Oh Dear God, I Need The Latest Camera...

Renee Zellweger. ©1992 Kirk Tuck.

Shot on Kodak Panatomic X, 32 ISO black and white film (no, I did not leave off zeros..) using a 500 Watt Light Bulb shining through a translucent (and battered) 40 inch white umbrella using a Canon FTb camera and a Manually focused 135mm lens. Hand processed film. Enlarger print. No digital post processing.  No digital "enhancement."  How did I ever survive?

A Random Portrait for a Sunday Afternoon.

I've got my Nikon F loaded with ISO 100 color negative film.  I have an ancient 50mm 1.4 Nikkor latched on to the front.  I'm headed out the door to walk around my city and see what's new since last time.  While it's very un-Zen-like of me I do have a goal that's more like a consistent, subconscious pulse.  I'd like to see who is out there.  The portrait subjects I've worked with over the years of doing this for myself generally are strangers that I've met somewhere.  Something about them (a kind of beauty that falls outside the American mainstream?) that is different and hard to describe helps to guide me to meet them and invite them to sit for a portrait.  Not everyone wants to participate and I understand that.  But you'll never see who's out there unless you spend some time looking.

I don't know what or whom I will find today.  I don't know if I'll even click a frame.  But the process of walking (good exercise for the body and the brain) will be fun and I'll stop in at all the places that make us feel welcome.

When I come back to the studio I have to confront the renovation I'm about to embark on.  I'm trying to get rid of as many useless treasures as I can.  Empty camera boxes, extra filing cabinets the contents of which could be compressed into other filing cabinets or discarded. Papers from decades ago.  Prints I've come to hate and a curious assortment of black picture frames that take up way too much space.

I've replaced the air conditioning and that's made me want to repaint the interior of my space for the first time in fifteen years.  That means everything has to come down off the walls and up off the floor.  All the ghastly, giant filing cabinets have to be moved out from the walls.  Another coat of white paint.  And while we're painting I guess it makes sense to repaint the red door to the studio.  It's looking worn, faded and (thanks to my little dog) well scratched.  After we paint I'll add a kick plate that I bought years ago as a prop....

No wonder I'd rather go and wander the streets with an ancient camera, a pocket full of film and an incident light meter.  Looking for my next portrait subject.

Camera Inconsequential.

This is a frame from a 35mm portrait sitting.  I'm sure I used a 90mm or 105mm lens to take the image.  I don't remember what camera it came from and I don't really care.  At the time I was experimenting in the darkroom with a technique that involved the use of a device called a Pictrol.  You used it in between the enlarging lens and your printing paper.  Was essentially an iris with bubbly, distorted, plastic blades that could be dialed in or out making sections of the print softer or even haloed. Used to aggressively it destroyed all the sharpness in a printed image.  Used with discretion it took the edge off the details and made for very flattering skin tones.  The shadows would "bleed" into the highlights and the effect was also one of cutting down highlights that were printing too bright.

Given that I was actively reducing sharpness and contrast in pursuit of a specific kind of image, to speak about the pristine and scientific qualities of whatever lens I was using seems... churlish.

What I like about the photograph is the calm and direct engagement that Michelle gives the camera, and by extension, me.  I also like, from a design point of view, the exquisite contrast between the light skin tone, her white tank top and the inky dark shadows to one side.  The result of one big light used at what I considered to be just the right angle. 

Even before PhotoShop existed photographers have manipulated their images to fit their vision. Especially in the black and white darkroom. 

This is my Pictrol (which stands for Pictorial Control).
I couldn't bear to get rid of it when I closed
my darkroom.  

Interestingly enough, it fits on the front of  my Olympus
45mm 1.8 lenses.  I'll have to do some portraits with that.....