Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Next Monday

I realize that having had that Monday vacation wasn't the best thing for many of you. Two weeks in between.

And that a once-a-week class is very difficult to remember.

And that you have other classes, etc...

And that two of you have had serious camera problems.
For those of you with working cameras,  I'd assume 6 or 8 rolls of film would be taken by now.

Thanks to Meghan, Martyna and Tunisia for finding other MACs with photoshop in the library. The MAC lab is open for most of our class time.

IMPORTANT NOTE: THE MONITORS AND PRINTERS IN THE PHOTO LAB ARE NOT CALIBRATED SO THAT WHAT YOU SEE ON THE SCREEN IS NOT WHAT YOU'LL GET AS A PRINT.   I'd advise trying a test print and then it will be easier to figure out how much to lighten or darken your image on the screen to get closer to the print you want.

CARRIE, I DON'T THINK THAT I EXPLAINED HOW TO USE THE DRY MOUNT PRESS...Please ask Kevin...basically, you tack the tissue on the back of the print (small touch, leaving a quarter size heated area in the center...) and then you cut the print (using sharp knife and a metal rectangle) and then you carefully place it on the page and tack the TISSUE on the top two corners...and put it between the two sheets of cardboard in the PREHEATED dry mount press...make sure it's heated to the temperature of the paper you're using...RC takes a lower temperature than fiber...   and I think we talked about fine-point magic markers...Blick is a good place to buy them ...

There is no work-time during the next class.

Let's hope there's a good showing on Monday. I realize that some of you are behind and will catch up during vacation which starts on the 12th. If you are working on two ideas, please show both of them even if neither is completed. Remember that you might decide to continue on with this project for the whole semester. Or you might have another idea.

The drop or pass/fail day is on the 14th which is during vacation. If you're very worried about a grade, give me your e-mail and I'll mail it to you before then.

After the class on the 19th, there will be five class days before the presentation of the final project(s) on the 7th of May. (There's another week in there, but there's another one of those Monday vacations.)

To answer one question, yes, if you do take 20 minutes to take a photograph with a digital camera, you don't have to take a number of them. But most people take more because of the situation. For instance, I should have played around more with the first and second photo on the catwalk, especially  since that architectural drawing won't be there again..I took two of the man standing in the road by the new building.       I was in a hurry...

In taking abstractions or landscapes, I realize that a photographer is capable of concentrating and deciding on a well-composed image. That's the principle of the large-format camera. However, most people still explore by taking a number of photographs, even those who are set up with a tri-pod because afterwards, you might want the placement of the horizon, for instance, to vary a bit.  

A fellow formed a company breeding designer geckos in Texas...they, in his mind, become living art...and he describes the process of setting aside the number of eggs he wants to become females in an 80 degree room and those he wants to become males in a 90 degree room. Once they hatch, he checks the babies for unusual designs so they can be bred. It took him 30 generations of geckos to start making these fanciful creatures which he probably sells for a pretty penny. This was all described in a 2 min and 54 second vido at the Museum of Science gecko show.
 Shadows of a sculpture piece in a show I saw this weekend.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Book Making

I had planned to test myself by preparing another talk using that odd machine and my computer, but it seems more practical to demonstrate book making for Carrie and whoever wants to watch and urge the rest of you on with your March 5th project.  

After that there is spring vacation and we miss yet another Monday class.



So, here are some photographs of specific styles of books in case Carrie wants to think about alternatives to the scrap book.

 This is a very large, heavy "scrap" book that I made for an etching class that I was auditing at UMass. I wanted extremely large pages because I was using etchings with text.

And I was using very heavy, very large board that I bought at a book bindery. It has to be laboriously cut with a matte knife.

The board that you buy in a package in an art store such as Blick is around 13x19, four boards in a package and is much thinner. It's easier to cut, but you can't make a huge book.

There are always end-papers pasted (with a white glue that you very carefully apply over the whole surface) inside the front cover after the outer covering (in this case, a heavy black rice paper). Sometimes you put on a sheet of heavy weight BFK Reeves -- the same paper you've used for the basic book block and then paste the end paper over it. Sometimes you use the BFK Reeves as the end paper. (Take a look at the accordion book and you'll see white end papers..) And you need to make spacers -- the same size as that board that makes the hinge and put one between each sheet because these compensate for the print (height) and the dry-mount tissue.

The scrap book consists of a front and back book board. And then there are two narrow pieces, cut the same width, that create the hinge to allow the cover to open easily. You'll need those two metal whatever-they-are called.  gismos? gromets?....(see top picture.)

The pages are 1/4" smaller on the top and bottom and 1/4" smaller on the right and left sides. In other words, 1/2" smaller than the book board because this protects the pages from being easily damaged.

This is a strap book...though it's easy to make and I made this one during a Workshop that I was teaching a couple of years ago, it's definitely more delicate because the cover is not made of book board but of a heavy paper..    The pages are made by folding each piece of paper in half, twice the length of what you've decided is your cover size...and then binding it through the fold (this has to be seen to be explained easily.)  One advantage is an attractive binding of stitching. But, again, it's fragile.  

I hated the blue coat that I was wearing that winter, so I wanted to make a book about it, using text.

So there were many photographs of me with my usual forlorn expression in that coat and also much smaller images of the coat and the lining, etc...it also functioned as sort of a diary.

This is an accordion book which is actually quite easy to make...Again, it's with a heavy-weight BFK Reeves paper and the images are adhered with dry mount tissue and the dry mount press.

I made it for that same class...using photographs I'd taken in the parking lot when I took a friend to doctor visits...they are digital images and I used photoshop to add text.   As you'll see, the end pages are an extension of the accordion book block.  I don't think anyone in that class was any more interested in my working along with them than most of you are in this blog...but why not do it?

It's possible to make deliberately messy books, but these are examples of quite formal solutions and they are a bit annoying to make because all the pages have to be the same sizes and the glue has to be applied neatly, blah and blah.    If you hate precision, these aren't the books you want to make because they look pretty awful if you're not careful...for instance, folding an accordion book is tricky.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Old dog, new tricks

It is possible to teach an old dog a new trick, but I was so befuddled by using the new gismo to talk about JR, that I really flubbed that discussion...and though I'd done most of my homework (except to prepare seamless visuals for discussion), I did not realize that the train passing by twice a day created those three completed portraits..I did know that the tops of the shanties were only visible from above.  I'll do better next time.

I'm really sorry that there's no class next week...please feel free to e-mail me images and complaints..melissa.shook@umb.edu

Let me try to explain again what Photo I and Workshop projects are designed to get you to think about. If photography is a visual language, then one photograph would be a sentence. To show the viewer that you know what you're doing (and that you really want to convey an idea or emotion), you want to make a series of photographs....that's the equivalent of putting sentences together into an essay (documentary), a story (narrative) or a poem (abstractions.)     In the olden days, before I began taking photographs, it's was sufficient to take separate interesting photographs....and if you're a commercial photographer or a photographer who specializes in editorial work, it's still possible to take single interesting photographs.   But for the purposes of classes in the Art Department, it's necessary to string them together, creating a group of related photographs.

I know that Margaret taught lighting last semester and emphasized that, but, in general, the Workshop has not emphasized adding new skills to those you already have just using your camera as the tool. You were pushed you to explore an idea, a subject, further, to order to build up a small body of cohesive work...10-20 images for each of two projects. I'm positive that Margaret also does his.  

When I was teaching photography full time, there was barely enough budget to buy additional cameras to rent to students. Margaret has been able to buy lights and the light box for alternative printing and has added those possibilities for different workshops, but she has the same principle of creating a body of work...    

Hopefully, you will leave this class, even if you've had to struggle through it, with images that hang together and give a cohesive sense to what you want to achieve. By 'wanting' to achieve, I don't mean that you have to know what your end 'product' will be when you begin.

So, you may not have an absolutely clear idea of where you'll end up, but you have to start by taking 4 or 5 rolls of film...or several hundred digital images and then editing down.

So, I'm going to take the liberty of discussing, in general terms, a bit of the work I saw yesterday that's really moving along... because these are really good examples of successes at this stage...   (If I didn't include yours, please don't feel bad...I'll probably add more thoughts to another blog...this is what I was thinking when I couldn't sleep last night..)

1. if you're photographing at night, inside a dark club which is probably noisy, it's terrific if those images convey that quality of shimmer and movement. Unless you're Larry Fink (you could check out his work) and using flash at high society banquets to isolate individuals, the sense that I think is absolutely FINE AND APPROPRIATE is slightly out-of-focus, dark and noisy (even with the large pixels that you'd get if you were using 3,200 black and white film)....         so, if you got four or five slightly out-of-focus, a bit shimmery, dark images, out of 60, that's great, keep going. Please don't think that crisp images would better convey the atmosphere of that situation.

2. If you're trying to photograph strangers, something you've never done before, and you get one, let me repeat ONE photograph of an older woman reading the newspaper which shows her concentration and is nicely framed...that's terrific.  If you've also taken photographs of strangers in different settings and you've gotten two or three that work graphically, showing an isolated person in a well-composed environment, that's also terrific.   Don't worry that they may represent two different visual ideas! You're moving along nicely....     Photographers are like sharks, circling around, waiting.... it takes a lot of time and a lot of pushing the shutter release... a 'working' photographer will take an endless amount of photographs of the same scene, picking one... you can afford to wait, appear to be leaning there and thinking, and take a lot of photographs...

3. If you've taken one roll of film of different angles of a wrought (spelling? damn, I can't spell and am not going to look that up in the dictionary) iron fence and the river, make a contact sheet and some small images and see what you've got...feel good about how much work you put into the different angles and distances... then go back out and take more images of fences, concentrating on the graphic detail and how the background plays into the overall design of your photograph.

4. If you're taking portraits of friends from different cultures, you won't know whether images that take a more documentary direction will fit in with them...but keep going, doing both..  If you get two interesting portraits out of one session, good...and it's really interesting that you've asked them to supply text..you'll figure out how to best put that on the photographs..

5. If you've gotten four to six well composed images while following someone leading a tour...terrific, excellent.......the only suggestion I have is that when you go on the tour again, take more photographs, from different angles of each site or stop. One or two isn't enough even though you did very well in choosing the successful images from the 50 or so that you took.

6. Yes, it will work if you make a book (I've often taught a workshop on bookmaking and will be happy to demonstrate how  to make one..it's time consuming, but will add a lot to this presentation) using the photographs you took last summer.    (In general, it's much better to take photographs during the semester because then you can update your ideas, change direction...but since you are doing something complicated with book-making and text, that's fine...)

If the new camera you just got in the mail doesn't work, I'M REALLY SORRY....

And if you didn't check that your film was securely wound on when you started taking pictures and your rolls was blank, I'm also sorry...but check to make sure it's securely attached to the spool and that the rewind button is moving when you advance the film.

It's a long time between classes...please take a lot of photographs, work in lab or on your computer for the four hours a week....and make a page in the lab book...

again, you must have work to do in class, if you don't, it's the same as being absent......and stay until 5:00...it's a three hour class... I'll be there at 1 if you want to talk with me early and I'll happily stay after 5....

Sunday, February 12, 2012


Kevin will be able to set me up with that magical machine that will project material about JR. Let's hope that works because it would be more interesting to talk about images which is what I want to do at the beginning of class tomorrow.

I'm assuming you have looked up his work and read what he chose to do with the Ted Prize in 2011. There's the possibility of doing a community project in connection with his work that we should talk about. Hopefully someone besides me will have looked into it.

I'll talk with those of you who I didn't connect with...and try to catch up with others. I'm hoping the camera problems have gotten ironed out. And I assume that you're well on your way with projects, unless your camera problems weren't solved.

Let me remind you, that you should at least make a brief note on each of these blog entries so that I know that you've been reading them...like a sign-in sheet, similar to the lab book that you're writing your hours in...

AND APPLAUSE FOR SIMON WHO WROTE A COMMENT on the previous blog, ASKING ALL OF US TO LOOK AT HIS WORK ON FACEBOOK   SIMON.P PHOTOGRAPHY....      let's see how many of you have done that by tomorrow...   another hint about writing a comment and checking out who has written one!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!        (I just tried to look up Simon.P Photography on facebook and couldn't find it. Is it case sensitive?)

AND PLEASE CHECK OUT     STREAMINGALIFE.BLOGSPOT.COM  is Susan Landry's blog...she has joined the class long-distance. The entries that concern you are under the title "Workshop."

And a reminder that there's no class on the 20th..

I was listening to NPR while driving...and heard interesting comments about what very young students learn in good schools -- critical thinking, learned optimism, tenacity and problem solving. That's all supposed to be focused on in the early grades, but it seems to me that these involve life-long learning.  Obviously thinking out-of-the-box, defining goals, setting a pace of work, thinking about process as well as about product are other key concepts.    

I started thinking about the way you folks managed the one-page-fold book in relation to problem solving...

Obviously if you are taking four classes and working a job or two and want something like a social life, it is all really hard to balance...but you can still examine the ways you go about making an attempt to make sense of all you want to accomplish.

Thursday, February 9, 2012


 I'm glad that I had a chance to talk with most of you on Monday and apologize to those of you who I didn't have time for...      Next Monday, I'll catch up with the rest of you and also check in briefly with all of you...just to see if everyone has been able to get going...with hope that the camera problems have been solved.   Feel free to e-mail me at melissa.shook@umb.edu.

We'll talk about JR at the beginning of class and then you'll be free to work.

If you're e-mailing me a document, it has to be a word.doc, not one of those x docs..

Remember there's a holiday on the 20th..

My friend, Susan Landry, has joined the class by long distance. If you look at the previous posting, you will find her blog address so that you can check out what she's doing if you want to.....

Some of you seemed to turn a bit green when I said I expected hundreds of digital images...often...   The expectation for film is at least 20 rolls of 36 exposure film..which  means developing it and making contacts..for those 720 images...Naturally not all that many negatives will be printed, but the whole process is very time consuming.

Digital is easier, faster..and only involves making prints. (Thinking about what to print is the same for both processes..the difficulty of choosing the images that best support your idea..)

There's a very good show of artist books at the Boston Atheneum on Beacon Street. It costs $5 to get in and that allows you to stay all day, if you choose, sitting on one of those elegant red chairs, reading or writing. Though I was only really interested in five or six of the books (that's about the average I'd expect to find interesting in any show, whether of paintings or photographs), it was really worth seeing all of them.

The Pompeii show at the Museum of Science will be over on the 12th, so I spent 3 hours there yesterday. IT IS OUTRAGEOUSLY EXPENSIVE....BUT I REALLY WANTED TO SEE THE BODY CASTS... Taking over 180 photographs, just for the pleasure of it. None of the images are particularly interesting, but they function as note taking.

The heads above are reconstruction from skulls and I thought it was interesting to get some sense of what the people really might have looked like...

There are a number of  overt sexual images -- frescoes or the tiny little sculpture that is in this image to the left which is a case displaying the many little objects for the afterlife.... the walking phallus that was carved into something or other, a little holder for oil... the hundreds of noisy children probably didn't notice any of this since they were so eager to rattle around, dodging in and out.....

There is a casting of skeletons from Herculanium....

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Saturday - transient possession

 A friend just gave me three Untitled (transient Possessions), 1212, that she'd been given as part of an artist project that involves 500 unique images, one done drawn on in dark boston beer on tintoretto 300 gr paper.. and the other in ferrogallic ink on the same weight paper...

as a collaborative drawing by cesare pietroiusti and the visitors of the isabella steward gardner museum...distributed for free and subject to transient possession...

the holder of the ferrogallic drawing commits to give it away to the first person they meet who asks a question they don't know the answer to..and subsequent holders make the same agreement.     And the holders of the beer drawing commit to keeping it for three months and then giving it to someone who lives south of them, again accepting the conditions of temporary possession..

The drawing are signed by the artist who thought up this concept and by the visitors who did the drawings in beer or the iron ink....and each is numbered. On the back of the iron ink drawings is something else that's printed...Another example of a conceptual piece that involves giving away the art. These heavy sheets are slightly larger than a standard letter size, the iron ink drawings are slightly larger. I was given #'s 377, 319 and 341.

The friend who gave them to me had no idea that I would be so completely interested in this project.

The photo on the right is of shimmering reflections on the stove. I had no reason to take it except that I thought it was beautiful...not the photograph, but the shimmerings.

For quite a while, I'd say often over a period of months, I drew the contours of shadows of leaves and branches as they slowly passed over the sheet of BFK Reeves. I loved the drawings which, in no way, resembled leaves or branches.

Please don't bother to pay too much attention to Zoe Strauss's website...I will have the introduction from her book, "Ten Years" for you to read and that's important.

and, PLEASE BUY YOUR OWN PAPER IF YOU ARE PRINTING PHOTOGRAPHS. I always use Epson paper, and find the matte works well for what I do, though some people like gloss...