Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Print: Streetcar (City Park to Canal)

Streetcar (City Park to Canal) is an 11"x14" gelatin silver print. I made it by cutting up negatives from a 35mm half-frame camera and collaging them in a 4x5 glass negative carrier. All the negatives were made looking out the windows of a streetcar going from City Park to Canal St. in New Orleans. The print is designed to convey the wandering of my eye around the streetcar, as well as the passage of time. I want the image to exude the experience and emotion of riding a near-empty streetcar.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Spotlight: Ihagee Exa

First released in 1951, the Ihagee Exa is a compact and lightweight 35mm SLR. Designed as a consumer camera, the Exa is a smaller, simpler version of Ihagee's flagship Exakta Varex. The Exa accepts the same bayonet-mount lenses and interchangeable viewfinders as the Exakta, but does not have many of the more advanced features its big brother offers.

The most limiting aspect of the Exa is its severe lack of shutter speeds. There are only five speeds available: 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, 1/150, and bulb. Speeds are selected via a unique little switch on top of the camera body. With a top speed of only 1/150 (laughable for an SLR), capturing any subject moving faster than an ambling walk in sharp focus is out of the question. Making pictures in direct sunlight is also difficult unless one is using a relatively slow film.

Besides the shutter speed issue, the Exa is a fun little camera to use. The build quality is exquisite, as one would expect from a mid-century German camera. Though diminutive in form, the camera has a reassuring weight to it. Operation is fairly archaic compared to newer 35mm SLR's, but is on par for the time period. Keep in mind, the Exa was made nearly a decade before the revolutionary Nikon F.

Unless one has a newer automatic-aperture lens, one must focus with the lens wide-open, and then manually stop it down to the desired aperture before tripping the shutter. Upon clicking the shutter release, the mirror swings up and does not return to the viewing position until the shutter is reset. The frame counter has to be reset by hand before loading each new roll of film. Film advance and rewind is performed by rotating small, uncomfortable (yet aesthetically pleasing) knurled knobs. The focusing screen is bright and easy to compose with, especially when viewed through the standard waist-level finder. Pentaprism finders are also available.

There's not too much else to say about the Exa. It's a fun little SLR if you can learn to deal with its limitations. Plus, it's just plain gorgeous to look at. In my humble opinion, the Exa and Exakta Varex are some of the most beautiful cameras ever made. My Exa came with a 50mm f/2.9 "Mertitar" lens, which I used exclusively to make pictures on a walk through the woods with some friends. The film was Ilford HP5+. The woods were thick, and the time was nearing sunset, so many of these pictures were made with the lens wide open. As a result, I missed focus on most of the shots. Whoops. Here are my results:

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Drawing: Mountains Beyond Mountains

Mountains Beyond Mountains is a 40” x 30” pen drawing on paper. This piece is intended to express my experience and views regarding suburban America. It is an amalgamation of everything I have grown to resent about modern, middle-class suburbia. Born into the middle-class myself, I’ve spent much of my existence within suburban surroundings. I’ve lived out years of boredom within repetitive housing clusters. Monotonous, dead-end retail jobs at commercial shopping centers have sucked away pieces of my soul. I’ve spent uncountable rage-inducing hours in the expensive, dangerous, isolation pods we call automobiles.

Overreliance on automobiles is a major theme to this work. As a society, I believe we place entirely too much importance on cars. Over the past century, our country has been covered in parking lots and highways in order to accommodate the ubiquitous sedan, minivan, and sports utility vehicle.  Suburban planners relentlessly cater to motorists, providing their cars with wider roads and monstrous parking garages. People are encouraged, even nearly forced, to use their cars to get anywhere. In today’s suburban world, it is extremely difficult to do anything without some kind of motor vehicle. I can’t even get to many of the stores along Veteran’s Boulevard in Metairie by foot or bicycle, because there are no bike lanes or even sidewalks to speak of. Highways and an enormous parking lot surround the mountain in my drawing, with no room for pedestrians to even breathe.

Another matter I wanted to explore in this drawing is brand oversaturation. Much of our country is being taken over by a relatively small number of businesses. Big box stores and restaurant chains have flourished in this country because of their familiarity and convenience to customers. Slowly but surely, our commercial landscape is becoming the same no matter where one goes. I have filled my imaginary landscape with these all-too recognizable businesses, often repeating the same locations a number of times.

To make this drawing, I first created a digital collage in Photoshop using found images. I made sure to primarily use images of stores that mostly cater to middle-class suburbanites, hence the lack of McDonalds locations, and the inclusion of multiple Olive Garden restaurants. I tried to primarily use national store and restaurant chains, as I wanted this drawing to represent any suburb in America. After making the digital collage, I created the final drawing using a grid system, as well as a projector. The entire piece was done utilizing cross-hatching techniques with various sizes of micron pens. 

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Myself Through Time and Place (Part 4)

The latest batch of images in my ongoing series, Myself Through Time and Place. Displayed in order of creation. All made with my Nikon F2 and 20mm f/2.8 lens.