Contemporary Photography in Hawai‘i 2016

The Eighth Annual Survey Exhibition Sponsored by Pacific New Media, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa

Juror: James (Jay) Jensen, Curator of Contemporary Art, Honolulu Museum of Art
425 submissions from 103 artists from three islands. 50 works selected.

March 29-April 9, 2016, The ARTS at Marks Garage

Vendor Awards
Pacific New Media Juror’s Award
Berkeley Fowler, Hamburger
Phil Uhl, Facing the Future

Halekulani Corporation, Peter Shaindlin, Dinner for four at Orchids restaurant
Carrie Johnson, Smoky Bowl

Pegge Hopper Gallery: Purchase Award
Hawkins Biggins, Lines

Art Source and Design: Gift Certificates for Framing
Lance Agena, Road Romantics
Alison Beste, Light Pollution Grid #2

Hawaii Camera: Gift Certificates
$150 for Daniel Finchum, What? 2015
$75 for Chang Jin Lee, A Tree and Walls, 2016
$25 for Joseph Ruesing, Young & Alive, 2015
$25 for Roy Fukushima, FOAM BOP, 2016
$25 for Mark Anderson, South Shore Moonshine, 2015

Kaimuki Camera: Free FujiHawaii 20”X24” Metal Print
Chang Jin Lee, A Tree and Walls, 2016
David Takagi, Fishy Business
Daniel Finchum, What? 2015

And special thanks to Chromaco.

CPH Invitation 2016

Interview with Sports Illustrated Photographer, Peter Read Miller

Peter Read Miller

Peter Read Miller

Peter Read Miller is the sports photographer! He has worked for Sports Illustrated magazine as staff and contract photographer for 40 years, with more than 100 covers to his credit. He has covered numerous Super Bowls, Olympic games,  NBA Finals, and has photographed countless portraits of the most well known athletes in the world. He has also published his own book Peter Read Miller On Sports Photography.

When Peter is not too busy capturing touchdowns, photographing famous athletes, or publishing books, he’s traveling the world to share his experience.

Peter will be giving a free lecture on November 19, 2015 from 7:00 pm- 9:00 pm at the Art Building Auditorium and will also be teaching Sports Photography on November 21-22.  In addition to sharing his secrets on getting the best shots from sport events, Peter will be leading a class shoot during several sporting events, including the UH football game on Saturday evening November 21st.

As if he isn’t busy enough, Peter agreed to answer a few of our questions about  his career, photography, and life.

Can you tell us a little about yourself and your history? You have been a sports photographer for over forty years. What drew you to this field?

Photography was a hobby for me through High School and college at the University of South Carolina (USC). After I left school, I decided to try it a try as a career with the thought that I could always return to a more “mainstream” job. As it turned out, I never had to.

In addition to shooting for USC, I started shooting for the NFL and ABC Television. This eventually led me to Sports Illustrated where I worked on contract for twenty years and staff for fifteen.

Screen Shot 2015-11-09 at 4.04.19 PM

© Peter Read Miller

Because I shot so many sports at USC, it just seemed a natural progression to stay primarily in the sports world, although a great deal of my work at Sports Illustrated was portraiture of athletes.

What does it take to get the perfect shot during a game? You have covered 38 Super Bowl games. What is your technique when photographing game events?

The more you know about the game, the teams and the players you are shooting, the better your chances are of getting a great shot. The way I cover an event, say a football game; depends on the type of assignment I have. Am I focusing in on one player? Or game action? Or am I out there just to make some awesome image?

What type of camera gear/ equipment do you use to get the best photos?

I shoot with Canon EOS-1D X and Canon 7D Mk II camera bodies. My go to long lenses are the Canon 400 mm F.28 IS II, the Canon 200-400 f4 IS, the Canon 70-200 mm f2.8 IS II and the canon 24-70 f2.8 II.0.

Screen Shot 2015-11-09 at 4.04.05 PM

Professional basketball player Lebron James © Peter Read Miller

You have also done portraits of famous athletes. Did you ever imagine that you would be photographing the portraits of Muhammad Ali and Magic Johnson? How does it feel photographing the best athletes in sports?

I have been fortunate to shoot many famous and not so famous athletes in my career. The one thing they all have in common is that they are all people like everyone else. Treat them with respect, don’t waste their time, and give them a comfortable environment (music, food) and you will usually get the picture you are looking for from them and often more.

What separates sports photography from other types of photography (e.g. technique, angle, issues) other than the obvious difference that you are photographing moving objects?

I think the two most important things in action photography besides focus and peak action of course, are lighting and backgrounds. Both football and baseball involve helmets or caps that will shadow a player’s face. Unless you can find some wonderful low sun, your best bet is to shoot backlit, that is with the sun above and behind the player.

Backgrounds are also important in that a clean background will really make the subject pop out of the image, conversely a busy, distracting background will make it hard to distinguish the action you are trying to portray.

Screen Shot 2015-11-09 at 4.02.58 PM

One of Peter’s amazing action portraits © Peter Read Miller

What can the techniques of Sports photography teach all photographers? What are you looking forward to in teaching the Sports Photography course for Pacific New Media? What can your students expect?

Timing, lighting, framing and preparation are all elements of sports photography that apply in all areas of photography.

I’m looking forward to sharing the experiences from my career in the context of shooting the UH/San Jose State football game, reviewing the photos, and shooting action portraits of UH athletes.

If you would like to register for Peter’s Sports Photography go to http://www.outreach.hawaii.edu/pnm/programs/2015/EVENT-L13995.asp

Thinking Outside the Box: The Innovative Process of Design Thinking

When it comes to brainstorming and problem solving, Design Thinking is a new and effective method for transforming great ideas into amazing outcomes.  Design Thinker Ian Kitajima shares with us why Design Thinking is such an important method for innovation.  He alongside Raviraj Pare, & Natalie Waters will be teaching Design Thinking: Design Challenge Saturday, October 24, 2015 from 9:00 am- 5:00 pm.

Why is it important to understand and utilize the Design Thinking process?

Kids are natural Design Thinkers. Creative. Innovative. Unafraid. They have the beginner’s mind – where everything is new and fresh, and amazing. They question everything. “Why?” is their favorite question.  But as adults, as we become more educated, more experienced, we’re less creative, innovative, and take less risks. What happened?  Design Thinking is a way to bring back what we had as kids. Design Thinking is a human centered problem solving process. The key is it’s a process, an innovation process, and a process can be learned, practiced, and repeated. When someone says “Think outside the box”, the next question is HOW?  Design Thinking is HOW.

The Design Thinking strategy has been adopted by numerous organizations, educators, and government agencies. Is Design Thinking something that can be adopted by any field? What can photographers, painters, and other types of artists gain from this design strategy?  

Yes, anyone and any field can use Design Thinking. For example, one of the key mindsets of Design Thinking is to embrace experimentation rapid prototyping. The process of rapid prototyping can be transformative because you’re failing constantly, and so failing becomes part of the process but you’re also learning a lot, uncovering valuable insights, and you become more comfortable with failing. Failing is really about learning, and that builds creative confidence. What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?

What are some projects in Hawaii that have resulted from Design Thinking?

We have used Design Thinking and built teams to better understand the challenges around Broadband Adoption, Tourism, Homelessness, Non-Profit/ Foundation Funding, Venture Accelerators, Climate Change, Castle Complex, Sustainability, Resiliency, and Education. Some of the biggest projects have been cultural change programs, i.e., organizations using Design Thinking to supercharge their organization’s ability to be more innovative and creative, and customer-centric. Organizations include private, public, government – Hawaiian Telecom, Oceanit, HECO, State of Hawaii Department of Health and other Departments via the IT Transformation initiative. One of the exciting new initiatives being consider at the University of Hawaii is to offer a course in Design Thinking.  

What is the overall goal of Design Thinking? What would you say is most important to remember during the Design Thinking process? 

The goal of sharing Design Thinking is to introduce a common language and common problem solving process into our communities so we have a way to work together.  Think of Design Thinking as the new Pidgin English. Pidgin was a way for people from different backgrounds and cultures to communicate, connect, and work together to get things done. Design Thinking as a common language and process is a way to work together to solve Hawaii greatest challenges – education, economy, environment, energy, transportation, housing, and so on. If we could truly work together as a team, using the same language and a human centered problem solving process, what might we achieve?

(Click here to register for Design Thinking, Saturday,  October 24, 2015, 9:00 am- 5:00 pm.)

 

A Conversation with Mike King of Ikayzo

Portrait of Mike King

Portrait of Mike King

The web is a fascinating tool that has become a part of our everyday lives. We use it for watching movies, communicating with friends, shopping, and much more! Web designer Mike King, an expert in Responsive Design will be teaching Real World JavaScript on Saturday, September 19, 2015, Sakamaki C104 from 9am- 12pm.

http://www.outreach.hawaii.edu/pnm/programs/2015/EVENT-L13979.asp

What is Responsive Design and why is it important?

The web is a vast, far reaching medium. You can access the web today on desktop computers, laptops, tablets, watches, smart phones, smart television, and on a rapidly growing range of devices. This makes it extremely difficult to predict how people will experience and interact with your website or web application. It also challenges the notion of the historical idea of the web browser as a canvas.

Responsive web design (#RWD) is a set of techniques that allow designers to create adaptive experiences using standard web technologies (HTML/CSS/JavaScript). Rather than attempting to create unique designs for every device and context, RWD allows designers to create a single experience that responds to the user accessing the site.

What are the elements of a great interactive website? What are some of the challenges of responsive web design?

The biggest challenge of responsive design is creating a cohesive experience that adapts to the growing number of web-enabled devices. It’s not enough to just create a mobile site; designing great interactive experiences requires thinking differently from the outset about how users reach your brand.

Up to a few years ago, the common thought was to start the web design process by focusing on a medium-to-large screen, desktop-centric experience, since that’s where you expect the bulk of users come from. However, more and more sites are reporting mobile as their primary traffic source, and are focusing on a content-first, mobile first design approach. This approach forces you to focus and prioritize key tasks and content users are looking for while also taking advantage of technical capabilities like multi-touch, GPS, orientation, et al.

Where responsive web design is focused on practical techniques, mobile first is more of a methodology or approach to the design process as a whole. With the boom in mobile traffic in recent years, it’s no longer viable to consider the mobile experience as an afterthought.

If you’re starting a new web project or redesigning an existing site, creating an adaptable, future friendly experience should be second most important concern, right behind solving your user’s primary needs and desires. Again, mobile first forces you to think in through the constraints of providing a cross platform experience for your users, while also taking advantage of the new capabilities available through mobile device technology, which is rapidly improving year-by-year.

How did you get involved in Responsive Design? 

The individual concepts which make up responsive design have existed for years: fluid, percentage based grids, flexible images, and media queries (although these were enhanced in 2012 in the HTML5 specification). I was introduced to these concepts individually through education and experience, but they didn’t come together for me until I read Ethan Marcotte’s “Responsive Web Design” in 2011 and started applying the concepts together in client work shortly thereafter.

The most important thing about design—digital or physical—is that it satisfies the needs of the people who will be interacting with it.

What should students expect out of your JavaScript course? What would they get out of it?

At its core, JavaScript is a programming language built for the web. Like any other programming language, the concepts for developing and creating applications simply can’t be covered in a 3 hour, half-day course. However, you can get up and running with JavaScript on your site very quickly if you have a basic knowledge of HTML & CSS using jQuery and its large community of extensions.

In this course, you’ll learn how to add slideshows, modals/light boxes, image galleries, and other types of interactive elements to your web pages using the jQuery library and its associated plugins. By the end of this session, you will gain a basic understanding of how to use JavaScript via jQuery in your projects today.

What are you most excited about in teaching this class?

Getting designers interested in JavaScript! Interaction design is all about designing behavior, and JavaScript is the crucial layer in the web technology stack for implementing interactive behaviors in web sites and applications. If you’re a designer and interested in creating interactive designs and experiences, learning JavaScript is a crucial part of effectively implementing your ideas on the web.Mike King websites

You are a part of the Ikayzo creative agency, can you describe what your role is and what type of services Ikayzo provides?

As a whole, Ikayzo is an interactive software agency composed of both a creative agency and software engineering firm married under one roof. This allows us to create best of breed interactive applications for a wide variety of clientele, from small business startups to enterprise/finance companies, across growing range of devices, platforms, and digital environments.

I currently serve as vice president of interactive design, where I manage a small team of designers and front-end developers creating interactive experiences for mobile and web applications. As team lead, my role involves strategic consulting and ideation from the early stages of a project including brand development, user experience design, information architecture, and user interface design, all the way through to implementation including prototyping, front-end web development, and usability testing.

What are some interactive websites that you have designed?

On the marketing side, we recently collaborated with Hawaiian Airlines for their new Australian targeted-market microsite Short Breaks HawaiiShort Breaks Hawaii offers 6 different themed vacation ideas for different Aussie travelers’ tastes and interests, from family fun, to adventure buffs, to couples seeking a romantic escape. Each unique theme presents a 4-day itinerary with carefully curated suggestions for sightseeing, activities, as well as food and drink. The site is both responsive and a great example of using subtle, tasteful animations to create a unique interactive experience.

On the product side, we recently worked with University of Hawai‘i’s Foundation department to develop a new donation experience across 10 campuses and a growing number of department-specific websites. The new donation application features a customizable widget that each department can brand using their on color scheme. The responsive app also gives users an engaging and intuitive way to browse its thousands of funds on the main foundation site, so that you can discover and support causes close to your heart. https://giving.uhfoundation.org/browse\

What type of advice would you give to someone interested in Responsive Design?

If possible, start your process by thinking Mobile First. Also, try not to focus on supporting specific devices (i.e. iPhone vs. iPad) and instead focus on where your design breaks (i.e. small vs medium vs large); supporting specific devices is an endless battle, but if you focus on where your design breaks it becomes easier to design for similar experiences across those different devices.

What do you see in the future of web design?

More web-enabled devices. I can’t necessarily say that watches or glasses are the future, but the Internet of Things [concept of having everyday objects connect to the internet] is definitely bringing a growing array of connected devices to our finger tips. Some of those devices will have user interfaces, and some of them will not. It will be interesting to see how we approach those types of design problems and create new experiences.

What other hobbies or interests do you have?

I’m also really passionate about music. I spend a lot of my free time DJ’ing, collecting records and learning about sound design and audio engineering. I also enjoy gardening and traveling with my wife.

Mike King as DJ

Mike King as DJ

Do you have any anecdotes or interesting stories to share with our readers?

This is a great quote by Don Norman, director of The Design Lab at UCSD and author of The Design of Everyday Things.

“It’s not enough that we build products that function, that are understandable and usable, we also need to build products that bring joy and excitement, pleasure and fun, and yes, beauty to people’s lives.” – Don Norman

http://www.outreach.hawaii.edu/pnm/programs/2015/EVENT-L13979.asp

Digital Publishing in InDesign with Sandee Cohen

SandeeCohenAuthor of the definitive books on InDesign, Sandee Cohen is back again at Pacific New Media to teach a comprehensive introduction to Adobe InDesign and Creating ePubs from InDesign.  (May 2-5, 2015)

Adobe InDesign:

Discover how to set up new documents, create and style text, import text from Microsoft Word, import placed graphics, and output for print and PDF using Adobe’s latest graphic designing software.

Creating ePubs from InDesign:

Learn how to convert print layouts into ePubs for Google Play, Apple, Amazon to create readable content for viewers online. Also discover how to format page objects to export correctly, create book covers, convert to Kindle documents, and more. Participants must have some InDesign experience.

The author of over 20 books based on InDesign, Acrobat, Illustrator, and desktop publishing, and the only non-Adobe person to have written every book on InDesign, Sandee Cohen has been teaching print and web graphics for over 20 years at design schools and conferences around the world. She is the graphics curriculum coordinator at the New School University Computer Instruction Center in New York City. She is also a frequent speaker at the Seybold, Thunder Lizard, and Macworld Expo conferences. Sandee guides students to think in both print and digital formats. Her expertise combines traditional print publishing along with new digital forms of publishing.

To register for these courses, follow these links:
http://www.outreach.hawaii.edu/pnm/programs/2015/EVENT-L13596.asp

http://www.outreach.hawaii.edu/pnm/programs/2015/EVENT-L13597.asp

Michael Ninness, senior director for design product management at Adobe and PNM instructor, once said at a conference: “Print is not dead, and probably never will be. But print-only is dying; print with a digital component is clearly the way of the future.”

Contemporary Photography in Hawaii 2015

The Seventh Annual Survey Exhibition Sponsored by Pacific New Media, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa

Juror: Elaine Mayes
507 submissions from 137 artists. 50 works selected from 50 artists.

April 3 – 25, 2015, The ARTS at Marks Garage

Vendor Awards
Pacific New Media Juror’s Award
Phil Jung, Painting of Paradise (From the series Oahu)

Art Source and Designs, (2) $100 Gift Certificates for Framing
Steven Lum, Selfies
Art Pascua, Just One Matters

Halekulani Corporation, Peter Shaindlin, Dinner for four at Orchids restaurant
Warren Loos, Colorless Dreaming

Hawaii Camera
$150 Gift Certificate  Hyunah Jang, Life on Kauai Island
$75 Gift Certificate  Lenny Kaholo, John
$25 Gift Certificate  Kaveh Kardan, Woman on Cliff
$25 Gift CertificateMegan Takagi, Changdeokgung Window
$25 Gift CertificateJon Shimizu, Wahi Pana o Kaka‘ako

Kaimuku Camera, $200 cash
David Takagi, Spaghetti

Pegge Hopper Gallery $250 cash
Ramsay Siegal, Ehukai

And special thanks to Chromaco.

2015 Survey invite8X10

 

 

The Perils and Pleasures of Juried Art Shows

© Elaine Mayes

© Elaine Mayes, Juror for PNM’s Contemporary Photography 2015

Did you get in the show or not? Why didn’t I get in? Who was accepted? Who are the jurors? These are the common refrains surrounding a juried art exhibition. I’ve heard these types of comments from all the major juried shows in the state: Artists of Hawai‘i, Art Maui, the former Image Foundation exhibitions, and currently with our annual Pacific New Media Contemporary Photography Exhibition.

Perhaps this conversation can be framed differently. Offering photographers a chance to showcase their work is only one of the aims of the exhibit. Mostly it was created as a survey exhibition to investigate who and where are we as an artistic and photographic community. A juried show can reflect our regional strengths and limitations. What is present and strong in the show; what is notably absent? Where do we find our influences and inspiration? Who are the emerging stars? How do we influence each other? How are we different from other arts and photographic communities? Where do we need to grow as a community and as individuals? With the absence of any critical writing about art in Honolulu, we need survey shows like this to examine ourselves and generate public dialogue about art and photography.

The show is not then just about individual artists; it’s about the community of which we are a part. The exhibition was created from the entire field of entries. All who submitted contributed greatly to the process of creating this survey. What is not present in the exhibit says as much about our community as what did make it into the show. If your work wasn’t accepted, think of your work like an iceberg, the majority of which is underwater but fully supports the tip which is above water and visible. You are part of this community and helped form this show; and for that, you are an integral part of the exhibition. This year, you formed the support structure, next year you may be the visible tip and others will provide the underwater base.

I have been present for the jurying process of all seven of our annual exhibitions and, in some cases, was the co-juror. I have been struck by how similar the work was viewed and evaluated by the jurors. In every instance, editing hundreds of entries to the first cut was very easy. The jurors could not help notice the stronger work, of any genre, rising to the top. In the first cut, much work was edited out for obvious reasons: technical insufficiency, clichéd subject matter, lack of any meaningful content, and all of the “overs” — oversaturation, over-sharpening, overly done HDR (high dynamic range), and over-the-top effects. Much of this looked overworked. Editing the remaining images to 50 or 60 for the exhibition was more difficult.

Although the jurors did not know the names of the photographers, PNM indicated to them how many selected images were from the same person. We chose, in past years, to have no more than two images from any one photographer. This year, with tighter space considerations, we chose to only exhibit one image per photographer, not matter how strong their group of entries. After editing the several images from any one person, now we’re down to say 75 images and we need to pare down a few more. Here is where the individual taste and opinion of the jurors come dominantly into play. All of our juror’s have been remarkably democratic, capable of responding to many different genres of images. However, they all do have individual preferences and these were employed at this stage in the process. Also, most of the jurors considered the look and diversity of the show as a whole.

There were many strong photographs by many good photographers submitted to the show. Making the final selections in the last round was extremely difficult and time-consuming. And I think the juror was as fair as one can be. The fact that your work did not make the final cut should not be a reflection on you as a photographer, but simply a reflection on those particular pictures being viewed by that particular juror. I’ve been a photographer for 50 years and a writer for half that time with a pile of rejection letters from shows, publishers, and literary agents that could wallpaper my entire house.

The purpose of entering a show is to spur your work forward. The process of completing an entry and developing a body of work is, or can be, fulfilling enough. Trust that when the work is ready, it will be seen. Somehow. Somewhere. Good and compelling work finds its own audience and its own level, like water. If you’re work didn’t make the exhibit, what can you learn from this? Maybe showing this particular work is premature, that you have not developed your ideas sufficiently— and you will develop them out more fully in the future. Or maybe the work lacked interest, or content, or solid execution. Try to impartially examine and see what is true about your work. Or, as can be the case with established photographers, maybe you submitted too few pieces and other images in your body of work are stronger and more compelling. Having another set of eyes –—other people, trusted advisors –— can help. Photographers are the worst editors of their own work. Trust me. It’s true for all of us. Or maybe your work and the juror’s commitments did not match this year. Please use this as a learning experience.

One thing has been notably true in the seven years that I’ve seen all the entries: there is a clear division in the work between those who have had substantial visual training and those who have not. It is the first and most obvious demarcation in the submitted work. An amateur does something for the love of doing it and is not necessarily thinking about communicating to others through the work. Self-taught artists can be limited in their understanding and command of the medium. Education is key. Learning and seeing are fundamental. Do you know what you don’t know about the medium or visual expression? It takes rigorous self-examination to explore this question. The concern of many people I observe is simply how to make a good picture. A good picture is about something. The accepted photographers, without fail, had one thing in common: they had an idea, were exploring their world, or cared about something that came through in the submitted work. They were trying to show us something about the world or about themselves, inspire us, challenge us, disrupt our habitual thinking, and use the camera as a means of revealing their personal truths. Their work showed a high level of engagement.

Actress Keira Knightly recently made the observation that photographers who came from the film era, with a solid background in the medium, were more engaged and more attentive than those that entered photography in the digital age. “I’ve noticed that the people who started on film still have the ability to see the person in front of them. Whereas for a lot of photographers who have only ever worked in digital, the relationship between the photographer and the person who they’re taking a picture of sort of doesn’t exist anymore. They’re looking at a computer screen as opposed to the person.”

No matter if you work with film or silicon, one of the lessons that a camera teaches is that the world and others need our deepest attention and care. Developing one’s ideas and vision, and engaging the world, is paramount to becoming a successful, contributing artist. It is one’s heart and mind, coupled with skill and solid technique that can spring your vision to life. Many images submitted to the show moved me, astonished me, or brought me to a fresh or humorous or new understanding of something. Yes, pictures are about something. Can the growth of our craft become a flowing river through which the currents of our understanding and worldview can be expressed?

Let’s put the emphasis on our ideas and vision first, and allow the rest, even the idea of a good picture, to flow from that one fundamental fact— the exploration of the question of how we see the world. The pictures that grow from this place; these are the pictures that matter. Any show is merely a single marker on our hopefully fruitful and long process towards artistic maturity. Shows come and go. The process of developing your work and harvesting your ideas exacts its own rewards, fulfills our humanity, and gives us a voice through which we may contribute to the dialogue of our times.

— David Ulrich

Contemporary Photography in Hawai‘i: The Seventh Annual Survey Exhibition opens at The ARTS at Marks Garage opens on April 3, 5-8 pm. The exhibition is on view from April 3-25.

PNM’s juror this year, photographer and teacher Elaine Mayes is visiting in late March. Don’t miss her talk, A Life in Photography, on Thursday March 26 at 7 pm and her inspiring workshop, Finding Personal Vision in Paradise on Sat/Sun March 28-9 from 9am-4pm.

http://www.outreach.hawaii.edu/…/prog…/2015/EVENT-L13649.asp

For an excellent recent interview with Elaine Mayes:
http://petapixel.com/…/interview-elaine-mayes-photographer…/

A Tool that Resonates

A Conversation with Chase Norton About Wet Plate Photography

Photography today embraces both digital and analog technologies. Photographer Chase Norton has recently been experimenting with an antiquated process with a present-day mindset. Chase Norton will be teaching a course on Adobe Photoshop Lightroom on Saturday, February 21, from 9 am-4 pm. For more information: http://www.outreach.hawaii.edu/pnm/programs/2015/EVENT-L13598.asp

© Chase Norton

© Chase Norton

What inspired you to start experimenting with wet plate photography?

I am 29 years old and entered into the world of photography late in my life. This means I began my true discovery of the art within the realm of digital tools and felt lost among a sea of the same. Sure, it is just a tool and it is really your vision that translates to some concept of art. Regardless, I felt the marathon had started hours ago and I arrived late to the party.  So what does one do? Join the masses of the latest technology? Embrace the modern camera and find my vision? Or delve deep into the history of photography and attempt to seek a tool that resonates with who I am and my beliefs in a personal creation?

One evening a friend let me borrow and tinker around with his old Kodak 3A, which is, to most of the world, a nonfunctional display piece. Did the shutter mechanism still work? Yes! Hours were spent modeling 3D spool fitters to adapt 120 film to work inside of it. In the process, I realized I would be changing the format to allow the capture of a beautiful panoramic size. I was excited and went out to frame a building…Click! Ah, the thrill of capturing light with a camera over 100 years old! Though, even with this modification, I found myself limited—by the continually disappearing film stock, limited by the format, limited by all the factors film photographers face that are outside of their control.  And that’s where Wet Plate comes in.

Wet Plate Photography is truly having full control over your art. Want to change the format? Cut your glass a different size. Want more contrast? Let your collodion ripen for longer. There is never any worry about film stock being discontinued as you are the film creator. Your emulsion of ether/cadmium bromide/potassium iodide/silver nitrate will always be here.

The muddled art of modern digital photography continues to disturb me. Do not get me wrong, digital photography is an incredible tool and can produce stunning and moving pieces of art. However, nowadays almost every human has a camera in their pocket and a digital venue to share their work to be “liked” or “favorited”. These are often captured on an automatic setting with HDR features built in and later all forms of color, contrast, and saturation are modified. The process, the work, the understanding of what goes into capturing light has long been forgotten. If we have forgotten how the tools work, how could we ever really call it our work?

© Chase Norton

© Chase Norton

What do you look for and what are you trying to communicate in the image you photograph?

Wet Plate Photography is as much about communicating the experience of the art as it is with the image itself. I often find my subject to be individuals that I can sit down and talk with for a while, bring them into the darkroom, and show them the process of creating a medium for capturing light from beginning to end.

An aspect of collodion work that I love is the raw and detailed features it captures in a subject. The wrinkles are there, the tired bags under the eyes are obvious, the pimpled and unshaven face stands out.  Collodion is very unforgiving, and this is something I love. It is a direct move away from the current-day Photoshopped images of perfection. To sum up, I look to educate as well as to capture the subject as they truly are.

Lastly, when working with this process, the idea of a unique and non-reproducible piece of photographic art should begin to excite any of us photographers. This is slightly reduced when working with glass or ambrotype, as it allows for prints to be made. But nonetheless, there will never be another piece of glass or aluminum that contains that exact pattern of metallic silver. This uniqueness speaks to the direction of this art as I see it and helps to encourage thought, consideration and desire in a one-of-a-kind piece.

© Chase Norton

© Chase Norton

What are the challenges involved in wet plate photography?  How does this process differ from traditional digital and analog processes?

Ha! The challenges…
1.)    Blowing up your home.

2.)    Accidently poisoning your family or yourself.

3.)    You must be meticulous about everything as it all matters. Think of it more akin to baking than cooking, but don’t ever mess up! However, you will, and mistakes will be expensive. This is a field where you learn fast because you can’t afford to keep failing. Or you blow yourself up … and then stop working.

4.)    Investing large sums of money into chemicals with no promise of success. This is not like buying a film camera where Ilford or Kodak has perfected the process and created easy methods for you.  You do all the work and that often leaves room for small errors that may cause your image to not develop.

5.)    You only have an 8 minute window from pour-exposure-develop. This means you must have a portable darkroom nearby…like feet away. Gone are the days of grabbing your Hasselblad and throwing in some Porta800 to head out the door.  Every shot is considered—often days or weeks in advance.

6.)    Having a subject sit still for the time period needed.  Collodion is weakly sensitive to visible light. Primarily it is sensitive to UV light. This means it roughly has an ISO of 1-5. So often you open up wide and shoot between 1-3 seconds. Want to close that aperture to capture scenic? Expect minute-long exposures. Of course, the 8 minute window before the collodion and pores dry up limits your overall exposure.  Want to capture a starry night? Forget about it.

© Chase Norton

© Chase Norton

In what ways do you find wet plate photography useful?

Slow down, world. Give thought to your composition. Consider your exposure and choices. You only get one shot with this method and often it requires 30 minutes of work per image. You’ve just spent 4 months mixing chemicals and waiting for the right moment; slow down, think and then shoot.  Wet Plate is useful as a tool to slow us down and think things out. If you could only take 6 images at a 3 hour photo-shoot, how would that change you?

The second and equally important way it has been useful is the continued education it has given to this art I love. Every image captured helps to remind me and teach me more about how to capture light. Did I pour my ferrous sulfate solution directly into one portion of my plate and thus removing the silver nitrate and causing holes in my image? Is my contrast weak because my Sodium Thiosulfate Fixer solution is too diluted with distilled water from my developer wash, and thus not removing the unexposed silver nitrate, which provides my blacks? With understanding, the image is yours to learn from and will clearly communicate your mistakes.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

A camera is a tool—a box, with some kind of opening that allows a certain framing of light in for a set time period. Then what is truly capturing the light? Wet Plate photographers utilize cameras of all different sizes as a means to a certain end, but we must have our feet on both sides of the field. On one is the vision, the eye, the framing, the composition, and the final product; and on the other is the realm of creating a chemically reactive material. We are both the creators of film and the capturers of light.

Georgia native, Chase Norton attended Emory University for his undergraduate degree in Environmental Science. Moving to Hawaii in his early twenties he earned a Masters Degree in Meteorology at University of Hawaii. Embracing the beauty of scenic Hawaii through backpacking, he discovered his passion for photography while adventuring in the mountains. Chase spent the last 2 years working as studio manager at Hawkins Biggins Photography handling the post processing side of the business. Over the years, he has enjoyed helping and teaching others the powerful organizational and processing tools in Adobe Lightroom both in classrooms and privately. In his free time, Chase enjoys photographing remote regions of Hawaii and embracing the road of adventure.

Spring 2015

PLEASE CHECK OUT our exciting new series of offerings for Spring 2015

Featured programs for Spring 2015

SUBMISSIONS for the annual Contemporary Photography in Hawai‘i are due February 27. For a prospectus and information.

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