copyright 2010 Luther Gerlach

The temperature is nice in the shadow of giants.

Mothra Oh noes!

Mothra Oh noes!

Although I started my life as a military brat it was a short dalliance. So, although I was born off the mainland of Japan on the island of Okinawa the only marked cultural value I gleaned from my birth right are gauzy memories of Mothra and Godzilla on television. I wasn’t even two before my parents returned with me stateside. From there on out it was a youth of small towns, first in Texas and then in Missouri. Which meant by default I grew up without museums, music performances, or theater. I didn’t realize this left a chip on my shoulder until in a college photography class I expressed my frustration with a professor who’d left the New York underground creative scene (he had done the most incredible photos of Tom Waits and William Dafoe, to name a few), to shoot color photos of fields in the plain states. Flat perfectly rendered large color photos of perfectly aligned horizons often of wheat fields or field grass. I had an inexplicable loathing for this professor. In retrospect I realize it was the truest expression of the old cliche the grass is greener. That said it did not change the passion I had acquired for photography in college. I spent full days in the darkroom, often into the night, actually pretty much until the lab tech kicked me out more often than not. I never made the connect though. Although when I applied myself my execution was quite good I could not fathom with my straight laced midwestern rearing that this was at all something I could make a career from. On top of that I was in a particularly self-righteous phase where I believed creative work must be accessible for all to be truly a success. And again I saw nothing in my own work that spoke to that principal. Most of it was rather formal and executed with as much detail as I could muster across the tonal range. It certainly didn’t seem to validate anything but a passion for the craft. So I occasionally acquire a camera, always vintage now. The first was the one and only I ever bought that was show room new. I took color classes at Otis and the spark was still there and every once in while I’d make a pretty great image. Alas my life was unfocused and I spent what effort I applied on the career that paid the bills. At the time that left spare little time to commit to actually shooting. But I loved shooting LA heck I still do I love seeing this city in C-prints, silver-gelatin prints, polaroids, ambrotypes, salt prints, heck watch ya got as they’d say back home.

Through a twist of fate here and there I became good friends with the great Luther Gerlach, who humbles me with his knowledge, skill, and work always. It’s also worth mentioning he’s an awesome storyteller don’t miss out on that if you have a chance. He now possesses the largest plate camera, as far as we know, in the world. Most of you are accustomed to seeing images on paper or you might have an old photograph of a distant relative on metal say a tintype. But there was a time when photographic images were shot on glass plates.

Eastman Kodak Dry Plate box

Eastman Kodak Dry Plate box

You could even buy pre-coated glass plates in a box. Photographers would carry a full service darkroom in a wagon up through places like Yosemite with pack mules and horses. Now Luther has traded the horses and pack mules for a large diesel truck but all of the chemistry must be mixed and applied by hand and the image must be developed on site directly after shooting, conjuring up a host of potential pitfalls. To that end every image is one of a kind and an extraordinary thing to experience in person.

A few weeks ago Luther dropped in unexpectedly on a Monday with Tracy Storer of mammothcamera.com. If you are asking yourself why these folks hang out with me, I’d like to give an answer but to be honest I’m humbled every time, and frankly you’ve got me. ;-D Tracy is a rare figure in the photographic world as well. First he shoots large format polaroid The stock was indeed discontinued a few years ago. Thankfully Tracy warehoused a large cache of the material and still works with it today. But that’s only the half of the genius, Tracy also builds large format cameras. Yep he even machines the metal parts in his workshop. As you may guess this totally blows my mind with its level of awesomeitude.

Also joining us on that joyous, unexpected Monday was my gifted neighbor Eric O’Connell and my roommate Mike Allen who is an endless source of inspirational drive and talent. Oh to be so sure of your path at such a young age. I don’t have envy I have respect for that. So as I think back on those 4 bottles of wine and hours of conversation I realize I have a lot to think about, not that I ever don’t. Maybe I’m just here to connect people or maybe I will one dust off a camera in the collection and treat it with the respect it deserves. I’ll probably do it quietly for a while until I feel my heart is in it.

To end this post I am including a piece from each of the artists from that monday below. And although I’m not quite yet worthy of the honor I’m throwing in one of my own. I’m just going to make it a bit smaller to make myself feel just.

copyright 2010 Luther Gerlach

Amelie And Alchemie Luther Gerlach

Copyright 2010 Tracey Storer

Copyright 2010 Tracey Storer

untitled copyright 2010 Eric O'Connell

untitled copyright 2010 Eric O'Connell

copyright 2010 Mike Allen

copyright 2010 Mike Allen

"We're Open" Copyright 2010 Eva Crawford

"We're Open" Copyright 2010 Eva Crawford