More Portraits

Here are a few more portrait gallery additions to the Gray Scale. And some of them aren't entirely in B&W, given the realities of commercial publication (and the varying tastes of photographers — color isn't bad, it's just different). Mona Kuhn, for example, who says in an interview on Lens Culture that she prefers B&W for its "depth," despite her current fame as a color portraitist.

Why so much emphasis on B&W portraiture? Mostly because I continue to believe that portraiture is one of B&W's stronger genres, and that portraiture in general is one of the most-difficult forms of photography — despite its universal appeal, look how many sites and portfolios one can find without a single portrait. Instead we see rocks, we see skyscrapers, we see trees and flowers but portraiture... that's hard. Even most of the portraits that one does find online tend to be driven more by fashionable stylings rather than portraiture's implicit promise: that through this image you will touch. It will touch you, and perhaps you will even feel the opposite is true as well. Fashion is a mask — portraiture's revelation tries to find the unmasked individual.

Why then, should B&W be more compelling? Doesn't B&W also mask, hiding the true colors in favor of stylized ones? Yes, but it strikes us because the color is rarely what we remember about a person. Instead it's the curve of the eyes, the particular smile, the form — even for a blue-eyed freckled redhead. Instead of seeing the uneven ruddiness & blemishes, what we see in our mind's eye: the face. And within that, is where the illusion of human connection can be found.

At times I have pointed a link to just part of a site — of course, the purpose for having the following links in the first place is as an invitation to explore:

Posted August 14, 2005 | Comments (3)

Some B&W Portraitists

Today's list: a quick alternative to just poking '"black and white" portraits' into Google yourself.

Truth is, doing that will generate dozens of links to shooters of "classic" imagery — that is, just the sort of "timeless treasures" that people want for their weddings or to remember their children when they were still obedient enough to sit still in front of a roll-down backdrop for an hour.

Anyhow, here are a few alternatives that sprang readily to mind or crossed my browser after a half-hour of digging around. Some have been mentioned here before. Hardly an end-all list — rather, a few small hints that might indicate the shape of a much larger survey. Suggestions are always very welcome.

Posted August 13, 2005 | Comments (0)

B & W & flickring All Over

A couple of weeks back I made a short list of B&W-related groups on flickr. Click the link for the full list, I'll mention just a couple here:

  • New Black and White was created in reaction to some rather poor behavior from the admins of groups like "Black and White" — the charter purpose is to improve the signal-to-noise ratio and present photography that's a bit more ambitious than the usual flickr free-for-all — while still remaining open for public posting, images are often deleted based on purely subjective judgements.
  • White and Black is a similar group, with QA performed by keeping the membership list restricted to invitees.
  • Black and White Portraits is one of two B&W portrait groups. The quality of pictures here, imo, is a bit better.
  • 35mm Black and White is the designated retro group, not far from
  • Do It Yourself

And as a bonus, you can subscribe to the APUG robot RSS flickr feed.

Posted August 11, 2005 | Comments (0)

Zone I - Just a Little Detail

Afer a few pokes at this particular issue, I've added a filing category to this journal, specific to the question: where can I find great new black and white photography?

The addition was spurred a bit by this post from Fred on APUG. It reminded me that I've been keeping some lists, piles of bookmarks in various browsers on different machines — and that one of my monthly chores (though hardly a chore!) has been to pick-through the link references in magazine like B&W, Black and White Photography, and Shots. I could just cross-reference them via (and maybe I will!), but why not here too?

So as a tip of the karmic kap to Fred, here are the links he mentioned, all coming from the most recent issue of B&W.

For those who want a fast browse, I've marked favorites with ⇒ and → characters.

Paul Kozal
Paul Kozal approaches very traditional wild western landscape with a split-toned selenium/sepia process. While the prints are pretty, it's not surprising to find them a bit... familiar, even to the point of shooting stalwarts like Ranchos de Taos and the Taos Pueblo. Lovely on the office wall, but very safe.
Edward Riddell
Another portfolio heavy on western landscape — big Wyoming skies, bare black trees protruding from featureless snow. Photographers like these remind me of classical pianists — one does not expect them to re-write Chopin, though their performance of the familiar works can still be technically impressive.
Carl Chiarenza
Some of Chiarenza's collages resemble landscape, while other are less-representational and remind me of Minor White. Chiarenza's collections are exactingly made in the studio, and his awareness of the specific qualities of the B&W medium jibe well with his statements: "One of the essential aspects of art is transformation - transformation of pigment, of sound, of silver halides, into a new configuration, a new object, a new experience."
Joseph Szabo
Szabo's portraits are arresting and so very exactly in the spirit of 1970's photography — one can easily imagine him sitting 'round the coffee table sliding prints back and forth with Larry Clark or Ted Papageorge. I love this sort of thing, and his ability to carry the late-day light is not casually aquired, either.
Seema Weatherwax
Seema Weatherwax is now 100 years old, and today is working with Jason Weston, yet another of the illustrious Weston clan. Her photos stretch back to the 1930's — she travelled with Edward Weston & Ansel Adams both. Her photos show some predictable similarities in approach and subject. Recently she donated a lot of these photos to U.C. Santa Cruz.
Russ Levin
Levin owns a gallery and is part of the radiating Monterey B&W scene founded back in the ƒ/64 days. He carries some great prints by other artists like Jock Sturges & Jerry Uelsman, but his own works seem rather dry, either photos of well-known photographers or nudes that lean very much toward the realm of the "glamour photo" culture — a layer of diffusion and an expensive background to aestheticize what are really just girlie pics.
Sylvia de Swaan
This portfolio does well to capture the collisons of memory against the real experiences of returning to somewhere important but almost forgotten from childhood (in her case, via a trainride to Romania).
Milan Hristev
Hristev, like myself, is interested in the layering of imagery from multiple exposure (Happily for me his approach and subjects are completely different from mine!). There is something in his photography of ancient mediterranean ruins that gives these places an ominous power that they've largely lacked since becoming such iconic tourist destinations.
Aleksey Lapkovsky & Katya Evdokimova
Stylish, eastern, and yes commercial
John Poteete
I quite agree with Fred — Fabulous stuff throughout, with a fair amount of variety. I'm especially fond of his portraiture.
Dorothy Richardson
One of the few pinhole shooters who's not afraid to aim at unpredictable living subjects — e.g. her "Sunshower." Not restricted to pinhole however, and her artist's statement is simple and sums up much of current B&W art photography: "For me, photography should cause an interaction between the viewer and the image — taking the mind away from the present into the realm of memory and dream." Easy to say, but hard to do!
Posted August 10, 2005 | Comments (1)

Looking Back, Moving Forward

Three 35mm rolls of HP5+, two 220 rolls of TXP 320, all in Xtol 1+1.

It's been a month since posting I Bought a Book and frankly, I've been overbooked. It's summertime, and with summer comes Siggraph, where I presented some new shading and art tools for NVIDIA and also served as host/chair for two sketches sessions, "Cinematography" and "Lighting Models in Rendering" — as well as the usual host of vendor events, partner meetings, and the sort of old-friends-obstacle-course that is Siggraph and the sidewalks surrounding the convention center. Add to that trips to Minnesota for Isaac, Hawaii and the Sierras for Rebecca; Isaac's two rock bands; scrambling to meet the deadlines for abstracts and proposals for Electronic Imaging 2006 and GDC 2006; lots of time wasted learning to use a new phone; hockey season and cross-country practices; attending Photo San Francisco a couple of BAP events; and — most of all — Courtney & I with more than our fair share of personal emotional turmoil... as important as photorant is, while PhotoPermit and flickr got updates, this site got back-burnered for a bit.

In a few days will come some vacation time, to chill out poolside in San Diego while Isaac competes in the 2005 Pokémon TCG World Championships, representing Northern California. Rebecca & I are his guests, or you could say all three of us are the guests of Nintendo. We're all excited and proud to see Isaac excel so famously.

I'll bring some follow-on books, as will Rebecca. She's got a nice stack of titles here that need reading before the start of the new school year, in just under a month: Oliver Twist, Dracula, Sophie's World, A Distant Mirror, Plato's Republic, and Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things.

As for my own stack, I've got another Lakoff, Where Mathematics Comes From; a short but time-intensive slice of computer graphics books: The Art of Rigging, 3DS Max Fundamentals & Beyond, Model Rig and Animate with 3DS Max 7, Experience XSI 4, along with a comprehensive reading of the Siggraph 2005 Conference Proceedings themselves (and Dan Ablan's Digital Cinematography and Directing, which has been lingering on the shelf alongside Brian Hawkins's Real-Time Cinematography for Games); Patti Bellatoni's film color-design book If It's Purple Someone's Gonna Die; Dennet's Darwin's Dangerous Idea and Darwin's Expression of Emotions in Man and the Animals; John Brownlow's shooting script for Sylvia; John Berger/Jean Mohr's Another Way of Telling; Karim Rashid's Evolution; Caponigro's Photoshop Master Class; David Walsh's teen neuropsych book on WHY Do They Act That Way?; a middling stack of unread PDN, Black & White, Communications of the ACM, Dr Dobbs' Journal, Aperture, and National Geographic; a half-dozen unwatched DVDs, two or three unplayed video games, and brand-spanking new copies of XSI 5, Maya 7, and the yet-to-be-released FX Composer 2.0. I'm afraid to look at the TiVo playlist.

To stave off boredom, I'll be posting more here in the coming days, along with getting some new printing done for the Pacific Arts League and prepping for a class I plan to take through UC Santa Cruz.

Posted August 08, 2005 | Comments (1)


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