Tag Archives: photography

The Drummer in the Band (IV)

(C) 2015 by Metta Anderson - All Rights Reserved
(C) 1993 by Metta Anderson. All Rights Reserved

(C) 1993 by Metta Anderson. All Rights Reserved

Les Belles
(Dedicated to Emily Dickinson and Dorothy
Parker, "Les Belles des Lettres.")

As future poet laureate of the Americas
and
Belle of Bogotá
I have a question "entre nous"--
De mujer a mujer
or sister to sister,
as they say.

Would  you today
become a blonde?
Would you as a woman
dress in coctel noir most elegant
and then--
Champagne glass to hand--
THROW yourself
Across the tymps of a man
who makes you stay up all night,
Writing?

Would you drive a 'Vette?
Or stick with the sedate,
a serious sedan--
4 doors V -8 plus options?

Can your mind and heart still make you a poet
When your body dances cumbia
And your soul
Marries another culture?

So,
What does a Belle do
These days?

(C) 30 January 1995





The Drummer in the Band
So okay
I'll tell you
but
in English

about the project
if
you'll get me
a cigarette
a Kool

Thank you.

We stand
side by side
against a car
in the sun
in a parking lot
downtown
somewhere
He waits
I smoke

Okay
what happened 
was

I got the hots
for the drummer
in the band

But

Instead of doing
a gliss
on his fingers
as I planned

Or!

Sucked cherries
from his navel
as I dreamed

I wrote
poems
and then

I took pictures

See
César
is
the cake

The band
and the rest
are
only
Frosting
Decorative sugar
to cover my intent

To possess
and
be possessed
by

The drummer
in
the band

(C) February 2014
(C) 1993 by Metta Anderson. All Rights Reserved.

(C) 1993 by Metta Anderson. All Rights Reserved.

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Letter to Linda 4: The Art of Criticism and Education

(C) 2012 Text and Illustrations by Metta Anderson – All Rights Reserved

The Mondrian Influennce ('98)

Bogotá Boogie (’98), oil on canvas, 24″ x 36″, plus a 4″ wide frame.

 

Dear Linda–

Hi, how are you on a warm sunny day in Michigan? Enjoying every second of it, no doubt!

This might be a little short, considering all the other things I want to say, but I want to stay focused on my subject. I’m going a little crazy these days because I want to start a new painting but can’t find the studio time, or any other time, either. I’m doing too many things which don’t pay off, I feel frustrated and end up doing nothing. To save time, I’ll cut to the heart of a frustration.

I’ve been invited to participate in a small local group show in mid-July. The organizers hoped I’d exhibit a couple of my really good paintings and were disappointed when I said no. In their place, I’ll have four framed black and white photos of Bogotá–two of the Parque de la Independencia and two of the Eje Ambiental in 2003, when it looked pretty bare and forsaken. The waterway existed but the trees looked like bansai experiments.

The inevitable question is–why not show the paintings? They’re unique, well-done and framed. They show that a talented artist lives in the neighborhood (a key point in the show) and creates work that’s easily understood.

And that’s true, too. There really are many talented artists and writers living in the Candelaria neighborhood. We’re all feeling the negative effects of tourism and the floating student population (there are six (6) universities just in this area, all with classes going til 9 p.m. Mon. to Fri., plus Saturday mornings). The former group does not know we exist and the latter has no interest whatsoever. This is our attempt to show another side of the Candelaria without doing a half-assed performance of “La Bohème.”

This is also why I’m in such a yank to re-open my gallery in a larger space. Not only do I need a place for my own work, but so do other and OLDER artists. This is the bright side.

But why I refuse to show my paintings is the dark side of art in Colombia.

Since I started showing and selling my photography, I’ve made a tiny niche for myself. I’m recognized for it and much of my work has become historic, although based on aesthetics. But it is also non-political, which in Colombia is so rare it’s almost non-existent. It’s very difficult to argue about the politics behind my series of acacia trees on the Eje Ambiental (the “Respighi Series”), although no doubt some die-hard leftist will insist on seeing it as an ecological statement. (Yeah, and Otterino Respighi’s tone poem “The Pines of Rome” is also an environmental statement. Right.

A photograph is a photograph, a visual document that captures what IS in a split-second, AS it is, and propels this cluster of light into an undefinable future. StarTrek at ISO 100, f/5.6 @ 1/125 sec. Black and white simplifies everything because we attach meanings to colors and without colors, we have to grapple with different meanings or none at all. No wonder the French love black and white photography–it is the epitome of visual existentialism.

(And yes, that remark is copyrighted by Metta Anderson in all shapes, forms and laws. I do know when I write a pithy sentence.)

I know that the majority of the people coming to this show will be Colombians who know Bogotá. They are culturally conservative. A photograph of the Parque de la Independencia in the morning is coherent. My version of Mondrian in Bogotá (“Bogotá Boogie”) is not. In fact, it has in the past provoked a lot of unpleasant reactions even among people who should know better and THAT’S why it stays in my apartment.

Art education in Colombia is rigid, long on technique (make your own gesso: mix your own paint from scratch), short on history and negligent on encouraging experimentation. It is generally leftist, becoming every single cliché that that philosophy brings with it. Art criticism is non-existent. The museums have erratic funding, little storage and, until recently, shaky security.

The last time I showed “Bogotá Boogie” and four other paintings was December 2007-January 2008, in a group show. I was told that the gallery was discreet but prestigious, etc. CRAP. It was a second-hand furniture and clothing store in a prestigious gay neighborhood and the owners hid the merchandise in order to display art they hoped to acquire on the cheap.

It was an awful experience, and not because my work didn’t sell. I knew it wouldn’t because the gallery tacked on a 50% commission, raising the prices beyond what I could reasonably ask in a private sale. I suspect the curator and the owners refused to pass on contact information for future sales, but I DO know that an attempt was made to steal “Bogotá Boogie” with a lengthy story about someone in London offering US$3000 for it, and then the details got murky. So, as of January-February 2008, the only place to see my paintings is in my gallery. I don’t even like to put them on the internet.

I have also lost four paintings that actually were stolen from a warehouse where they were temporarily kept. I know who took them and I did manage to recover one, but the other oil painting and two framed pastels on paper now hang in the very dreary middle-class apartment of a woman lawyer in Bogotá who likes to pass herself off as “cultured.” I can even give you her name, if you’re interested.

People will not buy my paintings, but they know a lot of ways to try to (and even successfully) steal them.

It’s been argued that I should be happy to have my paintings stolen, because the work will be seen by others. Theoretically, the new viewers will become interested in my work and ask the owner for my name and phone number. Word-of-mouth, you see.

What a CROCK!!!!!!

Name five (5) MALE artists who would celebrate the theft of a painting it took the artist six months or more to complete and frame before showing it.

Yes, people do buy my work. Americans and Europeans will negotiate a reasonable price. Colombians try to receive paintings as repayment for political or social favors, in part because of cultural tradition, but also because 98% of Colombians really have no idea how art prices are set. One painting is a one-of-a-kind object and sold as such in other countries. In Colombia, the mindset is the gross–a bushel of potatoes, six milking cows, a set of glasses or kitchen pots. Any of these and other items individually are cheap and replaceable because they’re part of the collective purchase. A car or appliance is an exception because of the way it’s used.

But one-of-a-kind items also tend to be expensive in any society, and frankly, Colombians often do not have the money. Of course I will negotiate a price, but if I ask Ps$100,000.00, I will NOT accept Ps$10,ooo.oo, which is what I’m offered. The excuses are that I’m a woman, I’m unknown and that the buyer can get something just exactly like my work for less money from someone else.

You do that, asshole.

Last but not least, I’m just fed up with the envy and jealousy and insults from other artists. Yes, I have a very impressive arts background, a solid education and talent. No parental nor family support, of course, but the fundamental stuff is all mine.So, why do I get rejected by local galleries?

I’m over 25, a woman and not socio-economically connected to the potential buyers the galleries want to attract. There is also an unspoken fear that my work will sell while a Colombian artist’s will not, leading to hard feelings and the withdrawal of local financial support.

The artists reject me (insult me, try to dominate me) because they’re envious of my education and what they perceive as an unfair advantage–that Americans (tourists and residents) will automatically buy my work.

Guess what!? They DON’T! They avoid me like the plague and the ones at the Embassy have so little contact with the country that my work is totally incomprehensible to them. Americans unconnected to the Embassy are so gung-ho on supporting Colombian artists that they see me as an oppressor.

But what local artists mostly have against me is freedom of expression.

Bottom Line: Freedom of expression is open to debate and hinges at least 90% of the time on the ARTIST and HIS/HER willingness to take chances. It is NOT the political philosophy of governments. Politicians like to try to dictate the arts and are sometimes successful. This is usually a philosophical argument anyway. The Russians and other totalitarian regimes cared about content, more than styles or techniques. But content is often subverted and with the internet, this is now almost a non-issue.

Colombian artists get bent out of shape because I take a simple subject and create something that didn’t exist before. They do NOT see the

Impressions of Santa Marta ('06)

Santa Marta, Colombia (’06)

education behind it. I’m painting here, not writing a footnoted essay. Yes, I’m familiar with Mondrian and Louis Comfort Tiffany’s stained glass, and that information is in my head, available when I need it. My freedom is having knowledge and knowing when or how to use it. Colombian art education frowns on or even stifles this freedom, reducing the education to high quality technical exercises with ZERO intellectual content and nothing related to Colombia as a place.

Colombian and an awful lot of American artists believe that you should almost footnote a painting. Hopper’s an influence? Matisse? Chagall? Rembrandt? Great, but make it O-B-V-I-O-U-S in your work! And make sure it ties in with whatever -ism is fashionable this season!

My reaction to that mercantile and ignorant mindset is straightforwardly rude and unladylike–FUCK. THAT. Or–Is that the best you can do, you poor brainless bastard?

Now, about art criticism. Or lack of same.

Up until the 1950s or early ’60s, artists also tended to be critics because they had the education (culturally and otherwise) and the experience of communicating information. Most (if not all) were art teachers. Writing criticism can be an extension of teaching, especially when your students are newspaper readers who otherwise would not have access to your field. The Colombian “art scene” was small and had a very conservative and equally small public. There were art galleries in Bogotá (approximately two commercial ones), but many public and private venues were available for exhibitions. Out of this situation SHOULD HAVE grown a market for Colombian and even international art.

But along came the Argentine writer and art historian Marta Traba, and the political violence wrecking the country oozed into the art world. Traba shook up the local art world with mixed results. She did make a strong case for modern and abstract art-making because it was a dominant force in Europe, the US and Argentina. Younger artists and art students did need to know that there are many ways to approach a subject and that experimentation is part of an artist’s growth and development. So was travel and study in other countries.

She also tried to educate the public as a critic and a writer (“El Tiempo” published her art criticism) and with her own TV show. (Ah, the Fifties, when TV could still be used as a valuable educational tool!)

But I think she made some significant mistakes, too. There already was a modern art movement in Colombia and a lot of experimentation in the arts. Foreign books and magazines detailing the latest trends were available and were discussed. Even if it was not on the level of New York or Paris, it was definitely within the trends circulating in Latin America at the time, from Mexico to Argentina and Chile. Traba chose not to see this as significant, and she made quite a few enemies when she dismissed local artists for following their own paths. And in spite of her belief that Colombian artists should incorporate contemporary ideas and issues into their work, her way of promoting these concepts tended to be a regrettable all-or-nothing attitude. Art MUST BE contemporary (i.e., the latest thing, “fashionable”) or it must disappear forever. Singlehandedly, her attitude practically destroyed art in Colombia. Today, gallery-goers can see the latest thing churned out by young (under 30) usually male “promising artists,” and plunk down substantial sums of money for the work. But as I sit here writing in my gallery in 2012, the young “promises” of 1992 and 2002 are. . . where? Over the hill and unwanted at 40.

Meanwhile, adult artists working and teaching when Traba ruled are getting retrospectives and excellent catalogues raisonées (too long in coming), which re-introduce them to a young audience trying to fill in the craters in Colombian art history left by Traba. She did not, unfortunately, understand the importance of continuity and diversity even in a small local market. Because of that, art criticism stagnated and developed a narrow, almost hyper-parrochial point of view so anti-everything it makes a papal bull look liberal. Criticism here is usually too personal, written by someone who either loves or hates the artist and who considers the work as peripheral to the subject. It’s no surprise that artists really detest critics and avoid inviting them to a reception or a show. Art sales are therefore based on factors unrelated to the real market value of a work. There is no critical literature to back up a work’s provenance or exhibition history. And the older the artist (or the more “female”), less literature exists. The exceptions to this are artists like Botero (a very tiny handful) or those with the financial clout to organize participation in the international art circuit (name your art fair).

One final factor–Colombia’s biodiversity is approaching legendary status. Artists from other countries come here, marvel, gasp, fall in love, freak out, take TONS of pictures and make thousands of sketches, and then LEAVE!!! The art they produce afterward never returns and Colombians remain surprised that foreigners find the place so fascinating. (Quick–Google Frederic Edwin Church and his trip to Colombia (then the Republic of Nueva Granada) and then Equador in 1853. Engrossing!)

Colombian artists with any fame (with exactly ONE exception) ignore the physical reality of the place. When forced to deal with it, the result is blood/guts/gore/woe-is-me/blah-blah-fucking-blah. Violence become so banal no one sees it, so you need a really good essay about it in your catalogue.

OH GROW UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now, the one exception mentioned above is Carlos Jacanamijoy, whose specialty is the jungle of the Putumayo region in southern Colombia, where he grew up.

Colombian artists who do treat the cities, landscapes and seascapes as serious material are ignored by critics and many galleries. They are relegated to being included in group shows in their neighborhoods or solo shows at their schools, clubs or offices. If they’re lucky, their work can be seen in frame shops.

All my work–paintings, drawings, photography–is about Colombia and Bogotá and surrounding areas. I’m anxious to get out of my current financial disaster so I can go to Santa Marta, Popayán and the Tatacoa desert to paint and take new pictures, thus renewing what I can offer in my gallery. But because my work does take Colombia WITHOUT THE VIOLENCE as its theme, I do provoke the anger, jealousy and envy of local artists. They’ve been told repeatedly that Colombia is not a fit subject for art.

I’m saying it is, but I’m a woman and a foreigner, so I can not possibly be right. Can I?

I’ll show my four photos in July and hope they sell, and that they attract people to my gallery. But my beautiful paintings will stay on my walls until someone buys them. Kind of a shame, but I ran out of patience with local artists and customs.

Will write later in the week. Have something else to tell you. Take care and Happy Fourth of July!

Metta

Women's Trophies ('88)

Trophy Cases (’88), oil on canvas, 48″ x 36″, private collection.

 

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La Pequeña Galería Dominical re-opens!

(C) 2012 by Metta Anderson – Text and images – All Rights Reserved

Street-level door to gallery with pendant

Gallery location with identifying pendant

After almost five years, I have finally re-opened my art gallery, La Pequeña Galería Dominical. Even though the space is very small, compared to the other places I’ve used, it works very well for the contemporary photography that is on display.

I started the gallery in 2002, when I moved into a very large apartment on a ground floor in an even bigger house in the Candelaria Centro Historico in Bogotá. At the time, I used the two front rooms, with their 15 ft ceilings and approximately 6 ft high windows overlooking the street. The walls were painted in a soft peachy-orange, which drew attention just because of the color. Locally, walls are painted white. Period. Not mine. I used two shades of the orange and the blue-white light of Bogotá coming in the windows created a very inviting glow. I used the pendant that you see in the photo when the gallery was open on Sundays because zoning laws do not permit objects that light up at night or hang over the street or are beyond a certain modest size. I could hang up the pendant from a nail in the outside wall and take it down at the end of the day. I also left a small poster (19″ x 13″) in one of the windows showing gallery hours and related information.

At the time, I specialized in my own photography and art work, changing the exhibitions on a regular basis and getting a lot of visitors. But then my partner and I decided to move the gallery to a more upscale neighborhood, on the belief that economic upscale equaled cultural upscale and a more liberal mindset. We were wrong. We had a gorgeous and very large gallery, and sold nothing, so we closed it after two years.

Just as we closed it, the owners of the house where the first gallery was, and where I actually lived, told me they were selling the house and I had to move out. This proved to be traumatic for me, so I stopped all my painting and photography and locked myself into this apartment, where I wrote two novels and am finishing a third. Good for me.

In February this year, I met a Frenchman who opened a gallery half-a-block from my original one. In fact, he wanted that house precisely for a house and gallery, but ran afoul of the husband of the owner of record. That’s an extremely easy thing to do and I sympathize with the Frenchman. But he bought a really nice house and opened a gallery, so he’s happy. I, on the other hand, was bitten again by the gallery bug. I looked around at spaces available, of places I wanted to be in and how much money I’d have to spend. No surprise–the high traffic areas are way beyond my budget. So I re-trenched.

The gallery as seen front the entrance

La Pequeña Galería Dominical is open.

Et voilà!  I have re-opened my gallery on the first floor of my triplex apartment! The entrance hall (front door to stairs) is at least 10 ft long and there’s a decrepit but serviceable stretch of molding high up on two walls. I have a big custom-made armoire on one side, too heavy to move, which blocks the molding above it, but the other wall is fine. It’s a narrow space, but the big windows overlooking the street keep it from being claustrophobic. The walls are off-white.

Currently, I’m offering a selection of black-and-white photos of Bogotá which I have shot over the years. Quite a few of them have become historic documents, since the city has undergone rapid changes in the last ten years. A few are just that split-second of timing that made Henri Cartier-Bresson famous. ALL were taken (and continue to be taken) as fine art photography.

I think I should explain this concept. To me, photography is a medium like painting–two-dimensional, and capable of reflecting the world either with great realism (PRE-Photoshop!) or with large amounts of abstraction (also pre-Photoshop). I like to combine certain storytelling elements with an abstracted image. This has taken years to develop, in part because all the arts evolve as the artist evolves. This is a basic truth among artists, but not among the galleries and other cultural businesses operating these days. Some of my best images are the result of looking at a scene as if it were a painting on canvas–the arrangement of the elements within a flat and confined area. Sometimes I have to crop the image when printing, but the basic components are there when I press the shutter. Trust me–Photoshop can not save what is not there in the first place. With black and white, the “palette” is limited–black, white and gray. But it’s really fascinating what you can do with that.

I do have work in color and I’m glad I’ve learned to print it well with the computer. I scan the negatives and can create some beautiful prints, but at the moment, I need to buy inks and some paper, and I do not have the money. Therefore, there are no color prints available.

I have a good catalogue to show anyone looking for something unique. I can make copies in the standard sizes (8″ x 10″, 11″ x 14″ and also 16″ x 20″ in black and white only) and these are delivered matted and mounted, ready for framing.

Boxes holding more images

Boxes holding more images available plus copies of some on display.

What I hope to do later in the year is move the gallery to a larger space and be able to show other photographers, older photographers who have developed an interesting portfolio and would like to show some of their best images. I am also interested in working with ceramic artists, because they have very original visions. Essentially I want to work with older artists and foreign artists because the majority of the galleries in Bogotá push young Colombian males and have created the fantasy that these newly-minted kids are genuine stars, so “BUY NOW!!!” I’m from Michigan. I know the difference between this year’s Cadillac and last year’s, and I know that a five year old Cadillac can get you to your destination just as easily as the new one. When I see art being shilled as if it were a new model car, I’m turned off–to the work, to the artist and to the gallery promoting it. I have nothing against advertising. I’m opposed to lying. What I want for my gallery is to be able to sell something to which the buyer can relate, with which he or she feels comfortable and wants to have in his/her home or office. That may limit my client list somewhat, but what artist wants to sell his/her work to someone who thinks a work of art must either turn a profit for its owner or be thrown out with the trash? Art is not a consumer product.

So, having launched my gallery’s manifesto, I will just say that I’m pleased to have the gallery open again, even though it’s only two days a week. At least it’s open and everyone’s invited to come over and have a look. (Um, if you’re in Bogotá, of course.) Hours are 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., on Saturdays and Sundays. The address is both Calle 15-A #1-A- 26 and Calle 12-D-Bis #1-Bis – 26. Ring Apto. 301. I give both addresses because, if you’re in a taxi and give the driver the new address (Calle 12-D etc.), he’ll get lost. For sure! Calle 15-A is La Candelaria Centro Histórico. Taxi drivers know the neighborhood. You can also get here on TransMilenio. Take a bus marked Las Aguas and get off at that station. Walk back along the Eje Ambiental and follow Carrera 3 south (against the traffic). Calle 15-A/Calle 12-D-Bis has a hardware store on the corner on the left. Go straight up that street, staying on the left. And take a deep breath. It’s a steep climb!

So now that the gallery’s open, I hope to see you here soon!

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Photography and Economics 102

(C) 2012 by Metta Anderson

In the October 2011 issue of “ARTnews” Magazine, page 30, there is a review of an exhibit at the Albright-Knox Gallery in Buffalo, New York, called “Full Color Depression–First Kodachromes from America’s Heartland.” These photos were taken during the 1930s and 1940s by photographers working for the Farm Security Administration, and the government project even today is better known for its black and white images. Reading this review, however, was disheartening.

For starters, the writer, Rebecca Robertson, referred to the prints on display as “from negatives” and named someone as being in charge of working with the negatives. That this glitch surfaces in one of the most prestigious art magazines in the US only underscores why digital has become so popular. Digital photography requires no education whatsoever, on any level.

Kodachrome, discontinued in 2010 by Kodak, was a slide film. It did not produce negatives. Ever. It was and remains famous for its saturated colors and for the fact that only a handful of photo labs in the United States could process it. This took a few days, but the rewards were not only great color but a very long life after developing. Kodachrome’s colors did not fade. (They do, and they shift, but it takes Kodachrome a very very long time for that to happen.) Kodachrome was the film of choice in the sciences and the arts. My stepgrandfather took his stereo slides with it. The “National Geographic”‘s best known photos were made on Kodachrome. The latest cars and fashions were photographed with it.

Kodachrome was not Kodak’s only film, and given its particular characteristics, probably never its top seller, either. But its existence points to the business sense with which the company functioned for most of its lifetime. It recognized a professional market and an amateur one, and produced films compatible for each one. Professional film was more expensive, but any amateur could buy it. Pro color film was expensive because it was allowed to age, like a wine, so that the colors (dyes) suspended in the emulsion would set up and stabilize. The price reflected the cost of keeping the film in the warehouse for a few days before shipping it out to camera stores.

Professional photographers work with more expensive equipment, take a little more time with a shot and make their living by selling the images. Amateurs, for the most part, can use high quality cameras but might tend to shoot quickly and only for special events. Nevertheless, a Kodak film gave each party a color image that pleased. The pro market is frankly smaller than the amateur one, even now, and Kodak accepted that.

Fast forward to the present. Digital images are usually quite pretty, even when taken by a cell phone (mobile phone, in English). Attach a cable to a computer or a printer, press some buttons and the image will be printed out. It’s not as fast as a Polaroid, but close enough. And everyone’s happy to have the image.

But I think that what happened with Kodak was beyond that corporation’s ability to control, in some respects. In the US, there were lots of labs and camera stores (pre-digital) and books and workshops to help people improve their photos. Some of these elements are still in place, and workshops seem to be on the rise, which indicates that digital cameras really are not as simple as their manufacturers want the public to believe. But outside the US, in countries with large illiterate populations, photography was restricted to a small middle and upper class, often people who had no intention in the world of sharing their knowledge. As these countries developed a larger and more prosperous middle class, however, the Kodak offices in some of these countries did absolutely nothing to capture that market with workshops, knowledgeable staff in Kodak stores, or books in the countries’ language(s). Kodak Colombiana is a case in point–unwilling to offer workshops, hire knowledgeable staff in their stores or sponsor any kind of photographic competitions or expositions. As a result, when mobile phones with cameras came on the market, local labs quickly invested in equipment that allowed the downloading of images and their printing for a very low price to anyone with a mobile phone or digital camera. They are doing very well. Kodak is not. In fact, Kodak Colombiana pursued the very tiny professional market with such zeal that it lost track of the entire idea of photography for non-professionals. Multiply this attitude by thousands and Kodak’s overseas returns diminished almost over night.

In the US, there has been a dumbing down of the US population that should cause the country deep embarrassment. Flashy advertising and a lot of “not-exactly-the-truth” advertising, along with super-simple cameras at low prices have convinced previously intelligent adults that they, too, are professionals because they can max out their credit cards on zillion-mega-pixel cameras with powerful zooms and then sell the images on Flickr. (Truth:  Flickr forbids sales on its site.) Pro photographers are caught in a bind–competing with people who happened to be someplace and are willing to sell their rights for less than S$100, which pros can not afford to do.

And simultaneously with this situation, Kodak’s shareholders (invariably large pension funds and hedge funds, not individuals) demand bigger and bigger returns, and at a faster pace than even a few years ago. These shareholders have no interest in the markets the corporation serves, either in the US or in foreign countries. They just want their money. My question is–do these shareholders re-invest in the company? Are they able to think into the future? Or maybe the future frightens them–a future with no Kodak because everything’s recorded digitally and backed up on “clouds” (computer bunkers) and used without permission, causing major long-term lawsuits over copyright. I find that kind of future extremely depressing. Holding a photograph, putting it in a frame or an album to show in the future, even printing in a darkroom, all keep people in touch with their own lives and realities. But it seems that, today, everyone has put money and economics far ahead of any other consideration. (There is a certain hypocrisy here, too, I suspect. Many CEOs of pension funds and hedge funds are big art collectors and photography is an art that is collected. It is hypocritical to donate a lot of money to a museum that wants to expand its photography collection, while screwing over the company that made the photos possible. And yet, from a business point of view, it makes sense. Without Kodak and its products, the existing photos rise in value, which is good news for the  executives who collect photographs.) (How’s that for a paranoid vision of the future?)

In sum, I am less inclined to blame Kodak for its downfall. I look at what’s happening with Ilford and even Agfa and Fuji, in terms of reducing production but keeping the products available. I hope that Kodak can do something similar. I have a Kodak digital camera and am charmed by its images. I like to play with them with Adobe Photoshop Elements 9. Sometimes I make prints, although my current problems with Epson’s lack of paper distribution tends to kill my enthusiasm for going digital completely. But my photos taken with Pentax or Mamiya, with film and printed either by a lab (color) or by me (black and white) ignite an emotional response I still do not feel from digital. If Kodak did anything wrong, it was putting economics ahead of its customers or even common sense.

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Photography and Economics 101

(C) 2012 by Metta Anderson – All Rights Reserved

First of all, economics for me is more like conceptual art–there are concepts which are abstract but relate to a specific idea, usually money. However, in this case, economics ties into what I want to talk about, which is Kodak and photography and social history. Together. And not necessarily under separate categories.

Kodak, once known as “The Great Yellow Father,” was founded in 1889 by George Eastman. My great-grandparents on my father’s side were born in June 1864 and got married right around that time. They were photographed together for their wedding announcement. Their daughter, my grandmother, was born in July 1892, and was photographed often as she grew up. This year she would be 120 years old, so Happy Birthday, GaGa.

Her husband, my grandfather, was also born in 1892, in February, in Pueblo, Colorado, and much of his life, like my grandmother’s, was photographed. In fact, over the courses of their lives, if they were not taking pictures of events, someone else in the family was. And that’s not all.

My great-grandfather, R. E. Olds, not only loved photography, he loved films!!! He began Oldsmobile, and later the REO Car Company, and between those two industrial events (recorded with photographs), he could hire camera people to FILM parties at Albemarle (his house on Belle Isle, in Michigan) and at other homes he owned in his lifetime (such as the 17-bedroom cottage at Lake Charlevoix).

His daughter and son-in-law, in addition to the photos they took, made a few films, too. One in particular was taken in the 1930s, before their divorce, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. There’s my father as the defiant teenager of the time, next to his sister, and unhappy teenager, and my grandfather’s mother,  mugging for the camera in a grainy black and white.

The film rolls on. My grandfather is showing us the landscape and some of the customs of the area, and then, lo and behold, a small adobe church which would become a major art icon just a few years later, on the canvases painted by Georgia O’Keeffe. She’s not in these films, but another artist is–E. I. Couse. He was part of the Taos Artists’ Society, and a little elderly when the film was shot. He’s seen coming out of the screen door of his house in Taos, walking toward the tiny garden. His resemblance to Monet is striking, which is cool, because the Taos group brought the philosophy and techniques of the French Impressionists to bear on American painting in the Western US. My grandfather bought their art and photographed the artists as they painted outdoors in the Taos-Santa Fe area.

At some point, my father and his sister got their own cameras and recorded the rest of their lives with them. My father went into photography for personal but never expressed reasons. I came to that conclusion after looking at his films and photos. He liked the aesthetics of photography and he liked the chemistry of it. He learned to print color in his own darkroom (he had an Omega enlarger which probably still works, with the appropriate set of Kodak filters), and I sincerely regret that I never got that far. There is a fascinating combination of chemical precision leading to the possibility of flights of fantasy when working in the darkroom that just does not exist in digital. Digital avoids the “happy accident” that has often resulted in more interesting photos than the photographer had planned.

For years my father used a Speed Graphic that took 6 x 7 cm negatives. He knew that camera so well that he used it as a kind of spy camera, sneaking shots that surprised everyone later. He took it with him to Egypt and accidentally photographed the name “E. Anderson” scrawled in an upper right corner of a tomb wall by some irreverent person who, we still hope, is NOT related to us.

He took the camera on a trip to Japan. He got a lot of the usual tourist shots, but the one I liked best was taken of the Golden Temple from across the lake in front of it, but through the pine branches. Dad said that the group was led to a spot across the lake by the tour guide and told that, from there they could all get nice photos of the temple. Dad agreed that yes, you could, but when he glanced at the ground, he discovered that the spot was worn down to nothing by the endless army of tourists who had stood in the same spot to get the same damn shot. Good for them, but not for Olds Anderson.

He moved off to one side and wrapped himself–sort of–around the trunk of a pine tree. Through its branches he could clearly see the temple, but through the viewfinder (parallex corrected), he could compose something much more interesting.

And another Kodak moment was born.

When I was born in June 1945, my father got permission to photograph me in black and white, no flash, in the bassinet in the pediatric ward. I was less than 24 hours old.

And when I was five, I got my first camera, a Brownie that took 620 film. Later I got another Brownie, and then a Fiesta and finally a Pentax Spotmatic (1968), and so on.

I am, at this point, very pleased to report that the films and photos from my great-grandparents’ and even grandparents’ generation are in museums. Try the Transportation Museum (R. E. Olds Museum) in Lansing, Michigan. Try the Museum at Michigan State University. Try the Michigan Historical Society. And then, “if you’re feelin’ lucky. . .,” get in touch with my brother and my stepsister and my half-sisters.

And I have not even touched upon the incredible collection of stereo-optical slides taken by my stepgrandfather, Harry L. Conrad, in his travels and events. Michigan State University’s Museum has those, too.

My mother’s family also took pictures, but my mother was pretty bad about keeping them, so few exist. I think my brother has them.

When I say that Kodak is part of my family, I’m not kidding.

Therefore, to see Kodak in financial problems is almost like being told that a member of the family has been poisoned and is dying a slow and painful death. But, who did it?

My money is on Wall Street, and yes, the pun is intended.

Brokerage firms have been telling the American public for too long that it has an obligation to its shareholders, and then presents the image of decrepit elderly people barely hanging on til their next dividend check arrives. Boy is that a crock!

Yes, corporate law dictates that corporations pay dividends to its shareholders (who are its investors) as a reward for loaning the corporations money in order to keep going. (I’m referring to publicly held companies, national and international.) But those shareholders are large pension funds which have invested in mutual funds (when they don’t set them up for their own benefit) and hedge funds and private equity groups. They could care less what Kodak or GM or even Hershey’s produces. They only care about the bottom line and how much (quantity) of the product has been sold so that a good-sized dividend can be paid out. Better yet–let’s produce it abroad (say, China or Afghanistan) for fifty cents per item, pay no Social Security nor other benefits to their workers, pay little taxes in the host country and make ga-zillions of bucks. Tax structures allow for write-offs and deductions, so the pure profit is much greater. Figure that the dividends represent maybe 15% of gross (or net), and the rest goes to the executives, and then down to secretaries and some other people. This structure sidesteps the issues of social responsibility–the amounts of money previously set aside by corporations for funding cultural or social programs locally or nationally.

I think Kodak fell into this trap. It is a multinational corporation, but like other companies, its product line is relatively narrow–photography and the items related to that. (I am excluding GM from this. Not only does that multinational have multiple product lines, it made some financial mistakes and buried itself in its own hole in Detroit. Only psychiatrists with experience in forensics will ever be ablel to understand GM’s problems.)

But here’s the interesting part. Kodak–in this sense like GM–sells its products quite successfully OUTSIDE the United States. The Chevrolet Division of GM has excellent sales in Latin America. In Colombia, Chevrolet is the number-one-selling automobile in an expanding market. That may not represent much in US dollars, but it certainly helps fund the shrimp platter at a GM cocktail party in Bloomfield Hills.

Also OUTSIDE THE US–people still take pictures with film! Really! Kodak and Fuji are easily available. Kodak has a manufacturing plant in Mexico, which lowers its distribution costs for all of Latin America. It used to have another distribution point in Bogotá for the Andean region (Venezuela, Colombia, Equador, Peru, maybe Bolivia), and the network may still be in place. I don’t know how Fuji handles distribution of its products, but it’s probably similar to Kodak, and frankly, I think Fuji’s black and white film is fabulous, especially in the 120 format!

The US has covered itself with quite a bubble, and maybe even bubbles within bubbles. Digital photography has gained ground for a lot of reasons, one of them being that it’s exceptionally simple. Actually, so was shooting color with a Brownie in 1960. The only real difference that I can see is this–digital is ever so DISPOSABLE!!!!!!!!!!!! With a negative, you are stuck with the image. It’s always going to be there, unless you burn the negative, which might be a little difficult because of the chemical nature of the film itself. With digital, on the other hand, just click on “Delete” and it’s gone, just like your memories. In fact, the digital image is like the film image–it is a visual memory of what was in front of the camera at the split-second the shutter was pressed. With film, the memory stays. With digital, it’s gone.

That has become so Very Very Very A-M-E-R-I-C-A-N!  ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !  NOTHING is permanent!!! All is ephemeral!!!!!! All is DISPOSIBLE!!!!!

I read just last week in a column in “El Espectador” newspaper that if Kodak had migrated to Silicone Valley, it could have saved itself by being in the center of all the new technology and all those hot young minds who are so (wowie!) up on all the latest trends!!!!

Actually, the bigger problem is not Silicone Valley nor Rochester, New York (nor even Rochester, Michigan). It’s the American lifestyle that has gone off the deep end in terms of gullibility, of wanting Absolutely EVERYTHING RIGHT THIS GODDAMNED VERY SECOND!!!!! In short, a nation of snotty little kids. In the roughly 45 years I’ve lived in Colombia, I’ve flown back and forth between Bogotá and Detroit (and other US places) more times than I can count. The distance between Bogotá and Miami is fixed, geographically, and the flight time has not changed very much (approx. 3 hrs 20 minutes, airport to airport) regardless of the type of aircraft involved (707 to 747 to Airbus).  In the past, it was a nice flight. These days, it’s just a little horror with wings, and I’m not talking about security. It’s the airlines’ idea that you absolutely MUST pack into the plane more people than can comfortably fit, and THEN! Not serve them. No food. No drinks. Just, “Shut up and SIT THE FUCK DOWN!”

And once you get to Miami or Atlanta or wherever, you are disgorged from the aircraft and pretty much forced to do a double-time march through miles of airport corridors in order to get on the next plane, which left ten minutes ago.

It is absolutely NOT the fault of the passengers that jet fuel prices skyrocket. It is probably not the fault of the passengers that they really have to carry luggage and can not live out of a small briefcase for two or three weeks. For most airlines, the ideal passenger is George Clooney in “Up in the Air.” Well, sorry, but we’re not. Deal with it.

It is this mindset that is killing Kodak and many other businesses, not the products nor how and where they’re manufactured. Yes, fast food chains are “upgrading” their product lines  (along with their prices, of course), but the genuine bottom line is that eating even healthy food quickly and then running off to do something the eater thinks is “important” will make you sick. It’s not that “healthy fast food” (such as it might exist) will keep you slim. It won’t. The stress of daily life will keep the pounds off for a while, but when people are stressed out, they eat. And they eat in a hurry (so as not to get caught eating), they end up getting sick. Or even sick-er.

With photography, yes, in many cases, the digital image is very helpful. Commercial photographers love to be able to show clients and art directors or whomever a series of images right on the spot. And yes, it’s fun to take pictures at a party and be able to show them seconds later. I had that experience once, using someone else’s new Polaroid X-70. Polaroid worked on its product so that you could get the image in about 10 seconds, instead of 60. (I remember my grandmother GaGa experimenting with a Polaroid in the late Fifties. It only took black and white, and she had to have my father’s help to pull the photo out of the camera body, so she stuck with her Minox, whose color film had to be sent to a special lab in St. Louis, MO, or maybe Chicago. She loved getting her pictures back, even though she had to wait a few days.) In Colombia, the university students now seem to need to take pictures and videos all the time with their cell phones and upscale (purchased in Miami over Spring Break) DSLRs, but their parents and grandparents are quite happy to wait for their film to be developed and printed at Foto Japón and other minilabs. What’s the big rush?

Kodak and GM need to sell their products in order to survive. DUH! But I think the public is asking for miracles. Film is film, and it is not instant, but it is definitely a viable visual medium. More than that, it becomes a link to a personal past over time. GM needs to produce cars, but it is without question absurd to insist that the corporation create a “crash-proof car.”  Cadillac used to be a prestigious marque, but after the 1970s and a few unfortunate movies, I see an Escalade or Sedan de Ville and think, “Pimp-mobile.”  (And then I see a Mercedes-Benz and think either, “Nouveau so riche the ink’s still wet,” OR “narco. . .”) I know from experience that Nikon is an excellent camera and so is Hasselblad, but I find their advertising so male-ORIENTED and, in some instances, so full of crap that I refuse to own either one. I do own a Kodak Z981 digital camera, because very frankly, it has a Schneider lens (Schneider-KREUZNACH Variogon with ED (extra dispersion) glass). I find that it reproduces the quality of the light here in Bogotá breathtakingly, and I suspect its film speed algorithms are based on certain Kodak films. Great! But I still love my Pentaxes and Mamiyas and the films they use. I still like to work in the darkroom, and more so now that the Epson Stylus Photo R1900 that I purchased in November 2010 is doing strange things. Please Note:  A US$500 price tag for digital equipment may not seem like much in the US, but when translated into a foreign currency, it may become prohibitively expensive. In Colombia, US$500 for a printer translates into Pesos $1,500,000.00, because the exchange rate is just below 2000 pesos to the dollar, but factor in import and local taxes, and the exchange is 3000 pesos to the dollar. The average Colombian will definitely think twice before getting into digital photography with these prices.

I think that Kodak, GM and other companies these days face this conundrum–poor sales at home, good sales abroad, and “shareholders” (those pension funds) who just do not understand that life is lived differently outside the US.

How to deal with this? I don’t know. Privatize? Sell off all the publicly-held stock and let all the employees and their families and friends buy into the corporations. What the corporations earn goes to their employees. The pension funds and their kith and kin can go suck blood someplace else.

So to answer my question, who’s poisoning Kodak, I think the answer is–the American people who made it great. How’s that for maturity?

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Collecting Photos

(C) 2011 by Metta Anderson – All Rights Reserved

If you take pictures and store the photos (in albums, boxes or digital files), you are automatically collecting photos. In that sense, what you have is as valuable as a photo you purchased in a gallery, and maybe more so, since your own work constitutes physical proof of an event or a person which was meaningful to you.

The fashion for collecting other people’s photographs is relatively recent (pretty much since the 1970s) and has become as complicated as collecting certain kinds of paintings or sculptures. I don’t say that because the prices have gone up, but rather, because of changes in the attitudes of the galleries which sell the work.

But before that happened, photos were collected because of the images they contained. As with paintings, some photographers became better known than others and their work more appreciated, so samples are more frequently preserved in museums. A case in point is Edward Curtis, whose careful, almost anthropological photographs of Hopi Indians in New Mexico are collected by many people (if they can afford them) and displayed in many museums. But at the same time, some American artists living in the Taos, New Mexico, area and forming part of the highly-regarded Taos Artists’ Society, photographed the same Hopi people. However, a photo taken by E. I. Couse or Walter Ulf would be valuable only to collectors familiar with these painters and the T.A.S.

People began to collect photographs when photography became available on the market that served the middle and upper classes. The themes were portraits, landscapes or something historical or dramatic. The photos were framed and displayed in homes. Their longevity depended on many factors, not the least of which were the processes which produced the photos. With the advent of the negative (first paper, then the nitrate and now the more or less “plastic” base), preservation of the image was easier. One negative produces many images (one image repeated “x” number of times). Then it was discovered that the support on which the image was made could help determine its lifespan. To be honest, a photo printed onto a double-weight fiber-based paper (i.e., paper made of 50-to-100% cotton rag, covered on one side with a light sensitive emulsion), properly processed (i.e., quickly through the chemicals followed by immersion in flowing water for an hour or more, then run it through a neutralizing agent (“toner”) followed by another hour or so in running water) will produce a photo that should last well over 100 years, as long as it is not exposed to direct sunlight. Also, black and white fades less and fades more slowly than color, and color has a problem because the cyan dye fades easily and quickly, even when not exposed to light.
And that’s the nitty-gritty on saving your pictures. I have some photos taken in July 1965 with Kodacolor print film which were stored in an album from about August 1965 until the spring of 2008, when I insisted that my brother send them to me. They are in beautiful condition. They were printed on Kodak fiber-based paper because that’s what Kodak used for all its printing back then. My family has even older color photos also printed on Kodak fiber-based paper and stored in albums or Kodak-provided envelopes (along with the negatives). They’re also in beautiful condition. This did not require a lot of money. It just required some care and thoughtfulness on the part of my father, grandfather, grandmother, aunt and even great-grandparents. We all read Kodak’s instructions and followed them.
My father went so far as to install two rows of molding in a hall in his house. The area was indirectly lit (lights above molding directed at the white ceiling), and my father would display his own photos of a recent trip or some personal photo project in this hallway. Each photo was matted and mounted but not framed, and set on the molding. This system allowed him to change the display at will, of course, as well as show off his work. It’s something I want to do in my apartment and something a lot of people can do in their own homes. It’s fun, it’s relatively easy and inexpensive to install and it teaches children that a photo is more than immediate gratification.

People collect photos for the same reasons they collect anything else–they enjoy the object(s) collected, it means something to them. Elton John has an extensive collection of photos because each image means something to him. Other collectors concentrate on specific photographers or photographic styles or historical periods, in the same way other people collect paintings or sculpture. In that sense, collecting anything becomes much more like eating popcorn or potato chips–one piece is just not satisfying; you end up trying to eat the whole bag. For that reason (and here’s where gallery owners can start to scream to high heaven), you should only collect what you really really like. That means you do not buy a photo because the gallery owner says it’s a good idea. You buy the photo because you want to live with it and look at it. It says something to you, there is an unspoken dialogue between you and the photo. That is what counts. NOT the economic value. NOT the historical value. NOT the critical value. The only thing that counts is the little tingly “something” you get when you look at that photo. This in turn will remind you to take care of the photo once it’s in your home. And that’s what really matters when you are collecting.

If you find that the photo you collected requires museum level care, then donate it to a museum. As a fine art photographer, I want collectors to enjoy living with my work. How could they do that if I create something so complex that it causes distress and worry? Consequently, I make the best prints I can, mat them and mount them attractively and let the collector frame them (unless I’m asked to frame the photo, which raises the price). Collecting should be a pleasure, not something that produces anxiety.

For anyone interested in collecting photos, I would suggest that the first step is to learn to take pictures–composition, films, papers, darkroom, digital. (A digital print on a high quality paper requires as much time and thought to produce as a darkroom print. I’m speaking from experience.) This will give you a good foundation because you learn to judge your own work critically, setting aside the images you like from the ones that don’t quite meet your standards. After a while, you apply what you learned from your own work to what you see in magazines and books and galleries and exhibitions.

Finally, collecting photos is capturing one little moment in time, preserving it and then being able to pass it on to the next generation, so that they understand that life is a continuum. Very few things are more important than that.

(C) 2011 by Metta Anderson – All Rights Reserved

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My Image and I

(C) 2011 by Metta Anderson – All Rights Reserved

DAY 3 (But written the day after)
I was frankly too cooked to write yesterday. Came home and then went to Crepes and Waffles for a big ensalada Marroquí, jugo Alegría and Tiramisú for dessert. Thus refueled, I ambled homeward.

DAY 3 of the Conference tidied things up. Very specific outlines for emergency response to include (locally) Defensa Civil and the police. Also highly recommended going to Wilhelm Research for preservation issues with digital media. Ms. Norris said she frankly did not have the expertise to answer questions, but the Wilhelm site is updated weekly (or daily?).

At the beginning of the session, she played a Beatles song related to the conservation work, although I honestly do NOT remember the title!!! (Says something very bad about this member of the Beatles generation!) It did serve to wake us up and actually generate a sense of being together.

At the end, she played “I’ve Just Seen a Face,” along with a slide show of portraits, antique to the ’40s. I swear the last one, a Hollywood carbro print, was of Hedy Lamarr, but I forgot to ask. However, I did sing along to the song! (No doubt irritated the girl to my right.)

I kept nodding off–not dozing, not sleeping, just a trancelike state in which images in my head combine with the reality of the place where I’m sitting and create a certain amount of confusion. Consequently, I missed parts of the presentation.

I gave Ms. Norris a thank-you note at the end which included my e-mail, Flickr and WordPress address, as well as a polite “Y’all cum back, y’ah hehr?” Then I left before I could embarrass myself in some way.

Now, for something really specific: The Man Ray Exhibit was two stories above us and I’d already gone to see it. Then I wrote about it on WordPress, and it’s had five or six hits so far. A point I made in that review has to be reiterated and even expanded upon here–people taking digitall pictures. CONSTANTLY!!!

In the WordPress post, I remarked that Man Ray would appreciate the irony of people photographing his photos and other objects, and the same is true with the conference.

But with the conference, I have more questions and even serious doubts about the future intellectual capacities of people in their twenties and thirties. They’ve swallowed everything digital hook, line and sinker, no questions asked, which is a horrendous mistake. They also seem to believe that all things “old” are bad, somehow. On the other hand, my generation did that, and those who still cling to that philosophy seem to end up wondering what happened to their lives. Eventually, the digi-totin’ young-‘uns will learn that “old” is a necessary part of life.

But I was truly amazed at the number of attendees who photographed the slide screen every time Debra Norris displayed something with diagrams and websites. A Museo Nacional spokesperson announced at the beginning that it would be okay to photograph (and also videorecord, with some cameras) the material on the screen, “AS LONG AS YOU DO NOT UPLOAD IT LATER TO THE INTERNET!” The announcement with the warning was video-recorded by the Museo staff (and also by the co-sponsors/hosts, Universidad Externado and the Museo de Arte del Banco de la República), so their collective asses are covered. Everyone knows that this stuff will be posted and “traded” all over the web before sundown tonight (or even last night).

I sincerely want to know what possesses these people to photograph virtually everything all the time. Are they so brain-damaged that the memory part of their brains no longer retains material for more than 5 seconds?

The non-Man Ray irony here is this–Neuroscience is just now beginning to see with scans and understand with research the memory functions in the brain. But the more they research and scan, the less people use their brains for consciouis individual intellectual activity. The amount of research demonstrating correlations between writing by hand and working in three-dimensional space (games, dance, hobbies, sports, arts) and brain development and function is already large. Why is all that being tossed away in favor of slickly and mindlessly amassing tons of visual cues which too often are unrelated in any way whatsoever.

Do the conference attendees who zealously photographed Debra Norris’s slides seriouisly expect to print out these images in glossy 8 x 10 and carefully preserve them according to Wilhelm’s rigorous standards? Are these people even going to remember in which digital file or folder in their computers they stored the information?

For the sake of honesty, I swear to the following: I wrote my notes in longhand. I put everything together in the folder the Museo Nacional handed out. I have stored the folder in my darkroom with my darkroom notes, which I write by hand before, during and after a printing session. IN CASE OF EMERGENCY, A) If the Roof Collapses–1) call lawyer; sue landlord for failure to maintain property. 2) Pick through wreakage and rescue all negatives, prints and equipment. 3) Clean and restore everything following guidelines.
B) Other Damages–see #2 and #3.

I’m also concerned that the public has been led to believe that “traditional” photography is time-consuming and “smelly” and even boring. REALLY?

How long does it take even an experienced professional photographer to locate one (1) image taken two or more years ago and uploaded to a computer in haste? How does he/she feel upon realizing that said “right” image has been deleted? How does he/she feel when new equipment or programs are not compatible with pre-existing ones?

Digitizing old photos (scanning or re-photographing them with digital cameras) is an excellent safety precaution. Using Photoshop to make corrections saves time, tempers, money and maybe even further damage. These are recommended practices for amateurs, professionals and any organization working with photographs and films. Therefore, all the information presented at the conference will be available for the general public, researchers and restoration personnel because the Museo Nacional recorded it digitally. Surfing the Internet will produce even more relevant information which can usually be downloaded and printed out. There may even be more information than one person wants or needs.

But to “capture” the information with one’s very own personal digital camera seems like a Gary Winogrand type of experience, and not a Man Ray one. Winogrand was the supreme street photographer, in his lifetime wandering miles and miles (kilometers and kilometers) in cities and towns in the US taking pictures.

But he got to the point where he’d shoot rolls and rolls of film (35 mm) which was stored in drawers and never developed. Of ten rolls actually developed, maybe five images met his criteria for enlargement, display and eventual sale. When he died in March 1984, Winogrand left behind nearly 300,000 unedited images and more than 2,500 undeveloped rolls of film. This has become a curator’s nightmare. He did this ar a time when photography was generally available to the public, but categories were pretty firm–amateurs (anyone not paid for his work), and professional (paid to take pictures). A family or even a pro usually processed and printed a few photos in a month. Winogrand ended up with hundreds of images in a week.

Winogrand was one man taking pictures. His heirs and conservators face the task of what to do with all those rolls and negatives and contact sheets, plus the few resulting images. This is a daunting task.

But now imagine 25 people armed with cameras able to hold 100 images per memory card. These 25 individuals keep every shot and average 30 images/day. How long does it take them to reach 1000 images, each one approximately 750 x 750 dpi? Where do you store these images? How many will be printed and when?

Add this factor–each person is 25 years old with a life expectancy of 84 yeaers. Therefore, A) How long will it take each person to end up with more images than Gary Winogrand? B) Where will these images be stored? C) How will these images be used? D) Why does everyone want to turn into Gary Winogrand (and a Winogrand masquerading as Andy Warhol)?

The three days I spent at the conference were valuable to me as a fine art photographer who prints, stores and sells her own work, but also as a thinking adult who understands photography as much more than an image to be preserved for the future. My most sincere thank you to the Museo Nacional and its staff and the Universidad Externado as sponsors, and to the Museo de Arte del Banco de la República for acting as host. Thank you especially to Debra Norris for coming to Bogotá and sharing her knowledge and experience with all of us. I hope she returns.

The conference was called “This is My Image,” and for me, in many personal ways, it was. I got to see myself.

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