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Friday, October 09, 2009

Best Use of Architecture In an Action Film

  The award goes to... [riiiippppppp!] The International. [wild applause]

Yes, it is an action film. Yes, it is about how international banking corporations can be evil. Yes, we all know that the whole point of corporations is to be amoral entities slavishly devoted to making money. Yes, we all know that the whole point of banks is to separate you from your money and to benefit from your money in ways that you never could, because it is a rigged system. We all KNOW this. We just don't usually get to discuss it in the context of tall Danish and Italian men in outrageously expensive suits having gunfights in stylish modern art museums or across the rooftops of scenic villas after watching breathtaking flyovers of gorgeously composed views of perfectly lit cities.

The gunfight in the Guggenheim is my favorite movie gunfight of all time. I don't even like gunfights in movies, nor movies with this poor of a male-to-female ratio! This really just means it doesn't have much competition, but still.

As a still photographer and fan of architecture, this film was stellar.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:10 PM

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Could I please borrow your robot army?

  Wanted: photogenic robots of smaller-than-human-yet-larger-than-a-coin size to pose for photography project. Yes, this is for ART - NOT for world domination, despite all those rumors about me and my intentions that you may have heard from thoroughly disreputable sources.

Please contact the author if you have such an army, or a few charming robots.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)8:19 PM

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Avedon: emasculating your DSLR since 1946

  The recent opening party for Richard Avedon: Photographs 1946-2004 at SFMoMA ( had lines that spiraled down the central stair, but was still thoroughly enjoyable. Not just because some of my peers were wearing such improbable shoes. Not just because I went with a good friend, and we bumped into my favorite cousin and his wonderful boyfriend. Not because the cocktails in the lobby were strong. And not just because of the wall o' portraits, where we were able to marvel at the subjects of the photo - young Kissinger?!? Young Jerry Brown!?! WOW! - even more than the photos themselves.

Though the photos themselves were glorious. Glorious large format images, with deep rich blacks, brilliant, harsh whites, and spectacular tones in between.

And the resolution! Oh, the resolution! Seeing the photos live, not just in the magazines they were reproduced in, is really marvelous. Because you see them as true photographic prints, not at lithos or digital offsets or however you have seen them in their lossy near-glory in the recent past. No, the prints are ultra, ultra-fine.

Those of you who aren't familiar with large format film cameras may have wondered why the actual prints look... hyper real. Better than real. It is because Mr. Avedon and his troupe of minions were using cameras that took images on improbably large sheets of very fine-grained, high resolution films. Your digital camera, if you have a current model, meets or exceeds the equivalent of a 35mm piece of film: an fine image the size of a large stamp, perhaps 10 megapixels or so. A "medium format" film camera like the ones I use might be around 50 MP, with its 2.25 inch square film area. Now, imagine that the piece of film were instead 8" x 10". Imagine how many MP your camera would need to be to maintain the same sort of pixel density at that size. And then double or triple it, because the lenses are so sharp, and the film is so fine...

Large format images blow me away, partly because the cameras used to make them see both better and differently than my eyes do.

There is a mural of several frames of Warhol's factory crowd. It is made from several, generally overlapping large format frames. I made my digital-camera-loving friend walk up to the larger-than-life-size images of Andy's crowd, just to look at a little radio at their feet. A perfect little retro radio, sharp, clear, with every little mark on it showing radiantly. The image isn't completely grainless... But the detail was incredible.

Avedon was one of those artists working in the popular media of the day, and he had a huge influence on what people thought photos SHOULD look like. We've grown up steeped in the aftermath of his influence, so it's hard to see, but he was hugely influential, and very talented. I'm not even fond of portraits, but his are such a wonder to behold, so consistent as a body of work, so technically good, so pleasing, that I am gushing.

It's definitely worth seeing. And it's worth sitting in the restaurant downstairs (or at Blue Bottle on the roof), listening to people complain that they saw the show already in New York, and now have to get dragged to it again. Poor babies. :-)

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:58 PM

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Stanislaus: my latest book project

  You've seen a lot of my infrared landscape images at, but I have many, many more images that I haven't widely shared. I've put some of my favorites from the river that runs near my parents' homes into a photo books, and have made it available through Blurb to enter into their Photography.Book.Now competition.

It's my first book with them, and I kept this edition short and simple. Blurb did a lovely job of printing it. You can see the entire book/photo essay by following the link below:

By A.E. Graves
Book Preview
Photo book

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Monday, June 29, 2009

Large format homemade camera version 1.0

  homemade camera, main body by A.E. Graves
[Image: homemade camera, main body]

If you know me, you know that I am wandering around with huge lists of creative projects I am eager to complete. I try not to carry the actual lists with me, in hopes that I'll forget some of the new project ideas and so can keep the lists closer to realistic (whatever that is), but this strategy generally doesn't work. Right now, my to-do list has additional projects for the Getty Conservation Institute (including a repeat of my first submission on a different paper), THREE photo books to layout, contests to enter, articles to write for, tests to perform on a Polaroid camera I just acquired through eBay, modifications to same involving Fresnel lenses... Until recently, the number one item was building my own large format camera.

But recently, I crossed that one off the list. Because I did it.

I've mentioned in the past that I've got several wet plate collodion projects in the works. I ordinarily rent a specialized package of equipment (including a LF camera), chemistry, and a darkroom to shoot my work. For reasons which I don't completely understand, it hasn't been possible for me to get into the rental studio to get my work done. It hasn't been available; one chemical or another has been lacking; an attendant had a scheduling conflict, and couldn't prepare something for me; the booking went awry.... Obstacle after obstacle. And during this long waiting period, I thought about the ways that the rental program is GREAT... but that it doesn't really give me control over anything, including adjustments to the chemistry I might want to make.

homemade camera with sliding box extension, by A.E. Graves [Image: homemade camera with sliding box extension in use.]

Of course, I would love to have total control. And this led me to think about getting set up to do this sort of work at home. There was one big obstacle, and that is that I am faced with a request for large-format collodion plates, and I did not have a large format camera. The new LF cameras I was looking at looked like they would cost me about $6,000. I searched the couch for change, but didn't come up with enough to spring for one of those.

I have some great books on camera-building, which were quite inspirational. I decided to use my limited understanding of optics to build one by myself.

If you are a gear-head, you may be scoffing right now, laughing at the idea of me building the chunky DSLR that's hanging around your neck right now. Obviously I wouldn't spend my time replicating that. (I don't intend to spend weeks of my life adjusting the white balance of the output. I mean, c'mon.) But semi-permanent photography has been around since the 1840s, and between then and now, there have been many effective, simple cameras.

Cameras are, at their simplest, a box with a lens on one side, and something photosensitive tucked away inside opposite the lens, waiting to be exposed to light focused by the lens. The lens or the box needs to be able to keep light out when not in use, and sometimes the lens needs to squint. For the slow emulsions I use - think ASA 3 - the exposure can be handled by me walking over and removing the lens cap manually for the duration of the exposure, and then putting it back on at the end.

subject and positive print made with homemade camera, by A.E. Graves [Image: sample in-camera positive print beside the subject. The ratio is approximately one to one.]

Without boring you to tears, I'll describe what I did briefly:

-I went onto eBay and bought a "process lens," which is a lens optimized for one-to-one duplication.

-I took the manufacturer's estimated focal length for the lens, and built a box approximately as long as that focal length, and as wide and tall as some 8" x 10" film holders I'd previously bought on eBay, and mounted the lens to one end.

-On the other end, I made a translucent screen using a thick, vellum-like tracing paper. This is a focusing screen, and is also the film plane, where the photo paper or plate will rest. I used this right away to test the design, and immediately got an image on the screen!!!

-I built a long box of slightly smaller diameter that barely fits inside the main box. This box can slide in and out, performing the same functions as bellows on an LF camera. (I got this idea from a clever book called Primitive Photography, which I'll write about elsewhere. I executed it differently from the book.) I can explain what bellows do, but I don't want you to fall asleep.

-I bought some photo paper which (a) makes positive images when developed, and (b) has about the same speed as sensitized collodion, so that I could practice with this paper first, and establish baselines for exposure and focus. (I'll write about this paper at once I've tested it more extensively.)

-I tested the camera, and got great images!!

There are some refinements I need to make to the design to make it operate better, including an improved focusing screen, and better sliding box movement in moist weather. But I think I can manage those improvements, and get this simple camera operable for wet plates. Perhaps even by the holiday weekend!

I'm positively giddy over making this camera. My success is making my project list longer, of course, because now that I know I can build an 8 x 10 camera, I realize I could build all sorts of other special purpose cameras, including panoramic cameras, 4 x 5 cameras, any number of simpler lens cameras, and perhaps some twin lens reflexes...

The next item on my list is getting a collodion studio set up at home, which is something of an ordeal. And after that, plate making at home. I expect to achieve both of these goals in July. I'll report back, and will also post a link here when I write my review of the positive paper.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)12:08 AM

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Really poor futurist prediction

  I cannot help but love this quote, from A Manual of Photographic Chemistry, Including the Practice of the Collodion Process, Sixth Edition, 1861 - Google Book Search:
Photographic printing has reached a point beyond which any further advance will be difficult. The Chapters relating to this subject have been once more re-arranged, but it is not anticipated that such a proceeding will again be necessary unless our present modes should be superseded.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)7:52 PM

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Manifestly important and nearly impossible

  Polaroid's instant films were some of the most ingenious inventions of all time. Complicated and clever, in color or in black and white, and in some cases able to produce both a print AND a large format negative at the same time... Instant film was an AMAZING technology. Barely distinguishable from magic, as most great technological advances are.

I shouldn't refer to instant film solely in the past tense: Fuji still makes both cameras and instant films that produce adorable little instant prints. But Polaroid, who had managed to make instant film simple for users by complex manufacturing on the back end, never really made the amount of money on it that could justify the novelty of instant gratification in an age where, it turns out, people actually can wait for a few minutes if it means saving a few bucks.

Polaroid discontinued manufacturing its analog instant films, which I only recently have started to play with, dispossessing countless travelers (who love being able to share prints in far-away places, especially in isolated communities) and many artists, who either relied on the prints for proofing analog shots, or those who had found ways to manipulate the inside chemistry with heat, force, and a bit of disassembly.

Enter The Impossible Project (, an effort to acquire a closed Polaroid factory with all of its equipment, and re-engineer instant film - knowing it is possible, understanding how it was made, and starting over to make it better.

This is exciting.

The splash page tag line for this project is a quote from Ed Land:
Don't undertake a project, unless it is manifestly important and nearly impossible.
(PLEASE do not use this concept as an excuse not to clean your house.) While I prefer to limit my own activities to a range somewhere between 'totally doable' and 'marginally unlikely,' I admire their pluck... and want to play with their future products.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Sunday, December 07, 2008

It really is December, isn't it?

  photograph of freshly made parasols drying in a temple hallway, Kyoto, Japan by A.E. GravesI have been back from Japan for a week as of today, but it is taking me a long time to adjust. My body seems more or less to believe that the Pacific Standard Time means something, but my urgent need for naps each midday suggests something remains awry.

At night, I am still dreaming of reading signs in hirigana neon, surrounded by decisively moving crowds, thinking carefully before I speak in hopes of being understood.

When I am awake, I still find it odd that the air near restaurants does not smell like tsukemono (Japanese pickles, which we often passed display barrels of on the street). Even the deep frying smells that are so abundant there are different from those here, likely because of the difference in what is being fried.


I have finally started to review my "real camera" photographs from the trip. I have more than 6 GB of files to look at, which will take a while even though most of that bulk is just big TIFFs, but I've started posting images from the lovely first night in Kyoto. Japan - First Night in Kyoto is a Facebook gallery which you can access without being a Facebook participant. It has shots taken after dinner on a stunningly warm autumn evening, from an experience that was a lovely re-introduction to Kyoto.


At this moment, I am saving up my energy for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition's WINTERFEST party, which is happening tonight!!! It is my favorite holiday party, and one of my favorite fundraisers for the SFBC. (My other favorite fundraisers are also for the SFBC, just so you know.)

If you're free this evening and want to shop for art and bike merchandise for yourself or your loved ones while benefiting a fabulous local advocacy group, click the link and get details! I hope to see you there.


It may take me a while to post more images from the Japan trip. There is a lot going on in my life right now, much of which doesn't really belong on the web. But December is a complex month, full of creative projects, communications with people I've lost track of, unusually formal meals, family drama, schedule drama... Ordinarily I would have my holiday cards designed (and hand made!) by now, I would have ordered photo calendars... Projects I would have gotten a jump on during November are still waiting for me to act like I recovered from traveling in Japan. I was just in an art show in New York, and I haven't even mentioned it on my own photography website! It's that kind of time. I'll get (t)here. Soon, I hope.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)3:40 PM

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


New photos.

Veiled Buddha photograph by A.E. GravesStrangely enough, I have posted some photographs to... Facebook. Seriously. Even though Facebook can't handle grayscale images, so they all looked ridiculous until I converted them to RGB and uploaded them again.

Softly Wander currently has just 9 sample images, but I plan to upload more. When you least expect me to. Hah!

(I am using the "public" link which is supposed to work outside of FB... Does it?)

I have quite a few things to say about Facebook, but right now I need to sleep.

Ooooh, sleep.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:17 PM

Sunday, June 15, 2008


Heat-induced imagery

multicolored salpiglossus sinuataImage: salpiglossus at Filoli.

I took 244 pictures today that I was able to save, and about 6 that I wasn't. I had planned to take "a few" digital camera photographs at Filoli, and then many iPhone photographs for my photoblog at There was a catch: I could "take" all the photos I wanted with my iPhone, but it wasn't saving them: when I looked at the Camera Roll, there were white squares where the photos were supposed to be: opening a white square made the Camera Roll close abruptly.

The iPhone is set up so that you can't freely transfer files back and forth from it easily, likely as a concession to various download-based services. (If you recall, Apple had difficulty finding a phone carrier, because nearly all carriers make too much money on ringtones and song downloads to permit Apple to let you load such things for FREE.) I had more than 1500 photos on the phone, and it made the camera slower than I wanted, so I used ImageCapture to remove the photos, and (apparently) some associated files. I did this last night; today, the camera couldn't remember how to save a photo.

The solution from that fabulous resource known as the Internet: restore the camera to its original "factory" settings; then take a new photo; THEN sync your phone with iTunes so that all of your backed-up personal stuff is returned. (Be sure you are photo syncing to a folder containing only photos you want on the phone.) Then all is back to normal.

Yes, this means I had to use a NORMAL digital camera at Filoli today. I had no self-restraint whatsoever during the time period before the heat overwhelmed me completely and I had to sit in the cafe, drinking iced red "tea" and eating strawberry shortcake while Steven observed at how pale I'd become.

I'm not good at dealing with heat. I'm looking over today's photos now, and I think that many of my plant abstracts are less abstract when I'm not overheating.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:33 PM

Sunday, June 08, 2008


I have a four-image portfolio up at Artists Wanted.

cyanotype print of succulentYou can find me at (Plural in the group name, singular in the website name.) Apparently, there is voting, so if you are inclined, you can "vote" on my portfolio.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)12:03 PM

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


New work.

cyanotype print of succulent plantNo, not a new job: new artwork! Specifically, cyanotype prints of succulents, one set of what will probably be a long, happy series. (Oh, don't sound so disappointed: you know how I (mis)manage my life: a sane new job near my place of residence is not on the horizon.)

Go to Succulents (Cyanotpes) on to see seven new prints.

(Yes, I know that the listing of all my work at is getting out of hand, and I'm working on some simplistic solutions even as we speak. Well, okay, not really. But I plan to test out a few new organizational schemes soon.)

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posted by Arlene (Beth)7:00 AM

Sunday, May 04, 2008


I'm on the Winner's page at the UnScene Tour website!

See my name in lights at ONLINE :: UnScene Tour - Photography's Emerging Artists.


posted by Arlene (Beth)9:21 PM

Sunday, April 20, 2008


Jay signs on to the web.

Jay, who is a talented photographer who has resisted my half-hearted coercion to get a website, has returned from Thailand, and is posting images on the web for the first time. Visit Flickr: Photos & Video from Jay Kullman to see his images.


posted by Arlene (Beth)11:12 PM

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


Photography portfolio updates!

ferrotype of Japanese-style iron teapotI've been a busy girl this evening... And for the past several months, actually.

New galleries up at include:

Extraordinary Light: Lake Merced (Infrared)

Palace of Fine Arts (Cyanotypes)

Pumpkins (Ambrotypes: Wet Collodion on Black Glass)


Tea Set (Ferrotypes: Wet Collodion on Trophy Aluminum).

I had promised a big April update, and I do have additional recent work to post, but these galleries provide enough updates for one evening.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)11:28 PM

Tuesday, April 01, 2008


2008 U.S. Alternative Process Traveling Portfolio: Now... Traveling.

Yes, it is on the move. I am again participating in the Traveling Portfolio project, in which those of us who work in antiquarian, antique, or alternative photographic processes ship a small collection of our work to each other in one large box or book, so that we can see and touch actual prints that we might otherwise only see in low resolution, two dimensional reproduction.

So what am I sharing with you? Low resolution, two dimensional web reproductions. :-) Yes yes, I know. If you live near me and want to see the prints live (especially the shiny ones, so you can see them without the reflections of the studio where these samples were photographed), let me know, and I'll invite you over when the portfolio arrives. Otherwise, you're out of luck unless you join the exchange next year.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:21 PM


UnScene San Francisco: first round of photos up!

Photos from the UnScene San Francisco show, taken by sponsor 944 Magazine (, are up on their website here. It was quite an event!

I was so tired immediately after the show (and so busy trying not to worry about my mother's tumor news) that I didn't write much about it here at the time. Now that I have visual aids, I'll make a few comments.

The W Hotel was the venue sponsor, and they provided a lovely room with high ceilings, deep colors, and a view of Yerba Buena's buildings across the street. It was on the third floor, which was easily accessed from the main entrance atrium. There were two bars in the room: a no host bar for cocktails and a hosted bar for wine. Music drifted in from the DJ on the balcony below, and there was a view from the foyer of the lounge on the first floor, which was full of people posing, drinking, and watching other people posing.

Our presentation approach was very simple: we mounted our work to foam boards, and hung the prints without mats or frames on larger white boards with a single construction light shining down on the art. The boards looked dramatic in the relatively low ambient light. (This was great planning on the part of the UnScene Tour organizer, who know how to keep things simple and light for the best effect.)

It was glam. It was posh. It was much classier than my employer's holiday party!

The other artists had lovely prints up, all of which were mounted beautifully, giving me my first real case of 'mounting envy.' The work on display showed real variety between the artists. There were dreamy fogscapes, sharp-edged architectural abstracts, dusk photos of gritty urban scenes, serene night photos of neighborhoods, and my images of staid historic ships and the glowing foliage of the Japanese Tea Garden in infrared. It was fun to see such a range of work from a bunch of locals!

Pretty much anything I could say about winning the grand prize would sound like bragging, and I am a modest person when it comes to talking about my work, so I am struggling. But I can say that winning was completely and totally unexpected. There was a glossiness to the other pieces which was so seductive, and my work was exclusively matte-finish prints; there were deep, rich colors in the other work, while I was the only artist to only show monochrome prints exclusively... I had thought I was at a disadvantage. That made hearing my name called all the more surprising.


It was all the more special having 30 friends, relatives, and colleagues come out to the event to support me. I don't throw big fancy parties, and so being able to invite them to an event that I was sort of responsible for was a nice thing: it made me feel like I was giving back some of the social kindnesses that have been shown to me. And the enthusiastic support I received made me feel great.


Looking at the photos of myself at the event is a bit awkward. As the photographer teased at the time, I am not comfortable on the lens side of the camera. (To think I ever modeled, ever so briefly, at a hair salon in my college days...)

I dislike the way flash photography makes me look: it washes out the contours of my face and neck in a way that I'll someday be grateful for (it will hide certain sorts of wrinkles!), but which I don't enjoy now: natural light seems kinder, and allows me to reflect more color. Flash photos of me don't match my conception of how I look.

I don't exhibit a high level of bilateral symmetry, and am accustomed only to seeing myself in a mirror (where I've grown accustomed to the imbalance): photos show me right-way round, and everything seems to slope off in the wrong direction... Also, the gradual changes in my face don't match photos of myself that I like and think of as "recent," but (as I am learning) are really 5 or more years old.

O, vanity.


There will be more photos up on the UnScene Tour page in a week or so: I will post a link when the images are available.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)9:57 PM

Friday, March 21, 2008


Yes, I did win UnScene San Francisco!

I am thrilled, surprised, and very sleepy.

Special thanks to the people who came to the party to cheer me on: Marcelle, Deborah, Tony, Andy, Yuriko, Richard, Peter, Charles, Reggie, Athena, Josefina, Tom, Eva, Margot, Ollie, Michael, Ingrid, Cullen, Steve, Steven (who stayed up late the night before and made me those lovely business cards), Mom, Dad, Maria, Jennifer, Mark, Mark (2), David, Bill, Candyce, Gillian... And anyone I am forgetting because my allergies are acting up tonight. THANK YOU so much! It was great to have fans.

Thanks also to Julie, who organized everything and was very patient (and saved the day when my prints began to rain down while I was away at dinner), and all of the sponsors who made the evening so posh. Links to the sponsors can be found at here and at here.


posted by Arlene (Beth)9:45 PM

Sunday, March 09, 2008


Un-Scene San Francisco Photography Tour

That show that I mentioned that I will be in? Here are the details.
WHAT: Join W San Francisco, the UnScene Tour and 944 Magazine and feast your lens on never before seen images of the City by the Bay, taken by local emerging artists at the UnScene San Francisco photography exhibit. Mix and Mingle with art lovers and take home a fav photo or two. One lucky photographer will also win the chance to be "seen" at the Jack Fischer Gallery in downtown SF. Zoom in on who will be the lucky winner!

WHEN: Wednesday, March 19, 2008, 7 - 9 PM

WHERE: W San Francisco - Great Room I, 3rd Floor
181 3rd Street, San Francisco, CA 94103
415 777 5300

RSVP: "RSVP WSF EVENTS AT WHOTELS DOT COM" (remove the spaces and quotation marks to decode)
(If you're e-mailing in an RSVP, please copy me. For those of you who don't want to give out your e-mail address to the hotel, let me know at my work address and I'll do one big group RSVP from the office.)

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posted by Arlene (Beth)5:57 PM

Thursday, January 24, 2008



I always said I wouldn't start up a photoblog, because I have too much going on already. But now that I can take low-res images on my phone and post by simply e-mailing them to a blog from my phone, there's no real reason NOT to have one. is the beginning of another fun compulsion... Or the same compulsion with different tools. Or something along those lines.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)9:43 PM

Saturday, January 05, 2008


Rainy day fanaticism

Ginn Wall Hardware cyanotype photographic print by Arlene Elizabeth GravesOur first REAL winter storm in ages started slamming the SF Bay Area late this week, and I am enjoying it. The air smells good; the clouds are lovely and dramatic-looking; we've had thunder and pouring, pouring rain... The only sad thing is that we lost our twenty-foot lavatera, whose trunks twisted and split in the remarkable wind of the storm.

I'm hoping to gather the flowers from the toppled shrub and use them to make photograms tomorrow, if they haven't all wilted.


I've been completely obsessed with photographic printing, and have been using every spare moment to stand in my very cold garage workspace, testing out various combinations of printing times, new chemical washes, and other things that would bore you to tears if I were to write about them in detail.

(What was that? You're heartier than I give you credit for? Okay. How's this: I'm printing vandyke brown prints on Fabriano paper again, but I'm finding that my new technique (citric acid wash, 3% sodium thiosulfate fix, hypo clear wash, water rinse, and extremely weak selenium toning) is bleaching the highlights and overall depth out of my prints, even though the tonal relationships are otherwise... Don't slump over like that. Hey! Wake up! Stay with me! HEY!)

It's like that sort of panic I used to have on Friday nights, when I realized that I had less than 48 hours to myself, and I had to get all of the work I wanted to create out of that limited time period. I have been relentless. Tired, but also relentless. But it feels really satisfying. I feel like a person of substance again, and not just a commuter drone.

Anyway, I'm producing a lot of "new" work, most of which are prints of negatives I shot a long time ago but haven't ever printed, or haven't yet printed to my satisfaction. I am ready to show some of the new prints.

In addition to the two wet plate collodion on aluminum galleries I linked to previously at, I've posted two more: Signs of Chinatown (Cyanotype Prints), which I think I can say are some of the best cyanotypes I've yet printed, and Every-No Where: Mass Housing Part I, which is a combination of medium format color and black and white prints of large-scale, look-alike housing here in San Francisco.

Every-No Where was all shot at one site, but I am working at other locations around the City. San Francisco has a reputation for the variety of its architecture, but one of the odder things about that to me is the sameness of a very large percentage of the City's housing. I live in a house that was built in 1924, which once looked virtually identical to all but a handful of homes on my block. The homes have been modified over the years in various ways, but they were part of a project by a developer that used the same plan over and over... So the variety in my own neighborhood of the City is rather limited. You'll see examples of this in the future from me.


I recently realized how much time I spend cleaning house, and how much more art I could make if I used that time instead to print in my darkroom.

It's a very dangerous revelation to have.


I have a bit of food writing to do, but it will have to wait until I play with my prints a bit more.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)7:20 PM

Monday, September 03, 2007



tintype (ferrotype) of pincushion protea by A.E. GravesIn my private journals, nearly all I write about is photography. My compulsion to write about food is taken care of here. I usually use personal journals to vent stray trivia about work, my physical imperfections, my relationships, and my dreams for the future, but photography has somehow bumped most of that off the pages. If anyone were interested in my personal life and got a hold of my diary over the past few years, there are long periods of time when they'd be able to learn very little about me and my daily habits, aside from what I've been trying out in my near-darkroom.

[Yet, I'm singing the Smith's song 'I'm so sorry' or at least a piece of it:"You had to sneak in to my room just to read my diary, it was just to see just to see, all the things you knew I'd written about you, oh so many illustrations..."]

I have many passions in life, but certainly the one that is most boring to read about, and yet which I write about relentlessly, is photography.

Oh, how I love photography.

Recently I've been working in three processes more than others: POP (printing out paper) printing, which involves a silver chloride (rather than silver bromide) specialty paper; vandyke brown printing, as revealed with several new prints in my recently updated gallery at, and wet plate collodion on polished aluminum (ferrotype or tintype). The photo accompanying this entry is an example of one of my tintypes, which is an approximately 4" x 5" metal plate with a delicate positive silver image on the dark polished side. The plates are extraordinarily labor intensive to produce - I make coat the plates by hand with a two-part emulsion, and then expose and process it while still wet - but there's something about having this enormous, grainless positive appear in the fixer that is just amazing.

I've been renting studio time, a large format camera, and chemical access at the extremely fabulous Rayko Photo Center ( to do this, and it is completely addictive. (I hope to write more about that soon.)

My friend Jay happened to be at Rayko while I was renting studio time, and he watched me prepare, expose, and develop a plate. He quickly concluded that I was nuts, but he could tell that I was enjoying myself, which means that Jay is perceptive.

The happy news for me is that the session was relentlessly productive: I made 11 plates, and each one came out better than any of the plates I'd taken in the workshop weeks ago. There were two big differences: one was that I had completely reliable equipment, and so I didn't lose half my output to film holder problems, as I did during the workshop. The second is that organizer of the wet plate program there came up with an ingenious and well-tested rental lighting setup, which made all of my images come out as I'd hoped. I still have a lot of practicing to do, but I'm thrilled with the experiments so far.

I thought I had figured out the best way to make a POP print, but it turns out that modern photocopiers are much lamer than those I used in the past back in architecture school, and none of my tests this weekend with color copier negatives (which could achieve the midtones that the lame monochrome copiers could not) have lived up to my initial experiments. I'll have to try again, and get ready for another sunny weekend day to sunprint my images by hand.


posted by Arlene (Beth)9:27 PM

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

  Lomohome update. I added a few collections of "shots" to my Lomohome, mostly of plants or buildings containing plants.

There are a lot more images where those came from, but I'm going to update that site gradually.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:12 PM

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