Film is a pain in the ass. Yes. But I’m coming to the realization it’s the only solution I can work with. I just can’t make a black and white print from digital capture with any feeling. At least, not consistently. I know I should accept digital on it’s own terms. I had planned to do that, even said so right here on this blog. But black and white from digital just doesn’t seem organic. In the back of my mind, I know all of that color information is there. There doesn’t seem to be a natural way to avoid it and shoot with a black and white mindset. It just doesn’t feel truthful to me. I know the problem lies in my head and not in the method of capture. But I am so enamored of the tactile quality of film, the bite of the grain, the vulnerability and limitations of that little piece of plastic, and the surprises that happen in the process of bringing it all together.

So, in resignation, I started piecing together a little proposal. To myself. Wondering just how expensive it would be to pursue a project with black and white film. Turns out, not that expensive- to shoot, at least. Purchased in 100′ rolls, I figured it would cost only a couple of bucks per roll of 36 exposure. Chemicals are pretty cheap, too. I sketched out a reasonable budget for a 6-8 month initial shooting period. I’d process the film and scan it on my ancient but capable enough scanner, just to plot direction and keep a tally of the project in progress.

After the shooting phase, it gets a bit thornier. Decisions would have to be reckoned with. Paper IS expensive. Scanning is tricky to do right, prohibitively expensive if drum scans are necessary. One option would be to join the local photography center, either for darkroom access or to use their better scanning equipment. I’d hold out hope for a lottery win, or the possibility of a grant, if the work was good enough, to finance a final printing.

In fact, a small grant, in the form of a Christmas check from my mother, has already arrived, and I am close to ordering that first roll of bulk film. Stay tuned!

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When I break it down to it’s simplest form (and when is that ever not the best thing to do?), I love working with the human form. Hands, especially, are incredibly interesting and telling clues to the human condition.


My projects are usually figured out as opportunities to view people engaged in an activity. Whatever the surface reason, or stated mission of my project, the underlying interest for me is to be able to view people thoroughly engrossed in their work– be it farm labor, auto mechanics, music, art or faith. The more they concentrate on what they are doing, the more they can forget about me.


046Of course it’s not just about work. I suppose it’s any moment that I can observe people connected to something important and just being who they are.


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A New Number One

To those few who are following this blog, my apologies for yet another new beginning. I just haven’t hit a level of honesty and insight-fulness with this thing that appeals to me. So once again, hello. My name is Greg. I’m writing a blog about… about… well, myself, beingĀ  middle-aged and middle-class (by the skin of my teeth), living in the middle of America. I’ve been a photographer since high school years, and I’ve dabbled around the periphery of art for a long time.

Though photography is a technology-laden art form, I grow tired of thinking of it in those terms. I do believe that to be a photographer, you have to find a process that enthuses you, that feeds your heart. For some, that’s slow photography– darkroom, silver gelatin, large format or some derivative of historical processes. For others, it’s the latest digital technology and megapixels, always stepping up into the next newest thing. And everything in between.

Photography has always been a very liquid and moving platform, always on the edge of technology. As a cash-strapped young lad, and now a cash-strapped old guy, I could rarely be on the cusp of the latest offerings. I’ve spent the last couple of years with one foot in the old-school film camp (35mm Nikons!), one foot in digital technology (circa 2009 or so), trying to hone in on a comfortable process that balances what I can afford with what I want to do. And I’m about burnt-out from thinking about it.

The reason I was a black and white film photography guy for many years was not only because I loved black and white. It’s because I could always find a black and white darkroom to work in, and have full control over my images. When digital arrived, I embraced color photography because I now had full control with Photoshop and an Epson printer. I did a lot with the 6-megapixel camera s I started with. I’ve since upgraded some, but I don’t think anyone would know, upon viewing a print, what camera I used, and that was the point.

But when you mingle with other photographers, or read photo blogs or magazines, you quickly feel less than adequate if you haven’t kept up with technology. Even if it doesn’t matter to the images you produce. I’ve been caught up in that fog for too long, and feel a need to come to resolution.

I think you need to love the process you’re working with; the technical side needs to feed the creative side. It shouldn’t create a canyon of impossible longing that you’ll never cross. The end result- the image you want to produce- should be attainable, and you should enjoy the journey.

I’m exploring my options for utilizing an all-black pigment inkset for my Epson. There are some setbacks– my printer model may not be supported any more but I think there is a way around that. In the end, my goal is not to completely emulate black and white film on gelatin silver paper. It’s to create a visually appealing, tactile print with splendid tones. Black and white digital is different than film, and I am not going to introduce an artificial process to try and fool people into thinking it’s the same (grain, contrast, etc). I want to accept the new technology and see where it can go, do what I want. In the end, if I can’t achieve the look and feel that I want, then I’ll need to change processes.

What I really need, though, is to get back to projects, to think about the image, not the camera. The process should become ingrained, a pleasure, a non-thought.



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