Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Making Photos With an Ancient Camera

About six years ago, I was given an old Kodak folding camera. When I opened the camera, I found a roll of film that was larger than 120 medium-format film, and the roll had been put in the camera inside out, so there was no hope of producing or salvaging any images from it. I put the camera in a drawer and didn't give it too much thought after that--until recently. That's when I pulled out the camera and sent pictures of it to my friend in cyberspace, Chuck Baker, the Brownie Camera Guy. Chuck is a great photographer and an expert on all things Kodak Brownie. His website is a fount of information. Chuck informed me that I have a folding Brownie No. 3, Model A (not to be confused with the Brownie No. 3A). The characteristics of the camera indicate that it was made by Kodak sometime in the two years after the model was introduced in 1905. This photo shows the camera open after I reversed the roll of film so the paper side was out. The roll of film is 122 size, which was meant to produce postcard-sized 3.25 x 5.5 inch negatives. While 122 film fits the Brownie No. 3, the camera was designed to use 124 film and produce 3.25 x 4.25 inch negatives. In any case, the expense of buying custom spooled film to fit the camera called for another solution. Chuck gave me some suggestions for using 120 film in the camera, and I gave it a try.
I encountered a few obstacles. First, everything involving film--respooling the 120 film on the longer 122 spools, loading and and unloading the camera, and loading the film on a reel for developing--had to be done in the dark. Fortunately, I had a large film-changing bag I could use. The next challenge was getting the 120 film onto the longer spools.
I wrapped rubber bands around the spools to help keep the film centered.
Since the film counter window is near the top of the camera, the numbers on the backing paper of the 120 film are not visible when the film is loaded in the camera. Note the window's tint has changed from red to orange over time. Since the 120 film doesn't do anything to block light leaks into the camera, I thought I should put black tape over the opening. If anyone else wants to try taking pictures as I did, I wouldn't recommend putting tape on the faux leather covering of the camera. You can see that I pulled some of it off when I removed the tape.
Before loading the film, I did some experimentation with a spare roll of 120 backing paper to figure out how far to wind the camera between exposures. Two full turns of the winding key seemed about right. Not knowing exactly what to expect for shutter speed, I went with ISO 50 film, figuring film speeds were probably even slower in the early twentieth century. The viewfinder wasn't terribly useful. Below is an image of the viewfinder pointed at a well-lit bust of Abraham Lincoln. Outside,I could only get a rough idea of where the camera was aimed.
As for results, I got a few exposures. One of the better ones is shown below.
Was it all worth all the effort? Probably not, but it was an interesting experience.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Robert Pinsky on Creativity

Robert Pinsky by Sigrid Estrada

I have fallen woefully short of my goal of publishing a photographic quote of the week, but I would like to share a quote related to creativity in general from former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky:
Whatever makes a child want to glue macaroni on a paper plate and paint the assemblage and see it on the refrigerator - that has always been strong in me. 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Toying With Ideas

Toying With Ideas: The Lo-Fi Photography of David A. Cory
Robert Williams Gallery
Box Factory for the Arts
1101 Broad St.
St. Joseph, MI

September 11 - October 24, 2015

Opening Reception:
Friday September 11, 2015
5:30 - 7:30 PM
When I tell people I have an upcoming photography show, they usually ask questions like “What is the theme?” or “What kind of photography do you do?”
I find these questions difficult to answer.
The art I produce with a camera doesn't fit neatly into any genre. The only way I can attempt to characterize the prints that will be on display at the Box Factory for the Arts in St. Joseph, MI starting September 11, 2015 is to say the photos are made with a Holga toy camera, some are single exposures, and some are multiple exposures. While I'm limiting the prints in the St. Joe to Holga images, at various times, I have used vintage film cameras, both medium format and 35mm, cheap promotional cameras like those once given away by Time Magazine and Holiday Inn, homemade and factory-made pinhole cameras, and even digital cameras.
I wouldn't say I do architectural photography in a conventional sense, though the subjects some of my photos are buildings, usually in various states of disrepair and distorted by the plastic lens of the Holga, as in “Flower Shop” and “Good Hart General Store.”
Flower Shop
Good Hart General Store
I don't do much portraiture or street photography, prompting one reviewer of my portfolio to comment that the photos I showed him looked like they were taken after a neutron bomb explosion. Buildings and other structures were intact, but there was not a human in sight. When I've tried it, I've felt a little weird and voyeuristic doing street photography, and I'm not that comfortable asking strangers if I can take their pictures. I have done it occasionally though.
Occupy Chicago
These photos, by the way, won't be in the show. Perhaps this is something I can work on in the future.

I often rearrange reality by making multiple exposure images. Reviewers looking at some of my multiple exposures of mechanical objects have referred to them as crazy machines or something out of a science fiction movie.
Industrial Revolution #4
I don't consider myself a nature photographer, but many of my photos include natural subjects, as in “Burdock #1” and “Vernal Vortex.”
Burdock #1
Vernal Vortex
I'm tempted to call the multiple exposures abstract or surrealistic, though I really don't feel they fit into either category.

Trying to explain my photographs reminds me of Robert Frost, who, when asked to explain one of his poems, responded with, “You want me to say it worse?”

So, I hope you will be able to come to the Box Factory show and form your own opinions.

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Sunday, August 9, 2015

Photographic Quote of the Week: Alfred Stieglitz

In photography there is a reality so subtle that it becomes more real than reality.

- Alfred Stieglitz
The Flatiron, by Alfred Stieglitz, 1903

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Photographic Quote of the Week: Jerry Uelsmann

Ultimately, my hope is to amaze myself. The anticipation of discovering new possibilities becomes my greatest joy. – Jerry Uelsmann

Untitled, Jerry Uelsmann, 1996

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Photographic Quote of the Week: Edward Steichen

A portrait is not made in the camera but on either side of it. - Edward Steichen

Charles Chaplin by Edward Steichen, 1925

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Photographic Quote of the Week: Paul Strand

Cartier-Bresson has said that photography seizes a "decisive moment." That's true except that it shouldn't be taken too narrowly...does my picture of a cobweb in the rain represent a decisive moment? The exposure time was probably three or four minutes. That's a pretty long moment. I would say the decisive moment in that case was the moment in which I saw this thing and decided I wanted to photograph it. - Paul Strand, Sixty Years of Photographs by Paul Strand, Calvin Tomkins , ISBN: 0900406828 , Page: 35-36
“Cobweb in Rain, Georgetown, Maine,” 1927 (negative); 1927 (print). Paul Strand, American, 1890 – 1976. Gelatin silver print, image: 9 11/16″ x 7 13/16″ (24.6 x 19.8 cm). Sheet: 9 15/16″ x 8 1/16″ (25.3 x 20.4 cm). Philadelphia Museum of Art, 125th Anniversary Acquisition. The Paul Strand Collection, the Lynne and Harold Honickman Gift of the Julien Levy Collection, 2001. © Paul Strand Archive/Aperture Foundation.