The Little Free Print Project

I am excited to introduce The Little Free Print Project. Every few months, around the time of the solstice/equinox, I will post an image to this website and various social media outlets that represents one of my favorite images made in the prior few months. Three days later, I will leave a stack of ten signed and numbered prints in the community for the taking. It is my hope that these images will be kept and enjoyed by the recipient. The subject matter will inform you as to the general location of the prints. This is vague, but I want them to be found by a broad number of people.

The prints themselves will be small, with the short side of the image measuring 4.75 inches. Each image will be printed on half of a letter sized sheet of paper and sealed in a poly bag. The prints will be digital, traditional gelatin silver and possibly even platinum. The images may come from digital files, 35mm, 6x6 or 4x5 film camera negatives, and will be primarily black and white with occasional color. Each set of prints will have an edition number and be limited to 10 numbered prints and 6 artist proofs. Only the numbered images will be sent out into the community.

On the back of the print will be a website where prints can be registered. This is only for me to see which prints have been found. I will not share this information with anyone. There is a box to join a mailing list, but this is optional. If you choose to join, emails will be kept to a minimum.

The first image of edition 1 will appear in the third week of June. 

Granary | West Point, VA

On Sunday afternoon, I did some exploring around West Point. My objective was to get some images of the paper mill, but I didn't see any views that compelled me to stop. I drove past and headed towards the river to see if I could get a view from the edge of the water. I stumbled upon this granary, closed for Labor Day, and stopped to make a few Images. Thanks for looking.

Various Locations | Walter Parks Architects

Recently I have been doing a fair bit of work for Walter Parks Architects. I have been shooting at 9 adaptive reuse locations around the city, including Scott's Addition, Manchester and Shockoe Bottom. Also included was a return to The Locks, where I have made many images going back to the very beginning of the project. The final portfolio, which consists of 50 images, was challenging yet very fulfilling to create. I have shared some of my favorites below.

I am quite taken by the work of Walter Parks and his team and hope to work with them in the near future. Thanks for looking!

Monument Square | Gumenick Properties

Here are some images from a recent shoot with Gumenick Properties, showing their spectacular homes at Monument Square. 

Find more information here: http://www.gumenick.com

4205 W Grace St | Paul Collins, Realtor

I shot a charming house with Realtor Paul Collins today. It is the Sauer's Gardens neighborhood just off Monument Ave. Check out the images below:

Contact Paul if you are interested in this gem: 804.399.3376.

The Old Ways and the New.

I am analog to my core. I like vinyl records, manual transmissions, typewriters, paper books and cooking from scratch. And I love to shoot and process film. I enjoy the uncertainty of not having a histogram or preview image but relying on experience. I like the sound of a Nikon motor winder. I like to load 4x5 film holders and above all, I like the look of film.  Film and traditional print photography rely on a thin gelatin emulsion which contains millions of tiny flakes of light sensitive silver. Albeit microscopic, these flakes have dimension, shape and depth, which translates in the final image. A well crafted silver print looks far thicker than the paper itself. Don't get me wrong, I really have made peace with digital photography. I even enjoy digital photography, but it is altogether different from film. It is an extremely useful tool for my commercial work, and has solved many of the impracticalities of my profession. I can't help but feel, however that some thing is being lost.

For me the process of shooting film is long and intensive. The cameras are heavy and cumbersome and require a lot of effort to get to the location. With my 4x5 inch Sinar, I routinely carry 4 lenses, a light meter, 6-20 film holders, focuser, massive tripod, filters and other accessories. It takes about 10 minutes to setup, frame and focus a basic shot, all done under a cloak for the sake of darkness. Next, I meter the scene, careful to place the lightest and darkest areas of the subject in the perfect exposure window. I double check all of my settings and focus before loading the film. After the shot is made, I pack up, carefully securing the freshly shot film, and move on. Working at same speed with smaller cameras, the process takes a fraction of the time.

The process of making images with a 4x5 camera is the perfect speed for me to fully engage my brain in the image. I become so focused on the process, that the rest of the world seems to drop away. Everything becomes quiet and still. I manipulate the film and lens planes relative to the subject and watch the results on a glowing piece of glass until one by one the elements click into place. I imagine the individual elements of the scene rendered in black and white (or color) as they will be in the final print. And yes, a print is necessary because I am working with negatives. I carry these previsualizations back home where the film is loaded into a Jobo Canister for processing. After twenty minutes with beakers of chemicals, I have a very real and tangible reward for my efforts, a negative.

When using film, I shoot in a very economical manner. Each image that I make gets two sheets of film, one with the optimal exposure and the other one stop overexposed. I have a good percentage of keepers. As the cameras get smaller, medium format and 35mm, the economy remains but the percentage drops. I generally believe that this is due to the relative speed in the process and the size of the viewing surface. I devote the same level thought to making an image with a 35mm camera as I do with a large format camera, but there is so much less time involved and so many fewer points of finesse that the image does not develop in my imagination the same way. Additionally, as the process gets longer and the equipment more complex, extra care must be given to every aspect of the process to ensure that the film has safe passage to becoming a usable negative.

Digital cameras have made the mechanics of photography so incredibly simple. In theory, I can accomplish in seconds what used to take minutes. The number of variables and mechanics have been whittled down until nothing remains but a few yes or no questions. So when I use a digital camera, I deliberately try to lengthen the process of making an image. I use the same tripod, tether to an iPad, shoot in manual mode and manually focus most of the time. The feedback, however is instantaneous. I know what the image looks like. I know if everything is in focus. I have seen the histogram, and I know that the exposure is perfect. I know all this, but I did not get there through the same process.

Finally, I am a better photographer when I am shooting lots of film. Photography is like playing music, it requires thought, practice and a constant desire for improvement. It also requires a heavy dose of self critique. When I review my film images, they start from a higher point of completeness. They are mostly made in the field, in camera. There are lots of variables involved in darkroom printing, but the character of the negative remains. Digital images, shot in RAW format, are computer code that describe how light was striking the sensor. They must be realized in the computer at a later time. Additionally, a digital file is only limited by the basic information captured in ones and zeros. Analog photography is very much like a musician's live performance; it has to be correct in the moment. Ansel Adams once said “The negative is comparable to the composer's score and the print to its performance. Each performance differs in subtle ways.”

When I started to study photography in 1990, digital technology was in its infancy. When I took my first digital imaging class, we were scanning film into Mac Quadra 700's running photoshop 2. I am very happy that I spent much more time learning to print in silver and platinum than in the computer lab. If I started today, I might not have taken the same path. I might have never used film at all. As I look back, I am so grateful of the experience and knowledge I have collected over the years and not as a curmudgeon lamenting the fact that a Coke doesn't still cost a nickel. As I look forward, however, it is with trepidation that the materials of the past will simply vanish. 

 

Pump House Park & Trestle Bridge

I had a fun morning shooting, and I wanted to share the results. 

The Bishop's Chapel

The Bishop's Chapel

As you drive north across the Willey Bridge, just to the east along the banks of the James River, lies the Roslyn Episcopal Retreat.  For years, I wondered what that nicely manicured property with its small collection of buildings was used for. A quick turn down River Road provided the answer. About 5 years ago, I noticed that construction had began on what was to become one of my favorite buildings in the city.

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Richmond Community High School

I have been intrigued by this building's colorful doors, large windows and interesting history for quite some time. When I heard rumors that it might be slated for development, I decided it was time to get the camera and do some googling. According to Wikipedia:

"Richmond Community High School (RCHS) is an alternative high school operated by the Richmond City Public Schools in Richmond, VirginiaUSA. It was founded in 1977 as America's first full-time, four year, public high school for academically talented students primarily from minority and low-income families.

Richmond Community High School admits applicants from within the city limits who are identified as academically gifted, with a preference for socio-economically challenged students. Virtually all graduates continue to college."

The School relocated to this location, the former Westhampton Elementary School, in 1991. Later that decade, it moved to the Brookland Park neighborhood, where it remains to this day.

I made a few circles around the outside of the building, trying to catch the light as it moved. I would really like to get access to the inside of this building. I took a peak through a few of the windows, and was pleased to see it in very decent shape.  

Pianos Pt. 2

I took these pictures of a Mason & Hamlin Symetrigrand. It is an unusual baby-grand piano with symmetrical curves to allow the piano to be placed in a corner. I don't have a date, but my guess would be from the 1930's. There are not many of these instruments out there, and I can draw an interesting parallel. Ansel Adams, a great piano player as well photographer, owned one. 

I hope you enjoy the pictures, and please, feel free to leave me your thoughts below. Thanks for looking.

Pianos

I recently stopped by the aptly named Class and Trash store in Ashland. As the name suggests, it is equal parts junk store and antique shop. Mostly, for me, it is a curiosity. I saw some pianos sitting outside and made a mental note to return with my camera.

Interbake Foods.

I love abandoned buildings. I wonder what they look like inside. I wonder what conditions drove the previous occupants to shutter the space and not return. When I get into these spaces, always by legal means, I generally find that my curiosities were more than justified.

The Interbake Foods building was once used to make Girl Scout Cookies, among other things. It was vacated in 2006. It is currently undergoing renovation and will be used as apartment space. I met one of the projects subcontractors, and accompanied him inside for some pictures.