22 February 2010


22 February 2010

I was working in a commercial photo lab when I was 14 years old, taught well by a man of color that had been doing it all of his life. The darkroom was an unventilated 12x12 room in the service corridor of the Francis Marion Hotel, an edifice long past its prime that smelled of mildew, decay and more subtle, less pleasant things. Of course, Walter’s darkroom reeked of stronger, more obvious smells: things long ago banned in our slow march to safety. I loved Walter and his realm, and was quite honored that he would trust me at the helm alone.

So one could say that analog photography is second nature to me, though I reached a point of complete saturation after so many years imprisoned under the orange lights cranking out the catalog jobs. In those days, reproduction was done from prints, which were rushed, literally steaming, to the last Federal Express branch in NYC that accepted packages for next day delivery.

Enough time has passed to dull the pain of all those lost nights, and in our digital era when an image often never transcends the divide between ethereal and corporeal, a real silver-based black and white print is a joy. And of course, the availability of analog photographic material is soon to end, and nothing is quite as pretty as a real black and white.

Several years ago, my friend Mike Adams gave me an old, uncoated Kodak Ektar 12 inch lens that is f4 (quite fast for such a lens), and it allows one to work with much less light than otherwise necessary for large format.

I am fortunate enough to have acquaintance or commission with some interesting people, and have been shooting a series of black and white portraits, most against an old plaster wall I built from found materials for the purpose. This week I took the plunge and scrubbed everything down for a printing session. Tested all of the paper I had in stock (less was spoiled than I thought) and cranked out some beautiful prints.

My favorite is one of composer, John Adams.

18 February 2010

Year of the Tiger

18 February 2010

Most people in the USA think of something specific on February 14 that usually involves either the health disaster of processed sugar or the environmental nightmare of cut flowers. The same day happens to be Chinese New Year, and 2010 is the year of the tiger. This annual designation and the Apple use of the felid family are avatars of our ironic tendency to simultaneously worship and destroy. We cherish nature shows while buying the fast food that is directly responsible for destruction of the subjects of our adoration. There are more tigers in captivity in the USA than left in the wild. They will disappear in the wild in the next 50 years because we are destroying their habitat. We will try to save them in captivity, but those will become so inbred that their health will wither away. Like a science-fiction movie this magnificent animal will become but history, history will become legend…

Of course we could do something about it. It wouldn’t be that hard.

Think about it next time you pull in to the drive-in fast food restaurant.

08 February 2010

COAL ASH - Round 2

8 February 2010

You probably don’t give too much thought to coal ash.

You might want to change that.

The USA gets half its electricity from coal, produced by about 600 power plants , each of which produces about 325,000 tons of coal combustion waste (CCW), composed of fly ash, bottom ash, and scrubber slurry. This is nasty stuff. Industry tells us that it’s not very harmful, but then you read the articles about the horrible birth defects and environmental consequences to the third world locations, unlucky enough to have a couple of shiploads dumped on them.

CCW contains a slew of nasties like arsenic, mercury, chromium, and cadmium, which tend to blow around and leach out into the water table (oops, don’t drink that!)

Thank God the EPA hasn’t recognized it for the toxic waste that it is, because the coal burners would have to treat it as such, which would be expensive {shudders.}

Did I mention that since the stuff is so ubiquitous, and after all, non-toxic, that we are mixing it in with wall board and concrete. A little mercury in your sheet rock shouldn’t bother you, right?

Last year, the EPA released a list of coal ash storage sites that would pose a grave danger to the public if they failed (like the one in Tennessee did last Christmas, largest industrial disaster in US history!) Didn’t hear about it?

I’ve been dying to shoot the “EPA 44” since the list was released. Got them all plugged in to my GPS.

Rumor has it that the Obama crew will review the regulations this week, and my sources tell me there are no great pictures that tell the story graphically. Sounds like a bugle call to me, better call in the cavalry: SouthWings. Twelve of the EPA list are in NC, the SW stomping ground.

SouthWings has been my partner on the Coal Ash project for years, and they jumped right on board to go again. The weather looks good for the target region for today, so... all systems go!

Tough it’s a bit short notice, the spontaneity allows me to have pretty favorable odds with the weather. Could work.

You can see the first set of pictures from the Coal Ash project here.