Walker Evans – “Depth of Field”

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Vancouver Art Gallery #1; © Ian Poole, Canada, 2017.

In my thought processes, the photographic output of Walker Evans (1903-75) was over-shadowed by the mid twentieth century photographers Robert Frank, Garry Winogrand and Lee Friedlander;  the Farm Security Administration (FSA) members like Dorothea Lange, Marion Post Wolcott, and Gordon Parks.  Whilst Australian heroes in Dr Michael Coyne and Tim Page piqued my visual interest.  The paucity of names on this list is a clear indication of my lack of knowledge of the genre.

Today I expanded that knowledge by a quantum of 100%!  Whilst others in my travel group were heading to Whistler for skiing – I was aiming to catch the final days of this block buster exhibition Walker Evans – Depth of Field at the Vancouver Art Gallery.  I was not disappointed.  Gathered with the skill that only a good curator possesses, from a multitude of sources, this exhibition documented some of Evans earliest work right through to his late output using Polaroid materials.  Colour even!

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Road Side Stand near Birmingham Alabama, 1936; © Walker Evans

I got to see personal favourites (the old reliable house mover) and discovered many new and ironic photographs (damaged).

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Truck and Sign; © Walker Evans, 1929-30.

These further fed my interest.  Of the monochrome photographs, there was a delightful mix of gelatin silver prints (both vintage and later printed) and ink jet.  The difference of printing techniques was never a consideration, such was the quality of both old and new.  The viewer concentrated on content not on technique.  I suspect even Evans would have approved.

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Robert Frank’s Stove, Cape Breton Island; © Walker Evans, 1971

Another intriguing find was a photograph of Robert Frank’s stove.  Such a personal insight into Frank’s personal space seems to indicate that the two great photographers had a knowledge of each other (albeit late in Evan’s life).

Evans trip to Cuba produced some delightful photographs including another of my personal favourites.  It was a joy to see three variants, including a large inkjet print, all side by side for the viewer’s pleasure.

Such curatorship is wonderful when it is carefully crafted to seduce and educate the viewer.

 

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Citizen of Downtown Havana; © Walker Evans, 1933

A pleasant gallery interlude and totally worth a trip around the world to view.  Thank you Vancouver Art Gallery.

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Vancouver Art Gallery #2; © Ian Poole, Canada, 2017.

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Vancouver Art Gallery #3; © Ian Poole, Canada 2017.


 

 

 

 

The Impossible Project

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Being a Director of the Foto Frenzy Photography Centre, I am fortunate to be working with a very creative crew.  Foto Frenzy is currently hosting Dr Doug Spowart and Dr Victoria Cooper as our Centre’s Artists-in-Residence.  The Good Doctors have brought a sense of  academic research to our operation – and this was shown this week with the execution of a Frenzy Team portrait. Possibly one of the earliest shot with the new IMPOSSIBLE 10×8″ black and white instant material here in Australia.  In February 2008, Polaroid announced that they would no longer manufacture the eponymous instant film with which they had dominated the photography world.  By June of that year the Impossible Project was starting to become a reality with instant films ranging all the way up to 10×8″ and the made to order 20×24″ for the handful of cameras in existence of this size.

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Doug Spowart and the Author preparing the Cambo and Schneider Lens; © Jacob Schneider.

Using our Cambo 10×8″ camera, Doug was prepared to use a couple of sheets of his valuable material to further the cause of science.  Having shot over 300 sheets of the old Polaroid film, he was well placed to work his way through this process.

Our motley crew were gathered in the studio, and using a combination of daylight and constant source lighting (ISO 640), the first test was shot.  This large format film requires processing in its own machine.  We were fortunate that Doug still owns such a device.

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Portrait Sitters view of the Process; © Ian Poole, 2013.

The use of a large format camera brings a slow and steady cadence to the whole process.  Even the sitters must be ready to contribute to the process by posing to enable the photographer to focus and frame his shot; then the film is loaded and the dark slide is loaded and inserted into the camera.

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Poole Shoots Doug; © Victoria Cooper, 2013.

The finale, for me, was the opportunity to add to my Poole Portrait Project, by creating a 10×8″ Impossible image of Dr Doug.  The process of portraiture is about seeking an appropriate moment that records the sitter’s expression, psyche and mood; sometimes grabbed in a second – other times hunted and sought by a devious process of search and capture!  With the single shot large format camera it is a finely judged moment of interaction with the sitter, and then swooping in for “the kill”.

Obviously, the IMPOSSIBLE Project material carries its own peculiar and particular characteristics, but its reward is a raw honesty of image making.

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Doug by Poole Impossible Project 10×8″

Two Great Photographers – Two Great Photographs

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Ian Poole at Ayers Rock I; © Christian Vogt c1986.

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Uluru Morning; © Ian Poole, c1986.

Being asked to join a small disparate group of photographers linked by the common thread of seeking further knowledge and sharing past experiences; was what happened to me in the mid-1980s.  The Swiss Broncolor organisation, via their Australian distributor gathered together a group of Australian photographers (mostly advertising/commercial based) and linked with a visit by the Swiss art photographer Christian VogtVogt still works out of Basel, Switzerland.  A further addition to the group was the Tokyo based advertising photographer Takuya Tsukahara from the famed Striped House Studio in Roppongi.

Ayers Rock (now known by its traditional name Uluru) is world famous for its monolithic shape and rich red colours at most times of the day and seasons of the year.  It was a perfect space to connect with other photographers, and led by Vogt, we could experiment with various forms of  landscape and land art including wrapping items within the landscape with cloth and fabric.  Kodak sponsored us with its ill-fated instant film material (a Polaroid look alike that cost the Kodak company dearly).  But it did serve us well as an instant form of assessment and critique in a pre-digital era.  Look at the Kodak-roids on the ledge of the  Tsukahara portrait.

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Ian Poole at Ayers Rock II; © Takuya Tsukahara c1986.

Christian Vogt was kind enough to first offer to document each participant with a portrait light by Broncolor.  Each session was held privately with only the sitter and Vogt in attendance.  For me it was an intense process of watching, whilst participating with a Master at work.  To my amazement it was almost the first image of the session that was chosen; and it was an illustration of a photographer desperately trying to out-think the photographer by asking “where are you cropping this image?“.

Why is that we photographers can’t relax and let the professionals do their job?

Tsukahara, on the other hand was comfortable enough to decide to replicate the portrait session, but to do so in the full glare of both the participants and a Kodak Carousal Projector.  The ubiquitous Carousal certainly now belongs in a long forgotten era – along with colour slides, tintypes and daguerreotypes!  ….but I am straying from the story.  Tac (as he is known to his friends) decided that his portraits would portray a more inclusive sense of image making, and he wanted us to perform under the glare of the projector’s bulb and the subsequent shadow becoming part and parcel of the image.

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Shadows Mimic Rock, Central Australia; © Ian Poole, c1986.

Two photographs – two interpretations.  These gelatin silver 20x25cm black and white images have become treasured pieces in my art collection.  Thank you Gentlemen.

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Rock Montage + Viewers; © Ian Poole, c1986.