Week 6: No Ideas But In Things

Basic Black and White Photography with Matthew Swarts

Frederick Sommer.

Andy Goldsworthy.

Abelardo Morell.

James Casebere.

Thomas Demand.

Hans Bellmer.

Vik Muniz.

Matthew Gamber.

David Levinthal.

Carol Golemboski.

For Next Week:

Download and review the slides from this week’s lecture: arts1810-slides-noideasbutinthings

Read: No Ideas But In Things (about William Carlos Williams)

“Abelardo Morell’s Poetry of Appearances,” by Charles Simic,

“Thomas Demand’s Junior Suite: Whitney Houston’s Last Supper”

 and “Of mere being,” by Wallace Stevens.

Photograph things. Discover ways of looking at an object where shape and metaphor begin to merge.  In other words: photograph things in such a way that they carry your ideas.

Bring contact sheets and at least 6 final prints to class.

Questions to consider while making your work:

1. Think about the range of approaches to this problem taken by the artists discussed in class. Lee Friedlander found most of his things in the street as part of his daily (and somewhat secret) survey of the facts of the world. Other artists like Frederick Sommer, Abelardo Morell, and Josef Sudek collected and arranged objects (albeit very different kinds) before photographing them. James Casebere, David Levinthal, and Thomas Demand constructed new objects with materials and shapes that convey very specific feelings. Which method feels best to you? If all of these feel uninspiring, one could say you have arrived at the problem of the artist: coming up with a new way of seeing. You are the one responsible for making things interesting!  Make sure you never feel hemmed in by others, for there’s no reason to be—you should always be reaching to articulate the uniqueness of your own vision.

2. Think of the brilliance of Vik Muniz (artist at the center of the film we saw entitled Wasteland) but also think of his playful joyfulness at confronting his work. Certainly things would go better for you if you were actually enjoying what you do, right? What steps do you need to take to make this the most fun project possible, one that engages you far beyond the scope of this class?

3. It’s up to you to make your spaces, as Abelardo Morell says of his own images, “containers of drama.” When dealing with fixed and often unmovable objects, how can you get pieces of your pictures to “have conversations” with each other, implying relationships that may or may not exist in real space?

4. How is light driving your pictures? Especially with inanimate objects, it becomes even more important to be sensitive to how the light in your image may affect how we perceive it. If, like Diane Arbus, you choose not to arrange your subjects, then arrange yourself in space. Study the light. See things with different illuminations, from different angles and distances. If your objects are small, by all means, move them! Bring them to a window. Light them with house lamps. You should always be wrestling to discover new ways to use light itself as subject matter.

5. When you are printing, try several different densities and contrast options for at least one image.  It can be powerfully shocking to discover the valence of feeling and meaning associated with the same image when it is printed in different ways.

CONTACT SHEETS AND FIRST PRINTS

Please make carefully exposed contact sheets for every roll of film you develop. Review this video if you forget the steps for making a proper contact sheet, or follow the steps below, modified from A Photo Teacher:

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Ed Ruscha.

Cut your negatives into strips that will fit into your clear, protective sleeves.

Under the safelight in the darkroom, cut a sheet of enlarging paper into 1 inch wide test strips.

Place your full negative sleeve emulsion side down and in contact with your test strip.

Exposing the Test Strip

  1. Stop the aperture of the lens down to f/4 or f/5.8.
  2. Set the timer to 5 seconds.
  3. Use the cardboard or wood to cover all but the first frame on the test strip. Press the timer button and expose 5 second strips across the test strip of enlarging paper sandwiched beneath the glass and your negative sleeve.  Your test strip should be long enough to cover a range of exposure times from 5 seconds to 45 seconds. Remove card for the final 5 seconds.
  4. Remove test strip and process.

Evaluating the Test Strip

  1. View the test strip in a tray in normal room light. Evaluate the progressive tones of the clear film along the edges of the film where the sprocket holes are located.
  2. After determining which end of the test strip represents the least/most exposure, choose the section of the test strip, which represents the shortest exposure necessary to produce maximum black from the area of the clear film.

Making the Contact Sheet

  1. Set timer to the number of seconds determined from the test strip.
  2. Place all of the negatives from the roll of film in contact with a full sheet (8” x 10”) of paper (film emulsion side down and in contact with paper emulsion).
  3. Note the exposure time, aperture, and filter number on the back of the paper in pencil.
  4. Place your negative sleeve and enlarging paper ‘sandwich’ underneath the plate glass. Press timer button for exposure.
  5. Remove paper and process.

Make four to six prints from the negatives you have made for the previous two assignments. Make all of your prints from the entire negative.  (Do not crop the image with the enlarger and easel.) Bring contact sheets to class for all rolls of film you have exposed.

*Very important:  be sure to set aside enough time in the darkroom to complete this assignment: your first few printing sessions will take longer than expected as you acquire some experience working with the enlarger.

enlgr

Making A Print

Setting Up the Enlarger

  1. Select a negative from the contact sheet, which you would like to work with.
  2. Place negative emulsion side down in the empty 35mm negative carrier and insert the negative carrier into the enlarger. Gently lower the lamphouse onto the carrier.
  3. Open filter drawer be certain there is either no filter inside (or) insert a number 2 filter from your filter set.
  4. Set the adjustable easel blades so that your image will be centered neatly upon the enlarging paper.
  5. Release the locking screw and adjust the enlarger height so that when the image is focused, it fits neatly inside the exposed area of your enlarging paper in the easel. When sizing the image on the easel and focusing with the grain magnifier, it is always helpful to have the aperture set at its widest setting.
  6. Use the grain focuser to insure the sharpest possible focus of the image. Remember to scrutinize the image inside the grain magnifier’s eyepiece so that you are actually focusing on the silver grains.
  7. Once the image has been focused, stop the aperture of the lens down to f/8.

.Exposing the Enlarged Test Strip

  1. Cut one sheet of enlarging paper into one inch test strips. Replace all but one strip back into the paper box, as paper will fog when left out.
  2. Place the test strip in the adjustable easel with the paper emulsion side up (shiny side of paper). The test strip should include highlight, midtone and shadow areas of the negative.
  3. Set the black pointer on the timer to 5 seconds.
  4. Use the cardboard or wood to cover all but the first frame on the test strip. Press the timer button, and expose 5 second strips up to 45 seconds across the tonal range of your test strip area on the enlarging paper. Remove card for the final 5 seconds. Remove test strip and process
  5. View the test strip in a tray in normal room light. Evaluate the progressive tones of the entire test strip, including the highlight, midtone and shadow areas.
  6. After determining which end of the test strip represents the least/most exposure, choose the section of the test strip, which represents the sufficient exposure and density in the highlight, midtone and shadow areas.

Making the Enlargement

  1. Set timer to the number of seconds determined from the test strip.
  2. If the exposure times become too short, it may be necessary to stop down the aperture further. If the exposure times become too long, over 60 seconds, it may be necessary to open the aperture an additional stop(s).
  3. Once the exposure time and aperture combination have been determined, note the exposure time and aperture on the back of the paper in pencil.
  4. Place a full sheet (8” x 10”) of paper with the emulsion up in the sizing slot of the adjustable easel and close the easel and press timer button for exposure.
  5. Remove paper and process.

Things to consider when evaluating your wet prints under the white lights outside darkroom:

1. Sharpness:  Are you satisfied with the clarity of the image?  Does your print look as clear as the image on the contact sheet?  If not,  double-check the grain focusing under a wide aperture. Make sure the individual silver grains of your negative are as sharp as possible, then stop down the lens to your working aperture.

2. Density: Do your images feel too dark or too light?  Can you make a better print by reducing or increasing the exposure (by time or aperture changes) with the enlarger? If you are unsure, try several variations to help you learn about the possibilities that are available.  Remember that fiber based papers dry darker.  If you have a print that looks absolutely right to you,  it’s a good idea to make one about 10% lighter to take into account the “dry-down” factor.  Don’t settle for second-rate prints!  Frederick Sommer has said often: “do no less well than you can.” The rest will take care of itself.

3. Presentation: Is the image reasonably positioned on the paper?  Are you showing the entire image of the negative? Do the edges of the print show black lines from the film base?  Carefully adjust the enlarger column height and the blades of the easel to ensure that your paper is positioned right.

Things to remember while processing your prints:

1. Timing is very important.  Get in the habit of watching the clock as soon as your print is in the developer.  Drain the print with 10-15 seconds on the clock for each solution.  By standardizing your times, you are ensuring consistency from print to print.

2. Agitate!  Rock the tray (not the print!) for the entire time required in each solution.

3. Make certain that your print has been in the fixer for at least half the fixing time (1.5 minutes) before you examine it in the light.  Then return it to the fix for at least the full fixing time of three minutes,  but not longer than 5 minutes.

4. Wash for at least 10 minutesDo not contaminate washers already in use with prints fresh from the fixer remover!

5. Squeegee both sides of the print very carefully and tenderly to cut drying time.

6. Place prints face down on screens and be certain they do not touch other prints.  Drying times vary.

Filtration and Contrast

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Make six prints of one image, using a different filter settings on the enlarger (use numbers 0 through 5 in whole step intervals) for each print. Make each print about the same density (darkness).  Determine which filter setting seems most appropriate for your negative,  then make two more prints: one at the filter number 1/2 step below your image, and one at the filter number 1/2 step above.  Label the back of each print in pencil with the appropriate aperture, time, and filter number before you begin processing.

*Very important: be sure to set aside enough time in the darkroom to complete this assignment: your first few printing sessions will take longer than expected as you acquire some experience working with the enlarger.

Things to consider when evaluating your wet prints under the white lights outside darkroom:

1. Without a filter in the enlarger (and unless the filtration dial has been set before you) your paper behaves as if a #2 (or ‘normal’)  filter were in place.

2. Filters impede the amount of light that hits the paper.   While it is true that a number 2 filter placed in the enlarger will effect no contrast change, it will produce a lighter print if the exposure time is not changed.

3. As filters move up in number and down in number from 2,  their density increases.  A #5 filter setting is “thicker” than a #3 filter setting.  A ##00 filter setting is thicker than a #1 filter setting.  Exposure times must be adjusted accordingly to ensure that prints made with different filters have consistent density.

4. When assessing contrast (or density for that matter), it is better to begin by making very large changes in filtration (or time) between prints.  This will minimize your estimation time, then you can hone the print down in successively smaller increments.

Artist Spotlight: VIK MUNIZ