairmen of Andersen Consulting.
Translation: We screwed up bad. But why dwell on that. We also behaved ethically 89% of the time.”
Now there’s a legitimate defense. Can you imagine the street thug who has just been caught robbing a little old lady saying, “Well, 89% of the time, I’m a law abiding citizen, but every once in a while I feel the need to score some crack. But, you know, nobody’s perfect. You don’t expect me to be legit 100% of the time, do you?”
He also was fond of this phrase: “Sir, that’s a fair question.”
Translation: “That’s a fairly stupid question. Of course you’re right, I did know about that, but if you think I’m going to tell you anything, you’re dumber than you look.”
“I have come here voluntarily, for the second time.”
Translation: “I knew that if I didn’t show up, you’d slap a subpoena on me.”
* * *
Added some notes about how this web site was built.
* * *
Promenade is about to go unsold on eBay for the first time. But sales continue through the site at a brisk pace. It looks like all my fretting about finances may have been for nothing. Of course, this has basically kept me in the house for the last few days, but I am not going to complain (although I feel like complaining). What is nice is that the new things are selling well also. That’s what gets me excited when something recent attracts interest. I mean, how many times can you print Promenade before you want to turn it over to someone else to print?
* * *’
From their home page:
“A vision without boundaries: Andersen is more than 85,000 strong, with 390 offices in 84 countries. But no matter where you go, or whom you talk to, our voice remains the same.”
Something struck me this morning about the shredded papers at Andersen. Wouldn’t all that paper have to had been generated originally on computers? Did they also scrub the hard disks? Were the pc’s confiscated?
* * *
Took a crack at ‘Frozen Trash’ but didn’t care for it. Just a little bit to arty for me. Probably ten years from now I’ll look back on it and wonder why I didn’t print it.
Also finished prints for orders I’ve had waiting. Now, two days of matting and packaging and I should be caught up. Somebody who ordered something wrote and said that she wouldn’t be home for a while, and could I ship in two weeks. I wrote back to tell her she had made my day.
* * *
Did Atlantic Beach again today at 14 x 14 inches. I remember going through this phase where I was trying to see how small a print could be and still hold up and have emotional impact (for want of a better phrase), and had several that I thought held up at 5 x 7. Lately, the prints have been getting larger and larger. I think this is a result of having more time to work on them and set up the big trays. I would like to go even larger with some of these prints, 20 x 24, but there isn’t room. The washer only holds 16 x 20, and even if I got a larger washer it wouldn’t fit in the bathroom. I could possibly do them in the 16 x 20 trays, sort of holding both ends of the print and making sure everything gets covered at some point, but to go to this larger size raises other logistical problems such as packaging and shipping. The larger the print, the better the packaging has to be. Still, I might get a few sheets of the larger paper and give it a try one of these days.
Since I’m at one of the points where I don’t have much to say, other than that I’m looking forward to trying out this new mat cutter today (yeah, exciting stuff), I’ll fall back on throwing in a couple of recent e-mails:
* * *
my daughter received the picture (Hug) and is absolutely in heaven! she admires your work so much and said this will be her first picture she hangs in her new apartment. thank you again. (P.S.)”
* * *
And this back and forth with P.C
“The Road Ahead” is just brilliant – your best shot yet! [based on the web image].
I think so too, but don’t know why? Can you tell me what is so appealing about it?
For me it’s the simplicity of the composition, the high contrast of the main elements which combine with the muted grays of the distant elements to provide real depth, the sense of cold isolation, and the ghost-like recording of the blurred figure – without which the shot would not succeed to anywhere near the same extent. It just all comes together in a way that gives it that magic we see in great shots, the quality that if we could rationalize and describe, would be lost.
The only way I could think to improve it would be more space between the figure and the railings, but either way it’s up there with the best that HCB produced.
I look forward to seeing more like this!
As you say, if you could describe it in words, the magic would be lost, but you’ve done a pretty good job. I actually like the separation between the blurred figure and the fence — but you’d have to see it in the large print. It’s just enough to make you feel the separation, and yet close enough so that you are slightly uncomfortable about it. [actually if the blurred figure, which was moving from right to left were too much further from the gate, it would block the view]
Anyway, I too look forward to seeing more like this if the photo Gods are with me.
* * *
I got the photo yesterday [Night Storm, 11 x 14], it is amazing. Thanks so much for sending it so quickly, I really appreciate it.
* * *
Night Storm is really good these days. It only takes me about five years to figure out how to print something. I think it was the switch to the VC Fiber that did the trick.
* * *
At the end of my first real week out of the office, a couple of things cross my mind:
You don’t have the security of the corporate world. Yeah, right. What security? But there are things that existed, such as disability insurance, vacations, etc. that you now need to buy for yourself. On the other side of the ledger, you don’t have the stiffling, ludicrous politics, the never-ending complaints of users, the sense of total mind-numbing despair, the idiotic conferences with flunkies and corporate climbers who are only sitting in that meeting at the big table to make themselves look good and cover their backsides. In short, you are now the captain of your own future. As that sinks in, you might find yourself walking down the street some day, perhaps like today, and find yourself grinning with uncontrolled pleasure for no reason at all, except that the sun is out, and the streets are filled with people, and you are walking amongst them as a free man with a soft breeze in your face. And you might think afterwards, that for the first time, the world is your oyster (which is an odd saying…) but I guess it is apt, because you have the sense that there are doors to be opened that you never even dreamed of before. But I will also say that this type of freedom can only be attained by years of servitude. You must toil in the depths of the Titanic, before you can rise up a few decks and feel the wind blowing in your face. Without the burden, there is no sense of what is to be won and what is still to be lost. And as you go about your chores, and find yourself face-to-face with the ancient stock-boy in the supermarket, and wonder what he could have done to deserve this job; greet him with the recognition that that was you a few weeks ago.
* * *
Co-Ops For Sale
It started, as most feuds start, with a relatively small event: Johnny Brown, who lived at 298 West 90th street was walking his dog in front of the building where he owned a co-op apartment. His dog, needed to relieve himself, and chose to do so on a piece of brownish shrub, what we like to call a tree in New York, which happened to be on the adjoining property at 300 West 90th. And as luck would have it, as the dog was relieving himself (or herself, I was never clear on the gender of the said dog), a Mr. Saturny happened to see this and protest. Now, Saturny was the chairman or president or whatever of the co-op board at this adjoining building and decided to lodge a formal complaint with the co-op board where Mr. Brown and his dog lived. The complaint which was drafted in legal language, and which I never actually saw, but heard about, threatened the co-op board in the Brown building with legal penalities if any of their dogs pissed on any part of the Saturny building’s property, and that included this bit of brown shrub that was supposed to be a tree.
The board met at the Brown co-op and were up in arms (not literally, but not that far from it) and countered that there were certain kids that lived in the Saturny building who were always making mischief on their property, tossing balls in the courtyard, and generally making a nuisance of themselves. And that if any of these kids were found on their property, trouble would follow (in more legal language).
And so this feud, this struggle between two upper-east side co-ops began. But this isn’t the interesting part. One day, Mr. Brown appears with a little brown badge on his suit jacket that says 298. He explains to his fellow co-opers that both of these buildings were rather large multi-unit dwellings, and nobody really knew who was from what building. So he thinks its about time that they identify themselves. Its a very small badge, really just a lapel pin. But it does identify his building. And as the feud continues, other members of 298 pick up on the idea. There are a few hold-outs who think the idea is silly, and don’t want any part of it, but they are ostricized, and made to feel foolish, and soon everyone in 298 has a brown lapel badge.
As you can imagine, the West 300 people have soon come up with their own badge. Its white, and circular, and has 300 stamped in the middle. Not even hand-made. Apparantly they’ve got some computer geek around to create these things. And it goes on from there. The 298′s decide that they need a better emblem, and go out and have something designed for them. It’s quite flashy. And there are interior decorators and other creative types who end up sewing a flag which now hangs proudly outside the building. And every move they make is matched by the West 300 people. Pretty soon both entrance-ways are filled with flags, pennants, banners, warning signs, doormen who are now in uniforms that match the flags, and there is a general air of menace between these two buildings. Passers-by stop and gawk, and wonder how this all started. Journalists have even written about it, which is how I first heard about it. And t.v. crews did stories for the local news with lead ins like, “The Co-Op Feud of the Century”
A few people in 298 saw what was coming and sold their co-ops. But the co-op had trouble finding new buyers. This scared them. Apparantly no one wanted to move into the war zone. And co-op prices began to drop in the two buildings. The tenants tried to stop the boards from continuing this foolishness, but it was not to be. Mr. Brown was president of the 298 board now, and Saturny was still president of the 300 board, and they refused to stand down. And apartment prices continued to fall in both buildings. In fact, a kind of panic set in, and as they prices fell, everyone tried to jump ship. They tried to overthrow the boards, but couldn’t because the by-laws said that the president could only be voted out of office at six-month intervals, unless illness or death prevented them from carrying on their duties. And so, within a year, both buildings were mostly empty, though well decorated with flags and bunting, and the nicely uniformed doormen were dismissed, and the place became a sort of ghost-town.
Mr. Brown and Mr. Saturny still remain, and we’ll have to follow this one to see what happens next.
* * *
Many times, people write to me and start off by asking for my opinion “as a professional” as if the fact that you make a living from the craft means anything at all other than that. I still refuse to believe that there is anything ‘magical’ about the word professional. I work the same now as when it was ‘a hobby.’ No difference. Hobby seems to mean that it isn’t really serious. Oh, just something to do, like knitting potholders. That is nonsense. People do what they need to do to survive, or to amuse themselves. Whether someone knits a scarf to keep someone from catching cold, or paints pictures, I don’t see a big difference. Both can be done well, or poorly. The only difference that I can see in the professional’s life, is that they need to take care of the business as well. Books need to be maintained, figures need to be toted up, and customers need to be acquired. In fact, this may leave little time for the actual knitting of scarves.
* * *
Added a view that just shows the limited edtion prints. Well, if anyone has a better name than ‘Collector’s Corner’ let me know. It was all I could come up with tonight. And I know its a bit rough. Will clean it up tomorrow.
* * *
Added the approximate edition numbers to the limited edtion view. Let’s see if this turns out to be a pain to keep up to date. I know, it should be automatic when a sale goes through, but it ain’t that simple. Some sales go through from eBay, some from my house, some from the website, etc. Since I currently keep this info in a database, it shouldn’t be too much trouble, but there are timing issues.
* * *
Haven’t had a chance to check-out the C+H matter cutter yet. One interesting note, is that I am a slow stubborn learner. After futzing with the Logan #701 for a few months, and complaining about it left and right, I noticed that for some odd reason, understandable only to other mentally impaired photographers, when I first got the cutter, I decided to remove the piece that the side of the board comes to rest against. I didn’t quite see any purpose to it. I would draw lines on the back of the mat with a pencil, then put the board in the cutter, and try to line it up with the drawn lines, but I wasn’t using the backstop piece. I also wasn’t using the ‘blade stopper’. So, out of the blue, I decide to put these other two pieces back into the show and see what happens. Now, you expect me to say that everything was perfect. It wasn’t. But it was better. No mats ruined. 8 big mats cut. I have some hope again in the mat-cutting business.
* * *
I’ve pretty much stopped responding to requests for ‘ideas for photography class’ or ‘can you tell me more about yourself for my photography paper’ etc. etc. After answering numerous questionaires where I feel like I’m basically doing someone’s homework for them, I say, that part of photography is coming up with your own ideas. And the few times when I did, all I requested in return is that the student send me a copy of the finished paper, and this never happened. So, I guess that’s just the way it goes for now.
* * *
Financial tidbits — working for yourself. When you work for the man (the corporation), they pay half of your social security taxes. You work for yourself, you pay about 15% of your net for Social Security. Then there’s federal and NYS tax etc., and I’m guessing that I’ll end up somewhere around 37% taxes… we’ll see. I’ll tell you something, when you actually make that money yourself, and are then forced to pay these taxes, it feels very different than when they are deducted from your paycheck. Well, it just does.
Another tidbit, as far as disability insurance goes, they pay based on what you were making. So, it seems as if it may only make sense once you are making a decent living. So, if the shutter-clicking finger gets damaged, or you go blind, and you only made a profit of 20,000, then you’d better start looking for another job real soon buddy.
* * *
I removed the ‘collector’s corner’ and just added the limited edition number to the Browse/Shop view. It seemed to me that there were just too many entry paths into the site.
* * *
There is a hierarchical pyramid in the art world, just as there is in the corporate world, but there are no name tags, or tags outside the office, so here is how to recognize the levels:
If you answer any question about what you do with, “It’s just a hobby”, then you are at the bottom of the ladder. You can of course move up a notch if you say, “It’s a hobby”, leaving out the word “just”, and if you really want to make a great leap say, “It’s an obsession” or “it’s a minor compulsion.” This is what is amazing about the pyramid, you pretty much are in charge of your own position (to a point). If you want to jump up several levels, call yourself “an artist” whether you believe it or not. What’s odd about the naming conventions is that if you say it enough times, you begin to believe it yourself. This method also works, to some degree, in the corporate world. If you call yourself a “software engineer” rather than “a programmer” you will gain more respect from those in the know, because of the cache (not to be confused with cache but I don’t know how to put the accent in) of engineer. An engineer builds things and is obviously a more respected title. To take it further, if you can call yourself, “chief engineer” and leave out “software” you double your points. This is due to the fact that “software” is doesn’t work very well. And “chief”, well, that’s a powerful leader.
But let’s skip to the top of the art pyramid (the middle levels are confusing) — at the very top is God. Okay, you can’t call yourself God without being thrown in the place they reserve for the other Gods and where you may or may not be allowed visitors. If you are an atheist, then the top spot goes to The First Cause. If you don’t believe in the first cause, and you think that the universe always existed, and perhaps just creates and re-creates itself, then we’ll have to select someone for the top spot — maybe John Ford or Picasso.
There is no doubt as to the next level down, it is the martyred artist. The artist who dies in poverty and turns out to be beloved by the world scores the 2nd highest spot. Van Gogh comes to mind as the ultimate martyr. If you are willing to live the life of an unknown, un-appreciated, and reviled person, you can apply for this position. The one problem, is that you will need to be content with moving up the ladder after you are dead.
Directly below in the third spot, are the artists who were recognized during their lifetime, didn’t suffer too much in the way of economic woes, and were recognized afterwards by generations. [hmmm, not too many in this category]
The middle tiers are a little unclear right now, so let’s skip back to the rung where hobby and profession blurs: you’ve sold at least one work of art. You are no longer, strictly speaking, a hobbyiest. But you are not a pro either. You are in limbo. This is a huge tier and can be a very happy place to live and work. You are not dependent on the income from the art, but you get satisfaction of having others plunk down money once in a while for something you did. [i'll try and flesh this out later...]
* * *
Special Advice to All People Who Are Thinking of Following In My Footsteps and leaving the corporate umbrella:
Learned the hard way that Cobra (which is the way to get your health insurance continued for 18 months after leaving the job) works like this: Say the last day of employement is January 30th (well, that’s what mine was) — your health insurance is only good until the end of the month. So then you eventually get stuff in the mail from Cobra and send it back, but there’s a lag between when you get covered again of almost two weeks, maybe more. So, if you’re smart, leave on the first. That way your health coverage is good until the end of the month, and by then your Cobra insurance should have kicked in.
* * *
Orders have dried up the last few days. A couple of inquiries but no bites. And you know what — that’s fine with me. I’m pooped. As my mom used to say, “I’m too pooped to pop.” Actually got out and did a little shooting. Stood in front of a fancy oil-painting portrait store with a big sign that said portraits, and took pictures of people walking by. My feeble attempt at irony. Well, maybe not so feeble, because one person covered their face as they went by which was unexpected.
* * *
I collected some of the name plates of fellow workers who left the corporation. Requiem for a programmer(s). They were stuck with velcro outside our offices. Here they are: Name Plates.
* * *
Busy day ahead. Someone is coming by the house to look at prints. I’m going to spend the day trying to make the studio look bigger than it is.
* * *
The woman came by because she had bought three prints on the web, and brought back two of them. Not that she didn’t like them, but they didn’t go with what she had in mind for that wall. She ended up walking out with four other prints. We spent some time arranging and re-arranging them, and it was all good natured and fun. And there’s another order or two in the works, so looks like things are picking up again. Repeat buyers. That’s a great feeling.
* * *
A photographer friend dropped by. When I showed him ‘The Road Ahead’ he said not to show it to him, he had seen it on the web and was jealous, i.e. “I wish I had taken that shot” He took a few shots of me, one or two with my camera, and I did a few shots of him, so maybe I’ll get a decent shot of myself sitting in the darkroom for the site. I saw many of his prints, and again, I guess I had the same reaction that people have when they see my prints, “Man, much better than any representation on the web.” After he left, I thought I would like to have one of those prints. But then I realized that there was no place to hang it, and it would just sit in the closet. He also talked me into submitting a print for something that Moma (Museum of Modern Art) is doing called: “Life of the City”.. You basically need to walk a print over to them, not framed, not matted, and you need to walk it over yourself, no third parties, and they say they will put it on their wall, I guess a collage sort of thing. Its interesting. They may put your print up, but they won’t tell you when its going to be up. But as my friend said, you can go over and take a picture of your print tacked to a wall in the MoMa and hold it up to your friends! See, I made it to the MoMA. Whatever.
* * *
I added a few notes about Search Engines that I thought might help others who are trying to figure out the maze of search engines. I am not an expert, and am always surprised by how my ranking moves around in these things. Its a black science akin to alchemy. But it might point someone else in the right direction.
* * *
Don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’ve slowly been increasing the sizes of the images on the site, and removing the mats. The mats are good, in their way, to give you a vague sense of the finished print and how you receive it, but the mat takes up too much screen space.
* * *
Spent a great deal of time reading your journal and loved some of the comments about what it is to be a computer geek. I think the interrupt driven anology was the best. I am one of those techies that got fed up and now refuse to work more than 40 hours a week and am unavailable by cell phone or pager after I leave the office. This has given me much more time to persue photography…
One suggestion for your website, I am curious as to your darkroom setup and equipment you use. Maybe a feature or a few photos would be an additional bonus for the viewers of your site.
[I hope to have at least one picture of my so-called darkroom (which is actually my whole house) up this week. d.b.]
Fantastic work and I applaud you for jumping from the corporate world.
* * *
In the dream, I found out that I was going to have to go into the boxing ring. I was terrified. My father was telling me not to worry. I was saying that I’m totally out-of-shape for a bout, plus I didn’t know who my opponent would be. He pointed out that a friend of mine had already gone into the ring and proven himself. He didn’t win, but he didn’t make a fool of himself either. We were back in the house on Gunhill Road in the Bronx, and I was complaining that I didn’t even have boxing trunks, or a robe or anything. And my dad suggested that I wear a bathrobe and swimming trunks. And as happens in dreams, there’s one of those quick dissolves and I’m in something like a smoky fight club. And I’m walking through the haze, down the aisle, and another fight is going on and a boxer is being carried out on a stretcher. My mother, who died many years ago, is alive again, and she is arguing with my father that I’m going to get killed in this ring. But my dad is saying that this is just something that has to be done. A sort of rite-of-passage. And I approach the ring and climb in, shaking in my boots. And the other fighter climbs into the ring. He is a small figure, hooded, and wearing Woody Allen glasses. Who is this guy? I wonder. He doesn’t look like a fighter. He turns around and I can see the lettering on the back of a silvery robe: “Your accountant” is what it says. No, not my accountant. I can’t fight my accountant. He’s more experienced in this than I am… and I wake up in a cold sweat.
And trying to figure it out, in that hazy half-awake state I remember that I was planning on “doing the books” this weekend. Getting quicken for something to put all my financial records into some kind of order.
* * *
Finally got the C+H Advantage Pro mat cutter from a friend and I’m thrilled with it. Simply no comparison to the Logan I was using. All sorts of adjustments, both for the blade depth, and the start and end points, and there is almost no bowing in the blade. Spent a lot of time trying to get the adjustments right, but once you get it, that’s it. No more drawing lines and I don’t think you need to use a mat beneath the mat you’re cutting. Overall quality is vastly superior to the Logan. Once again, it seems that you get what you pay for. I’m definitely going to pay my friend for this, and it will make life much easier for me. Also, I can stop buying pre-cut mats, which I was doing for some of the smaller sizes. My friend had bought the right-angle arm, but this thing sticks out too much for me to use (48 inches), and I don’t think its needed for the size mats I’m doing (20 x 24) because the base of the C+H is wider than the Logan base. I don’t have the manual for it yet, and there are still a bunch of knobs and things on it that I have no idea what they’re for.
* * *
The C+H mat cutter continues to be a joy to use.
* * *
Don’t know why, but I put up an eBay store:
Well, I know why, I just thought it would be easier to list discounted items there rather than always re-listing things for auction. It’s cheap enough ($10) a month to see if it’s worthwhile or not, and its slightly better than the link to my eBay stuff.
* * *
This Road Ahead print is selling lot hotcakes. (Where that expression comes from I don’t know. Do hotcakes sell well? Maybe its because in the 30′s people ate more hotcakes then they do now… but I digress). I made 7 of them when I did the first printing, and I think there’s one left… somewhere. I sort of like the eBay store. I know the design is clunky, that’s based on the template that they give you, but it’s better than the other link I had where you just see a table of what’s auctioned. The really bad thing is that when you do an eBay search, it doesn’t look through the items in the stores. At the very least, they should put up a checkbox that allows you to also search through the stores.
Every once in a while I get emails from people who have read the Leica M6 vs. Contax G2 article and say that they will go out and pick up a Leica. I do my best to preface the remarks with “This is my experience” and things of that sort, because to me it’s still a very personal thing, and I feel a responsibility (which is stupid I agree because after all, I’m not selling Leicas, and I’m doing my best to explain the difficulty of that decision…) but I wonder whether you can shortcut the process by reading someone else’s experiences? I’ve taken a very trial-and-error approach to all this. Both the website, and the camera equipment. I’ve tried everything, and tossed away the stuff that didn’t work. The one thing I wish is that I had picked up this mat cutter years ago.
Welcome to the glamorous world of photography. Yesterday I spent most of the day entering sales from 2001 and 2002 into Quicken. Today I expect to enter vendor bills. At the end of this process I should have a good idea of what my profit (not including taxes) will be. From now on, I’m not going to let things pile up like this and will try and enter financial info at least once a week.
* * *
I’m still in love with the c+h mat cutter. I’ve taken to calling it Lucille. Instead of dreading cutting the bevel mats, I look forward to it. Quite mindless.
* * *
No, I haven’t been doing any shooting lately. There is time to do it, but every day in NYC has been sunny and I think I’m just waiting for some more interesting weather.
* * *
I still have this urge to write fiction. Certain sentences go around in my head, and I want to put them down here, although they generally don’t lead anywhere.
* * *
Call me Argo. That’s not my real name. If I used my real name, well, I don’t think I would tell the story that I plan to tell. I brought a first draft of this story to my old English teacher, Mr. Marnon (that’s not his real name either), and he advised me to cut out a lot of the opening stuff, and try and get right to where the story actually begins. He said that I tended to ramble and digress. This is true. I think that the rambling and the digression happens because of the injury I received when I tripped on one of the cables in the computer room at work. But I don’t think that rambling and digression are necessarily a bad thing, because I will get around to the point, in my own way, as I just did. The story proper really did begin in the computer room.
The computer room at Farthing Inc. was too small for the number of computers that it held. They had tried to jam all the network hubs, and servers, and the phone switching system, into a room that was originally meant to hold…well, I don’t know what it was meant to hold, but since the building was a hundred years old, it wasn’t meant to hold all this crap. Should I say “this crap” or “that crap”? I’m not sure, but it was crap. Farthing Inc. isn’t there real name either. Take the “h” out and you’ll be close.
* * *
I wasn’t one of those hotshot computer guru’s. Just a back-office grunt. Most of the things I worked on were things that nobody really cared about. Even I didn’t care about them. But there was one guy at Farthing Inc. who was a computer guru. Brad Weather, Jr. Brad was in the computer room that night when I tripped and fell over the cable. Brad, was a tall, or should I say, really tall, guy. He looked liked a frozen stalagmite that had formed in the frozen computer room. You almost felt as if you could see through him, but you couldn’t of course. That night, Brad was standing in front of the array of flashing hub lights with a network gizmo, route-tracing, I guess. He had been re-wiring some hubs and had left his tools on the floor, and that’s how I ended up tripping, and as I was falling grabbed onto some wires and unplugged a mail server.
I looked up at Brad, and things began spinning. There was a slight bump on my head where I had brushed the corner of one of the cabinets. Lights were flashing, both in my head and in the room. Brad tried to help me up, but he was too weak. Brad barely had the strength to hold onto his clipboard and pen.
“Jesus, Argo,” he muttered. “Watch where you’re goin’”.
One of the UPS (uninterupted power supplies) must have also been yanked out of the wall, and started beeping. As I was getting to my feet, Mr. Joseph, the head of MIS came into the room and started asking what was going on.
Yeah, Mr. Joseph. Mr. Joseph was a suit. We had nicknamed everyone in the place and his nickname was Aspirin. You can see why. He gave everyone a headache, and Joseph Aspirins…
* * *
Ended up buying Quickbooks yesterday, and I’m re-entering sales and purchases for the millionth time. Yes, you can export this stuff from Quicken, but somehow, something was lost in the translation.
* * *
I continue to add things to the eBay store. Not sure what exactly my strategy is with this, but its easy enough to do. I’m sort of thinking that I’ll put some of the open editions and less expensive things there…. we’ll see. The thing is, that when you browse stores in the photography category, your listing is based on the number of items for sale. So, in the hope of people stumbling across my eBay store, I need to have about 15 items at least for sale. So far, traffic to the eBay store has been minimal.
* * *
I was coming back from Sedona, maybe two years ago, and the stranger on the plane next to me was the head of a new dot-com that specialized in selling art. It’s a pretty long flight, and we got to chatting, and I told him that I was just beginning to make my own web site for selling pictures. He thought this was a pretty bad idea. Not that selling pictures through the web was a bad idea, but why should I bother with all the headaches of the web site, when I should spend my time ‘making art’. Let others who specialize in running web sites for artists do the design, post the images, and take care of all that businessy stuff. I sheepishly told him that selling art through one of these big commercial sites might work, but my gut instinct was that a more personal approach, even if it wasn’t all that fancy was better. My reasoning at the time, was that a) you would just get lost with all the other so-called artists, b) people wouldn’t have any idea of the person, or better yet the personality behind the pictures, and c) you had similar problems as you have with galleries, in that the overhead or as we like to say in the Bronx, “their cut of the action” would be too high. We argued about this, politely of course, for an hour or so, and then stopped talking to each other for the rest of the flight.
What prompted me to think about this again was a line from an e-mail I received today…
“Maybe some folks become attached to artworks on the works’ own impacts/merits. I tend to become attached to things when I know more of the person doing the work. In your case, it’s both! It’s just that from reading your journals there is a ‘person’ behind the image that’s just as much a part of it all. It’s what motivated me to make my first-ever ‘art’ purchase on ‘Promenade’last week!” [W.S]
And not to toot my own horn — but there’s something to be said about this. I think at the time I felt that the internet was often devoid of personality. The bigger the sites, the more they lacked a sense of the people, or persons behind the screen.
* * *
Other things about the eBay store that I’m not crazy about:
They don’t easily show you the opening bid price in the store. It’s true that you can click on the tab that says “Auctions Only” but even in that view you don’t see the opening bid.
Also, the stuff you’ve put up in the store, clogs up your normal auctions, making it difficult to see what’s being auctioned, and what’s being sold. I would rather that they’d give you the choice of whether the store items should be listed with the auction items or not.
* * *
I’m finally doing what I should have done from day one — putting sales and receipts into Quickbooks. The main thing anyone out there who cares would notice is that the sales receipts now look “professional”. Yeah, like that is going to mean anything to anyone. Wow, the print was beautiful, but that sales receipt… that was a work of art.
Now the expenses go in. And then paying taxes, and we’ll see if anything is left. Yikes. It seems clear that the greatest material expense, by far, is going to be the mats. I’m afraid to put those costs in. The results are in: I lost $16 last year. I guess I’m like all the other dot-coms but in microcosm… but on the other hand, bought a bunch of things last year, like the Leica, framing that was never really used, lighting equipment that was never really used… and in the beginning of the year, my packaging and matting was costing an arm and a leg. This year looks much better.
* * *
This year looks better but its going to be a squeeker. The big charges are mat boards and the fiber paper. Other things like chemicals and film are miniscule. I also haven’t put in shipping charges yet… ugh. But it is sort of fun to see where I stand. Can you imagine what the bottom line would be if I actually did any advertising (or at least advertising that didn’t work)? It’s a good thing I didn’t really keep track of expenses for the last two years, or I would have been more nervous about this jump into the “self-employed” world. Well, anyway, I’ve figured out the mat cutting thing (yes I mention it again), and from now on I start ordering the big sheets and cutting them down as needed. I’ve thought about selling the prints un-matted — but then you don’t get the sense of owning a personalized work of art because if you get it matted, the outer mat isn’t signed. Maybe I could make a stamp with my signature and give it out?
* * *
I’m already thinking of closing the eBay store which I opened 5 days ago. No sales from there, and very little traffic. There’s also something fundamentally wrong with the idea because you don’t find these items in the general search, and in a way you are competing against yourself. The auctions have worked well for me. I will let the store stay open through the weekend, and if there are no sales from it, will close it. Chalk it up to another noble experiment.
* * *
Finally got out and did some shooting. Sort of gray day, and then bursts of sunlight. I think this was the first real shooting I did since leaving work. Felt great. I’m still loving the angle-viewfinder. Find myself stooping down and shooting at lower angles than usual. Best thing I came across, someone had tossed out two very old looking prints, sort of sepia tone, and large, maybe 11 x 14, and they were just sitting there on top of some garbage cans. Probably spent half a roll fooling around with this. Then on to the park, where you could feel the air lightly coming across the water, and spent some time shooting a puddle, again, from a very low (and for me) unusual angle. I now have three or four rolls to develop. And finally will get around to matting and shipping some prints that I’m a week behind with because of all the bookkeeping.
* * *
My Cobra insurance finally came through. The books are done. The balance sheet doesn’t make any sense because the checking account is so out of whack, not having entered anything into Quickbooks for it… But that’s about as far as I’m going with this bookkeeping for now. Sales and expenses.
* * *
I’m closing the eBay store this morning. That’s got to be the shortest store in history. Just too many things I don’t like about it. Even in the closing process, things don’t really make sense. I at first thought I would change the duration of the items, make them really short, and let them expire, but they don’t give you the option to do that. At least I couldn’t see how. So then you go to remove the item, and they give you radio boxes of reasons to choose, but none of those reasons make sense… you just want to close the store, so it doesn’t make sense to have items still listed. Maybe if you close the store, those items disappear, but I don’t think so. So I am ending up choosing the radio button “mistake in the listing” as the reason for removing the items.
I was falling asleep last night, thinking of a pie chart of how my days are spent (as far as the business goes). So far, since leaving work I would guess its something like this:
40% of time spent matting and packaging.
20% futzing with the web site and eBay listings, search engines etc.
10% trying to get the books in order (but this should really lessen now that things are in order)
5% with emails
5% actually printing bills, making the deposits through Verisign Payflow.
In other words, so far at least, only 20% of the time is actually spent with the photographic process.
* * *
eBay store officially closed. It was annoying me to much to wait through the week-end. I’ll continue to simply post auctions once in a while.
* * *
There’s an expense I forgot to put in the ledgers… verisign certificate…just renewed for for two years: $498.
* * *
But I have been shooting again the last two days, and it is still very exciting to walk the streets of New York. It seems to me that every block holds a different surprise, like unwrapping a present. Today, for example, was walking down Park Avenue, and noticed a business-type guy on the cell phone, eating an apple, walking, and I just walked beside him for almost four blocks. He was so engrossed in his outdoor business meeting, something about someone who had been put in jail for fraud or something, that I was completely invisible, although I wasn’t more than two feet away during this time. I was trying to get him biting into the apple and talking at the same time. Not sure if I got that or not, but I got close. What should be so fascinating about this, I have no idea, but it was fascinating at the time and I walked past the street where I was supposed to turn to do some of my own chores. It may have simply been the black overcoat he was wearing, or the look of imperial splendor, and I felt like one of those peons in the crowd, although there was no crowd, that are simply not worthy of attention. Sort of the way you and I often walk by the homeless pretending not to notice.
* * *
I know it seems as if everything in here has been about the business… but somewhere I found time to shoot this: Overhanging Trees
And this is a shot of me in the darkroom / apartment. Bill E. had a bit of camera shake during this one, but it was a nice relaxed moment for me… More to come tomorrow…
* * *
Struck up a brief conversation with this guy who was working on an ad for the Flat Iron. The “Eye” on the top was the first part of the ad.
Another view of overhanging tree against the East river. And here’s the shot of what was “tossed out” in the garbage.
This one of the Man With Cane interests me for some reason. I’m curious about whether I can get some detail in the sky when I actually print it.
* * *
The Olympics come to a close, and I’m left with one or two puzzlements. I know that a lot of people make fun of curling, but it seems to make sense to me, just another type of shuffleboard. And that thing where they ski and then shoot makes sense, maybe that’s the way the hunters first got started in Norway. Racing around red and blue poles, that’s fine, the poles represent trees. Luge — kid’s go out luging all the time, although I wish that there was simply a big wide hill and everyone went down at the same time so you could see who was winning and who was losing without having to stare at a tiny clock.
But what about the bobsled event? The one thing that they never show or explain, and that is a complete mystery, is: after the 1500 pound bobsled finishes, how do they get it up to the top again? Why is this part of the event never shown? Do the bobsledders have to push it back up the track? Now, there is an olympic event. Is there another track next to the bobsled track where it’s towed up? Why is this part never shown. I think it would be just as interesting as the downhill part. Why is it called a “bob” sled? Is it because the bobsledders “bob” up and down? It seems to me that its closer to Nascar racing without the engines. Why don’t they just put engines in the things, and have real races. How much of the race is dependent on sled design? If the Jamaicans were in the German’s sled, would they have won?
What do they do after they jump in the sled. I have a friend who has done some bobsledding and said it is very demanding. There are all sorts of G forces on the necks of these sledders, and that you have to have a really thick neck to do bobsledding. But we never see their necks bulging with the strain. Are there neck exercises they do?
Here’s another mystery about bobsledding. According to the laws of physics, as I understand them, everything falls at the same rate of speed, namely 32 feet per second/squared. If this is true, and if the bobsled is simply falling, then why do they pack these things with the heaviest sledders they can find? As you can see, this event is very mysterious to me.
Maybe the reason for singling out the bob-sled event is that it somehow doesn’t occur naturally in nature. The figure skaters can go out to a frozen pond and spin around. The skiers can take to the slopes. The hunters can grab a gun and go after rabbits on skis. The lugers can find a hill. But where do you find a bobsled track in nature? How did this thing get started? Where was the moment in evolution in which the sled turned into the bobsled? Where did the idea of building a banked track come from? It couldn’t have been done by kids.
And my final question (I promise) is — if these bobsledders are basically sitting in a hurtling piece of metal with only their heads sticking out, why do they all wear these tight-fitting lycra suits?
* * *
A young photographer e-mailed me to say, among other things, that after seeing my shot of the Window at the Met, he had done a “homage” to my shot. His name is Clint Balcom, and I laughed out loud when I saw it. I’m not sure what the laughter was about, just that it seemed very funny to see someone actually go out and frame, and shoot something that I had done years ago. Maybe this will start a new trend. Here is his rendition.
* * *
More about bobsleds… info provided by J.C. via the Washington Post
Although sleds have been around for centuries, bobsled racing didn’t begin until 1877 in Davos, Switzerland, where a steering mechanism was attached to a toboggan.
The world’s first “bobsleigh” club was founded in St. Moritz, Switzerland, in 1896, spurring the growth of the sport in winter resorts throughout Europe. By 1914, bobsled races were taking place on a wide variety of natural ice courses.
The first racing sleds were made of wood but were soon replaced by steel sleds that came to be known as bobsleds, so named because of the way crews bobbed back and forth to increase their speed on the straightaways.
In 1923, the Federation Internationale de Bobsleigh et de Tobogganing (FIBT) was founded and the following year a four-man race took place at the first Winter Olympics in Chamonix, France. A two-man event was added at the 1932 Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y., a format that has remained to the present. American-built sleds and American athletes ruled the sport until the late 1950s, when Europeans came out with better sleds. By far, the most successful bobsledding nations have been Switzerland and Germany. The sport has since expanded around the world to include countries such as Jamaica, Armenia, Morocco, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, and at the 1995 World Championships, no fewer than eight nations placed in the top 10 in the four-man event while seven nations were represented in the top 10 of the two-man competition.
* * *
A lot of people have asked what has changed since I left work. I would have to say that the biggest change is that I have become more of a housewife type. I cook all my meals. Do a grocery shopping once a week. The floors get swept. I wash my own clothes rather than dropping them off at the laundry. And happily display my grocery bonus card to the checkout girl for any possible discount I can get. Once or twice a week, I make a huge thing of iced-tea. It’s not that money is tight, but it has more meaning to me now. I used to jump in a cab to go downtown and pick up supplies, now I hop on the subway ($8 saved). In other words, money, dollars, have become associated with freedom in a tangible way.
When I was at N.’s house a few days ago, I was shocked that she and her friends had bought all their prepared food from a fancy gourmet shop. I saw shrimp and pasta, and fancy salads, and my first thought was, how much this must have cost. I think that I’m slowly turning into my immigrant grandmother. Friends that drop by always say, “let’s go grab a bite.” The cash register rings in my head. I try to talk them into a nice “home-cooked” artist’s meal. How about a nice Spaghetti a la Beckerman? But no one seems to trust my cooking yet.
“You used to laugh about, everybody that was hanging out, now you don’t, laugh so loud, now you don’t feel so proud,..” Like a rolling stone.
I also discovered that I could buy Crescent archival mats from DickBlick.com for about half what I was paying for the more expensive Westminster mats.
Anyway, I have a big day of printing ahead of me. Sales during the last two weeks have been slow. And now, thanks to Quickbooks, I can press a button and see exactly where I stand. That little spot outside the Met is starting to call to me, and I’m sure I’ll be out there by April.
* * *
The first time I was in Paris was probably 9 years ago. I went with the Rolleiflex. I shot a lot of film, but my developing left something to be desired, and a lot of it was ruined. But this one shot that survives (Paris Steps) is beautiful. I had forgotten about it, but ran across a print from 9 years ago, my only one, and ended up selling it to M. when she came to the house. So this morning, I went searching for the negative, and found all sorts of interesting things to print, but ended up taking another shot at the steps, at a larger size. It is a difficult print to do. There are really burned out highlights from the store windows at the bottom of the steps, that barely respond to burning in, but the rest of the print stands up well. I’m not sure if those highlights are annoying or not. I’ll see how it dries down. I’d really like to go back again with what I’ve learned in the last 10 years.
* * *
THE LIECA 7 IS REAL.Thanks B.E. for the link.
This really gets into the M7. Thanks to G.H. for the link.
February comes to a close. The first two weeks were very busy. The next two weeks, pretty much of a dry spell as far as income goes. But its a nice Spring-like day, and the world seems awful nice today. Something about the softness of the breeze reminds me of the first film I ever did. I was fifteen. I did a 16mm short called, “D&O by DB”. “D&O” was an abbreviation for “Down and Out” and it was set to the song “Nobody knows you when you’re down and out.” Clapton covered it a few years ago. But long before that, my cousin knew it, and it was used as the soundtrack for my endeavor. There was no M-TV back then. I recorded my cousin playing it on the guitar… “Once I lived the life of a millionaire…I spent my money, I didn’t care. Took all my friends out for a mighty good time. Bought bootleg liquor, champagne and wine….”
And I somehow convinced my friend George (also 15 at the time), to dress up in a tux, and walk around the streets of the Bronx handing out dollar bills. I remember, that I wanted him to smoke a cigar, but he refused. We even did a shot of him burning bills. I found a girl, Laura, I think was her name, and we convinced the local hotdog place to let me film there for a half hour or so, with George and Laura eating pastrami sandwhiches, which seemed like the height of luxury to me at the time. When we were finished, the owner asked me to pay for the sandwhiches. I told him that he would be getting great publicity from this. That I had taken a shot of the outside featuring the store’s sign. “You still owe me $10″. That was about 1/2 my film budget. I got into a fight with him and said I would never be back again. Even though this was the best deli in the neighborhood, I never went back. My dad would stop by and they would always ask about me. Why wasn’t David around anymore? My dad never had the heart to explain that my pride as filmmaker had been hurt and I was holding this grudge.
“Then I began to feel so low. Didn’t have a dollar, had no place to go. If I ever get my hands on a dollar again. I’m gonna hold on to it, ’til the eagle grins.”
We lived near a large graveyard, Woodlawn Cemetary. I dressed George up in an old raincoat, dirtied his face, and asked him to lie down in the gutter by the entrance to the Cemetary. Again he refused. So I got my father, who at that point was a college professor, to don his old raincoat, and lie in the gutter. The neighbors all came out to see this. “Professor Beckerman,” they cried “are you alright?”
“Please, stand back”, I yelled back, “You’re spoiling the shot.”
Anyway, it was a nice Spring day, and I had my poor dad lie in the gutter for quite some time with a half-empty bottle of booze (really ginger ale). George stood by, aghast at this. And eventually the film was finished. Slightly over-budget because of the deli guys, but finished. And there was a nice premiere at the local community center, and the film was eventually chosen to be on Public television as part of a young filmmakers show.
I never saw Laurie again (who I had a crush on). My father went on to become assistant dean. And George went off to live in the suburbs. It would be another fifteen years before I picked up a movie camera again (at NYU). But the breeze the wafts through the window, is the same breeze of that day, carrying these memories along.
* * *
Put all the “so-called” articles on the home page. People didn’t seem to be able to find them on the ETC. page.
* * *
Man, when I was looking through my negatives for Paris Steps, I came across another thirty or so negatives that are worth printing. Even found I had some of the WTC. Maybe if they are interesting prints I can give the cash to the firehouse or something. I hear that all these charities are totally out of hand. I wonder if that’s going to be the next scandel. I know it happened with the Red Cross… Anyway, there are a couple of prints from my first trip to France, and some shooting I did in Greenpoint Brooklyn a few years ago that I have to revisit.
* * *
I went online to apply for an American Express small business card because they give you 10% discount on fedex shipping. Lo and behold, as I’m trying to enter my street address, there’s only one field for the street address, although there are two “labels” and that one line only takes 20 characters. Even my puny little cart let’s you enter your street address. Here’s this huge corporation, that’s gone through all the trouble of setting up this fancy site to get people like me to apply for the card, and I can’t do it. Can’t chop 243 East 83rd Street, Apt. 3B… to 243 East 83rd St. #3B (still too long).
So I click on the little button that says “leave feedback” about the site, and I tell my sad story, and click the submit button, and guess what… it comes back and says there was an error submitting my feedback…. so I click on the button with the phone numbers, since now I’m just going to do the stupid thing over the phone, and Explorer freezes up… “The horror…. the horror.”
I’m always amazed at how some of these big companies get by. We did a lot of work with Amex years ago when I was at the AGENCY and the amount of money spent on inept projects is astounding. I’m not going to single them out, because we did it too. But there was always this urgency about everything with Amex. “Did you do it yet… did you meet this deadline…” And six months later, the project would turn out to be utterly worthless to anyone but the consultants that got rich off it.
* * *
Had about 5 secs of wet snow in NYC. I ran out to the snow like a maniac with the camera. I stood in front of the Met and took pictures of people getting out of cabs. I told myself, “no more trees”. I’m not shooting the damned trees anymore. I wasn’t happy with anything that I did in the park last week of the trees, the overhanging trees, the non-overhanging trees, the silhouetted trees… I was just going to concentrate on people getting out of cabs in the snow. Shot almost two rolls of this. I seem to be fascinated with that moment when the person is half in and half out of the cab. Don’t ask me why, I have no idea. Maybe its the umbrellas being opened, or the foot just stepping out. Whatever it is, I was transfixed by this stuff for about a half hour.
* * *
I get inquires about using my prints for stock purposes, but somehow these things never pan out.
* * *
On the materials front — I’m finding better sources for some of my matting supplies. Just ordered archival strips from DickBlick.com. If they turn out to be the same stuff I was getting from LightImpressions… I may switch my business to them (half the price).
* * *
I’ll admit that Dylan didn’t do his best song at the Grammies, and even though I have the CD and know the words, I doubt if anything he said was intelligable. But… do you expect the oracle to be clear? I keep trying to sell my friend Chuck on Dylan, but every time he hears him perform he calls me with, “what was he saying?” Oh, well. But it looks like bluegrass music got a good boost.
* * *
Spent most of the day re-arranging things in the apartment to make room for the larger mat boards I ordered, since I will now be cutting everything down by hand rather than having anything pre-cut. And I’m also making room to start arranging prints for sellling on the street. I always knew that if sales dropped off (as they have during the last two weeks), my next step was to go back outside the Metropolitan Museum, where I had pretty good success my only day out there. There are a lot of nice things about doing this: you get to go out and interact with people (something I really miss on the web); it is a cash and carry business (no shipping involved); and you get to be outside, which I’m looking forward to. Should be ready in two or three weeks, just in time for Spring.
* * *
I’m waiting for my Crescent mats. If these turn out to be good quality, then I’ve cut down substantially on another bit of overhead. The thing about the web business is that its simply not reliable. You move around in the search engines. You drop to the second page in a big engine, and sales dry up. It’s the old saw: “Location, Location, Location”. The other thing it is much, much easier to sell prints when people can see and flip through the real prints. The only difficulty with outdoor sales is that to get a spot, you’ve got to get out pretty early, maybe 6:30am, but people don’t start coming by until 10am or 11am. I also am determined to get at least a few of the larger prints out there, and not to bring the touristy stuff. For example, I want to show “Paris Steps”. Now whether anyone in New York is interested in a shot of Paris, I don’t know. But it is currently my favorite print. Maybe, you always like the last thing the best.
* * *
I can’t think of a better way to start off the new year than with another quote from Miller — yes, another quote from Nexus which I’m just about finished with, but lingering over… but which line to quote? I’ve taken to marking passages and underlining words I never even heard of, much less understand…
“What could be more considerate — better manners! — than to treat thoughts, ideas, inspirational flashes, as flowers of delight? What better work habits than to greet them with a smile each day or walk among them musing on their evanescent glory? True, now and then I might make so bold as to pluck one for my buttonhole. But to exploit it, to send it out to work like a whore or a stockbroker — unthinkable. For me it was enough to have been inspired, not be perpetually inspired. I was neither a poet nor a drudge. I was simply out of step.” Henry Miller, Nexus
* * *
Finally got around to printing Flying Leaf. What an odd shot. If you squint at it, it seems to be Jupiter with a moon floating by. The texture of the ground is sharp enough and barren enough to give that lunar feeling. I’m not sure if you would grasp exactly what was going on without the title, but if you stared at it long enough, it might hit you after a few drinks.
* * *
This left on my answering machine by my dad…
“For the new year, would you like all your wishes to come true? If that’s what you want, then I wish for that too.”
My silent answer — “No thank you, dad. I’ve had plenty of trouble when anything I wished for came true… Let’s let some greater or wiser being do the wishing.” Remind me the next time I wish for something to leave well enough alone. Reminds me of those ‘Monkey’s Paw’ stories we used to tell at camp. You know, a guy finds a magical Monkey’s Paw which has the power to grant all wishes, and the poor guy usually ends up dying a horrible death, or just losing what he started off wanting. I guess this is the Bedazzled theme. Although that was a variation, in that the guy never really did get exactly what he wished for…
* * *
I really don’t do much experimenting in the darkroom — every few years I might change papers just for the hell of it. So, a few weeks ago I picked up a pack of Ilford warmtone (5 x 7) and I did a print on it today. Untoned, the paper looks pretty much the same as a cold-toned paper, or at least nothing dramtic. But toned — yikes. I have selenium sitting around that I haven’t been using, and I mixed up a batch at about a ratio of 3 parts water to 1 part rapid selenium toner, and threw the one scrap into the tray and waited. Didn’t take long, and the thing began to change to a nice coppery tone. I toned the print for about 8 minutes, and honestly, I was too tired at the end of the printing session to measure carefully — but I saw, as of course have many others, that some of my prints might benefit greatly from this paper/toner combination. Especially, nature, trees, etc. I guess its some of the shots of both the east side park, and Central Park that it would be fun to tone this way.
* * *
Nov 1, 2001
My first day back at work was nothing more traumatic than total and absolute boredom. There was almost nothing to do. If there had been a clock in the office, I guess I would have watched it.
My boss, who I really like, and have worked with for eight years send he was retiring in December. He had been talking about retiring from the first day I met him. And I guess he’s had enough.
Received some prints done with the Pieziography system, and wasn’t too impressed. The best I can say is that it is like the difference between a watercolor (inkjet) and an oil painting (darkroom). There is just a certain luminous quality that you get in a good darkroom black and white that I haven’t yet seen in this inkjet process. Color is another story. I have seen color inkjet prints that are every bit as beautiful as good Cibachromes.
* * *
Nov 2, 2001
For the first time since the WTC I actually did a bit of relaxed shooting this morning by the East River. Even though I wasn’t actually shooting the water, just the feeling of the breeze and the slight fog coming off the water made me feel great. Felt very loose, and calm, and seeing things sharply. I’m still shooting with Delta 400. Haven’t actually seen results of it yet. Left two rolls with the lab yesterday, and will pick it up on Monday.
* * *
eBay has really been a great way for me to get more exposure, and their feedback mechanism is a great way to get reactions from customers. I just added this link to my eBay feedback
* * *
Nov. 3, 2001
Excerpts from News Conference…
Thank you for coming. As you all know, I have recently been appointed as the leader of the I.I.I., and I am here to make an important announcement. I am sorry to have to report this, but in our opinion, a great number of deaths are likely. In fact, we believe that each one of us will die.
This is very startling news, Mr. Little. Can you tell us when this will happen?
Unfortunately, I cannot say when this will happen, but we believe that for most of us, it will happen within the next one hundred years..
The next hundred years?
That is correct.
But, sir — almost nobody lives past one hundred. That’s something that we know already.
Yes. That is already common knowledge. Nevertheless, I felt compelled, to make this announcement because otherwise, as people die, and if your government said nothing about it, well, we might be blamed afterwards for not releasing this information.
So, you are reporting to the people of Lompac that they are not immortal.
Correct. As far as we have been able to determine, through extensive testing, there are no immortal people in our country. Of course, we haven’t tested people in every country, but I can say that your tax dollars, have been hard at work and we have discovered that most people will eventually die. We have made tests on rats, goats, and other…
Are we to understand that the Lompac government has been using our tax money to kill animals in order to see if…
Kill animals? Of course not. No animals have been harmed in any of these studies. In fact, we haven’t spent much money at all on this. For the most part, our research consists of reading obits in the Lompac Ledger and then going to these funerals to confirm that the people mentioned are actually dead.
These studies began in 1901 under the direction of Frank Spindlehoffer Sr. and were being carried on by his grandson, Frank Spindlehoffer Jr. until he took a nasty spill in the bathtub and proved his thesis. I have now been appointed as the new President of the Immortal Investigations Institute, which is why I am here. Thank you all for coming and have a safe trip home.
Just back from the NYC marathon. Shot four rolls before the first runner even appeared. It was fantastic. I was near the Poland Springs Water people — and there was loud rock music blaring, and a nice cool beautiful day, and there were moments, as certain music blasted — ‘Born in the USA’ etc. that I had tears welling up as I shot. And then they put on what always seemed a little corny to me — “New York, New York” and I really lost it. I felt like the spirit of NYC was coming back. That the defiance was there. That fear had disapated.
The cops were nicer than usual. I was standing in the middle of first avenue for a while, and no one bothered me about a press pass. The security was there — but a feeling of compradery was also there.
I have shot the NYC marathon for years, and you’ll notice there’s not a single shot of it on the site. I am sure that today I got a lot of good stuff. I was totally in the mood, and in the zone, and before I knew it, all my film was gone. I thought my spirit and feeling for the sweetness of people was gone, but it came back stronger than ever.
This was the first time I shot it with the Leica. Nuff said.
* * *
I had, from an early age, a feeling that everything, and everyone would disappear someday. My uncle who was sitting across from me would be gone. The view from my bedroom window would disappear. The apartment would dissolve. And everyone and everything that I knew would someday be gone. And if not gone, changed. I don’t think that at the age of 14 or 15 I could put this feeling into words, as I can now, but I can remember photographing my sisters, my mother and father, my friends, with this sense of trying to capture them before they evaporated into time.
The reason that I write this now, is that I was looking through some old negatives from thirty plus years ago, and was amazed at what I was trying to do. There are many photographs which are simply my feet in the foreground, on the window sill, with the Park across the way in the distance. Over and over, I took this shot. There are shots of my Uncle eating a sandwich at the table, where I seem to be about two feet from him and he is giving me that look of annoyance that I remember so well. I try now, to understand where this feeling came from. Even today, I seem to be attracted to just ordinary things that are around me that I feel will soon be gone.
Some of it must go back to the early years on University Avenue — where my world, my apartment, my school, and the things that I loved as a kid, disappeared as the neighborhood ‘changed’. We lived on the border of what was mostly an Irish neighborhood, that very quickly was eaten up by the projects, and crime, and when I was around 13 we picked our things up, and moved. By the time we moved, murders in the neighborhood were commonplace. The building that I grew up was abandoned. Almost the entire street across from where I lived was filled with empty buildings used for shooting galleries. The deli was gone. The candy store burned down. The place where I used to take piano lessons was leveled. And for a long time, that street, the street where I played, and dreamed — became one of those South Bronx pictures that you used to see in the papers.
I never worked in color. The images of my childhood are still in black and white. Color was something the neighbors had in their new t.v. set. My dreams and memories, the early films I saw, were all in black and white. When I see color photographs today, with their vivid eye-popping saturation, they don’t look like the world I see, or the world I want to remember.
* * *
I’ve been to this spot in Central Park a million times, but this time, something magical happened — surface tension on the pond — lighting, clouds, and the city in the background, and then turning the print upside down!
Here it is. I haven’t actually printed it yet, just scanned it, but I like the feeling where the leaves floating on the pond seem like stars.
Phew. The Big Order (33 prints) arrived in England in good shape, and the customer is happy! Here’s an excerpt:
“Photographs arrived yesterday!! Also had delivery of the frames from Nielsen (profile 73 which is quite deep).
We both loved the the prints which more than met our expectations. Obviously the internet does not begin to do them justice with a lot of the detail being lost. Am very happy with the size as well.”
Although I packaged it as best I could — I had nightmares that it would be destroyed in shipping, and then what would I do?
Now I have another four or five prints to get in the mail, and then I’ll get a chance to print the new thing (which I feel like calling ‘Starry Day’ .
Results from the Delta 400 film are promising. The speed actually seems to be higher than 400! This is the first 400 film where I might actually rate it higher than 400 for normal processing!
* * *
Asked my boss again if he would fire me. Two days back at the job, and I am determined to leave. Just too boring for words. Irony — everyone is so concerned about the economy and their jobs and I want to be fired. I don’t think I’d be eligible for unemployment insurance because of the photo business, (although I’m not sure about that) but I would like to get severance pay after 9 years; and make my 401K match for the year.
But I’m ready to cut back on the number of channels I’m getting on the cable box; pick up a bunch of rice and noodles; and as I told my sister and friends — you may find me dropping by more often than usual for a meal. Let’s see what can be worked out.
* * *
I had been having this email conversation with Grant about Piezography/inkjet prints etc. and I had received one inkjet from him (not Piezo) and a few from J. which were done with the Piezo process — and then I sent him two prints from my darkroom and here’s the reaction:
Got your prints today. The steps of the met print is amazing. The black is just so, BLACK! It’s like there’s a life and a texture in the black areas of the print, whereas in an inkjet, the black areas are very dull and flat. The picture itself is fantastic as well. Thanks for sending it. I’ll have to see about doing some real printing…
To be honest, I was hoping that the Piezo prints would blow me away and make it feasible to toss the darkroom stuff, but no such luck.
* * *
I see, looking back at my journals that Dec. 25th will make it two years since I put up the web-site and I feel like its a good time to look back and take stock of the experience…
For all my complaining and whining in the journals — it has been a good two years. I remember when I started just wondering if any print would sell. Whether the whole thing wasn’t a dumb idea. Whether the work involved in making this a ‘business’ would detract from the enjoyment of photography. And the answer to that, at least today, is no — I am still as determined and excited, maybe more than before about the possibilities. The things that irked me, many having to do with packaging, and matting, have mostly been solved. The question about whether anyone would visit the site without advertising has been answered — yes — they will.
The big question, about whether it is possible to survive from sales has yet to be answered, but I am close enough to it that I am ready to take the leap of faith into the unknown. What have I learned?
- I can cut my own window mats.
- I can attract more visitors to the site by using eBay to sell and to market.
- You cannot, at least I cannot, sell expensively priced prints through the web, though it can be done in galleries.
- It is possible to do all of this from a tiny studio apartment, so long as you are willing to ‘think outside the box’ literally.
- This journal, which I thought would be a chore, is not at all. I have always kept journals, so there was nothing new about this, other than complete strangers are reading it.
- No one who orders prints is out to ‘rip me off’. In two years, there has not been a single returned print, or stolen credit card number or anything like that.
- And the bottom line, is that turning this into a business — has not killed the fun of it. I remember saying to myself that so long as this thing remained exciting and fun, I would stick with it. Though I can see how it could. I am lucky in that I like doing boring grunt work (or at least I can put up with it). There is no glamour to it. There is nothing all that ego-gratifying about standing in a gallery and pointing at work. In fact, so far, the worst experiences have all come from the cocktail type parties at galleries.
- What else have I learned? There are a lot of people who want to do this, but are not willing to spend the time learning the little things. I have received many emails from people, and generally, the most illiterate and ill-thought out ones were from photography students who I think were trying to get me to do their homework for them.
- If anyone remembers the movie ‘Treasure of Siera Madre’ — and you think of Humphry Bogart (Fred C. Dobbs) and Tim Holt learning what it really means to prospect for gold — that its mostly labor, that you don’t just stumble over nuggets and pick them up from the ground.
Well that’s is the paradigm for the photography business. And despite the labor, the old prospector is always ready to go back for more if someone will give him a stake.
* * *
I was wondering through B&W sites while I had down time at work today, researching for a shoot I have this weekend. I happened across your website and found a picture called “Newspaper Reader”. I was wondering what camera you used and all the other juicy stuff that made this the most striking photograph on the site (to my eyes anyway).
Simply the result of shooting on the subways for about ten years.
But here are the details –
Leica M6 with a 35mm/f1.4
Open all the way at f1.4, handheld, and probably about 1/15 of second (hence the blurring of those just walking by).
But the secret — if there was a secret — was that the guy with the paper and the umbrella, was very strong side-backlighting that combined with very narrow depth of field gives the effect.
* * *
Printed the City, Clouds, Sky shot– (not much of a name) — but heck of a good print. Looks almost exactly as it does on the web. I remember that at the time, I had been just sitting on this rock looking at the way the surface tension on the pond was slightly distorting the clouds. I actually took two shots. The first one had a touch of the buildings, and then the idea of placing the buildings more prominently must have struck me because the second shot is just right.
Experiences with Delta 400 are making me happy, although I still think it is actually faster then the 400 its rated at.
* * *
Brilliant. After two years of writing my name and address onto Fedex labels, I just called them and asked for labels with my name on it. No problem. Should have them in 3-5 days. I don’t know about others but I love the Fedex people. The place where I drop the packages off is generally empty or near empty. I just sent something to the Netherlands and the guy on the other end just tracked it and said it left the States already.
* * *
Received two huge boxes of mailers from Brasspack today. And even figured out where to put them without fearing they’d come crashing down on my head. One thing is a box of 100 13 x 17″ flat mailers. And the other is a box of fifty 22 x 27 flat mailers for the big stuff. I have three large prints to send out — lets see how that works.
* * *
Packed my first two 20 x 24 mats into the BrassPack mailer. Not bad. Made some cardboard corners for the edges of the mats, and put in a few pieces of fedex cartons, and then taped an additional mailer to the package. Not bad. Now lets see what it costs to send it fedex to NYC.
The whole process took me about fifteen minutes and looks better than the old method I was using of taping and cutting cardboard boxes which I think used to take me about an hour to put together. Exciting stuff, huh?
* * *
Just dropped off the prints at Fedex — and the price is not bad: $10. That’s for two large prints, with the extra mailer on the front. So with packaging, my cost is probably about $15. I’m a happy guy.
* * *
Just a few quick questions for a paper I’m writing on my favorite photographers:
1. What do you like about photography?
2. What is your favorite part of the camera? The lens or the shutter?
3. Other than your own favorite photographers, who would you say has influenced your photography the most?
4. Do you think that black and white photography is more emotional than colored photography, and if so, why and if not why not?
Thanks in advance, and please answer as quickly as possible because my paper is already two weeks late.
* * *
I’m thinking about breaking up the home page into two pages so there isn’t so much stuff on it. Sort of a page one and page two. Page two would have links to all the other articles, bio etc. This would make the front page simpler and easier to find what is important. On the other hand, it may screw things up with the search engines which have been kind to me lately. Do I risk it?
* * *
Well, it’s 7am and I’m getting ready for my second week back at the 3-day a week job, so let me dash off something here… The picture of the City-Clouds was luckier than I thought, because in addition to the idea of turning it upside down, it is probably the only shot on 6 rolls of Delta 400 film where the development (way over) didn’t ruin it. That shot is apparantly a result of so many accidents including my own ability to see the accidents, that I remain flabergasted by it.
A friend (you know who you are) apparantly out of boredom (again you know how bored you get) went through the images on my site and quantified them by when they were taken and with what, and came to the conclusion that about 1/3 were now taken with the Leica M6. I don’t know if this is true or not, but considering that I have had the M6 for less than 6 months — that would be an amazing statistic, and as my friend said to me, “I guess you’ve found your camera.”
I do feel like “I found my camera”. I held on to the G2 just in case this was a passing fancy, and also because it simply isn’t worth that much in re-sale. But this week I’ll sell the G2 back (two bodies, all the lenses) back, and see if I can get enough out of that for either another M6 body, or the 21mm. I think that Ken Hansen offered me $1900, and B&H offered $1850. I bet that with the economy going down their prices will be less.
You know that song, “Band on the Run”? by McCartney… I have the strong desire to write something called, “Taliban on the Run” — but I will stop myself…
If my 3 days at work are as boring as last week, then I will have to take up doing the Times crossword puzzle again, which for me is a sign of utmost apathy.
* * *
I joined the mailing list for the LUG (Leica Users Group) yesterday. Just out of curiosity I guess, and since I’m really not a ‘joiner’ I thought I’d force myself.
Now, to the age old question du jour, or longer: WHAT IS STREET PHOTOGRAPHY? Does it mean that it must be taken on a street, or a sidewalk, or in the city? I admit, that I don’t know. Well, time for breakfast, but I would like to get back to this later. I remember the old arguments between the pictorialists and the realists like Adams — (although he had his own pictorialish phase) — the only thing that I can say about street photography is what it is not. Ansel Adams is not a street photographer. Gary Winnogrand was. These are the extremes. There is often a hard edge to the street photographer. Many shots are taken, and culled from all this are shapes and tableux that have some emotional imact. The reflexes are supposed to be quick. The movements snappy. Yikes… got to get to work, more later, maybe…
At any rate, the reason I ruminate on these classifications is really because I want to say that I’m getting sick of street photography — you know that shot where you just point the camera at people walking along the street, and usually get a kind of numb or bitter look because you are invading their space and they know it.
* * *
I wanted to let you know that I have received the beautiful print. You packaged it very well. [The 11 x 14 of Promenade.]
Also, for encouragement and affirmation, my husband saw it and asked if it was an Ansel Adams picture… wonderful photography,
Thank You again.
* * *
Yesterday, my boss walked into my office and said that he had written out his new plan which included having my position terminated, and was I sure that I wanted to do this? Should he send the e-mail? I put my hands together in prayer and said, “Yes, please, absolutely.” He smiled and we both said that our era was over at this place, and he went back to his office and pressed the ‘send button’. Now I have to wait for the reaction of his boss.
I have been with the agency (sounds like the CIA doesn’t it) for almost nine years. It has been a thankless position. We made timesheet programs, and made sure the email system worked, and did workflow systems, and for a few years it was an exciting place to work. Users disliked us, or at least treated us badly. We gave them systems that we thought were making life easier, and they resisted like crazy. When we first presented them with the timesheet system, the creatives in the agency used to slip little notes under my door. The one that I remember was a picture of a clock with a dagger going through it, and the caption read, “I thought we had driven a stake through its heart!”
But as new people came to the agency, and as these systems were now de facto way of doing work, no one complained. And when we wanted to change the system to a web-based system, the same complaints took place. Why are you changing the system? We love the old system.
I sat around with my boss and went over what I had learned about management since I was there:
1. In order to get anything done, you need to be willing to make mistakes. You need to be willing to get fired if necessary. And I can remember sitting in these big meetings with the bigwigs saying to myself, if I tell them something, they’re not going to like it. But I’m going to tell them anyway.
2. Working in M.I.S. department, you must give people a hurdle to reach before you begin work for them. People will walk into your office with all sorts of ideas, and they will all be important, and they will all need them ASAP. So you sy to them, “That sounds like a great idea. What I need is for you to write up a one page description of the benefits of this system and perhaps one or two mock-ups of what the user screen should look like, or what the report should look like.”
And that hurdle would kill 90% of the requests. Once you asked them to do any sort of work, the ideas vanished, and became less important. The 10% who went through the trouble of actually doing some work, meant that they were serious about the project.
3. And most important — in most cases, the personalities of the people you work with, the people you hire, are more important than the particular skillset they might have at the time they are hired. The right people around you and you can soar. I gave many programmers their first job. I took them quite often while they were still in school. The only thing I looked for was the desire to learn new things. Once or twice this backfired. But for the most part, it worked well, and there was a tremendous loyalty that came from having given the person a chance. Now many of those that I hired, who had been students working after school in Pizza places and hardware stores, are making six figures in brokerage firms.
* * *
I was thinking of opening an eBay store but after thinking about it and reading through a bunch of discussions about it, I’m not sure it makes sense. I already have a store. I’ve put on my marketing cap, and I think what I’ll do instead is simply offer a few of the limited edition prints for auction each week, and feature them on my home page instead of the web-discount thing I’ve got now — which doesn’t work very well. I think the monthly idea behind that doesn’t work because there isn’t a feeling that the BUY is going to go away. And its actually easier for me to list things on eBay then to keep changing what is on sale on my site. In other words, I’ll put those small images of what is for sale on eBay on my home page with a link to the sale.
* * *
Here are a couple of new things off the first roll of HP5 Plus — basically just experiments, but there are a few interesting things here perhaps. Lips is somewhat startling at first glance, and slumping man is more subway stuff. All taken on one roll of film on my way to work. Its pretty gray stuff. Probably not as sharp as TMY. I’m going to do a few prints from the stuff, but it looks like I’m probably going to go back to TMY, shot at 200, and under-developed. This basically minimizes grain, gives the best shadow detail while still controling highlights. I guess I’ve just been sort of lazy about it lately, hoping to be able to shoot at 400.
Flat Iron 1
* * *
I received the prints today and am very, very pleased with them. It’s not all that easy to get a good night shot with detail, especially one with snow in it — but you did it.
Packaging was great, no dinged corners. [My new mailers from Brasspack are working out well!]
I hesitate to offer unsolicited comments, but if I may, I would like to say something about the limited editions.
If you get a really hot shot, why don’t you limit the edition to 25 prints. Then, if it sells out and someone buys a print from an original buyer at a higher price than you sold it, and this can be documented, you have gone from selling photographs to selling investments.
I realize the odds may be a bit high, but I certainly think they are much better than lottery odds.
My 2¢ worth.
Again, many thanks. I left two positive feedbacks [on EBay].
Much success in the future.
First off — thank you very much.
The problem that I have with limited editions — is not from a marketing point of view — but simply it means that perhaps my best work can only be held by say 25 people. This strikes me as odd, considering that part of the beauty of a good negative is that you can make many many prints (although in reality each one is a little different). There are many famous photographers who have not done limited editions for this very reason — the one that comes to mind first is Cartier-Bresson.
Maybe this is a mistake, in terms of the business side of it — but I am much happier to see 500 prints in the hands of people than 25. Also, even the limited edition thing is really a kind of fraud, because what many photographers do is print an edition of 25, and then if it sells out, print a second edition of 25 etc.
When I started, I did a few prints at the limited edition size of 500, but those are the only ones that I’m actually still selling as limited editions.
* * *
I understand your problems with limited editions. Many, many years ago I printed for a photographer who had “limited editions”, and when one sold out, he’d start another edition. Then, and now, I consider it a complete lack of integrity.
Furthermore, in this litigious society, I would think that any photographer who started another edition could run the risk of being sued by an irate customer.
I was looking again at the detail in the front of the Flatiron Building — really remarkable, especially considering the dry down.
The best to you.
* * *
Changed the home page to feature the prints that are up for auction on eBay. This may be a fluke, but sold 4 or 5 prints of Promenade.
* * *
Had a horrible time at the periodontist this morning — nearly freaked out in the chair. I’ve always been phobic about dentists — and they were digging around for 30 minutes — and my heart started pounding and I said, “Stop, I’ve got to get up”. So I get up and take a drink of water, and then back in the chair.
I guess I was in the chair about 40 minutes, but it seemed like hours. A lot of scraping with that cavitron instrument of torture. Maybe I swallowed too much novacaine or something. Felt pretty shakey the rest of the day.
My parents tell me that once when I was a kid, I ran out of the dentist’s office and the dentist ran out onto the street chasing me around in circles. I don’t remember this, but I believe it.
Some of these dental hygenists are the sweetest, kindest people I’ve ever met, and I figure its because they’ve taken out all their aggression on my gums. I once asked the dental hygenist if she had ever thought of taking up sculpture. She laughed. I said, really you could really put all that aggression to a more artistic use. Maybe not.
* * *
Also sold six prints to someone in Texas who believe it or not wanted smaller prints. That’s the first time anyone has specifically asked for 5 x 7′s.
* * *
Just put up Midnight at Grand Central, 2/500 on eBay. This is one of those prints that you really don’t get the effect of on the web — in my not so humble opinion. But what the heck. The first print sold at about $600 at my first show. Its opening price on eBay is $76. Its just one of those prints that I really think are special and would like to get into people’s homes. Especially seems poignent after Sept. 11th.
* * *
Hi Dave – Just wanted to let you know I received the photos this afternoon [Promenade and Equitable and Flat Iron] and they are absolutely beautiful, I cannot wait to see them framed and displayed. Thank you again for your help…The packaging was great, they arrived in perfect condition.
Ah, heaven. My new packaging for large prints is working fine.
I guess these accolades are boring to read through… maybe I’ll make a separate page for them. But what is great is that I am now selling the larger sizes, and that is where a lot of the quality and effort really come through. When I have time, I really would like to try a few of these at even larger sizes, say 20 x 24 prints — but I don’t have the right size trays, and am still not sure I have room for 4 20 x 24 trays. I might try the one tray method suggested by Lloyd.
* * *
After two years of selling, and ten years of shooting, I am really finding an audience, and am starting to see that I may be successful at this. That, I am sure, will bring my fifth mid-life crisis. I have generally run away from success in the past. I can tell a lot of stories about getting promotions, and refusing them or quitting as things were going good. I am as afraid of success as I am as fearful of failure.
* * *
QUESTION DU JOUR
Should I just keep sticking some of the nice things people say when they receive the prints in here… or set up a separate page called, Nice Things People Have Said …?
It might get rather boring to keep putting this stuff in the journals, plus I don’t know how many people (o.k. my business hat is on) actually read the journals. Maybe I should put a ‘nice quote of the day’ on the home page. Too slick for my own good? When I started the site, I used to have a page called ‘Dear Dave’ where I put the things that irked me in people’s emails up. Some of them were really harmless. Some of them were pretty funny. But I think it sort of stiffled people’s writing — uh oh, I might wind up on the Dear Dave page!
Anyway — matting and packaging today, and should have all the big prints ready for Fedex today.
* * *
The consensus is to keep putting reactions in… so here’s another that just came in today.
Hi Dave, I purchased an 8×10 of the same image a month ago. Really love the photograph. [Benches]
I’m looking at this purchase as my first real investment in art. A numbered print! I keep my 8×10 at work on my office wall and I’ll keep this new one at home. As I look into my crystal ball I see a very bright future for you and your work. I believe it will all come together and your name will go down in history with the other great
* * *
I think that both feedback from your customers and visitors and your own reactions to what they write are important parts of this story. I suspect that more readers than just this one are watching the little drama of your
life and work. Maybe we’ve fantasized about doing the same thing you’re doing–walking away from corporate life and trying to make a living doing what we love to do. We’ve been to your shows with you. We cheered when you had a big day selling out on the sidewalk. We need to know what kind of reaction you’re getting from customers. We want to listen as you think out loud about pricing and packaging. (Makes it sound a little bit like that movie, The Truman Show, huh?)
* * *
I put up ‘Midnight Grand Central Station’ on eBay — but this print is and always has been a problem to sell over the web. I just don’t seem to be able to get the detail to show properly. Yet the first and only time I took this print out to a show, it sold for quite a lot (don’t remember what but maybe $600). What I might do, next time is use that picture service on eBay where you can show various details of the picture. That’s one of the drawbacks of selling on the web — if the accumulation of a lot of detail is important — forget it. Another print like that which is really amazing is White Mountain, because you can just make out these tiny, tiny rock climbers inside a dark crevice, and I would say that each rock climber is about three grains of silver. When I first started with the web thing, I looked around for java applets that could be used to zoom in and out of a photo. These things do exist, but either they were too expensive, or people said that they crashed their computers. So I gave up on the idea. Its sort of like the pictures that sell the best on the web have the simplest, and most dramatic lines to them. If you removed the detail and just kept the major lines, there is a simplicity that can be understood. Think about it — best sellers:
Promenade — a bunch of dramatic trees in the foreground, and two converging lines that take you to the horizon.
Benches — almost the same classic type of composition. It would work equally well as a sketch. The lines of the wood drawing your eye past the blocks of benches to the horizon.
Night Storm — same thing.
But the Sprinkler and Tree which I really like to look at because of the splattering effects which you really have to look at closely — doesn’t seem dramatic enough on the web.
And the other thing that works well is faces. So long as the expressions can be seen you’re okay.
* * *
“A woman was seriously injured after being pushed into the path of a subway train at Grand Central Terminal last night by an emotionally distrubed homeless man, the police said” – The New York Times, Robert F. Worth
First off — there is that fact-stuffed, unemotional opening sentence that the Times is famous for. It glides ever so lightly over the horror like a skater on very thin ice. Who? Where? What? When? Why? Just the facts, ‘mam. There is no “Why?” That can never be answered.
This woman was struck by the number 6 train, the same train that is the subject of most of my images. How many times have I wondered, if I were pushed onto the tracks, would I have the presence of mind to roll over and try and squeeze myself beneath the platform? Or would the timing of the push just be too close to the oncoming train? What if I touched the third-rail, and was electrocuted and then mangled?
And that fear, that someone will come up behind you, and push you down onto the tracks, where you will try to get up, as the train roars at you, but you can’t quite reach up and get back onto the platform quickly enough — that nightmare will be raised again in New York today. The usual New York fear of death by being run over by tons of screeching metal will — at least for a few days — replace the fear of the terrorists.
* * *
Been up since about 5:30. Have been awakening very early lately, and then feeling lethargic for part of the day. Bad dreams. This is unusual for me — I don’t remember my dreams that often but now every morning I awaken with the most weird dreams. This morning I was in an elevator with my mother. I was working at the ad agency. And I kept trying to tell her that there were these two men who were after me and she kept laughing about it. Then I’m in a cab going to the United Nations building…o.k. ok., that’s the plot from North by Northwest. I’m not going to put my nightmares into this journal.
* * *
Did a couple of prints this morning, because I had to do the Flat Tire print for an order (I really do like this one) — anyway, some of the new stuff which was shot on HP5 — yikes, grain like boulders. I realize that in the last month I’ve tried Tri-x, Delta 400 and now HP5 Plus, and to be honest I’ve done better with TMY. I know that everyone has their recipes, and that any of these films will give great results etc. etc. — but I’m too pooped to look for the perfect film. So the TMY goes back in the camera.
* * *
Slept a good deal of the day — seem to have a bad sore throat. Then got around to organizing some of my negatives, yes actually filed them away. You have to understand that I probably have ten thousand negatives in the house, so when I say that I filed them away, I’m only talking about those strips that are considered ‘portfolio’ material. I mostly only deal with the tip of the iceberg.
Maybe that amounts to two hundred strips of 6 (for the 35mm stuff). So now the glasine (sp?) envelopes are in little tabbed cardboardy things that I got from Light Impressions, and sorted by name. During this process I came across a few that I had printed but not put on the site, so I added them under new pictures. I did the one on the Staten Island ferry years ago with the Canonet, and it holds up really well at 16 x 20. What makes the picture is not so much the composition but the look — whether it is sadness, contemplation, reverence — I’m not sure, on the fellow in the sports jacket (left foreground.) I think it was Sunday. And I’m sure that this was on the way back to NYC. For some reason I was riding the Ferry back and forth for a few hours that day.
The other shot is nearly impossible to print. Its too easy to simply silhouette the kid in the foreground. But there is detail there. Maybe I’ll go back and give it another try. The shot reminds me (and of course this is just my association) of pictures taken in the Warsaw Ghetto. There’s a feeling of taking a respite from the destruction of some catostrophic event — and nothing at all fun about it. (That’s just my feeling). In fact, these kids were in the park on a hot summer day and running and playing and having a great time. Count on me to make associations with that and the holocaust. (Which was not an afterthought at all, but a feeling that I was after at the time I was shooting!)
* * *
You can probably skip all this stuff I wrote today… Looking it over, it isn’t particularly funny, and falls somewhere between banal and morbid. That’s just the way it goes some days, especially when I’ve got a sore throat…
From the NY Times, today — Richard Lezin Jones. Day two of the story about the woman pushed under a train.
“There was the time in 1987 that he fired a shotgun at the tracks of the No. 7 train in Midtown. There was the time last year when he groped a passenger on a subway car. He ended up in a mental hospital again.”
You know, about thirty years ago, I worked as what they called a Mental Health Therapy Aide at Brooklyn State Hospital. These types of characters were brought in all the time, but in those days, they were kept around and off the streets. Brooklyn State Hospital was a violent and ugly place, and like something out of Cukoo’s Nest, it was often hard to tell the inmates from the staff.
I was on the night shift. After one day of training, I have no idea what my job was supposed to be. I guess make sure no one killed anyone or themselves. At night the worst of the staffers were there. People who were one step above common street thugs. It was common for them to steal drugs from the cabinets, and pass them through the grate in the window to buyers. It was just as common to come in and go to sleep for the night.
The first day I arrived, they took us up to a ward where there were about two hundred men who were in the last stages of syphillis. Many of us left the room and lost our lunches. There was this kind of hardened shock treatment that the management tried on us. Many decided not to go back after that show.
I don’t think this story is going anywhere — but for all the sweetness or beauty that may show up in some of my photos, there has been a hard, scary experience. For example, there was a man, a very old man, with swollen feet, and each morning I would put his socks and slippers on for him. Always, the slight smell of urine and aftershave. Memories like that, jump out at me when I read these stories about the crazies in New York. Maybe there’s no point to putting them in here, but these are tidbits from my life and I feel like getting them down.
* * *
7pm. Still somewhat lethargic, but the sore-throat seems to be going away. Except for a bit of packing and shipping, didn’t do much of anything today. Still, just about all the orders are done and on their way.
* * *
Looking forward to the Dylan concert Monday night. (Yes, he’s still alive and still writes ambiguous but memorable lyrics). He’s been to the other side of life and back again more times than I’ve been to the supermarket.
Dylan is a giant in my book.
* * *
Web stuff — the site was switched today from Cybercash (out of business now) to Verisign Payflow (they bought that from another company) without incident. Even had an order on the site today, and it worked fine. Then I got a letter saying that the company that was doing the actual processing, I guess you’d call them the Merchant Bank, had been taken over by another entity. Whatever. So long as the money ends up in my bank account somehow because I’m gonna need it soon.
* * *
e-mail about the Dylan concert… i guess we were looking for a nice place to eat before the concert and I suggested a steak house nearby — Keens — why? because it was the only place I could find in Zaggats that was nearby and not a clip joint. So I suggested Keens and this is the beginning of of e-mails between myself and Andy:
Me:There’s not a lot in that neighborhood that is decent… but Keens might be the best bet — if we can still get a reservation… I don’t really know if I want a giant steak before the concert… but i bet its a nice place to hang out…
Andy:I wouldn’t mind a thick slab of bloody red meat amidst clouds of thick cigar smoke. You can deliver me to the Garden on a stretcher. Actually, that sounds fine if you want to call for reservations for 5:30. (I’ll take double dose of my cholesterol pills and a surgical mask)
Me: yikes, that sounds disgusting.
it wasn’t really the meat, so much as the idea of sitting around in Leather Chairs, like something out of Sherlock Holmes. I think what we really need is to hang at the ALL VICTORIAN CHAIR CLUB where you snort from Brandy
snifters or is it sniff brandy snorters, and fall asleep in the big easy chair. this seems like the perfect prelude to Dylan concert, and perhaps a good after-lude also… speaking of ludes, are they still made? but I digresss…
* * *
Found myself walking around the house shooting stuff like the toothpaste, and the shaving mirror, a corner of the garbage pail, the dishes in the sink etc. and then found this quote by William Blake, “To see a World in a Grain of Sand and a Heaven in a Wild Flower”
* * *
Dear Mr. Beckerman,
My name is [edited out]. I’m in a photography class at my high school and we’re doing projects. The project is to emulate a black and white photographer that does landscapes. I went to your site and liked your work. So, I was wondering if I could emulate you. I have some questions. What is your style? What kind of camera(s) do you use? What do you like most about photography? And if there is any other information that you would like share with me, I’d love to know. Thank you so much.
I replied: look at the journals and various other articles on the site and that each picture gave info on the camera that was used etc.
Hey Mr. Beckerman,
Thank you so much for replying. A lot of the photographers that I e-mail never write me back. I have some other questions. You don’t have to answer some of them. Where and when were you born? I know you live in New York, but I wasn’t sure if you were born there. Are you married and do you have kids? Do you have any pets? How many brothers and sisters do you have? Again, thank you so much for responding. I look forward to hearing from you again.
[this is an actual question, that I have not made up]
And my reply:
I hope you understand, but many of these questions are a bit too personal and can’t imagine how they would help write a paper on me … but here’s what I will tell you:
Born in the Bronx, NYC, 1951
I am a little weary of getting these requests from students, mainly because I have in the past given out a lot of information, and in return I just asked that the student send me a copy of the paper.
So far, in two years, not a single student has done that.
So maybe you’ll be the first.
* * *
I will let you know if I get any response to this. But so far, not a single student (with the exception of the fellow in Canada who did the transformation of ‘The Hug’) has sent me a copy of a paper. Perhaps this stuff is just a scam to find out personal information about me for whatever reason.
* * *
I took this from the guestbook — it is also a very common question:
I love youer work! I have just one question, though: A problem I seem to come across when dealing with others in my own photography… How do you not piss them off?! I’m a traveling artist, and I find that, in many of my travels, I see shots that are simply magnificent: detailing emotion, mood, light – without any help of meaters or models – but when I go to take the picture, it stops. The people move, or get upset and the mood changed. How can I avoid this problem? It would help me greatly if you could respond… -or anyone who may have suggestions on what I can do to capture the moment more spurattically… thank you.
* * *
One thing is, I don’t know what ‘meaters’ are.
* * *
I offered the following advice:
How do you shoot people, strangers, without disturbing the mood, scene, facial expressions etc.
Answer — it ain’t easy. But there are techniques that can be used. They break down into two camps:
Stealthy and non-stealthy.
Stealthy means that you are in some way not making it obvious that you are taking the picture. This might mean that the camera is hidden. Or that the camera is hanging from your neck, but you aren’t looking through it. Or that you are holding the camera in your hand, but not looking through it. Very often this type of photography depends on using a wide angle lens, so that there is a great depth of field, and being very close to your subjects… perhaps three feet away. Read about hyper-focal distance.
You must be quick, and you must know ahead of time exactly what you are going to shoot, and how it will be composed, and you’d better be pre-focused (either hyperfocal, or you have focused on something else in the same place of focus, or man you are just quick). The camera goes to your eye, and you shoot before the expression or the mood changes, and you smile, and relax, and hope for the best. Maybe you smile and relax first actually.
Both methods mean that you will be shooting lots of film and will be lucky to get a good shot. In my opinion, this type of photography is the hardest thing to do, and is generally not appreciated. For every shot of people on the subway or elsewhere, I have sold thirty times as many pictures of the trees in Central Park (which of course weren’t moving very much and didn’t care at all that I was shooting them).
There are other tricks that can help. For example, DRESS LIKE A TOURIST, even in your own city. And carry a map with you. Look like your lost all the time. Do not, in anyway look like a professional.
If you have a boyfriend, brother, girlfirend etc. significant other, other type, — and you see a scene or subject that interests you, again, play the tourist and tell your friend to stand near that scene, and it may look like you are taking a tourist type picture, but you really are focused on the people behind your friend.
Some situations you simply can’t do. Others are easy. For example, the easiest place to shoot without anyone caring is at a large public gathering — street fair, ballgame, etc. An event. No one really knows what exactly your shooting. People are drinking beer and eating ices, and could generally care less that you are trying to steal a bit of their soul.
Crowded places are not the same as events.
The hardest situations, that I have found, are on the subway. Although these are crowded places, people do not expect you to be taking their picture in this normal setting. Going to work in the morning is not an event. It should be an olympic event, but so far the olympic committee hasn’t taken it up — (bribes from the straphangers union anyone?).
One more thing. A quiet camera is always important advantage especially more the stealthy method. When someone hears a loud pop going off from beneath your coat — and the heavy slap of a reflex mirror, the fact that they camera is hidden, or hanging from your neck is not going to help you much, and in fact you may find yourself in a mildly threatening situation. And remember this, let a smile be your friend…
* * *
So yesterday, I’m sort of just lying around watching t.v. all day, when I get the idea to try and photograph objects in the house. In fact, to tell you the truth, it all started when I was taking a bath, and I sort of stuck my big toe in the faucet — which is right out of the old Dick Van Dyke show, and then I was thinking, wouldn’t it be cool to photograph my foot getting stuck in the faucet like Mary Tyler Moore. But don’t worry. I’m not that far gone. But I was thinking about stuff like that. What about trying to photograph the beginning of the shower scene from Psycho — that point of view shot where you see the water from the showerhead coming down at you, and then I started thinking, how the heck did they do that without getting the camera wet? I’m not taking my M6 inside the shower. No way.
So I put these ideas behind me. But a few hours later, I had this odd desire to photograph my bare feet, but in some jumbled up way. Something that would sort of make you just a little bit queezy — and then it hit me. How about putting my feet or foot up, with the spinning ceiling fan in the background. The blades would just be slightly blurred, and it would all be upside down, and maybe I could throw some interesting sidelight on the fan… O.K. I admit to doing this, and worse. I photographed the sink full of dishes. That’s right, the dishes that have been piled up and unwashed for at least a week now — became fascinating to me. I know you’re thinking that Dave has lost it — but wasn’t the idea I was preaching about finding heaven in a grain of sand, if taken for real, meaning that there could be found beauty in the dishes or an upside down foot? [actually I doubt it very much].
* * *
Got my check for consulting now and then from the agency. I was hoping that they’d give it to me without taking out taxes and all that, but no — 50% more or less got taken out — so I’m not as well off as I thought I’d be. Still waiting for the axe to fall over here at the agency. Like everything else, here, it falls in slow motion.
* * *
The flurry of Ebay sales dried up — but there were a few more sales from the website itself, and that’s great. My birthday is coming up soon (Sagittarius) and I’m asking everyone for money to launch me into the new year and the new career.
* * *
Tonight’s Dylan concert. Not sure what I’ll be able to do with a 90mm, although it is nice to have the F2. Will try and sneak up as close as I can.
* * *
How much do you want to bet that if I were to enact the most famous sit-com scenes with myself in the title roles, and photograph them that I would cause a stir? This would be my ‘urine in a mayonaise jar’ period. I don’t mean that I would dress the part or anything like that, I just mean that I would photograph myself in my normal clothing or lack of it as is appropriate to the scene.
1. Laura’s Toe Caught In Faucet
2. Lucy’s arm in the slop of Chocolate, or better yet, on top of the Empire State Building with a Ray Gun (might be dangerous these days)
3. Ralph Kramden giving the racoon salute?
(there should be something better for the Honeymooners)
* * *
Oct 2, 2001
Finally got all the prints out to everyone and even added a new one to the new section (its at the end). The print is something that I’ve been meaning to get around to for a few years — Grand Central Arches. Taken with the view camera, it just has a very pleasing tone to it, and I remember when I showed it to A. she said, “Hmm, this almost looks like art.” A nice backhanded compliment. So don’t worry, it’s not actually art — it just looks like it.
Verisign took over Cybercash a few months ago, and today I’m supposed to be switched over — but they don’t exactly say today, they say:
Your account is currently scheduled for migration to VeriSign’s Payflow (SM)
service on or after October 2, 2001.
I like that phrase — on or after. This is all suppose to be seamless, but somehow I doubt it. Since I don’t actually know if I’ve been switched over (now or after) — I guess I’ll just wait and see what happens.
* * *
Here’s how that picture of the flag looks in the Agora newsletter.
Oct 3, 2001
I thought this recent email gave me a better insight into my own shooting style and HCB etc.
Somewhere on your page, I read a comment that someone had sent to you…It compared you to HC-B (I think the writer referred to you as Dave Cartier-Beckerman, or something like that). [ed. thanks Bill]
Just one thing comes to my mind: Of course HC-B is one of my heroes, and hell, him & Leonard Freed & Jim Marshall are the three main reasons why I spent two grand on a Leica, and that’s a lot of $$$ for me, so that tells you what I think of him (and them). BUT: as much as I like HC-B’s work, LIGHT is rarely an integral part of his photos, in my opinion.
Think of your favorites among his shots, and they are probably shots that you like because of the moment captured, the expressions of the people, etc. But I rarely look at an HC-B shot and think “Wow, look at the light!” I think that more of your shots (more compared to HC-B, anyway) do contain light as an integral element – e.g., Promenade, the new shot of “Grand Central, Arches, Night Chess, Flat Iron and Equitable, etc. Of course, combining dramatic lighting with a “decisive moment” makes for memorable photos, and combines the best strength of photography (freezing a moment) with the best strength of painting (controlling the light).
Since HC-B has always professed greater interest in drawing and painting, I have always found it curious that, at least in the work that I have seen, he doesn’t seem more driven by the quality of light. Not that I would want him to be an Ansel Adams type, mind you. Anyway, just a comment.
My reply went something like this:
You know, at times you go around looking for a style, or a movement, or something to place yourself in and when someone says that you’ve got some HCB in you — sounds good to me. But the truth is, that unlike HCB, the moment in and of itself, doesn’t always do it for me. I am really just as happy photographing a rock, if the lighting is interesting. [ed. Lately, Dave seems to be walking around shooting steps that lead into buildings.] I’ll pass on the HCB mantle to someone else for now.
I actually have more in common with Ansel Adams, though many have said they don’t see that at all. Its just that my subject matter is urban rather than nature. Its hard for me to think of a single shot on the site that doesn’t have some element of man in it. Even the shot ‘Birch Trees’ which is a sort of take off of Adams, has a tree on the right which is carved with hearts and initials.
The shot, for example, Steps of Met, is only interesting because of the lighting. Yes, it captures a man in half-step, and there is a moment there, but again, if it weren’t for the dramatic side-lighting, I don’t think I would have printed it.
The shots on the subway, are also not particularly ‘the decisive moment’ but simply a moment, and I think that I’ve been as attracted to the feeling of the metal and plastic in the subway as the subjects themselves. In fact, my favorite subway shot is the Subway Car, Empty.
What is wonderful about the Leica is that it is capable of both types of shooting. It is obviously the camera to use fot the decisive moment, but one of the things that attracted me to it was the way that I could ‘feel the light’ when I was using it.
* * *
Oct. 3, 2001
Something got me to looking through old negatives and contact sheets this morning. Don’t know why. One thing that strikes me is how many unprinted negatives look very interesting to me now. Years later, in some cases decades later, I can see what I was thinking at the time, why I held the camera at a particular angle, why I chose a particular framing or depth of field. This has always been the way I work. Many, many years need to go by sometimes, before I can appreciate what I was up to at the time. Why? I found negatives taken out of the window of my old house when I was fifteen years old, that are not half bad. But I always need this distance of time to be able to see it. Its almost as if I need to have completely forgotten the circumstances, of the picture in order to feel it again freshly. The idea flitted through my mind that I could be busy just printing things that I had never printed before for the next year without shooting anything new. This phenomenon seems especially true with the 35mm stuff — there is just so much of it.
I really have to try and sort through this stuff and categorize it somehow. Right now, I have a very simple way of doing things: If I have printed it and it is part of the portfolio (which means that at some point it has been made available for viewing) — then I take the negative and give it a name, and put it into a sleeve, and then into one of three boxes, which are divide the alphabet into three parts. But this is getting unweildy. Maybe one percent of what has been shot and contacted are in these boxes. Everything else is like some raw material, sitting around in a closet waiting to be re-examined.
* * *
Don’t know if this will garner any interest, but I had been thinking about trying to find a sponsor for my site and wrote to Light Impressions — I have been very happy with their service and products. I don’t think they are the cheapest guys in the world, but when I have had a problem such as broken plexiglass, they quickly sent replacements. Anyway, they apparantly have an Affiliate Program which I just joined:
Archival mats, frames, photo albums? LightImpressionsDirect.com has been my supplier for over two years and I highly recommend them. If you make a purchase through this link I receive a small commission that helps defray the cost of running this site.
I honestly don’t expect many if any hits through this — but who knows. Maybe I’ll be surprised. Considering that there is no advertising on the site, and no annoying pop-up boxes, this idea seems like a reasonable compromise.
* * *
Finished reading the Bhagavad Gita for the first time. I know there’s been a lot of religious stuff here lately — eastern mostly. The Gita is the book that Openheimer quoted after witnessing the first test of the atomic bomb, the Trinity project. Where he quoted it as saying, “Now I have become death the destroyer of worlds.”
The quotation in the version I’m reading says this is a mis-interpertation, that the actual quote is when Krishna decides to show his disciple Arjuna what he really looks like, in short Arjuna gets to see how the universe is in reality. The vision he sees so startles and causes Arjuna such anxiety that he asks Krishna to return to his human shape. But the quote here is slightly different: “Now I have become TIME the destroyer of worlds.” And of course this makes sense, and in effect relates to the instinct in photography to preserve moments in time. Time is the great destroyer of all things, and photography is the attempt to preserve things as or before they are destroyed.
Through the years, I’ve been fascinated in a sporadic way with some of these ideas from Eastern philosophy, but they reached a head and were triggered again after the WTC. I can trace the desire to re-read these texts after visiting the grief and shrines at Union Square. I guess that the appeal to me is that the way to achieve enlightment and become a better person starts with an internal examination — and is not bound by the Judeo/Christian tradition which really starts with external commandments. There are no prescriptions in the Gita other than the practical advice to meditate.
But many of the ideas in the book such as not being too involved with the results of your actions, but simply doing what is in your nature, and not being attached to the results. In other words, in my own case, go out and shoot, and don’t think about the commercial ramifications. Don’t get tied up with what people will think, or whether by walking around shooting the things that appeal to you, you will be successful. Success is measured in whether you are fulfilling your own innate destiny. I can only say that this has coincided with my own feelings through the years.
For example, I never got into computer programming because it offered a way to make a good living. At the time, it simply was fascinating to me. The same is true for my photography experience. I have prints of Yosemite or other easy prints that I have never shown because they don’t really seem original to me.
* * *
Very busy again lately. A couple of big orders have come in over the last week.
* * *
You know, I have been pretty ignorant of the ‘rules’ regarding composition. I had developed some simple ideas, such as leaving out things that weren’t important and keeping things in which were important. Asking yourself whether you should get closer or not. Being careful not to make things too evenly divided in halves. But other than that, I’ve been pretty ignorant about rules of composition. One other thing that I came up with, early on was the idea that photographs should have more than one subject, and a lot of my ideas I realize came from early training I had in music composition. The idea of having major and minor themes in a photograph came from musical ideas. But I did pick up one interesting idea today — somewhere on the internet about the importance of the lead in coming from the lower left corner since this is how we read — at least in English. Would that mean that photographs taken for a Japanese audience or a Hebrew-reading audience are different?
* * *
For those of you who have been following these journals through the last two years, let me say that I seem to be entering a new period now. Orders are now coming in every day, sometimes for multiple prints. So now I am spending most of my time printing and matting and packing. I am not going to complain about this as I normally do, since it is really grunt work, but accept it as validation that if you are willing to sell fine art prints at a fair price, there is an audience for it. I guess my only regret, is that I’m still stuck in this tiny studio. Its almost impossible to open the door of my apartment because the little table that unfolds to become the work area for the trays is blocking the door.
Somebody mentioned that maybe sales are picking up because pictures about New York City are so popular now since the Sept. 11th attack. There may be some truth to that. But I think that I’ve been learning the ropes on eBay, and am getting more exposure there, some of which spills over to my site.
* * *
Today the military made its first strikes at the Taliban. Tomorrow is Monday. I think that a lot of people in New York are now scared (myself included) that retaliation will take place. I definitely feel trepidation about taking the rush hour train downtown tomorrow. But what are you going to do? You can’t let this stuff keep you in the house.
Man I am going to be in the darkroom for the next two weeks. I have received orders for about fifty prints (total) from several people over the last few days. At an average price of $40, that’s $2000 gross and a heck of a lot of printing and matting. I wish I could afford to have someone do the printing for me, but there just isn’t enough of a margin to pay a skilled printer.
Agora finished second exhibit. Nothing sold. But they asked if they could hold onto a few pieces.
* * *
After tremendous amount of procrastination, did twenty 11 x 14′s today. Even printed a few new things that had been shot with tri-x. My thanks to the music of John Prine which finally got me to turn on the enlarger. Somewhere during the session, I found myself singing out loud with the album for almost two hours. I hope the neighbors don’t complain.
Still fooling around with eBay. I put up Marsh in 16 x 20 size for $65 opening bid. The print has sold for as much as $250 at various times. The thing about eBay is that I still can’t figure out where you end up getting ranked in the listings, or how or what that depends on. When you go to the browse area in fine art, is your listing random? Is it based on the title of the item? Some of my items were shown on the first page and others were many pages down, even right after they were listed.
* * *
One big order down, one big order to go. Yesterday, I even printed a few new things that had been shot on Tri-x. It was fun to see the look that I remember from my youth. It’s true that these were easier to print and held up at 11 x 14, but to really get the most out of Tri-x you need to rate it at around 200 ASA and under-develop a bit — especially in contrasty situations. I really shouldn’t be fooling around so much with film at this point, but I’m going to shoot some of the new Delta 400 film next time I get out of the house.
* * *
[these are exercises in creative writing and are almost totally fictional - editor]
I am currently a photography student at a local college which is nearby my house and have recently received an assignment to photograph something from a unique point of view but I am sitting here in my English righting class right now and can’t think of any unique ideas at all unless possibly you could think of something that could help me since you have so many beautiful pictures on your site that have really really inspired me with so much inspiration that I can’t tell.
Can you help me? I know that you must have a hole lot of ideas that you haven’t even thought of yet that could help me because this report is due tomorrow and the only thing that I can think of write now is that if I don’t cogitate an idea that is different I’m going to be in big trouble and my parents are going to think ill of me which if the truth be known, they already due.
One other problem that might be a problem is that my camera is not working very well lately because almost all of the pictures that I have taken lately are coming out either too dark and when I say dark I mean that it looks like a totally black thing where you can just see these little white spots which might be dust and sometimes they come out totally white and this is very strange to me since I am shooting with color film which I bought because that was all they were selling at Walmart and I asked the guy at Walmart about this problem but they said that I should ask someone else which is why I am asking you. I love your photography so much and have my fingers and legs crossed to the effect that this email will find you in a position where you may help me.
Oh yeah, one other thing, photography is not my major, which is actually pre-med, and so I hope you understand my inabilitys here and if you have any old papers that you didn’t need anymore about how to set femurs, that would be of help to me also.
So, thank you in advance for the any idea that you may or may not have and I remain,
Your gratest fan.
* * *
Alright. I’m set up for a big printing session tomorrow. I’m going to try and get through at least 15 unique prints. My lethargy about this seems to be over. I go back to the ad agency in two weeks, and I’ve really got to get cracking. I looked into the NOVA FB vertical slot processor, but there is literally no place to set this thing up permanently, small as it is, and I am going to have to stick to tray processing. I also am wary about using replenishing techniques which you would have to do with this type of processing. And it will also be difficult to do multiple prints at the same time which I can now do with large trays. One other thing is that from what I’ve read, doing fiber paper in some of their other processors is not a great idea because the paper tends to get heavy from absorption and is difficult to handle at larger sizes (this is for fiber paper, not for RC type paper).
* * *
Picked up the rest of the unsold prints from Agora. They did keep one print, ‘Marsh’ which is hanging on the wall near the office. Doubt that anyone will see it, but you never know.
* * *
It seems like every piece of dust is now suspected of being Anthrax. I’m sorry, but the way the gov’t is telling us that something big is going to happen but they can’t say where or when is causing panic. Go on and live your life normally, go to the movies and buy lots of things in the stores, but be aware that something big is on the horizon. The only thing the gov’t is doing with these announcements is causing people to freak out. I would humbly suggest that if they have a definite time and place then they tell us, otherwise, people are panicky enough. In fact, they are playing into the terrorists hands by making these announcements, and I’m wondering whether it isn’t a case of beaurocratic covering of ones collective ass.
* * *
The archival washer is full tonight. Did 48 prints (3 each of 16) at 11 x 14 today. One more big day like today and the order will be ready for (not including matting and packing) for what I’ve taken to call the big order.
* * *
I am the same photographic student that rote you a few days ago asking for help with some unique ideas and instead of getting a reply, you put my email into your journal and I guess that you thought it was funny but the thing that you should know is that I am suffering from a disease that is very very serious and this disease causes me to rite very long run-on sentences to which I find it impossible to rite a conluding period to and that if you must know, I am currently under the supervision of a famous doctor named Thor Shortman who has been specializing in this disease that there is currently no name for and for which he says I am the first person to really really have it so much and he is very excited about this and has been investigating my history and even thinks that there are some medications which I am hoping will help me with this thing that forces me not to put an end to a sentence until it is long overdue and Dr. Shortman who is from Sweden has said that he thinks that he will be able to help me but as you can see, so far, he hasn’t been much help.
* * *
Six more orders come in today. I’m beginning to wish that I could hire someone to print for me.
* * *
I’m really going to have to come to grips with my reaction to orders coming in. In the last few days, another six orders have come in and I’m only half way through with the big order. I’m starting to feel like Lucy in the chocolate factory. The nougats are coming down the line too quickly and I’m the only one involved in dunking them in chocolate.
My damned studio apartment is really too small to keep going this way. Prints are drying on the large base of the enlarger and in the mounting press, screens are on the floor with more prints drying, and yesterday I received my order from light impressions for about 60 16 x 20 mats. Everytime I make a move around here, I’ve got to pick something up and take it from one place to another. On the other hand, I keep putting prints up for sale on eBay which are selling well and drawing more traffic to the site. How am I supposed to get out of the apartment and do some shooting? How am I supposed to take two weeks off and take a nice trip somewhere, anywhere if orders continue to come in? And after all, isn’t this what I was aiming at by doing the website in the first place? Its impossible to move to a bigger place if I’m going to stay in Manhattan, and if I were to move out to the boroughs, so much of what I like to shoot would be too far away. My friends and family continue to laugh at this problem — where I complain about orders coming in, and if they don’t come in I complain about that. Its true that I might be able to find a photography student to do some of the printing, but I think that part of value that I offer is that the prints are done by me (for better or worse). As much stock as I’ve built up, it still seems that someone always manages to order the one print that I don’t have a copy of. And in November I go back three days a week to the ad agency — at least through the end of the year so that I can make my 401K match for the year. The house if also filled with framed pictures from the last few gallery shows that didn’t sell. Maybe I should put some of these framed prints up for sale at a cheap price just to get them out of the house. Well, this is being written at 8am in the morning which is my normal time for bitching and moaning. Usually as the day goes on I buckle down and do what has to be done, so take this with a grain of salt or chocolate as the case may be.
* * *
Didn’t get much done today. My sister was having back problems and I spent most of the day at her house. Probably the only interesting thing was yesterday, when:
I was on my way to do some errands when I walked by the 86th street subway station and people were all over the place because that subway line was stopped during morning rush hour. I admit, that as long as I don’t need to get on the train, I always find this fascinating.
The entrance was filled with people on cell-phones. I am old-fashioned enough, to be fascinated with the idea of trying to capture many people talking on cell-phones at the same time, and this was a bonanza for me. I had the 50mm on the M6, and shot half a roll of film of people on cell-phones trying to figure out how they would get to work. It is the equivalent of a nature photographer who stumbles across a herd of grazing Zebra who have just been frightened by the scent of some predator and are about to take off at a gallop. For me, the lesson is always the same, no matter where you’re going, have a camera with you. In New York, there is almost always something worth shooting.
The batteries were dead again in the Leica, but I’m at a point where I can figure the light within one stop or so. I think the problem is that with the new model, batteries are drained unless both the shutter speed dial is set to off, and the shutter is not cocked. I always cock the shutter after taking a shot, so I guess I’ll always have this problem. I really should get into the habit of carrying a small reflective meter with me, just in case, or at the very least some extra button batteries.
Not much to say — too busy lately. But I’ll throw in a few excerpts from people who have bought prints recently — it seems to me that you don’t get much in terms of people’s reactions to prints so here goes:
* * *
Dave, just a note to let you know I received my photo’s and was very, very pleased with them. Outstanding work. They are hanging on my den wall at home. (Thanks J.P.)
* * *
Got the order today! It arrived around noon. Fab packaging job!! I am VERY pleased !!! The Equitable & Flat Iron building is one of my favorites, thanks for the really nice oversized mat .. that is impressive. Now to get the frames, and then mounted on the wall so they can be proudly displayed! One of these days I will have to get the book seller in your largest size . . . (or perhaps even larger?)… you can read all the titles on the books & mags …. That will be interesting for viewers in the decades to come. (Thanks, T.G.)
* * *
Dave, Received the Promenade print today. It is just wonderful. I will keep your site bookmarked and follow your work. (Thanks F.)
* * *
Dave, Just a quick note to let you know I received your prints today (Wednesday 26th). This is a bit longer than the 4-7 business days envisaged but in light of what has happened in the interim period, quite understandable. Very pleased with them and will be arranging to get them framed up very soon. With best regards from Scotland. (P.L.)
* * *
If I had received email saying that someone hated the print they received, I would put it up here also, but so far that hasn’t happened.
* * *
Anyway, these are some that have come in during the last month or so. Orders for another six prints came in today and everytime I try to get back to the big order, I end up spending the morning matting and packing for the smaller orders.. Dropped off a few prints at the post office today. The clerks were wearing gloves, and there is usually a long line to wait on, but today I was practically the only one there. Maybe this was in bad taste but I joked with the clerk that this Anthrax scare was keeping the lines short which was a good thing. Fortunately, she had a sense of humor and laughed. I’ve always wondered about the effectiveness of these rubber gloves. The deli people all wear them. These gloves that the deli people wear are all sweaty and dirty and personally I think if they’d just wash their hands once in a while they’d be cleaner. I think we’re all turning into Howard Hughs. I also heard that there’s going to be a new cable station AAT (Anthrax All The Time).
* * *
I’m beginning to feel so cramped here that I just walked out to the park the other day and sat on a rock near Turtle Pond waiting for some inspiration. I ruled out moving. Can’t afford to. After two hours of staring at the leaves floating on the water I came up with an idea. I had a loft bed built several years ago, and its pretty roomy up there. The only piece of real comfortable furniture on the ‘ground floor’ is this green leather love seat that I bought at Ikea. So, I only sleep up there in the loft eight hours. Most of my time is spent downstairs. Conclusion: Ergo: When you’ve eliminated the possible all that’s left is the answer to misquote Sherlock Holmes: Toss the Love Seat. Toss the mattress that’s in the loft area. Use the loft space for storage. And instead of the sofa, get a futon that opens and closes. This way I can take a lot of the stuff that’s on the ‘ground floor’ and move it up to the loft space. So that’s what I’m planning to do this afternoon. Only problem, haven’t got the futon yet, so for a few days I’ll be sleeping on the floor in a sleeping bag. How’s that for success? If I get any more successful I’ll be sleeping on the fire-escape.
One of these days I need to do some pictures of this place and put ‘em on the web. I’m sure that if people saw what the place looks like they’d stop buying pictures altogether and start sending food packages and coupons for cleaning services.
In retrospect, I think the main reason that I took all those trips out to the Southwest was simply to be someplace where you could see to the horizon without encountering a box of mats.
* * *
You know, I just printed Tree and Sprinkler — much lighter than what’s on the site, at 11 x 14, and I have to say it brought a smile to my face. I left the upper right corner burned out as almost pure white. There’s a light sprinkler of water that shows up that looks like drippings from a Jackson Pollack painting. I really liked that. And lighter, its more abstract, you’re not really sure what you’re looking at for a minute. Nice.
* * *
I was going along printing pretty well, and then was about to do ‘Sleeping Bookends’ and of course I couldn’t find the negative. This was too much for me. I went ahead with my decision to jetison the couch and the mattress. Having been moving things around all afternoon. Put the couch on the street in front of the house, it was gone in under a half hour. Another day of moving things around and I should be set up again and in good shape for the next few months. While I was moving things I found the negative along with a whole bunch of other things I was supposed to have in my portfolio box but which were buried somewhere else. I’ve got the sleeping bag out and now I feel like I’m camping out in my darkroom. Kind of fun. Maybe I’ll sit around the t.v. and sing camp songs and roast marshmellows (sp?).
I was very happy with the Tree and Sprinkler shot. Showed it to a friend who said it looked like George Seurat painting. No prompting either.
* * *
Now there’s enough room to work in this place. I must have put 500 pounds of stuff up on the loft bed. Fortunately, it seems well made. Otherwise, as I sit under it I may be crushed someday. Slept on the floor in a sleeping bag last night. Well worth it to have the space to work. I’m going to borrow a blow-up bed from my sister today. Also, as I was in this mood of jetisoning everything I was about to toss my Polaroid Sprintscan 4000 which hasn’t worked in four months, but I thought I’d give it one more try and sure it enough its working again. Maybe it just needed a rest.
* * *
[editor's note. Beckerman seems to be trying to foister the following fiction on his readers, so no calls and e-mails please to the publisher about this following bit of so-called whimsy.]
After discussing my business affairs with the big forty accounting firm of firm of Dim, Under, Standing LTD, I’ve been advised that I should now make my work more contraversial. The theory is that prices will rise dramatically if the work engenders some sort of newsworthyness. I had the idea of taking religious objects and subjecting them to some kind of desecration but I’m informed that this is already old-hat stuff. So if religious objects are out, the other item of equal importance to civilized man may be money. And the more I thought about it, the more it seemed like a good idea. And then it hit me. What if I photographed the destruction of money? By that I mean the actual burning of large denominations? Brilliant?
The accounting firm was especially shocked by the idea at first, but then Mr. Tweedlehouse who is one of the junior partners, came by and pointed out that according to Federal Tax Laws, the burning of money for the purpose of generating marketing exposure could actually be a deduction. Tweedlehouse assured me that for every one dollar that was destroyed, I could deduct 35% of the expense, and that given the fact that this act was also illegal, we were sure to generate additional liabilities, which were also deductable.
Although Mr. Tweedlehouse, seemed unwilling to put his advice in writing, he did assure me that the burning of currency and subsequent photographing of same, was an extremely cost-effective plan, so long as I was willing to spend some part of my later career in confinement. I told him, ‘A small price to pay for beauty’.
In fact, Mr. Tweedlehouse, after looking over my books, suggested that actually burning money might be more profitable than the current attempts I was making to simply sell photographs. The equipment that is used to do the burning, would also be given a generous capital depreciation. When he mentioned depreciation, I knew I was on to something, as this was exactly my own idea.
He suggested that instead of simply lighting the currency with a match, that I purchase an extremely expensive silver lighter, and in fact offered to sell me his at a cut-rate price. Upon examening his lighter, I noticed that it had been engraved on the back, “From Mom, with All My Love”. And declined to take such a lighter from Mr. Tweedlehouse, although he seemed quite anxious to get rid of the item. More to follow…
* * *
Moved things around again in the studio, and bought a twin size futon — and now I’m now longer sleeping on the floor and things are looking up. Everything not nailed down has been moved to the loft platform. The thngs I found! Negatives lying under the file cabinets which hadn’t been moved in 9 years. One of the shots that I had never put on the web, but which I had a small print of, and had been moving around from desk to dresser, to table for the last year saying to myself where is that negative. Well, I found it. And now I have a surface dedicated to matting and framing so I don’t have to setup a small table each time I do this.
Today I’ll make the big push to finish up the print orders that are sitting in a box on top of the flatbed scanner.
* * *
Received the following letter from Mr. Tweedlehouse’s Lawyer, a Mr. Bonami.
Dear Mr. Beckerman,
This is to inform you that Mr. Tweedlehouse has been placed under arrest for insider trading, and is in fact now incarcerated in an undisclosed Federal prison. Mr. Tweedlehouse’s case is still under appeal, and we hope that you will understand that our firm will continue to offer you advice as we see fit. Mr. Tweedlehouse sends his best regards. He asked whether you would be willing to send him one of your beautiful photographs for his cell?
* * *
Getting there. Yesterday, sent out last two orders via Fedex (which looks like a good choice given what’s going on with the Post Office) and now I continue to get towards the end of the big order. I’m hoping to be done with it by this weekend. I know I keep saying that I’m going to finish the big order, but I’ve been getting out smaller orders and can’t hold them up any longer.
I definitely have not figured out packaging for the 16 x 20 sized mats. Yesterday you would have had a good laugh, watching me cut up a box to put three of these prints in. Apparantly, the last roll of packaging tape I bought was thinner than usual, and every time I pulled it, it got all tangled, and I would rip it off and drop it on the floor. By the end of the morning this crumpled brown tape was stuck to all sorts of things. At the end of the day, I was sitting at my desk and went to pick up a pen, and there was a piece of crumpled tape stuck to it.
Light Impressions has these really good boxes for shipping mats, very sturdy with reinforced corners etc. but they cost about $15 each. That’s obviously too much for me to spend on a $40 or $50 print, but I’m seriously thinking of putting some more 11 x 14 prints on 16 x 20 board up on the site, because quite honestly, after doing this large order which is all 11 x 14, you just get much more out of the prints at this size, or at the 9 x 12 size than at the smaller sizes.
I guess I can take away the FREE SHIPPING thing and put shipping / handling charges in place. Or I can continue to keep the price of shipping built (somewhat) into the cost of the print. Fifteen dollars is a lot for a box, but on the other hand it might save me a 1/2 hours work.
* * *
When I was a kid, I spent several summers at Vacation Camp for the Blind, where my parents were counselors. I learned sign language and became pretty fluent with it. I taught this sign language to my friends and when we went to a Yiddish school after regular school we used to sit across from each other and sign to each other while the teacher was going on about the old testement etc. This was all we did at that school. We’d sit in the back of the room, on either side, as far in the back as we could get and hide what we were doing behind a book and sign, and sign and sign. This was a tremendous amount of fun. The ability to secretly communicate while the teacher droned on about whatever he was droning on about (how to speak Yiddish), was fantastic. We formed a kind of secret club, where everyone had to learn sign language, and would sometimes meet behind an old billboard in the Bronx and spend the entire time signing. We called ourselves the Blind Boys Club although as far as I know none of us were blind.
One day, after I had been going to the Yiddish school every afternoon for two years, my father asked me to speak to him in Yiddish. The best I could muster was:
“Vos is die nomen” [excuse the spelling but that's what is your name]. And he looked pleased. My dad was pleased and told me what his name was, which I already knew. Then he asked me something else in Yiddish, and I was lost. He pronounced it slower, but I still had no idea what he was saying. I replied:
Me: Vos mach stu? (How are you)
Him: (In Yiddish) Fine. What else do you know?
Him: I said, what else did you learn?
Me: That’s it, dad..
Him: That’s all you learned in two years? You knew that before you started school. You’ve been learning Yiddish for two years and you only know how to vus mach stu? Is that what you’re saying? What were you doing in class? What about your friend Stan? I’m going to call his mother and find out if he knows anymore than you do. I’m going to talk to that teacher and see what he’s been doing.
He calls my friend Stan’s mother and she questions her son Stan, who apparantly knows less than me, if that’s possible.
Him: (sputtering) How can that be? How is it possible to go to school for two years, every afternoon, and learn absolutely nothing? Do you know what that school is costing me? Are you saying that you’ve been going every day?
Me: Every day, dad.
Dad walks off muttering to himself.
Later on he calls the Yiddish teacher to see if I had been even showing up for class. The teacher says, that I had been there everyday. However, he was under the impression that I might be less than intelligent since I had never spoken a word in class.. Dad saw his money go down the drain, and quickly removed me from the school and Stan was taken out of school also.
We would then spend the afternoons playing on the street.
For many years after that, dad would place me before adults and ask me to show what I had learned in two years of Yiddish school, and I would laugh and do my one phrase. Then he would say tell people how much it had cost him for me to learn three words in Yiddish. I did eventually show him how well I had learned to sign, but I don’t think that ever really helped him get over it.
The Blind Boys Club lasted for a few months, until Stan and I got this sort of laser beam radio transmission thing that you could point across the street, and when the beams lined up you could talk over the thing. What the point of this invention was I don’t know since phones were more reliable, but Stan and I lived across the street from each other, and at night, we would go to our windows and aim these gizmos at eachothers window and catch every other word. I guess this was the precursor to cell phones. Soon, most of the kids in the neighborhood had one of these light-beam radios, and we changed the name of our club to the Gizmo (don’t really remember the name of the thing) Boys Club.
* * *
QUESTION DU JOUR
I usually sign and date the print with the date that I am actually matting the print. Does this make sense. For example, a print that I may have made five years ago, if I were to date it now would say 10-26-01. Should the date on the print be the day the photograph was taken? The day the print was made? Or simply as I’m doing, the day the print was matted? I would also add that as far as the date that the negative was exposed, is probably the least accurate.
* * *
Thanks Bill for your advice on this one — put the year that the picture was taken. I’m going to start doing this on my next order.
* * *
Was having an e-mail conversation with another photographer, about overcoming the normal type of fear of photographing strangers on the street. I e-mailed him some off the cuff advice, and he put it on his site as if it were of some value. Maybe it is. I guess if I had thought about it more, I might have come up with something better but so be it. I don’t really consider myself a street photographer — not like a Winnogrand etc., but I have struggled with various techniques for photographing people without altering the scene. Arguments about whether it is okay to shoot stealthy or more openly will go on forever. I maintain that whatever works for you is fine. How can I put this? Your shooting style shouldn’t be dictated by fear, but at the same time fear is real, and if you aren’t somewhat relaxed about what you’re doing, it’s unlikely that you will get anything worthwhile. Well, even that’s not true. Let’s just say that there are some times when you are up for facing your fears, and sometimes when you can’t.
And you’ve got to accept both. Sometimes, I walk out of the house and I say, I’m just going for a nice walk in the park and shoot the flowers. (Of course, you may notice that I don’t actually have any prints of flowers because they bore the hell out of me.) But I have spent days shooting the flora in the park. I just look at the negatives and put them in a drawer afterwards.
You can see my advice at: Grant Heffernan
* * *
Finished the 33 prints. Tomorrow is matting day. I was very excited to do the last one (Night Storm, 11 x 14).
* * *
Also thanks to Jim G. for the 16 x 20 packaging ideas. I’m not going to put a link to his site here because I don’t think it’s finished yet, but I’m sure it’s going to be a worthwhile site. Definitely another kindred spirit.
* * *
Henry had been matting prints all morning. As he stepped out of the house to go to the post office, he noticed an old woman who seemed to stare at him. He continued on his way to the post office which was a few blocks away, and noticed several other people staring at him. He arrived at the Post Office with his package and as he was standing on line (which was very short due to the Anthrax scare) the security guard approached him. The security guard asked him what was in the package. Just some prints, Harry told him. And as he handed the package to the security guard, noticed that he still had his white gloves on which he used for matting.
* * *
Overheard snippet on 2nd avenue:
“I just can’t stand the idea of working alongside people who hate us!”
* * *
We have a Gubernatorial debate, but I’v never voted for a Gubernor? Have you? Let’s start a campaign to rid the language of Gubernatorial and replace it with Governoral.. I think that the origin of Gubernatiorial is a misspelling. Which brings me to another word that is hard to spell: misspell. How many s’s are their supposed to be in this all important word. Apparantly two. But I would suggest that we strike misspell entirely, and replace it with spelled-wrong.
For example, the person who has trouble spelling can now feel confident writing to his friend that a particular word was spelled-wrong, rather than having to worry about saying that a particular word was misspelled..
* * *
Finished up the 33 prints for England. All nicely matted, and sitting in a box waiting to be shipped. This thing was like preparing for a major exhibition.
* * *
Through a telephoto lens,
The funeral ends.
The image become real,
Through six weeks of steel.
* * *
Ashcroft came out today with another announcement that the terrorists were going to do something this week. He couldn’t say where, and he couldn’t say when. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again, I’m not sure that this is helpful and I’m not sure that I can understand the logic behind such pronouncements. Should the entire country be notified? Or perhaps just government officials, and police and fire? Or do they think that by making such a pronouncement that people will be watching more carefully for something and thus help prevent whatever it is? I would like to hear Ashcroft at least explain his reason for making these general type statements. I understand that he can’t tell anything about where the information came from, obviously, but again I’m not sure I see the purpose.
* * *
Well, I’ve been pretty listless the last few days. Maybe its that the big order is finally finished. Maybe its that I’m going back (part-time) to the ad agency on Thurs (Nov.1). I went out to the park this morning and forced myself to shoot two rolls of Delta 400, but my heart wasn’t in it and I didn’t feel relaxed at all. I could still see the amazing things that were happening around me, but didn’t feel that I was in the zone, so to speak.
I’m telling myself that this part-time thing is only ’til the end of the year — and that by then maybe I’ll have enough confidence that I can make a living solely through the photography, but who knows. Maybe I’m deluding myself. There is no doubt that I’m doing much better selling this year (my 2nd year of selling) than my first year — I’m close to grossing $18,000. Which means a profit of about $10,000. I don’t think you can live in NYC on $10,000. On the other hand, my first year I think I grossed about $3000 if that and a lot of those early sales were to friends (thank you Y.I.)
Maybe I’m just coming down with a cold or something.
* * *
The one good thing that has come out of these four months of Leave of Absence is that I have figured out how to re-arrange the studio so that there is enough room to live and to work. I’ve also gotten to a point where most of the mechanics of shipping and printing and matting are really worked out. What I find interesting, is that even with a couple of huge orders, the work involved was so much, that I couldn’t find the time to get back out to the Met to sell again, or even do a little trip.
* * *
I’m also wondering if this Anthrax thing is going to have an effect on the mail-order business.
* * *
Dropped off a few prints at the post office. It is really deserted these days. At first, I was somewhat cavalier about it, but I’m beginning to see the seriousness of it all. The postal people all wore gloves, and the gloves seemed thicker than the last time I was there. But the woman that I brought my packages to was sans gloves. Someone behind me, the only other person on the line whispered, “This is now ground zero.” I turned around to see if she was talking to me, but she seemed to be talking to herself.
I had scratched my arm, carrying back some packages from the UPS truck, and normally I wouldn’t do much about it, but after returning from the Post Office I put a band-aid on it. Is that what they mean by the new normality?
I’m also getting nervous about the World Series game tonight — not that the Yankees will lose, but that there will be some attack. The New Normality?
* * *
I’m sure you’re all sick about hearing about THE BIG ORDER, but it’s done, and on its way overseas.
* * *
I also seem to have the packaging thing worked out for the 16 x 20′s. Flat Kraft Mailers with a couple of pieces of cut-up Fedex boxes. This is the best solution I’ve come up with so far. Thanks to Jim for reminding me of something I already knew. Reminds me of a line from a John Prine song — “And what I never knew I never will forget.” He’s talking about a love affair — and I’m talking about mailers. Something is wrong here.
* * *
Even though its not Sunday, I have those Sunday blues because I go back to work tomorrow (yes, its part-time) but its still a hard pill to swallow.
* * *
Received several requests from students for my thoughts on this and that. When I first started the site, I was flattered. Now I’m pretty much annoyed. Do your own homework. Sorry, I’m definitely out of sorts.
* * *
I’m doing a junior at Snutee Preppy School and my final paper is on Photography. I’ve been shooting for 3 days and I can’t seem to get photographs that are as good as yours? I’m legally blind. Do you think that might be part of the problem? I can still see blurs pretty well. My photography teacher has assigned a sighted person to actually do the shooting and printing for me, and they’ve digitalized the prints and given me a cortex implant that allows me to see the results. Any tips? I firmly believe that there are no handicaps that cannot be overcome. Thanks in advance for your help.
* * *
Sept 2, 2001
I don’t have anything new to put here, so here are some excerpts from e-mails received pertaining to the Agora show — the first one is from my friend Andy who hitchhiked with me through Canada when we were both 19 and who I hadn’t seen in 10 years.
“Good quote by Jacques Barzun discussing the romantic movement and imagination in particular:
Out of the known or knowable, Imagination connects the remote, reinterprets the familiar, or discovers hidden realities. Being a means of discovery, it must be called ‘Imagination of the real.’
“These qualities pertain to the photos you chose for the show, especially reinterpreting the familiar.
“We are born romantics, you and I. I think if you decided to press the Travelocity button and did the night ferry crossing to St. John again, you would still see a necklace of light on the bosom of darkness… [One of us had written a poem that night about the crossing to St. John comparing the lights in the darkness to a shining necklace... I thought that I had written it, but Andy thinks he wrote it.]
Dreamers never die.”
* * *
These excerpts are from J.C. who visited the gallery a day or two after the show:
“I went to see your prints at the Agora Gallery… I got off at the 5th floor first. After looking around, I finally saw your orphan print. Too bad it was displayed in such a poor location, it looked like an interesting print. The girl at the desk on the 5th floor mentioned that more of your work was upstairs. we went to 6 and I really enjoyed your prints. The detail in Promenade blew me away! There is something special about a photograph taken with a view camera. I was glad that I didn’t come on Thursday night. Although it would have been nice to have met you, today I was able to look at your prints undisturbed; the gallery was empty.”
[Afterwards he walked outside and saw other street vendors selling prints where the same vantage point was used to shoot the Promenade]
“… At another street vendor selling B&W photos, they had their Promenade
print. After seeing yours, their print looked terrible. The more we looked
at your print, the more ‘little’ details we saw. It is a very beautiful print.”
* * *
In those days — Promenade, Marsh etc. I used to feel that the very good prints used the tonal range to reveal some secret, or more exactly to draw you in to some secret world. It was the same world we saw every day — but good prints would reveal something. The tonal range, from the edge of blackness to the edge of visibility in the high tones were on the verge of imagination. I was always fascinated by fog, and storms, because of the way that they through a veil over the ordinary. I have seen ‘Turtle Pond’ in Central Park hundreds of times. But the only print that made it into my imagination, was that day that they were firing cannons across the lake for July 4th — and the mist obscured the Pagoda across the pond. Images that through a veil over the so-called real world, might reveal another world. The world of your own imagination.
I have felt the same thing about Shadows! As if the shadow in ‘Steps of the Met’ is the alter-ego the fellow walking up the stairs. And I haven’t changed all that much. I realize now that when I was walking around taking pictures of ‘stoops’ and corners of broken down edifices — it was the shadows cast that fascinated me. In ‘Flat Iron and Equitable’ it is the brooding form of the Flat Iron on the right against the barely visible lit tower of the Equitable building that fascinated.
The only thing that has changed through the years is that sometimes I feel that I can achieve the same effect without the help of a storm, or nature. ‘Strange Highway’ or ‘Man Blanket’. The mystery of the real. Or the ”Imagination of the real.’
* * *
In terms of the history of photography, I wonder whether this isn’t really a throwback to the old Pictorialists that were so disliked by Adams and Weston (although Weston had his brush with pictorialism). The guys who liked to photograph everything through veils — and tried to emulate painters. One of my latest pictures — Tree and Sprinkler was actually a conscious (sp?) attempt to emulate Seurat…
* * *
I think it has taken a few days for me to recover mentally from the gallery show. And now I’m ready to vent a little. I really wasn’t sleeping well for a day or two before the show, and didn’t sleep well for a day or two after the show.
My feelings this morning are about the great chain of money and artist and how they can embrace each other or spiral down into oblivion together.
Truthfully, it often seems to me that it is very easy to tell someone how wonderful or beautiful their work is — but these same people often don’t realize the connection between that thought, and buying something. In other words, by actually purchasing a print, you are not only paying a very real compliment — but you are helping the artist to create new works. You vote with your wallet.
So everyone walks away from the opening with a grand feeling of having seen Dave as a semi-center of attraction. How many people walked up to me and said ‘How proud the were of me.’ But let us speak of other things besides boosts to the other’s ego — let’s speak of brass tacks, and farthings…
Fee for the privledge of hanging 5 prints — $1850
Other fees for cards, etc. — $200
Total Cost: say $2000
$2000 to have a bunch of people look at 5 pictures. Now one picture sold — and my guess is that is all that will sell. The gallery takes a 40% commission from $600 so I get $360.
$2000 – $360 = $1640.
That means that at the very least — this little show has cost me $1640. I could rent an apartment for a month and show all my pictures there for that sort of money.
So what are you really paying for? Exposure? I have no idea who other than my own friends and family were there. Were there any art critics there? Any photography collectors? If anyone like that was there, they didn’t introduce themselves. I suspect that this was just a chance to get out of the house for a night and say that you were at an opening reception.
(btw — thank you to one or two people who bought smaller prints off the web after seeing the prints at the show. i need to put that into the equation.)
In short — this sort of thing is worth it the first time — to get the experience. But next time, I would never pay an upfront fee, and I would make sure that I could have more space! Maybe, as a friend suggested, I should get a couple of other photographers together and organize our own show. Sort of feels like those old Mickey Rooney movies? Hey! Let’s put on a show!
* * *
The journal seems to be filling with quotes from emails lately, probably because I don’t feel I have anything much to say. Here is part of an email from D.P. in Great Britain. I sent him ‘Card Players’ which he had ordered, and then as a surprise threw in ‘Bike’ on RC paper. I think I like to put in an extra print for the overseas buyer because I feel they are paying for the postage, and an unmounted RC print doesn’t weigh much and is a nice surprise.
“Thanks for the prints, safely received today. It was kind of you to send me the extra print.
I can see why you like it [Bike] , the quality is superb. Interesting to find that it was printed on RC paper – I don’t think you could improve it on any other paper. Having been making prints for more years than I care to think about, I have used most papers in my time. I have always been sceptical about the resin vs fibre argument. It is my contention that the material is not important, it is the skill and care of the printer that matters. Top quality work can be produced on RC papers as well as fibre…”
The only real reason that I switched recently from RC paper to Fiber paper, even for the ‘Open Editions’ is that I think the fiber paper will last longer, and I like the finish better. I also think the blacks are a bit richer. But it is absolutely true that you can make very fine prints on RC paper (so long as it’s not that thin glossy junk they give you at the local one hour lab) and it does save a lot of time in terms of processing and washing.
It’s funny because it’s such a big thing in the fine art world — are those prints fiber or RC? But for the average person, I’m not really sure they would know the difference.
Here’s something that my friend B.Q. suggested — he thought some people might be interested in seeing my contact sheets. Why? I’m not sure, but he seemed to think it might give people an idea of how I shoot.
Well, why not. Recently I’ve been scanning my negatives in order to make contact sheets rather than doing them in the darkroom. I don’t have the process down exactly because I don’t like to put the negatives in the negative holder (they can get dust on them, and I can’t fit an entire roll into the negative carrier) — so I lie them down on the flatbed, but set the thing to use the negative transparency unit. In short, the contacts don’t lie entirely flat and are slightly bowed, but good enough for me to have an idea of what is worth doing a print of.
So here’s a recent one: 9-03-01b
The date is the day the film was processed by me. The notes on the top are about how it was developed. The problem with showing contact sheets on the web is that the file size would need to be very big in order for you to real see anything much in them.
3:40pm — There must have been something in my coffee this morning. I knocked out 28 fiber prints which are now crowding the washer in the bathroom. And three or four are new things. There’s one of the pigeons flying around me that actually has some character to it. I’ve tried this shot about fifty times through the years, but this is the first print that has a nice pattern or randomness and there’s the train tracks in the background leading to nowhere. Yes. I like this one. Let’s see what it looks like when it dries.
Here’s another contact sheet where I’ve actually printed something from it that is on the site — #9 — Wall and Pipe.
* * *
9 PM — Ordered a lightweight folding table. This is part of my new scheme. Stay tuned…
* * *
Ed Begley in Twelve Angry Men
“You’re like everyone else. You think too much, you get mixed up. Know what I mean?”
* * *
The time is fast approaching when I will need to decide whether to return from my unpaid leave of absence to the dark world of corporate advertising. In point of fact, that date is etched in stone — Sept. 21st. True, there was a flurry of sales at the end of August — but they petered out. Coming as they did through the web site, I remember writing at the time that since I had no idea why they were happening then, they’d probably die off and they have.
You know, the site itself, between processing charges for the credit cards, and my isp and my nice cable modem, costs about $150 per month. Just to pay for that means that I’ve got to gross at least $225 per month.
Remember the last scene in ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’? Butch (Newman) and Sundance (Redford) are badly shot up, and are reloading — and about to go out and face the Mexican federales? And Butch tries to tell Sundance that he has another scheme. Sundance is fed up with Butch’s schemes. But finally asks what it is, and Butch talks about Australia. They speak English there. And, oh, the place is filled with banks, just waiting to be robbed.
Well, I’ve got another scheme that has been in the works for a while. It’s not Australia — it’s the Met. For years, I’ve been toying with the idea of setting up a stand in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Fifth Avenue. And now — as the Gallery shows and the web have not panned out — at least not enough to live off — this idea came back to me. It happened on one of those mornings, as I was returning from Central Park. I noticed a fellow photographer selling prints outside the Museum. I remembered his face from almost five years ago when I had first contemplated doing this. M. is selling truly beautiful fiber prints — not framed — but in archival mats. And he told me that it was quite possible to make a living doing this. That recently, a court battle over the rights of artists to sell on the streets of NYC had been won — that it had been declared an expression of free speech (possibly by the Supreme Court) — and that nowadays, the cops were not hassling you at all, so long as you were the artist.
So, that’s the idea behind the aluminum table. And now I’m about to embark on a big printing session, geared towards this locale. I should be ready either this weekend, or next at the latest.
Off we go into the darkroom to knock out another twenty 8 x 10′s of Promenade, and one or two other prints that would be popular with tourists. I need to find out before the 21st deadline, whether this idea is feasible — but I will tell you that if I have the least bit of luck, I think it will work out.
* * *
Transcript from recent phone conversation between me and an old friend.
Friend: Hi. I didn’t think you were going to pick up.
Friend: You know, you’ve got that caller i.d. and I always show up as unknown or something.
Me: I figured I’d take a chance that you weren’t a salesman.
Friend: Actually, I was thinking of trying to sell you something.
Me: Forget it, buddy.
Friend: Actually, just called to say ‘hi’.
Friend: I’m just looking at your home page.
Friend: Something looks wrong.
Friend: Did you know that the fonts are mixed up? You are using different fonts on the home page.
Me: I didn’t know that.
Friend: Aren’t you using a style sheet.
Friend: Hmm. That’s strange, it seems like the fonts near the ‘New Picture’ area are different.
Me: I’ll tell you something, I could care less.
Friend: Also, when you click on the picture it should take you to the same picture in the new area.
Me: Why. Who says so?
Friend: (Laughing) You know it should.
Me: If you want to see that picture, you’re going to have to hunt for it.
Friend: That’s crazy.
Me: Hey, I had to walk the streets of NYC for 50 years to find that manhole cover…you could click a couple of times to find it.
Friend: Oh, there it is. I really like that one. And the one with the flag is good too. I didn’t think you were political.
Me: I’m not.
Friend: But its a picture of a flag.
Friend: I like the way the light is coming through where the stars are. And you know what I really like, the windows in the background, they look like stars also.
(phone rings in the background on his end)
Friend: I’ll call you back.
* * *
8:30 pm — Busy day. Did about 40 prints today (fiber). That was tedious indeed, although I did get a better print of FDR Night than in the past. I’m going out to get a mocha frap as a treat.
Matting and getting ready to go and stand outside the Met with my prints. I’m almost ready now, but probably won’t do ’til Sunday. Since I’m walking over there, about six blocks — the setup has to be pretty lightweight. I hope the aluminum table I got won’t blow away in the wind.
Not very glamorous the prospect of selling on the sidewalk — but I’m determined to give it a try. You don’t have the overhead of the galleries — and you have more control over your display and what you show.
Here’s a weird thing. My sister’s car was stolen and stripped. Of course in NYC that’s not the weird part. What was strange was that the car was actually found and it was on Featherbed Lane and University Avenue in the Bronx. That’s where I grew up and went to grade school. Featherbed Lane got its name because during the revolutionary war, Washington’s soldiers slept out there. I guess on featherbeds. There was a churh on the hill, where a bunch of kids once tried to toss me over the wall into the courtyard which was a 20 foot drop. I guess things haven’t changed all that much up there.
Took a stroll out to the Met this morning at 8:30am. All the vendors were already set up, well almost all of them. Tomorrow, I will go out there at 7 a.m. Hope that’s early enough.
Interesting — last week the site received 23,000 page views. That is a new record. But no sales during that week from the site.
From an email during that week:
“I just wanted to let you know that even that I do not yet own any of your work, I absolutely love it. Your photos are just gorgeous. Thank you sharing your work with us all. ”
* * *
Back from ‘the Met’. In a nutshell. Very promising. I sold about $300 worth of prints. What I learned on the first day was that there are really two crowds out there — souvenier hunters, and people who want original art. Here are the prints as I remember it, that sold — Card Players, Empty Subway Car, Paris Wedding, Girl with Ball, Window…
I don’t remember the other ones. My display was pretty bad and I was situated between two portrait painters which I don’t think was a good idea. But the surprising thing was that none of the smaller prints at $20 sold. Almost all prints that sold were in the larger sizes. Compared to selling on the web — it was fantastic. You could show the work that you liked and chat with people about it. I was out pretty early — about 6:45am. And of course nothing gets started until about 10pm. But all in all, very promising.
Next step is to print larger prints, figure out how to get them there, and stay away from the more usual shots.
9 – 10 – 01
So yesterday may have been a turning point. I asked one or two people who bought things what caught their eye as they walked by my little table — and they all said, “Your stuff was different.” In other words, there were people, maybe a small group, but they were looking for something original and different. And the people who were able to hold the prints and talk about what they liked about them — and mystery of mystery, these were the same things I liked about them.
I had thought that I would need to go out there with pictures of the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building — but this was not true. Compared to my two gallery shows — these people were more appreciative. No wine. No cheese.
What turned things around, was when the wind started to blow around 4pm. My prints were starting to blow around, and I decided to simplify the display even more. I took off the grid I was using to hold up one picture. I removed many of the pictures from the table, and just put one picture flat in the middle. But my little sign about myself got more exposure that way. And people began to stop by.
Today, I go back into work (the advertising job for a few hours as a consultant) but I think I can go back in a position where I can begin to think seriously about not returning. After two years of selling sporadically through the web — this was a revelation.
One other thing that impressed me — how friendly and helpful the other vendors were to me, especially the other fellow — Miguel who was selling fine art photographs. Several people arrived at my table after buying prints from him, and then plucked down money for my prints as well.
Now what happens during the winter months — I have no idea. How many days you need to stand out there to make the rent. I’m not sure. But I’m very encouraged. And oh yeah — there was even a nice order through the web when I got home. Another thing – selling at the prices I’m sellling at, I’m really going to have to buckle down and start cutting my own mats — something that I’ve never quite gotten the hang of. I’ve been buying my mats from LightImpressions — which are pretty expensive.
* * *
Got a few shots back from the Agora show — thanks Bob — here they are:
* * *
What a horror. The World Trade Center is destroyed. I was at home — one hundred or so blocks away — peacefully answering some emails. My sister calls and asks if I had heard what happened. No. She says that we are under attack. That NYC is under attack. I say — c’mon. You’re kidding. She asks if I have the t.v. turned on. I go and turn the set on and see the replay of the plane crashing into the tower. She asks me to come over, but of course I grab my camera and tell her I’ll stop by in a little while. I walk out to the East River, and start walking downtown. You can, of course see the plume of smoke from the downtown area. There is no real panic, but there is a kind of heightened awareness between New Yorkers. You hear bits of conversations… that other planes are on the way. That there might be an atomic bomb…
They keep comparing this to Pearl Harbor, but its really not the same since you don’t really know who did it — and even if you did — its not a country (is it?). As a life-long New Yorker — I can only hope that the bastards behind this can be caught and destroyed.
I keep walking until I get to the 59th street bridge. I end up spending a few hours wandering around — realizing that this is a day that is different from any other day in my life or the life of the city. The closest feeling is how I felt as a kid when Kennedy was shot. Something very important and tragic has happened.
I spend some time at my sisters. Neighbors stop by. Everyone is very helpful. Lines are long at the stores. The ATM machines are out of cash. But on the upper east side, the restaurants and bars are packed. People don’t hide in their houses. They want to be out with others.
After wandering around by the river, I go to the 59th street bridge and spend an hour or so there — you can see the plume which looks like something from Hiroshima. There are hords of people crossing the bridge on foot to get back into Queens. Finally, foot weary and out of film, I walk back to 2nd avenue and get picked up by a cab which is already full of people and take it back to the house. I notice, that for the first time in my life, the little Indian-run deli where I usually get my iced-coffee and bagel is closed up.
Walked down to Canal street, which was as close as I could get to the disaster. Even a day later, it was difficult to stay there too long without wearing a mask to breathe through. Broadway downtown was empty, desolate, and you could see all the way down to where the WTC used to be. I took many pictures of people with their hands covering their mouths to screen out the dust. The most amazing thing I saw, as I was starting to walk uptown — there were about fifty Chinese crowded around a newspaper that was plastered to the wall. It was the kind of thing I remember seeing in pictures of China. And as I was stooping down, a young woman arrived with a newborn baby and joined the crowd. This was a fantastic image — and as I walked away, I just thought about the irony of the destruction, and the new life that was in front of me and hoped carefully placed that roll of film in my bag.
Have been receiving numerous emails from around the world offering empathy for what has happened. Have also received a few requests for pictures of the WTC. I have a few, but I can tell you that the idea of offering them for sale gives me the creeps. But I imagine that there are plenty of postcard companies increasing their production of their WTC pictures.
This, from D. in the U.K.
I hope that you have escaped the terrible attack on your city. I was a young child in London during the blitz and so the scenes bring back unhappy memories of the terror of that time. Also I worked in London at the time of the IRA bomb attacks. Although these were not as devastating the effect on people is the same. I hope that everyone learns the lesson not to support terrorists of any kind in any way.
All of us over here have the people of New York in our thoughts, ”
* * *
Many emails quoting from the Bible — or mentioning God. I had a conversation with my dad about this yesterday. He was a young soldier during WWII and took part in the liberation of at least one concentration camp at the end of the war. How, he wondered was it possible, that so many of the survivors were still able to believe in God. Or in modern terms, how was it possible that men could kill innocent civilians on Sept. 11th — in the name of their God?
I respect anyone’s belief in their faith, but am also unable to understand all of the terrible things that have been done in the name of God. I understand that it is in the very nature of religion that it cannot be rationally understood — that is what faith is about. I also understand the answer that is given by religious authorities, that these evil things that are done are not done by God, but by man. It seems as if the good things are attributed to God and the bad things to man. But there is evil in the world, and it has often been done in God’s name. Tremendous good has also been done in God’s name.
I guess I believe that the fault lies not in the stars, but in ourselves.
Anyway, towards the end of my conversation with my dad, I said — if you took away religion, people would still find ways to hate each other. The north would hate the south. The blond-haired people would hate the dark-haired people. Or, as in a Jonathan Swift story, the people who broke the hard-boiled egg at the fat side would go to war with the others who broke the egg at the thin side. Or the black/white episode in the early Star Trek series. Do you remember that one? There are two humanoid aliens who have been at war with each other for centuries. Both are half black and half white — split vertically from head to toe. To Kirk, they both look the same. He can’t understand what they are fighting about. Finally he asks them what is different about them? Frank Gorshin says — “Captain, isn’t it obvious?”
Kirk looks at both men. He can’t see the difference. Frank Gorshin says, “Why Captain, I am colored black on my right side and white on the left. That traitor is black on the left and white on the right!”
* * *
Today, the city is filled with flags. With people who are holding pictures of their loved ones. The smoke still rises from the twisted metal. The enormity of what has happened is sinking in. My first reactions, probably those of a photo-journalist — were to get out and cover the story. But that is fading, and my thoughts turn to what will happen next. My hope, my agnostic’s prayer, is that in the retribution that must be exacted, that we as a people do not sink to the level of the killers that we abhor. I have heard friends calling for the destruction of entire countries and peoples. As I walk through the city, I have heard snippets of dialogue — anger and rage — and remarks about turning the mountainous country of Afghanistan into a flat place.
In short — and this is tricky — returning evil for evil will be a disaster. Yet the country must be protected, and aggression must be met with strength.
But I do fear that the world as we know it, will not be the same.
* * *
Taliban Supreme Leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, has said, “…The Taliban have isolated bin Laden and have taken away his fax machine, satellite phone, cell phone, computers, and his Internet access.”
I would strongly suggest that they also turn him over to the U.S.
Someday I hope to be able to use a lot of the quotes from these journals…
Here are a few good ones from Cartier-Bresson, who, did very few interviews, and yet is quoted widely.
“Avoid making a commotion, just as you wouldn’t stir up the water before fishing. Don’t use flash out of respect for the natural lighting, even when there isn’t any. If these rules aren’t followed, the photographer becomes unbearably obstrusive.” – HCB
“Memory is very important, the memory of each photo taken, flowing at the same speed as the event. During the work, you have to be sure that you haven’t left any holes, that you’ve captured everything, because afterwards it will be too late.” – HCB
I can’t tell you how many times I walked away from that moment, replaying it again and again.
Spent last night walking around the city — where candles were lit everywhere. This morning, visited one of the emotional epicenters — Union Square. Many religious groups out there using this opportunity to recruit — Jehovah’s Witnesses etc. I ended the morning sitting down with some Tibetan monks and meditating. I took a few pictures. Afterwards, one of the followers asked me if I would send her pictures, which I said I would. I can tell you that after a few hours at Union Square — I felt that many of my previous pictures posted on this site were trivial.
I’ve put a few preliminary photos that have been taken since Sept. 11 on the site — but these are not actual prints. And the scanning quality is not what it should be since my negative scanner has been busted for sometime and I’ve scanned these negatives in via a flatbed scanner — by placing a sheet of glass on top of the negs. and using the transparency setting. It’s okay for proofs, but not much more. Still, a number of people had asked to see what I’ve been up to so I posted them.
As I was taking them, I was thinking about the difference between the normal type of shooting I do — and this shooting. And the difference is that many times I asked myself, “If you didn’t know anything about the WTC, would you know what this shot was about?” And the answer to most of the shots I’ve taken is no. You need to have a few lines of text explaining the context. In other words, some title, or description is needed.
I’m not saying this is a bad thing, it’s just something that was spinning around in my mind, when many of the photographs were taken, and after when examining them. I wasn’t always thinking this way — the shot of the two Chinese women who are staring at me was taken quickly and without much thought — just something about the way they were standing, and the man on the left covering his mouth. Why it is that I am drawn to covering the Chinese, or the Japanese, or the monks from Tibet (I haven’t developed that film yet), or the Indians rather than the so called average American — I don’t know. Maybe its because of my own feelings of being an outsider, somewhat alienated from the normal business of America. Maybe its being a Jew in the United States. Maybe I ate too much Chinese food in the Bronx growing up. I am told that some of the first meals I ate were at a Chinese restaurant. When I go to get my morning coffee or tea, I go to a little Indian-run deli on the corner. Normally, there are many cab-drivers there in the morning, with the turbans — and I guess they are Sikhs — which I don’t even know how to spell. But lately they have all disappeared. Have they decided to remove their turbans? If I were religious and wore a Yalmulka (sp?)– would I remove it because it made me a target? Probably.
I notice that the small arab-run grocery has put a gigantic American flag in the window. But the store is mostly empty these days.
Just returned from picking up my pictures at the Agora Gallery. Everything was pretty normal on the way down. I was in the building for about ten minutes. When I came downstairs, smoke was pouring from the subway on Prince street and Broadway — and there were a few fire trucks around. I lugged my five framed prints around to get closer and took a few one-handed pictures. People were standing around watching — but it was no big deal. I heard someone say let’s go get a Frap and they went into the nearby coffee shop.
On the way downtown, I passed the firestation on 85th street. The sidewalk was filled with flowers. All of these flowers and pictures of the departed (they call them missing) reminds me of the pictures I have seen of shrines in India. The normal grave stones are no longer sufficient. Candles and flowers, cards and momentos, and now dna samples of the lost souls. The call has gone out to pick up toothbrushes and combs of the lost; underwear that hasn’t been washed; anything that may contain dna traces of those who have been vaporized and pulverized and mixed in with the concrete ash and melted steel.
The mayor, and other officials continue to say this is a recovery action. I don’t know how much longer they can hold to that line as comforting as it may be. Everyone wants to do something, but what? My sister, who is a social worker volunteered to be grief counselor. They took her name, and said they were full up. Maybe in a month or so they might call her.
* * *
Here are lyrics to a song written by a close friend the day after the WTC:
“What a day, what a clear blue sky
What a day on which to die.
Out of the blue, there flew this plane
A single second of endless pain.
Five thousand friends, husbands and wives
What a way to lose their lives.
Where is my sister? Where is my son?
They went to work and they are gone.
What is the reason? What can it be?
You can’t explain its cause to me.
Call it revenge. Call it jihad.
You killed your brothers in the name of God.
You’ve made me sick. I want to kill.
I want your poison blood to spill.
We will not rest, we will not sleep
Until your terror is buried deep. ”
And this from today’s New York Times — by Tamar Lewin
In a shooting rampage on Saturday, a gunman in Arizona fatally shot the Sikh owner of a Chevron gas station, and, 20 minutes later, shot at but missed a clerk of Lebanese descent at a Mobil station… The East Valley Tribune reported that Mr. Roque shouted — ‘I stand for America all the way,’ as he was handcuffed.
* * *
All I can say, is that the world as we know it, will never be the same. Life will go on, and the shock will pass but I still find myself struggling with the role of the photographer during these times. It’s true, that my first impulse, was to run out and cover the horror. But even on the day when I walked about five miles to get down to Canal Street, I passed beneath several of the bridges by the East River, and took pictures that reminded me of early pictures of the Brooklyn Bridge taken by Walker Evans — and in looking through the negatives tonight, these are the ones that appeal to me.
Just for the fun of it, I looked at all the pictures in the New York Times today — I was curious to see if there were any that you knew were about this event without a caption, or without obviously being shots of the destruction. Very few. It is ironic, but it is really the pictures of the pictures of the missing that immediately tell you this is the WTC disaster without actually being about the WTC. In other words, photographically, its the idea of the missing person that is most visually symbolic of this disaster. True, the country is filled with flags — but that could be any patriotic time. The pictures of the missing are the visual equivalent of the Yellow Ribbon.
Just had word that Igor Z., a computer support guy, a Russian immigrant, that I worked with and often kidded around with at the ad agency is missing and I presume dead.
He is the first to perish that I knew personally, and when I heard about it through Instant Messenger, it brought tears to my eyes.
He worked on the 90th floor.
Now the face and personality of someone that I worked with every day for several years — the hopes and dreams — crushed. I sit here with my head in my hands, just picturing the way he would come into my office and ask me questions all the time, and I would playfully shoo him out.
He was a heavy-set guy, with a baby-face and light-blue eyes. There was always a kind of puzzled look on his face when he came in to ask me a question. I wasn’t his immediate boss, but I was the computer guru that lots of people came to when there was a problem. He had to support the Lotus Notes system, which no one in the world can understand — and he was constantly coming into my dark little office and standing sheepishly at the door with another question. And I would never give him a straight answer. Maybe I thought I was Socrates or something, but I worked and taught many programmers and I always wanted them to think for themselves. Igor wasn’t going to have any of that, he had things to do, and users were complaining and he wanted a straight answer which eventually I would give him.
He was married. And while he was at the agency had a child — so the child must be about three years old now.
Like all the Russians I knew, he was filled with plans for starting his own company. I would sit with him and correct his English on the web page for his new support company. He came to me constantly with questions about how to get properly listed in the search engines. About how to design his site.
And I think back to the chain of events that forced him out of the agency.
About two years ago, there were various shake-ups in the technical department. New Chief Information Officers came in with wild plans to save money and upgrade our technology. Most of those CIO’s are long gone, leaving a trail of pain behind them. Good people were forced out. Crazy plans were started but not finished.
One of those plans was to get rid of support staff and outsource everything. So Igor and others were fired. And then there was the scramble to find a new job and he ended up at the WTC. But no use going down that tree… So Igor escapes from Russia to come here and be pulverized in the symbol of capitalism. I can only hope that it was quick, and that he didn’t suffer too much. Five thousand dead, and all of their faces rolled up into the face of Igor, standing in the doorway of my office, demanding an answer to something… And now we’re all demanding some answer.
* * *
I find a lot of Bush’s phrases odd — and the one that I noticed was his use of the word ‘evildoers’. Tonight, just for the heck of it, I thought I would read a bit of the Quaran, which I found on-line — and this phrase jumped out at me:
From Sura 2
“Line 11. When they are told,
“Do not commit evil,” they say,
“But we are righteous!”
12. In fact, they are evildoers,
but they do not perceive.”
Is it possible that Bush’s speechwriters are actually trying to give a message to the Muslims?
* * *
Five minutes reading of the Quaran makes it doubtful that this book has anything to do with what happened on September 11. Much of the beginning seems straight from the old testament:
Here’s the Garden of Eden:
“We said, ‘O Adam, live with your
wife in Paradise, and eat therefrom
generously, as you please, but do not
approach this tree, lest you sin.
But the devil duped them, and
caused their eviction therefrom.
We said, ‘Go down as enemies
of one another. On Earth shall be
your habitation and provision for awhile.’”
* * *
And the Jews as being the ‘chosen people’ (given our history, I would rather not have been chosen)
“47. O Children of Israel, remember My favor which I bestowed upon
you, and that I blessed you more than any other people”
* * *
Cecile B DeMille’s Ten Commandments:
49. Recall that we saved you from Pharaoh’s people who inflicted upon
you the worst persecution, slaying your sons and sparing your daughters.
That was an exacting test from your Lord.
50. Recall that we parted the sea for you; we saved you
and drowned Pharaoh’s people before your eyes.
51. Yet, when we summoned Moses for forty nights,
you worshiped the calf in his absence, and turned wicked.*
52. Still, we pardoned you thereafter that you may be appreciative.
53. Recall that we gave Moses
scripture and the statute book,
that you may be guided.
* * *
All religions are like fingers on the hand of God –
62. Surely, those who believe,
those who are Jewish, the Christians,
and the converts; anyone who
(1) believes in GOD, and
(2) believes in the Last Day, and
(3) leads a righteous life,
will receive their recompense from their Lord.
They have nothing to fear, nor will they grieve.
Seems like a pretty inclusive statement to me.
* * *
79. Therefore, woe to those who distort the scripture
with their own hands, then say,
“This is what GOD has revealed,”
seeking a cheap material gain.
Woe to them for such distortion,
and woe to them for their
* * *
You can read about it at symantec.com. Anyway, things seem to be cleaned up now and the site is clean. More, later… just got a call from Agora Gallery, asking me if I would like to bring some pieces down today because one of the artists who was supposed to show tonight couldn’t get their artwork there.
I said I would. I don’t really expect any sales, but exposure is exposure. So between the virus and the gallery, most of today is shot.
* * *
Visited the local firehouse again tonight. This time I went in and shook hands with one or two of the firemen, and felt tears welling up as we talked which surprised me. I was really only saying the same trite things I had heard others say, but the warmth I felt towards these men moved me. He must have seen this in my eyes, and began talking about different levels of levels of sadness, and that he had experienced many of these levels. I wandered around a bit, found a pair of fireman’s old boots surrounded by a wreath and photogaphed them for a while..
As I was leaving, a little girl was being carried on her father’s shoulders, and I heard her ask him, “Daddy, why do they have all those flowers, don’t they know this isn’t a cemetary?”
Did twenty 8 x 10′s of ‘Benches’ and fifteen prints of ‘Flat Iron Tilted’ — so I have enough to mat and ship some orders that have been hanging around since this crisis started, and some stock for the next time I go to the Met. I’ve noticed lately that its been easier to get decent prints from my Plus-X negs. than from my TMY negs. Given the faster lenses I’m using now, I may actually go back to Plus-X. It’s sort of a toss up because the resolution is better with the new films, but the tonality of the old films seems easier to achieve. I also have some rolls of the new Delta 400, and may give that a try first.
Tonight was the second opening at Agora but I didn’t go. Was too exhausted from printing today.
* * *
Agora Gallery is going to use my shot of the flag (towards the end of the new shots) — for their newsletter. It is odd that the last picture I posted on the site before the WTC was this shot of the flag (taken about two weeks prior to the event).
Here’s the blurb I wrote for them to use:
“This photo was taken somewhere around 93rd street in NYC. What caught my eye was the way the light was glowing behind the stars, and the geometry of the windows in the background which seemed to echo the stars. At the time it was nothing more than an exercise in arranging shapes, lines and tones. The events of September 11, mean that, at least for me, the flag cannot ever be viewed again with the same artistic detatchment.”
* * *
Now this was amazing, a guy wrote the following to me a few days ago:
“This is so wierd… My brother called me up and told me to check out pic # 12 on your site. That’s me! I’m the guy on the left. I thought that was pretty cool. -Peace”
Turns out that this is the guy on the left in the picture: Subway, Two Men.
His brother is a photography student who ran across this picture. The guy was quite friendly about it and I told him I would send him a print. In a city of 8 million people — amazing.
* * *
I do best to approach sideways, like a crab. Straight on, I am like everyone else. So I slowly return to a style where important things appear on the edges, where it isn’t so clear what the print is about, and where, in a good print, I myself am not entirely sure. I take away the little section about ‘Things After Sept. 11″ as being an unnatural line of division. And add a print to the new section, where it holds up on its own.
Several people have asked me recently and not so recently whether it is worth it to build a website for selling photography. Here is a draft of something I’m working on now…
How to Make a Living Selling Photography on the Web
By Dave Beckerman
Yes, you too can make a living selling photography on the web, and now I am going to tell you how. In this article I am going to tell you, gentle reader all the secrets that I have learned — for free. Yes, I give my learning away for free because I am quite certain that not a single person in this entire world would pay their hard-earned, or even their easily-earned money to have this knowledge. This brings us to rule number one:
People on the web don’t want to pay for anything
And this is the first lesson to be had on the web — nobody expects to pay for anything. For someone to move their finger to the ‘Add to Cart’ button is like asking the viewer to leap over the Grand Canyon on a motorcycle. This is especially true for selling pictures but not for all merchandise.
Pictures are not shoes
Seeing a picture of shoes on the web, is just not the same as owning them. In order to get your full money’s worth from a pair of shoes, it really helps to have them on your feet. The same is not true for pictures. You can get quite a lot of value simply by looking at the picture on your computer screen. You don’t need to have it hanging in your house in order to really appreciate it. You may appreciate it more if it is around the house, but how much more is open to question.
I would call this the ‘Hey, I Can See It Whenever I Want Anyway’ syndrome. And to continue the analogy with shoes, you get absolutely no more value if you go back to a site and view a pair of shoes over and over again. They are not aesthetic objects (well not primarily) — but pictures are different. You can download them and use them for wallpaper. You can revisit the site and look at them again. You can even print them out, true the quality ain’t great, but so what and then hang ‘em in your cube at work.
Hey, I Can See It Whenever I Want Anyway
Pretend that you had a button inside your head that you could press which would instantly take you to the Museum to view Starry Night — pretend everyone had such a button — would it really be necessary to own the original? So, it may seem at first like a natural thing to do, selling pictures on the web, but it isn’t so natural. Speaking of natural, the one type of picture that human beings will pay for is to see other naked human beings. In fact, these types of pictures are perfect for selling on the web, because we don’t want to have them proudly displayed in our living room. We only want to see them on the computer screen. The problem with the human being is that there are very few of them who would pay a subscription to see “Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico” on the monitor. Pretend that Ansel Adams was still alive. Can you imagine a fine art subscription service on the web where you got to see, in the privacy of your own home, a new print by Ansel Adams each week? I say that no one would pay for that. But they will pay to see as many naked bodies as there are stars in starry starry night.
Sign Up Now for Twenty Years of Photographs which will constantly be added to, and which may possibly bring subtle understanding or amusement to your life. Order now, and we’ll give you access to the secret vaults where images by undiscovered artists are just waiting to be revealed to you.
Show Smaller Pictures That People Can Barely Make Out
When I first put up the site, I thought that people would want a chance to really get closer to the prints, and study them in detail before buying them, so each print could be seen in two sizes — the normal sort of size say 500 x 300, and a size that was double that. I soon discovered, through reading statistics about the site, that for every 3000 normal sized pictures viewed, there was one click on a larger size. Now there could be many reasons for that I guess — such as the larger pictures take too long to load. Or maybe the button for making them larger wasn’t clearly indicated. But my hunch is that people simply don’t see any point in lingering over a computer image as they would if they were standing in a museum. Either the point of the photograph is blunt, and clearly understood, or you can click and look at the next image. Why would you want to explore an image on a computer screen? Doesn’t make any sense. In fact, at one point, I think I made the images on the site slightly smaller, and sales went up.
Decorate or Die
I can divide my sales into two categories: Decorative and Non-Decorative. Let me define the terms, Decorative means that you can put it up on the living room wall without causing the kids any emotional trauma. Non-decorative means that the image may contain some thought provoking or at the very least either too clear, or too unclear subject. Neither is very beneficial to sales. A line in a Dylan song comes to mind, “Beauty walks a razor’s edge, someday I’ll make it mine” — well if making a living on the web is important to you, then put up a lot of beautiful prints — a walk in the park, a sunrise, a sunset, and most especially someone walking in the park during a sunrise or a sunset.
Now here’s another fundamental difference between selling pictures on the web, and selling them let’s say in a physical store, or in a gallery or on a street corner — and this is a big thing:
The web buyer is simply ordering a print. The person on the street corner is buying and taking possession of the print. The web buyer places an order and it is up to you, the lucky photographer to search through your inventory and see if you have that print, and if not make it and make others in case you sell more of it. The photographer who walks out to the corner with his prints, sells one to a passerby. Transaction finished. The web-seller has highly sophisticated (read likely to break) software that takes the order, and notifies him that he has an order and now he must find out whether that picture is in stock, and if not, makes it, and then packages and ships it. And oh yes, drop it at the post office for the larger sizes anyway. And then go and use the software again to actually charge the credit card. Hopefully the package arrives in one piece.
After six months of labor on my site (I did the programming), I received an order by check for a picture. Be;ing excited, I sent the picture and then deposited the check which of course bounced, so not only did I not get the money for the picture but the bank was nice enough to charge me for the bounced check.
In contrast, it took me exactly one day of selling on the street to make ten times the amount I made in those first six months on the web.
COST PER SQUARE INCH OF ART RULE
Oh, THE PRICE POINT. This is the single most important thing that I can tell you. People on the web use a formula for deciding whether to press the ‘Add To Cart’ button or not — and it is called the Cost Per Square Inch rule. Take the cost and divide by the total surface area of the print. This will give you the Cost Per Square Inch of Fine Art (CPSIFA). Confused? Thought that the size of a piece of art might be related to what the artist thought was the proper size. Forget that. Here’s a concrete example:
Print Size = 8 x 10 inches or 80 square inches. Cost is $30. If you divide $30 / 80 = 38 cents per square inch
Now let’s say that you sell that print at 11 x 14 for $35
Print Size Square Inches = 154
35 / 154 = .23 cents
So although the price has gone up, most web-users have already been able to calculate that this is a far better deal.
Now, if you take into account the decorative factor, and at that to the equation, you can see that a picture of a sunset, that is quite large, and sells for a reasonable amount, will be the most popular picture. And of course that leads to the real core of the issue, if this is true, why sell hand-crafted, labor intensive prints at all? Why not just sell posters? Posters are the obvious way to go, because as the reader has surmised, they will give you the least cost per square inch of fine art, and from the web-sellers point of view are the cheapest to produce. But I will take it one step further, and come to the real thesis that I’ve been driving at, and this is — coffee cups with your fine art photography on them.
I know, this sounds like some crass comercial scheme (o.k. it is) — but the coffee cup with the picture of the sunset, will do best of all. The main reason is that like a pair of shoes, it cannot be fully experienced via the web. You must own it. Second of all, coffee cups, and mugs are already very succesful items in most souvenier stores, so you don’t really need to be concerned about developing a market for them. And the most important reason is this — you don’t even need to put your own photographs on the mugs. What will work quite well are little slogans such as ‘I Love New York’ or ‘I Love…” and you can fill in the city.
After writing this entry, I just received the following email, I kid you not, which I quote verbatim:
Selling your pictures on the Internet is the fastest,
easiest way to increase your sales.
Whether you’re shooting digital (or film) you should
consider eS*****s.com as a great online proofing
The more people that can view your images, the more people
will buy them. It’s just that simple.
In addition to our great e-commerce solution, we also give
you ways to sell more stock, sell more accessories and save
on camera gear and more.
* * *
Filling out my quarterly NYS sales tax, I came across a statement that says that those who have experienced problems because of the attacks (and they are listed carefully) may not have to pay penalties. Then there is this line:
Please note that this list is not intended to be all inclusive and that taxpayers experiencing circumstances not described here may also be eligible for such relief. Furthermore, the perpetrators of the attacks and anyone aiding in the attacks will not qualify for the relief provided by the extended deadlines.
I am quite pleased to know that New York State will not allow those who have murdered Americans to file late taxes without penalty.
* * *
For those of you out there that think I have any idea of what I’m doing — this morning should prove that its been mostly a combination of luck and trial and error. I spent most of the day printing various shots taken since the WTC, and I have to say, they are pretty awful. Each in its own way. I guess I did proofs of about seven or eight shots, and didn’t like any of them. For example — the shot of the three Tibetan monks — I must have spent a few hours on that one. Tried it with every paper I have. Either the grays were off, or the blacks of their robes were muddy, or the highlights were washed out, and I’m not even sure that its such a great shot in b&w.
Anyway, I don’t want to get into it right now — but it was a pretty frustrating day. Oh, and the one shot that I thought had possibilities, I realized afterwards that you could see people’s phone numbers and names, and I couldn’t put it up on the website because there’s too many nuts out there.
There’s one, where the missing posters are in the background and there’s this strange shadow coming down the steps that might be o.k. I’ll see after its dried. But all in all — I think I was on a better streak before all the tragedy.
A woman from asked if she could purchase the rights to use a picture to make postcards to send to her customers. She said her entire budget was $200, and that she could only offer $100 for the right to make postcards. A friendly, nice woman, but I told her that it wasn’t worth it to me to have a high quality digital file floating around out there for $100.
In case anyone is interested, I have been having so many problems with TMAX 400 lately, that I’ve switched to Tri-X which I haven’t used in twenty years. Don’t have results back, but I’m hoping it will be a bit more forgiving with me. It’s not that my exposures have been way off, its just that all of a sudden I’m having trouble with TMY in high contrast situations.
Quite the heated discussion when the relatives got together to break the fast last night. I guess it all started when my dad asked one of his innocent questions of the group, “What do you think should be done?” .
Here are excerpts from a letter to my dad with his responses in caps:
I have heard many theories — the Muslims in general are very poor, and unhappy that the U.S. lives so well; that they hate the Jews and hate the U.S for supporting the Jews; that the U.S. invaded holy sections of Saudi
Arabia; and that it is cultural, and we are ruining their culture by spreading our own decadent U.S. culture. Suppose all these things are true.. The Germans believed that the Jews were the cause of all their suffering. Look what happened.
This idea floating around that we needed to ‘understand’ the terrorists, and the causes of ‘terrorism’ made me feel as if I were sitting in a garret in the Warsaw Ghetto trying to figure out why the Nazis were treating us the way they did. What could we do to understand their motivations and appease them in some way and show them that we were human beings just like them. Why don’t they like us?
IT IS AS IF SOME INDIVIDUALS ARE UNABLE TO COMPREHEND THAT THERE ARE PEOPLE
IN THE WORLD WHO ARE “EVIL?-ARE OUT TO KILL THEM AND THEIR CHILDREN. IT IS A
STRANGE BELIEF THAT RATIONALITY PREVAILS IN THE MIDST OF VIOLENCE AND
POTENTIAL SLAUGHTER. CAVE MEN KNEW WHAT THEY HAD TO DO TO STAY ALIVE. SOME OF
THE CURRENT “CIVILIZED” INDIVIDUALS HAVE NEVER BEEN CLOSE ENOUGH TO
A HEIGHTENED SENSE OF MORAL BEHAVIOR AS A FUNCTION OF KILLING “THEM/:, i.e.,
IN OUR TIME AND THE CURRENT SITUATION, THE “THE INFIDEL”
We all have our idealogies, and apparantly they are as important as life itself. I think from what I see, that even if there were another bombing, and relatives were killed, that would only strengthen peoples leaning on their idealogy.
I THINK NOT. IF THERE IS ANOTHER LARGE BOMBING, SOME OF THE PEOPLE WHO ARE CONCERNED WITH CIVIL RIGHTS, WILL RECOGNIZE THAT THEY COULD BE NEXT, AND WOE TO THESE CIVIL RIGHTERS, IF SOMEONE NEAR AND DEAR IS KILLED. QUICKLY, I ADD, I TOO AM CONCERNED ABOUT CIVIL RIGHTS, BUT I WANT TO STAY ALIVE TO FIGHT FOR CIVIL RIGHTS.
How can you tell whether someone has an idealogy? It means that their reaction to any issue can be predicted. I could predict that X would blame this on the corporations. That Y would blame this on the past actions of the U.S. And that Z would be non-violent.Perhaps my reaction could have been predicted too — but I doubt it.
I’ll be honest with you dad, I arrived with a slight headache — and I left with a slight headache. And I will tell you that you were the only one there that I would like to share a foxhole with during a real crisis.
A SERIOUS RESPONSE FROM YOUR FATHER: I WAS VERY MOVED BY THIS COMMENT. THANK
One other thing — maybe I travel in different circles, but I can tell you that almost everyone in the circles that I travel with would be happy to see military action, and see it soon. They expect it, and they desire revenge. Did Y ever sit down and talk with a young National Guard soldier who spent several nights at Ground Zero, walking over body parts? Did Y talk to the widow of the Russian immigrant who is dead at age 29 leaving a wife and three year old child. I have two other friends who came that close to being dead. It seemed lost on some people that civilians were
the outright target.
UNLESS I AM WRONG, ALL WARS START WITH PARADES AND PATRIOTIC SONGS.
ONCE THE BODY BAGS BEGIN TO ARRIVE, THERE IS A BEGINNING UNDERSTANDING OF
WAR. I THINK MY STRONG REACTIONS HAVE MUCH TO DO WITH MY WAR EXPERIENCE.
[my father was in the army and fought in europe during ww II. he has seen a lot, including the liberation of concentration camps]
DURING THE EVENING, MUCH LIKE YOU, I FELT THAT I WAS IN CHURCH, AND THE
CHOIR MASTER WAS SIGNALING US THAT IT WAS TIME TO SING, WHILE OUTSIDE THE
BOMBS WERE FALLING, AND I COULD SMELL DEATH, AND BURNING FLESH. I WOULD
FEEL BETTER, IN THIS SITUATION, WITH A HAND GRENADE AND RIFLE IN MY HAND. GUESS
IT IS OBVIOUS: I NEVER REALLY GOT THE WARRIOR MENTALITY OUT OF MY SYSTEM.
SHORT, SHORT STORY. YOUNG WRITER, LETS CALL HIM JIM, GOES TO SEE A FAMOUS
SOUTHERN WRITER (BILL IS HIS FIRST NAME; I FORGOT THE SECOND NAME). JIM HAS
GIVEN BILL A SAMPLE OF HIS WRITING. JIM COMES BACK TO THE HOUSE AND ASKS
BILL: “WELL, WHAT DO YOU THINK? CAN I MAKE IT AS A WRITER?
BILL IS VERY ENCOURAGING AND THE YOUNG WRITER LEAVES FEELING VERY GOOD. THE
PHONE RINGS. IT IS THE PERSON WHO SETUP THE GET TOGETHER BETWEEN JIM AND BILL.
HER HER NAME IS RUTH, AND SHE ASKS ASK BILL, “WELL WHAT DO YOU THINK? DOES JIM HAVE
IT.” BILL MUMBLES SOME POSITIVE STATEMENTS, BUT RUTH PERSISTS, “GIVE IT TO
ME STRAIGHT. DOES JIM HAVE IT OR NOT.?” BILL ANSWERS, “NO, HE REALLY
DOESN’T HAVE IT. HE IS TOO FAR FROM THE DIRT AND ANXIETY OF LIVING.”
THERE WERE A NUMBER OF PEOPLE IN THE ROOM WHO WERE TOO FAR FROM DEATH, KILLINGS
DO YOU THINK THAT WE SHOULD SAVE THESE EMAILS? THEY COULD BE INTERESTING,
* * *
Well, its saved here.
My attempts at ‘capturing’ the events of the day, gave little artistic satisfaction, so I will stop trying. For years, I have wandered about, without trying to get anything in particular. Without knowning what would strike me or why. Sometimes this might be the gleam of sunlight on water-soaked boards, or the posture of a man. Once I gave in to the events, and abandoned that approach, my photography turned from something instinctive to something planned and obvious. It was as if my pictures had turned into foreign movies that required subtitles. So, after the great shock and horror, I am slowly returning to my old way of working, which is to simply wander about and not try.
It is better to strive in one’s own dharma than to succeed in the dharma of another. Nothing is ever lost in following one’s own dharma, but competition in another’s dharma breeds fear and insecurity — Sri Krishna in The Bhadavad Gita.
["The word dharma means many things, but its underlying sense is 'that wich supports,' from the root dhri, to support, hold up, or bear. Generally dharma implies support from within: the essence of a thing, its virture, that which makes it what it is". -- Diana Morrison from The Bhagavad Gita, Nilgiri Press, copyright 1985]
* * *
Printed Subway Car (Empty) today, and a few other prints, and seem to be getting back on track. The odd thing is that I’m still using three different papers to get control over some of these prints — Ilford VC Fiber, Gallerie Grade 2 and Gallerie Grade 3. The VC Fiber, even when I’m giving it just soft light, is often too contrasty. It is almost like a Gallerie 5 if there is such a grade. Also finally got a small print of Grand Central Arches which I’ll put on the site soon. This print, which I really like, just never translated well via the scanner. But I have hopes that this one will. Also changed the site around and am offering some limited edition prints at much lower prices. The inexpensive print of Promenade is being bought pretty frequently now, but I feel that I need to be able to sell at least one or two limited editions per month, even if they are only $75 each.