Imagine, as a youth, the delight of seeing an image made with your own camera appear magically on a piece of paper immersed in liquid. After my initial understanding of the technical process, my appreciation for the artistic photographic image soon followed. Developing an ability to visualize, capture and print photographic images became a welcome challenge.
Following a Kodak Brownie, my first "real" camera came as a gift from my father. He wanted me to have his prized 35mm German camera, a Zeiss-Ikon Contax, vintage 1950. Despite my father's praise of the camera, my mother, a trained artist/painter with a keen eye, often observed the photographs it produced lacked really fine detail when the 35mm negatives were enlarged.
At age 18, a family friend taught me the basics of traditional black & white film developing and darkroom printing techniques. Workshops with local photographers in the New York area provided exposure to aesthetics of photography. As my interest deepened, my mother's comment rang clear. There was a limit to the detail an enlarged 35mm negative could yield.
Master photographers such as Strand, Evans, Weston, and Adams provided inspiration. Their photographs were breathtaking ! Those photographers all used the classic large format "view camera" requiring sheet film. Sheet films, typically 4"x5", 5"x7", 8"x10" in size (and larger), many times the size of a 35mm negative, yield marvelous, sharp detail. The view camera requires tripod support and presents the image upside down on a glass viewing screen. This allows the photographer to compose the image carefully while working under a blanket like "dark cloth". By today’s standards - very old fashioned ! That slower, contemplative process provided a wonderful model for serious photography.
Encouragement came from a former assistant of Ansel Adams, Liliane De Cock, who I met at a New York publishing house. Liliane encouraged me, then age 26, to show my work to Mr. Adams on an upcoming trip to California. What a remarkable opportunity ! I wrote asking for an appointment and Adams invited me to visit at his home studio. He offered gracious and thoughtful suggestions atop strong criticism. To my surprise, he asked for a print of one image that he particularly liked ! Today, that photograph is in the Center for Creative Photography Collection in Tucson, Arizona, as part of the Ansel and Virginia Adams Collection. (click here to see the image and Ansel Adams's response). Workshops with Ansel Adams (and other distinguished photographers I've admired) provide lasting benefits and prove the learning experience never ends.
I became interested in digital imaging in the late nineties, though not convinced the quality could match that of a large format camera - aside from the significant investment in digital equipment and related computers, software, etc. Over the years, digital quality evolved dramatically. This prompted me to explore digital photography in more depth, including color imaging. Digital processing is quite different from traditional methods and, while challenging at first, is very rewarding.
I continue to use film (analog) as well as contemporary digital processes, often in combination. For example, if using a film camera, I'll process the B&W film in a "wet darkroom" and then digitally scan the negative. PhotoShop or other imaging software is used for post processing and making a final print via high quality digital or inkjet printer. Digital software tools provide a degree of control unattainable in the traditional the wet dark room printing process.
At times, I considered pursuing photography as a profession taking on projects including newspaper assignments, architectural photography, magazine advertising and even aerial photography. Professional work seemed very attractive from a financial standpoint. However, satisfying the requirements of others proved far less rewarding to my artistic soul compared to the enjoyment and satisfaction my personal work provided. While I admired photographers who succeeded at doing both, I preferred being my best and only photography "client". Accordingly, my vocation is in businesses unrelated to photography.
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