Everything New is Old Again

Elementary #2

Returning to the basics, the Elementary series are wet-plate tintype photograms made using a cube, sphere, cylinder, pyramid, and a few other shapes designed in a CAD program and created with a 3D printer, I also returned to the most elementary image making technique: photograms and one of the earliest photographic technologies: collodion wet-plate to make these tintypes.

As our lives become more complex I return to the basics: camera-less images of basic 3D forms. But with the twist that the 3D forms are 21st century 3D printed and the photograms are made on 19th century collodion wet-plate tintypes. Mashing up 19th and 21st centuries to create unique jewel-like objects to hold and marvel.

Collodion wet-plate photogram tintypes, 4.25” x 5.5” and 6” x 8”

Elementary #17

Elementary #16

Elementary #10

It all makes sense

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It all makes sense seen from above.

I recently flew from Denver to Newark in seat 34A in a Boeing 737, and that being a window seat behind the wing I was busy with my camera. I love looking down at the earth and imagining geologic time and how earth’s features were created.  Equally fascinating are man’s alterations to the landscape and the patterns we make.

This is nothing new in the world of photography. The first was Nadar who photographed from a balloon using wet-plate materials in the 19th century. I also love William GarnettYann Arthus Bertrand has produced a lot of amazing work and many books. One of my favorite aerial photographers was Bradford Washburn who was a mountaineer, explorer, pilot and photographer at the same time. This guaranteed him a great seat.  He also got to choose where to go and what to photograph. There is an amazing story about how his plane got stuck on the glacier  on 17,147 ft. Mt. Lucania in the Yukon and he climbed over the top of the mountain – over the summit – to safety! Perhaps the most intrepid aerial photographer is George Steinmetz who travels to some of the remotest places in the world and some less remote and flies an ultralight aircraft to take his superb photographs.

On my recent January flight much of the plains had a layer of snow which combined with the low angle of the winter sun provided some great sights. Just some fun stuff captured with my always handy Sony RX100 MK3.

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The rumpled quilt

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You can see the suburbs of Chicago through the clouds

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Snow-less New Jersey

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Lake Michigan

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If you like clouds check out this video I made using stills shot from an airplane a few years back.

Heaven from Bill Westheimer on Vimeo.

Parade of Champions

The first annual Edison Concours d’Elegance was this past weekend in my neighborhood Llewellyn Park New Jersey. The cars drove down the road past my house at first light on the way to the car show at Glenmont, the home of Thomas Alva Edison. These were among the finest collector cars ever assembled in one show including many winners of Best in Show at Pebble Beach. Here are a few of them ready for competition, showing off their historic glamour and for ogling and judging. Best of show in the American class was a beautiful split windshield Packard and the Horch won for European cars.

A field guide to wild hood ornaments

From the first annual Edison Concours d’Elegance at Llewellyn Park October 18, 2015
There are 48 of them for your viewing pleasure… Auburn, Bentley, Bugatti, Cadilllac, Duesenberg, Ford, Franklin, Hispano-Suiza, Horch, Huffmobile, Isotta-Frachini, Mercedes, Packard, Pierce Arrow, Rolls-Royce, Steyer, Stutz, and some yet to be identified.

Adam Fuss latest photograms

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Adam Fuss photogram of water

Last week I dropped in on Cheim & Read Gallery to see the show by Adam Fuss.  Of course Fuss’s work interests me because I have been making photograms for the last 30 years or so.  He always seems to be exploring new subject matter using interesting techniques and it always good stuff.

Arriving at the gallery I was excited to see the artist there giving a talk about his work.  We stuck around to hear his spiel, which was fascinating because of his facile “art-speak” and meaningless but apparently heartfelt blather that people seem to expect and enjoy hearing artists spew.  I felt like I had stumbled into a live version of the automatic artist statement website.

But maybe I’m just jealous of his exceptional success and his ability to go yadda yadda yadda about his work – which is something I struggle with for my own work.  I console myself with the idea that the work should speak for itself. But of course most work benefits from some sort of explanation in an artist statement.  When he offered to take the attendees to his studio after the exhibition tour I decided not to crash that, too… and left the gallery having with great admiration for his work despite not much appreciation of his explanatory skills.  Perhaps that is why he makes pictures instead of writing books.

The show is definitely worth seeing. Cheim & Read 547 West 25th Street New York, NY 10001

this is from the Cheim & Read website:

In Fuss’s photograms of water, verticality and its implied movement are integral to his intentions. The image-making process is less predictable, and the work is focused instead on the event and its result—which, as he says, is “a photographic representation of energy”—rather than on its materiality. Monumental in scale at just over 9 feet tall, the images engulf the viewer, and in this way are reminiscent of Abstract Expressionist canvases, particularly the gestural drips of Jackson Pollock or the cool verticality of Barnett Newman’s “zip” paintings. History, however, does not weigh Fuss’s work. As with much of his imagery, the seeming simplicity of his sources (water falling, snakes slithering) is belied by the depth and variety of possible readings, allowing for complex associations and interpretations. The expressiveness conveyed in these works is also contrasted by the impressive technical feats by which they are made.

The rush of falling water is tempered by more mysterious photograms of a sheer but unrevealing curtain. Measuring over 9 feet tall, they again overwhelm the viewer with their presence. For Fuss, the image harks back to William Henry Fox Talbot’s first photographic image of an oriel window (1835), and the dawn of photographic processes. At a time when the ubiquity of digital imagery has dulled the initial magic of this moment, Fuss sees the curtain as pulled between two worlds. Referring to it as a strata or layer, he describes it as a division not only between interior and exterior, but between traditional and contemporary sensibilities. He also relates the curtain’s drape and folds to classical Greek statuary, in which the animation of the human body is expressed through sculpted fabric. Abstract in form, the drapery and its “movement” symbolize underlying flesh; it is a boundary between the material and immaterial, between life and death.

Front and Center – Markus Brunetti’s Facades

Salisbury Cathedral 2014-2015 by Markus Brunetti

Salisbury Cathedral 2014-2015 by Markus Brunetti

I enjoyed seeing Markus Brunetti’s show of large scale prints of photographs of the facades of European churches at Yossi Milo Gallery.  Very formal and static, they nevertheless drew me in to stare and enjoy the detail as well as the magnificence of the structures.

The show is on view through October 17, 2015 at 245 Tenth Avenue, NYC 10001

3D printing – Reality and Fantasy

Spider Diarrhea

We call it spider diarrhea – when the 3D printer fails and makes a mess of extruded filament that looks like a rat’s nest of plastic. It happens to the best of us, but with knowledge and experience it can be a less frequent event.  There are SO many ways for a 3D print to fail I couldn’t list them and I doubt I’ve seen them all. For the past few years the media has been hyping 3D printing and the 3D printing industry has encouraged the idea that the technology will revolutionize everything and everyone should have a 3D printer in their home.  I have been printing with the Makerbot Replicator 2 for almost 3 years now and have developed a healthy skepticism towards all that hoo-ha.

Makerbot Fail Collection

Nowadays I have enough failures under my belt to be able to avoid most problems, but still have occasional problems, both from my errors and from equipment limitations or malfunctions.  I also learned a lot from the Makerbot Google Group.  It is an amazing bunch of geeks who are very generous with their knowledge.  It is an example of the value of open source engineering which the early Makerbots were products of.  The 5th Gen Makerbots went closed source and the quality has suffered terribly.  The original user group has been shut down by MBI (Makerbot Industries) since 2014.  Now there is a new and un-official Google group “Makerbot Users“.  The challenge with all user groups is determining who is a real expert and who just likes to post.  Only through lurking on the forum will that become clear.  Sometimes user groups have a terrible S/N ratio – signal to noise with garbage postings, but I’ve had good luck with these groups.  I will confess I don’t spend a lot of time there anymore.  I have learned most of what I need to know and can work pretty successfully without needing help. But if I do need help I go to the user group and also I phone Makerbot tech support 347-334-6800.

I do think that one day 3D printing will be ready for mass consumption. I am not clear on what most people would use it for. I haven’t found too many practical uses for it in my everyday life.  I made a cat food lid, fixed a few things, printed a bunch of stuff downloaded off the internet.  Perhaps someday appliance manufacturers will provide 3D model files for knobs and small parts.  Designing your own 3D models is still very challenging – even harder than printing. But for now, 3D printing is not ready for prime time and is still a solution looking for a problem.

 

 

My orphans

Sometimes a friend will offer me an old camera, often it is something interesting that belonged to a grandparent, almost always it is a film camera that hasn’t been used in a long time.  Occasionally it is an early digital camera.  In most cases they don’t work and have become just a paperweight or decorative item.  Over the years I’ve accumulated a few shelves of cameras and now when someone looks at my “collection” they remember one that they have sitting in their attic and I end up with yet another orphan.

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just a few of the orphans I’ve collected

Years ago I decided to make a book of wet-plate photographs of old cameras, but only if the cameras had specific memories connected to them.  Thus was born “MOMENTO” – a book of those memories and cameras and a collection of photographs of cameras.

Lately, I’ve been making my “Gutenberg” 3D printed artist book sculptures I began to make books about specific cameras.  Each camera is sealed inside a 3D printed translucent PLA resin “book” – inaccessible unless you break the sculpture.  The first ones were done with functioning digital cameras, and I used the cameras to photograph and make a video of the process of printing the camera.  The memory card with the images and video is still inside the camera.

Now I have a library of camera books. Some include a 3D printed box for the camera and some do not. But now I know what to do with all those orphaned cameras.

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Olympus Stylus XA – one of my favorite PhD cameras

A PhD camera is a point and shoot AKA “Push Here Dummy” camera.

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4 cameras provided by a friend

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The box has a lens in the cover – Nikon Coolpix L30 that I bought just to make into a book.

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Lumix – this was the first one I made. I bought this camera and used it on a few vacations, but it was better as a sculpture than a camera.

Film, I shall miss you, R.I.P.

Actually, I don’t miss film at all.  I love digital photography and carry a real digital camera (not just a phone camera) on my belt all day, every day.  When I do want to shoot analog I go back to the 1860’s and do wet-plate collodion pictures.  I am perfectly happy to skip the 20th century picture taking technologies.  But I do miss some things about film.  It did force me to think carefully about what was important or interesting enough to photograph.  On the flip side, digital gives me the freedom to experiment and not worry about running out of film or the incremental cost of each exposure.

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Thinking about the demise of film inspired me to make a new sculpture – a 3D printed artist book titled “Undeveloped” which contains a roll of 35mm film.  As in all of my 3D printed book sculptures, the content is sealed inside and inaccessible.  The book is an edition of 10 and is 4.75″ x 3.625″ x 1.25″ translucent PLA resin, the box is 3D printed PLA 5.75″ x 4.75″ x 2.25″ with a sliding honeycomb grid top and has a hand rubbed silver patina finish. I just can’t escape those silver processes!  Since Kodak is the poster child for the casualties of the transformation from film to digital I used a yellow PLA for the box which is visible inside but not outside.  You can figure out the symbolism.

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Dead tree books

I feel like I might be the last person who is reading words on paper.  I like the newspaper, I love books (I even love e-books) I love holding a real old fashioned paper book of words and pictures.  But the pace of change in the publishing world is dizzying.

My recent 3D printed book is all about that change from dead tree books to the future of publishing – kindle, nook, and who knows what is next?  Titled “Cellulose” this PLA resin book sculpture contains pine shavings and a raised image of a tree debossed on the front and embossed on the back.  It lives in a handmade basswood box with a burgundy velvet lining and walnut trim.  Yes, I even know how to make stuff like the box with my hands and no computer.

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I am thrilled that the first place Cellulose will be exhibited is Alicia Bailey’s Abecedarian Gallery in Denver for the upcoming Content: Artifact show curated by Katherine Crowe, Curator of Special Collections and Archives, University of Denver Libraries, Denver, Colorado. Running from September 17th to October 31, 2015 the opening reception is September 18.

The book in an edition of 10 and is translucent PLA resin with pine shavings sealed inside 4.875” x 3.75” x 1”, the box is basswood with walnut trim and velvet lining 6.125” x 5” x 2”