My Journey to Carbon Transfer Printing

So how does one decide to go back to 1864 and learn an obscure (at the time) hand made printing process that so few photographers practice?

I have always been a person who is curious. As a large and ultra large format photographer and camera builder (that is a whole story in itself) I decided that contact printing was the way to go for my work. I printed silver gelatin and silver chloride with Azo for years and when I built my first camera, my 8×20, my friends said I was now a Platinum printer! Hell I had two of my sons at the finest universities in California. Stanford and USC are not cheap and there was no way in hell I had money left to by “noble metals.”

I was reading some posts on the large format forum, image posts I think, and I happened on an image that just floored me. It was a carbon transfer print. Knowing that Google is your friend I found everything I could read about the process. It wasn’t until I met Vaughn Hutchins, the one who posted the image, that my life changed forever.

I sent a message to Vaughn and told him I’d love to see a carbon print. He was in a show in Yosemite called “The Yosemite Renaissance” and we decided to meet. I will never forget sitting on the steps of the Ansel Adams gallery next to Vaughn as he showed me print after print. I was speechless.  I think he asked if I was okay? I told him that the images he showed me were the type of images I had seen in my mind for a long long time. It was how I had to present my work. At that moment, my life was changed. I was a carbon printer. That was thirteen years ago and I have done nothing but print carbon ever since.

I owe a lot to my good friend Vaughn Hutchins for his inspiration, friendship and love of traditional carbon printing from our film negatives.

I now co-instruct the carbon workshop with Vaughn at the Ansel Adams Gallery through their workshop programs. I have come full circle and I am fortunate to have found my true voice for my work through carbon printing. The process is not for the faint at heart, for it is very time consuming but so so rewarding. My journey is still evolving and it is so much fun!

Jim Fitzgerald

University of Texas, Austin Briscoe Center for American History to Acquire Archives of Ed Eckstein

Monalog is thrilled to report that the Briscoe Center for American History will acquire the archives of Monalog member Ed Eckstein for its collection of contemporary American photojournalism.  Included will be thousands of images that Eckstein has captured throughout a career that has spanned the past 50 years.  Eckstein has worked extensively documenting civil rights, Native Americans, healthcare, and religion as well as everyday life.  His work captures life from the mid-20th Century to the present.

The Briscoe Center for American History resides at the University of Texas, Austin.  It holds the largest collection of images by contemporary photojournalists in the world.

Postponed: Inaugural Monalog Collective Photographers Outing

Due to the continued danger posed by Covid-19 our members have determined it necessary to postpone our Inaugural Monalog Collective Photographers Outing that was to be held on September 10th – 12th until sometime in 2021 when it is safe for all of us to get together.  As much as we were looking forward to this event and the opportunity to make new friends, the recent uptick in Covid-19 cases makes postponement the responsible thing to do.

As soon as the health situation becomes clearer we will determine a date to reschedule this event, but in the meantime we hope you will continue to visit us here and stay in contact. Even though we are postponing the outing, we have met some wonderful photographers, some who are now members of Monalog!

For those interested in learning more about our collective please contact us and let’s talk about what we love so much!

Stay safe and best wishes.

For more information contact Michael Marks at:

info@monalogcollective.com or 215-348-9171

Call for Work – Lightbox Photographic Gallery

Carbon Transfer artist and Monalog member Jim Fitzgerald will be a juror for “Altered Reality”, a show to be held at the Lightbox Photographic Gallery from September 12th through October 7th, 2020. The gallery is located in Astoria, OR.

“Within the Historical Process Photographic Community there is a spirit of positive reaction when facing uncertainty. Experimentation with new ideas and the perfection of old formulas are part of the photographic process. Have you been affected by the new world disorder? How do we know the Real from an Altered Reality? Your work inspires us. Please share your creative mind and processes.

Thank you Diana H. Bloomfield, Karen Hymer and Jim Fitzgerald for Jurying this years Historical Process Photographic Exhibit for Lightbox Photographic Gallery. Our panel of Jurors have all been affected by the events of 2020 and all excel with the experimentation and perfection of their process. Each is inspired by individual creativity as they are practicing artists in their own right, we are sure you may know of them all. Please share your thoughts, feelings, emotions, your work with them.

With this exhibit we wish to expose the viewers to work created with a variety of Historical photographic processes. Processes including Platinum/Palladium, Cyanotype, Vandyke, Daguerreotype, Saltprint, Wet Plate Collodion, Dryplate , Ambrotype, Kallitype, Calotype, Gum Bichromate, Carbon Transfer, Photogravure, Lith, Albumen prints are desired, to name a few. Darkroom Silver Gelatin and C-prints are considered alternative process for this exhibit. Original works done in an alternative process are required for the exhibit. No digital reproductions of original work will be exhibited. In “Altered Reality” we would like to see visionary contemporary use of Historical processes. We are looking to present the finest works, considering technique, originality and creativity, from photographers using Alternative Historical Processes.”

Deadline for submissions of work is August 10th 2020.

For more information visit http://lightbox-photographic.com/call-for-entries/altered_reality

Inaugural Monalog Collective Photographers Outing, September 10-12, 2020, Easton, Pennsylvania

The Monalog Collective Photographer’s Outing is a chance for black and white analog photographers to meet, make photographs and have a great time.  It is also an opportunity for photographers that are not members of Monalog to interact with and learn more about the Monalog Collective.  The Outing is limited to 25 participants and will be based in the picturesque town of Easton, Pennsylvania situated on the shores of the Delaware River.  Easton is nearby beautiful Bucks County and the Lehigh Valley and is close to many small river towns, as well as Bethlehem and Allentown Pennsylvania.  This means that there is an abundance of diverse subject matter to satisfy every photographer. It is easily accessible from Philadelphia, New York City, Allentown and Newark. There are a number of local hotels and bed and breakfasts, along with plenty of restaurants in the area.

We will begin our event with a group “get to know you” diner at a local restaurant (TBD) on Thursday evening.

Friday will be devoted primarily to making photographs. We will all meet at 8:30am at a central location and take it from there. No pressure and no expectations. The idea is to be with other photographers, have fun and be mutually supportive.  We will have a number of locations scouted out where participants can meet up, or you can go your own way freestyle, as there is no shortage of subject matter to be photographed.

On Friday evening at 7pm we will all meet for a talk by Monalog Collective member and analog photography historian, Chris Karfakis. The talk will be held at the beautiful Stirner Modern Gallery located in downtown Easton.

On Saturday we will meet again at 8:30am, then depart for more photographing. At 2pm we will reconvene at the studio and darkroom of Monalog member and working photographer Ed Eckstein located above the Stirner Modern Gallery. The concluding session will include a tour and discussion by Ed about his work, as well as participant feedback, thoughts on possible next steps, upcoming events and how to get involved with Monalog.

We will adjourn at 4pm so participants can begin to head home or stay in the area for dinner.

Come join us and be part of this exciting Monalog inaugural event! There is no cost, but you will want to sign up early to ensure participation.

We look forward to seeing you in September!

For more information contact Michael Marks at:

info@monalogcollective.com or 215-348-9171

Sometimes Even The Most Stinging Critique Can Have A Silver Lining

Like most 20-somethings, at 27, I was ready to take on the world! After three years of my first newspaper job as a photojournalist for a small-town daily paper, I was positive that I was ready to move up.

I managed to finagle an interview with the Director Of Photography at a very large, photo-oriented, metropolitan daily newspaper. I was very confident that my winning personality along with my portfolio of work, about 10-15 mounted Black & White prints, would seal the deal.

The DOP stoically, and rather quickly, looked through my work, saying nothing other than occasionally muttering, “hmmmm”. And of course, I frequently offered why such-and-such image was an important photograph. It didn’t take very long for him to finish with my very important work. As he sat back in his chair, I waited for him to offer me a job. Finally, he asked, “Mel, do you know what this work shows me?” I didn’t know.

“This shows me that you had access to these events,” he said matter-of-factly. I was crushed.

But I got over it and for the next 39 years, I often thought about that statement. And I tried to make images that offered a reader more than I merely had access.

Then there was the photojournalist friend, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, who was named Photographer Of The Year by the National Press Photographer’s Association (NPPA). (Long ago, I attended the judging at the University of Missouri’s Columbia School of Journalism of about 23,000 mounted prints submitted by approximately 1,500 photojournalists.) His work is spectacular. -And once he told me that all of the photographs that got him those accolades were taken within about a 50-mile radius of his newspaper. Traveling around the world to exotic foreign locales didn’t help other journalists out-gun him.

So, what’s my point?

First, let me say that I’m in love with photography. For most of my first decade professionally, I worked in Black & White. I also did work in chromes (slides) for freelance magazine assignments. But newspapers were all Black & White all the time. By the early 1980’s, color was showing up more and more in newspapers for competitive reasons. It often looked like color was used just for the sake of color.

Now, with the welcome resurgence of Black & White photography, I feel as though I’m seeing the same thing. Much like early color in newspapers often seemed solely for the sake of color, I think that some Black & White photographs that I have seen recently have much more invested in the Black & White process than in the quality of the imagery. Otherwise pedestrian photographs seem to be elevated by the fact that it is a wet-darkroom print from B&W film. And an average photograph from a far away land seems to hold sway over a beautiful image from the ‘neighborhood’. Contrary to what your loved ones and friends might tell you, access, or the ability to visit exotic places, doesn’t automatically translate to exceptional photographs.

Sorry if this sounds harsh for a medium that is clawing back from near-extinction. Maybe in current Black & White photography, people feel a connection to digital, as though Black & White evolved from digital photography. I don’t feel that way, because it didn’t. For me Black & White is the basis of photography…color and digital followed and are a sort of extensions. But maybe now, for many people, digital is the basis and film, color and Black & White followed.

In some ways, I’m new, again, to Black & White. For the past two years, I have returned to the B&W darkroom working in large format. I still do quite a lot of editorial assignments digitally, but more and more, I’m shooting B&W film. It is such a magical experience. I wish everyone would try it!

And remember, it is NOT shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot, look.

But it IS, look, look, look, look, shoot!

Mel Evans

Old Dogs

With all of us having to stay locked down and practicing social distancing, trying to make any camera art may seem like a far reach.  The whole reason for the self-quarantining is to keep ourselves healthy and getting outside for fresh air and sunshine is a big part of that.  After my mother’s passing, my wife and I were blessed with one of her two cats.  Like all of us, “Fat Cat” enjoys getting outside for a breath of fresh air.  This has led me to daily walkabouts in our yard, offering me the opportunity to exercise my visual eye and to practice my camera work.

While he prowls the yard, I prowl beside him with camera in hand.  He is described as a tuxedo cat, mostly black with a patch of white on his nose and breast; very little light reflects from his fur.  He is a light meter’s worst nightmare and a real challenge for film to record detail properly.

As Michael Marks has written in his blog (www.michaelmarksphoto.com), the important thing for us as artists is to “stay in the game”, and Fat Cat has allowed me to do that.  While images of the cat are not art – regardless of the fact that everyone on the internet seems to think otherwise – they have kept me in the game.  These exercises have allowed me to practice and experiment.  I’ve been able to practice handling my 35mm camera while sharpening my eye’s perspective by playing with different focal length lenses, plus this affords me the chance to experiment with different ISO film and developer combinations.  This outdoor camera work is giving me practice visually seeing, composing, exposing, processing film and printing.

Taking us around the perimeter of the house, these little walkabouts are usually no more than an hour long.  He has to sniff, scratch, chew and rub up against almost everything.  Then, there are the ten thousand-foot stares out into the void he does that can last as long as ten minutes or more; he can be a very patient dude.  During these slow random willie-nillie walks, I’ve found new and interesting “stuff” that I can go back to and explore more deeply.  Leaving the 35mm camera in the house with the cat to nap, I find myself packing up the view camera and trekking back outside to focus my lens on subjects I never would have seen sitting on my couch.

So, in the end I’m finding myself outside with my view camera getting the fresh air and sunshine while composing images which have the potential to be more meaningful than the fluffy, cuddly, creature snaps which brought me outside in the first place. (Note, Fat Cat is anything but fluffy and cuddly.)

My neighbors (and my wife) think I’m insane for taking walkabouts, camera in hand with an old cat, but to use a bad pun Fat Cat has shown me that old dogs can be taught new tricks.

Paul Strand once wrote:

“The artist’s world is limitless.  It can be found anywhere far from where he lives or a few feet away.  It is always on his doorstep.”

James A. Kipfer

Michael Marks Inclusion in the 27th Annual Phillips Mill Photographic Exhibition

Michael Marks had two of his photographs selected to appear in the 27th Annual Phillips Mill Photographic Exhibition in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. One his photographs won the prestigious Spencer Saunders Award.  The exhibit was juried by Emmit Gowan.

Because of Covid-19, the exhibition is being held online and can be viewed at:

https://www.phillipsmillphoto.com/pmpe2020-exhibition

Intentions and Techniques

In twenty-four years of teaching intro to analog photography at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania my students and I have never been without the darkroom.  Fortunately they were able to leave campus with cameras in hand and the knowledge to use them.  I’m looking forward to the results when I process and proof their film.

Lacking the ability to critique their personal images on a class-by-class basis, and having to wait for the results is a challenge.  To keep them engaged and thinking I’ve been emailing a jpg or two of an image for them to write about; what do they see, how does it make them feel and why. Builder Levy’s photograph Osage Window, Scotts Run, Monongalia County, West Virginia, 1970 shown here is an example.  I’ve included a student’s response and his request.

“For this photography, in my understanding, photographer wants to depict a contrast between the reflection of the outside world and the three children’s smiling faces inside. And through the window, our sight can be limited by the frame and feel the contrast between inside and outside world. 

And if it’s possible, may I ask you to write your understanding of this photography. I just want to learn how to analyze a photograph like a professional.

My answer: The success of this photograph revolves around three beautiful pair of eyes and teeth.  The children and photographer did their jobs at just the right moment together.  But lets explore the different layers of the photograph beyond the smiles to see why it works.

First, the reflections because they seem to function on three separate levels or layers.  The glass creates the reflection but also allows us to see through and is a physical presence as well. The reflections provide clues to the surroundings but do not compete with what is inside because they are out of focus. The out of focus landscape alludes to a place and time for everyone.  The glass divides how we perceive the space inside and out but puts the distance between on an equal two-dimensional plane because that’s how photography works.  I think the tree branches make the kids look like Wilson the soccer ball from the movie Castaway, and the snow like Cheshire cats from Alice in Wonderland, for example.

The frame is as important as the subject, it defines limits and sets the stage, directs attention.  This photograph has more than one frame going for it.  The borders of the photograph are the first, the window is the second, but with two sash frames that makes three.  And then there is the framing of the house that holds the window in place, number four.  The point being that all parts of the whole work together to complete the experience.  Sometimes the frame can hold an attraction right up to the very edge but still keep you in.  Here they work together, with subtle details, to bring you back to the eyes and teeth.  Frame number five, maybe the most important, is the bright high contrast painted window trim that lights up like neon around the three smiles.  The actual print was gold toned to add warmth and richness, deepen the blacks and enhances the contrast.

When I was eight and lived at 411 North 23rd Street, just off the east side of campus, our neighbors at 413 included three girls around the same age as me.  Photographs can mean many things to many people.  Unlike putting pencil to paper, with film sometimes you only get a fraction of a second to record a universal experience.

I would hang this one in my kitchen next to the backdoor.

David Haas