Thursday, September 7, 2017

A Little More About the China Photos

1988: 3 cameras, 4-5 lenses, 30 rolls 35mm film, 10 rolls 120 film, film guard bags for x-rays, Domke bag with back pack straps, Texas state press pass.Nothing digital. No autofocus. No autoexposure. No motor drives. This is what I brought to China.

Smart film shooters are more protective of their film returning from a trip than when they first departed. The first sign of success is hanging the film to dry and seeing well defined negatives just out of the wetting agent. Then you know that you have work to do.

The film developing began in June and and probably took a week or two. The printing came next. Somehow I decided to print diptychs, merging the frame borders together, pairing a Chinese photo from the US with a Chinese photo from China. Looking for similarities and contrasts, flow from one image to its partner. Test stripping one image, expose on half a sheet of paper, set registration marks on the easel and put the sheet in a box. Test strip the other image, pull out the sheet and print on the other half. Print on the same half and end up screaming obscenities.

These pictures were starting to work and I was somewhere in the middle of July 1988. A month later was the deadline for the Illinois Arts Council grants which became my target for the year. Having been rejected twice previously, I knew that this new work was better and I would give it a shot. The process for making these prints was time consuming, technically rigorous, but it was my game and i set or broke the rules as i went along.

1988 was a time when I was able to make these pictures. In September of that year I opened a letter saying I was awarded an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship for photography.

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