Photographer of the Day: Man Ray

Man Ray

b.1890 d. 1976

¬†Today’s PotD is Emmanuel Radnitzky, who went by the name Man Ray. He actually refused to acknowledge his original name, which idk why**, because anyone with “Rad” as a part of their last name won the last name lottery. But, whatever Man Ray, you do you.

** I actually found out that he shortened his name because his family was afraid of antisemitism. That is NOT very rad at all. Way to go, America. Way. To. Go.

And we’re not talking about this Man Ray.

Man Ray was buddies with some names we are largely familiar with today: Dali, Picasso, Duchamp, Joyce, Stein, and Ernst, among many others. He was a part of that cool kid’s group at the beginning of the 20th century. He thought of himself as a painter, but it is actually his photographs that he is well known for.

He discovered solarization, and made his own photograms, which he called “Rayographs,” because when you’re Man Ray, you can do what you want, like name things after yourself. Who wouldn’t? #swag

Hello my name is Man Ray and I do photography without a camera. #soavantgarde #coolerthanyou #swag

Man Ray also did normal things like portraits, notably of his super neat-o friends, like Joyce and Stein.James Joyce, being the moody writer he is. Much agony. Very art.

Manny, get my good side. Picasso painted my bad side and I’m still salty about it.

So, he was the man. He did fashion photography, made avant-garde films, and even hung out with Duchamp to make readymades. He also said some pretty zen things about photography and art that make you go “whoa Man (Ray.)” You may even write one down in your sketchbook for inspiration.

“To create is divine, to reproduce is human.”

“Of course, there will always be those who look only at technique, who ask ‘how’, while others of a more curious nature will ask ‘why’. Personally, I have always preferred inspiration to information.”

“I do not photograph nature. I photograph my visions.”

Word.

Man Ray had a hand in the beginnings of the first modern art collection, and has been referred to, many times, as one of the most important artists in modern art history.

So, that’s Man Ray for you! What a guy.

The next PotD will be Nadar. Keep an eye out, and if you want to read about more photographers, be sure to check out the Photographer of the Day tab!

Happy Shooting!

Gum Bichromate Printing for Days

My misadventures in gum printing continue. This time I was a bit frustrated with the results I was getting and I had a stack of prints I hated and wanted to burn. Instead of burning them though, I did some experiments with bleach. I got a lot of different results, but I’m pretty pleased with how it went and I’m already making plans to use bleach to add to the content of my next images.

But anyway– here have some more gum prints:

Let’s start with this one. I worked in my bathtub like all the well-equipped photographers do, and I filled it with water about 1/4″. I then put about 1/3 cup of bleach into the water, submerged the picture, and waited two minutes to rinse it off.

Oh yeah, you wanna rinse these off or the bleach will keep on bleachin’.

Before, the image was dark and murky. I wish I had a before photo to show you, but you’ll just have to take my word for it. The bleach lightened it up and brought out the background. Yay!

This one was fun– not. I was trying to make a vignette with the bleach, but, uh, see the top left? I got carried away. So I just said whatever and immersed this one in the bathtub that had like a capful of bleach for twenty minutes, and then I took a brush and was just making marks on it. Talk about strange.

Yeah. I splattered bleach on this one and got carried away. Whoops.

 

I got super excited over this one. I made drops on the print this time, and they remind me of fairy lights. I also bleached my subjects, trying to bring them out of the background, but this was before I realized I needed to rinse the prints to get the bleaching to stop, so I brought them out so much they turned into ghosts. But I’m thrilled with that, because, I mean, look at the picture. It’s already creepy.

Ohhh this one. When I put it in the tub, I put the image face down. I was thinking about the gum bichromate process, where you put your image face down in the tray for development. I left my print alone for 20 minutes (I did this one the same time I did the failed-vignette,) and when I came back my bathtub somehow drained and the print was just chillin’ on the bottom of my tub. My bathtub has some swirly groove things, which apparently held onto the bleach, thus creating this cool image.

I played with the darkness and the colors of the prints a little bit in Photoshop, to make them look more dreamy/trippy. I think I succeeded.

That’s my latest update with these. I’m going to try a new negative process to try and get the colors I want, so wish me luck.

Happy Shooting!

 

Gum Bichromate Struggles and Successes

I devoted my winter break to making decent gum bichromate prints, and so far, after 14 hours, I’ve got mixed results. Which is no surprise, since I’m such a newbie, and this process is not for the faint-at-heart. If anything, the amount of time I’ve pumped into the project overall (70+ hours, thanks,) puts me in competition against Richard the Lionheart. Boy ain’t got nothin’ on me and my watercolors and paper. Dude was defeated by an ant a little kid.

But anyway.

Here are my “successful” prints:

Alright, so each of these prints has a cyanotype base layer. I found that that approach made it easier to line up the negatives– oh, I didn’t mention that these prints are created in layers? All of these are 5-6 layers of watercolor/gum bichromate solution. It takes a while to get a print. A long freaking while. Each color (Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow,) have their own negative, so when you print each color you have to make sure the negative lines up with the established image, else you get something like this:

It’s a gamble when you’re determining how long to expose each layer (because the amount of time you expose the print to UV light, the more pronounced the color will be,) and, when you’re a total amateur like me, you have the tendency to guess pretty wrong, and end up with images like this:

Yeah, they’re not supposed to be that blue.

I did experiment a little bit, though. For this image, I did something different. I put a top layer of cyan and exposed it too much, so my image was wayyyy too blue. I took a paintbrush and wiped away most of it, but that’s why it looks “freckly,” which I don’t mind. I think it’s kinda cool.

So there’s an update on my gum bichromate work. Trust me, there will be more updates as I try to tackle this process.

Happy Shooting!

Because Sometimes You Just Can’t Flip a Table

So lemmie tell you a thing.

It’s called creative problem solving when your final project is due in less than 24 hours and someone was a little sh– snowflake,and unwittingly sabotaged your project because they were a irresponsible little sh– angel.

That sounds bitter. Let me start again:

My final project was originally going to be a piece exploring the relationship between our persona and our shadow (two of Jung’s dream archetypes.) I used a view camera to capture scenes of an anonymous person (basically myself with my face partly cut out of the frame,) doing things that seem ordinary, like applying makeup or kissing a loved one and even sleeping. I was going to develop these, alter the negative to include the shadow, and tada.

The shadow was to alert the viewer to how we have these “shadow” selves that represent aspects of ourselves we loathe and repress, and how these aspects are hidden beneath the things we do as our persona. So, if someone is applying makeup, it may be the result of a dislike for something ugly or unappealing. Kissing a loved one, showing that you care for them, may be a manifestation of the fear of hurting said loved one, or a hatred for people who do– which is actually a projection of the deep seated, unconscious part of you that wants to hurt loved ones. Pretty messed up, right?

Too bad I didn’t get to execute it.

Well the camera I borrowed this weekend was broken and no one bothered to tell my professor, so I took it home unknowingly and dealt with its broken shutter and hated everything. But I’m not bitter about it, nope. Not one bit.

I developed my film, which didn’t come out because, y’know, broken shutter, and I was in a panic. What was I supposed to do? Well, I threw this together: meet my persona, my anima, my animus, and my shadow.

I returned to my negative-altering ways for my last-minute final. The top photo is my persona, or my public mask; the waking version of myself that I and others perceive me to be. I’m known as the photographer in my circle of friends. I also love rainbows. BAM PERSONA. There were no alterations to this negative, because it is me in reality. All natural, baby.

Next, is my anima. The anima is the feminine aspect of myself. Notice the stereotypical girly clothing (a.k.a. just another piece of my wardrobe, because I identify as a feminine girl.) I altered this negative using heart-shaped glitter nail polish. How cute is that?

Up next is my animus. If you guessed that is was the masculine aspect of myself, congratulations you got it right and you win absolutely nothing. Now, I have a lot of men’s clothing. Typical I had none of it at school with me. So think of my animus as a 2008 throw-back tribute to colored skinny jeans (because let’s be real, I’m still stuck in 2008.) For this negative I put on three of these crystal sticker things. The placement on the negative was purposeful. You gotta watch out for us artist types, because we can make anything phallic.

Last is my shadow. I scratched the negative and inverted it in Photoshop to create an off-putting effect. The shadow, in dreams or nightmares, is manifested in different ways; sometimes it is the thing you are being chased by, or a killer, or basically anything that is out to hurt you. I inverted the image because the shadow can be seen as the “opposite” of the persona, and the opposite of a positive is a negative and– I don’t think I need to spell it out more.

So, yeah. Even though I threw this together last minute, and even though the execution isn’t as nice as I’d like, I made a concept that worked. Thank goodness I’ve been obsessing over Jung’s dream psychology, otherwise I would have been even more bitter stressed out.

Lesson: Always have a Plan B and do your best to work with what resources you have at hand. Oh, and be kind to yourself if whatever you create isn’t perfect. It won’t be the end of the world.

Happy Shooting!

 

This Photo Shoot Took Two Years to Plan… Here’s Why:

I had an idea two years ago, where I built a blanket fort in the woods and dressed people in pretty clothing and made the space all misty/dreamy. But, I didn’t have the means to complete my vision, which included lots of pillows, sheets, string lights, a generator and a fog machine.

Yeah, that’s a lot of stuff for one shoot. Not to mention pricey. I’m not rich, so I had to purchase these items over a long period of time.

So, for the past two years I’ve been hoarding slowly collecting the things I needed for the shoot. I learned how to use studio lights, which gave me a way to photograph the scene in the dark successfully, and I became a better photographer overall. I was ready to finally do this thing.

Since I’m working on my dream series, I figured the beautiful scene I imagined would be a good fit. But, a few weeks before the shoot, I had a cool idea: gas masks.

Surrealism is oftentimes executed like this:

one object + another object that doesn’t make sense with the first object = surrealism.

(It’s a teensy bit more complicated than that, but you get the jist.)

I’ve been waiting two years to execute my idea, and last night I was finally able to bring my vision to life.

This shoot was super fun and the results were unexpected. I had the pleasure of shooting with three lovely young ladies who I had never met before, and I had help from a photojournalism student who shadowed me for this shoot. Plus, my boyfriend was there too, and being helpful is part of his job description.

The finished product wasn’t exactly what I had in mind, as I had a fog machine. But, when plugged into the generator, the lights would shut off. I had to make a choice, so I chose the lights. Plus, by the time we started shooting, the lights were turning off and on and eventually shut off completely. The generator called it quits, then my light kit called it quits, and then we finally called it quits.

I was going for creepy, and I definitely created that feeling with the harsh, straight-on flash (which was also positioned on the ground firing on about a 45 degree angle,) which created the flashlight-under-the-chin look. Y’know, like when you’re eight and telling spooky stories? Am I explaining this right?

Oh, did I mention the whole thing took almost seven hours?

Thank goodness for Caroline and her large car. I warned her I had a lot of stuff, but seeing it all in one place even surprised me. Setting it all up was even more of a task. It was super duper freaking cold a little chilly, and we had to take a break at one point because we couldn’t feel our fingers or toes.

Also, don’t let my sweater fool you: I had eight layers on under it.

Or, you can let it fool you and imagine me to have cold-resistant super powers. Your choice.

After hours of setting up, we did the shoot, and celebrated by sitting in Caroline’s warm house drinking hot cocoa and eating warm pizza. It was a wonderful, yet exhausting, shoot.

It feels good to achieve something you worked on for a long time. Try it sometime, but try not to do it at the end of November in the northern part of the world. It’s a bit rough.

Happy Shooting!

Feeling Blue can be Surprising

One of the most frustrating things about photography is when your vision doesn’t quite match up with reality. These moments are learning experiences, but still, they’re not something you’d do to have fun on a Friday night.

I’ve been playing around with instant film lately because I actually experiment with all sorts of photographic media because I’m obsessed and while I was in NYC, I wanted to do a little shoot with Impossible Project’s Cyan Monochrome film. I even packed a moon for it.

But, I guess I’m not proficient enough in the art of Polariod/Impossible Project photography, because my images were just not coming out right. It was also probably the location of the shots too, because lighting is important my friends. But yeah. I scanned the images in anyway and played around on Photoshop to make them more visible.

In reality, the film isn’t contrasty and not as blue. If you’re interested and you want to see actually successful results, follow this link to the Impossible Project site.¬† I tried. I didn’t obtain the vision I had, which was a little disappointing, but I did get some cool results. Digital manipulation was involved to make these, so they’re cyanographs with a twist. A hybrid of instant and digital.

Never be afraid to share your mistakes. Some mistakes lead to greater things. And even though your vision may not work out sometimes, it might actually be for the better. Who knows!

Happy Shooting!

Nightmares Curing Nightmares?

I’m done with nightmares. Well, photographing them, anyway.

As I mentioned in previous posts, these images were made using a view camera and shot on 4×5 sheet film. I have mad respect for photographers of the past, because these things are heavy, awkward, and sensitive, and loading the film is a feat in of itself. Try loading your film into a film holder without scratching it. Go ahead, I dare you.

(Actually I don’t dare you because I’m pretty sure it can be done, but man, I tried really hard and still got scratches. MAIS C’EST LA VIE MES AMIS.)

But enough of the romanticizing of photographers of the past. Here are my last four images for my nightmare series:

mynightmares_15If you’ve paid attention, you would notice that animal masks are a common motif. This is not on accident. I had a nightmare about a year ago now, where I was dead and everything was bizarre. When I woke up, I was so nervous and frightened and impressed. So, I wrote the nightmare down immediately, in full detail. Because I did this, I remember that nightmare above all others. There was a lot of content to exploit, and c’mon, animal masks are neat-o.

While creating this series, I noticed some changes. Before throwing myself into the dream theme (that rhymes in an annoying way,) I wasn’t having many dreams, or at least I couldn’t remember them. But as soon as I started on this, I’ve been dreaming almost every night and even during naps. As for the nightmares, it’s a little different. I’m not having any nightmares, despite focusing on them.

Maybe it’s because of the series. These are all my nightmares, and even though I looked up some symbolic meanings behind my dreams, I never really confronted them visually. A few people directed to me to Jung’s interpretation of dreams, and when I looked back on the images, I saw possibilities and connections in the images that I didn’t think about before.

Perhaps I’m not having nightmares because I am able to find meaning, and by finding meaning I can establish a solution to the nightmare, or what the nightmare represents in my waking life. By finding solutions, I will stop having similar nightmares, because my conscious self will have recognized what the unconscious (or subconscious, idk I don’t study oneirism or psychology,) was getting all fussy about.

Getting all fussy. How scientific of me.

Well the fuss (now an official scientific term,) manifests itself as a nightmare, because apparently even though the unconscious wants to help you out, it’s a bit sadistic. If this is all true, the unconscious is pretty stellar besides the sadistic part. Well, according to Jung, anyway.

SEGUE INTO LESS COMPLICATED THINGS

For easier accessibility, and because I know that clicking through my site to find the other images is too time-consuming for most people, and because all that dream talk made people sleepy, and because I’m a sucker and want everyone to see my work, here is the finalized Nightmare series:

The view camera, despite how much effort it is, is a new favorite process for me. Setting it up, moving the bellows to make certain effects, and processing the film are all exciting for me. This may be because I’m new to it, but man, I want to be more than proficient at it. There are so many things you can try with a view camera (like put things in the bellows!) I can’t help my curiosity.

And y’all know that I love to play.

Happy Shooting!