I thought I'd type up a quicker than usual little update while I have the connection.
I made it to Oregon with no big problems. The only moral setback is that while I was getting my oil changed in Redding CA by the trustworthy mechanics of Freightliner there were small bits of metal found in the old oil and the guys suggested that it's possible that the pistons in the bus are starting to go.... When I asked them how much a repair like that could cost they said that it would depend on the extent of the damage and could range from $2.500 to $10.000. I am really hoping that this is not going to have to be done for LONG time, but am now a little weary of taking Gilli all the way to Maine and then Florida. If the indiegogo funding campaign does not reach or surpass the goal I may be forced to turn back early. Also the tachometer that I might have mentioned in the previous post as having quit working turned out to have a broken cable. I really want to repair that, but I can live without it for now until I know better the state of my financial ability as that repair will cost around $400.
One of the things I love while traveling is having random interactions with the local inhabitants of places I pass by. Peoples attitudes range drastically and as long as there is no harm done it's all in the name of good fun and serves as an educational opportunity for me on the subject of emotional stability and interpersonal communications. A few examples of this are as follows.
A cowboy ranch owner a tree on whose property I was photographing while being pulled over on the side of the road stopped by right as I was all wrapped up and waiting for the plate to dry. He popped out from behind the bus to ask if I was broken own and needed help. I said no, but now really regretting not asking him to hold on for a portrait - his attire and face were extremely archetypal. Next time I'll think quicker.
At the next place I pulled over to take a picture of the clouds (which is very much fun and unusual while using wet plate collodion as your medium). I set up my camera pointing upward, but soon noticed a portly guy on a cell phone who was continually flipping me the middle finger while leaning on his big Ford pickup truck. I proceeded to ignore him, which seemed to agitate him beyond whatever internal inconvenience that my bus parked across the street had already already seemed to cause. He started yelling and waving his hands, calling me all sorts of nasty names that are too ugly to restate here and telling me that I 'needed to go'. I did not see that as a fact of life an proceeded to make a really nice first attempt at shooting clouds in tintype format. As I was wrapping up a Sheriff showed up and said that 'someone' called in and 'anonymously' reported me and Gilli as being 'suspicious'. I laughed, asked the nice officer to come aboard, showed him the darkroom and the image I just made and we had a nice chat about history both visual and oral and the importance of preserving both.
Next place I pulled over was a little abandoned property on highway 99. I was just planning on turning around there to go back and take a view of the road signs that I had just passed, but the buildings have provided a few opportunities to shoot and I decided to make some plates right there. One of the shots required me to go a few dozen feet into the depth of the seemingly abandoned lot so I could shoot right over the little wire fence and across the mowed field toward the white house with an old Chevy truck in front. While I was under the dark cloth focusing my camera I heard a car pull up on the road leading to that house. A guy in his 40s came out and at first he seemed rather apprehensive - saying that it was his mom's house and the property was actually his and that he was pretty baffled by the 'size of the balls I must have to do this'. I explained my mission and that I'm a harmless artist and do need to sometimes cross the private property boundaries in order to reach a desired picturesque perspective. He mellowed out rather quickly and stayed for a while to observe me both working in the darkroom and taking the shots. He left to go mow the giant law, but as I was cleaning up actually came back to offer me a sandwich and to inquire about how much the shot of the house could be bought for. Unfortunately the price was too high for him, but I gave him my card and said that if he contacted me and the plate is still not sold I might be able to work out a deal seeing how it is his place and he was nice enough not to shoot me on the spot with some high caliber weapon.
Some people are nice and god bless them for it. Thee is nothing one can do with people who have something stuck up up one of the go-given holes in their body and I hope they get more mellow with age and come to realize that life is too short to be pissed off at everything all the time. Those who are in between the two above categories just need a little talking to and also to be listened to and then their gentle and understanding side will come right out.
Last few days were spent in Portland at the cozy home of Brandon Fernandez. He's a great guy and it's always a pleasure to see him when I'm in town. His wet plate work is superb and he makes beautiful portrait work up to 11x14in. Recently he had started producing wet collodion negatives and printing platinum prints directly from those. I very much respect folks who do this process all analog and him going back to the historically original way for making negatives earns an A+ in my book. The prints are superb even having only one coating. Here is the man himself on the back porch in twilight showing me one of his platinum prints. The twilight is responsible for the definitely not up to par iPhone image, but I assure you the print is great and Brandon has no grain in his face.
Before I got to Brandon's place I did have a chance to explore Portland just a bit and shot some 4 wet plate images. Here is one of my two favorite ones from that day.
One thing that was waiting for me at Brandon's house was a new 80+ year old 8x20 Korona banquet camera which will serve as the replacement of the 7x17 that I was forced to abandon. It was a sad departure as I really felt very attached to that particular camera but I'm glad I was able to make another photographer happy by reuniting him with is and this new 8x20 will definitely do the job. It's not as pretty as the 7x17, and I don't feel any real special connection to it yet. However it's fully functional and even came with a bunch of plates, so soon you'll see some neat panoramas from it, all I have to do is secure my silver tank and find a subject that will be fitting to it. I think after a few years of service I will develop a real bond with this beast. Thank you Josh Blumenthal for hooking me up with this one!
On Friday I had a print sale and Magic Lantern show at Newspace Center for Photography - a place that I have visited before and that is staffed with some lovely enthusiastic people.
This time I also able to offer tintype portraits an as it happens did a wonderful little 4x5 of three little kids sitting on the doorstep of the bus. They were awesome models and only one of them moved ever so slightly during the 4 second exposure. The aluminum plate was coated, developed, washed, dried and varnished very quickly as the kids were getting antsy and mom wanted to not see it escalate, so I didn't even have a chance to copy it for my records. I assure you that it was very nice (barely any wet plate artifacts on the edges with bright an crisp exposure) and now I am happy to think of yet another one of my works as having gained its own existence for many decades, and likely centuries, to come.
This time the Magic Lantern Show was attended by a lot fewer people, but it was the kind of people that really is worth mentioning. One of my college friends Perry Done is studying for his MFA in Art in Portland and another ex-Spartan Morgan Chivers, who is actually now completing his MFA in Arlington TX with concentration in glass, was in town for a glass convention with his lovely girlfriend Gene. Gene was also a San Jose State graduate and so we had a mini reunion after the show, caught up on what's happening in our lives. It was really great to see both of my school buddies with whom I had spent countless hours in the darkroom of SJSU.
Now I'm on my way to Seattle and am looking forward to shooting some collodion images there. Hopefully I can make it to some great vantage point just west of the city by sunset and get a few good shots of the skyline. I have not been back to Seattle since 1997 an it's a shame because I remember really liking the vibe of that city. Maybe I'll even fire up the 8x20 if the view is of appropriate proportions.