A Photographic Day

I mean it was really the perfect day in every way.

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I went to the Eastman House in Rochester to continue to pull photographs to illustrate my forthcoming book with Oxford University Press.  I really went looking to illustrate two different chapters, one about gum bichromate printing, and the other about wet plate collodion.

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But I am not sure that is what made the day so good.  It was fun to look at some gum prints from the Pictorialist era, and certainly some nice wet plate negatives too.  In the end, however, the romanticism of the Pictorialists got a little thick, and prints are more interesting to look at that negatives.

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I met up with a friend I haven’t seen in too long, and we went out for Indian food for lunch.  We went back to the Eastman to pull some pictures for pleasure viewing, Edward Weston and Eugene Atget.  And Laura McPhee – scheduled to speak at the Eastman House last night – came down, and the three of us spent the afternoon looking at pictures together.

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The Weston photographs were sublime.  Deeply moving.  The best part of the afternoon.

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I left for a bit with my friend, and we took a little more time to catch up.  It really had been too long.  After a great, great time together, we headed back to the Eastman House to watch Laura’s lecture.

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The lecture was really interesting.  Laura talked about her early influences in Emmet Gowin, Frederick Sommer (also an important early influence of mine), and also in members of her family.  I’ve known Laura for years, but never heard her speak about her work.  It was a treat, and very inspiring.  After the lecture , we were invited to dinner with Laura and some of the curators and staff from the Eastman House.

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All mischievous smiles are honeymoons
What are small conspiracies but the binding of hearts.

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Over dinner and wine, we all talked about photography, art, technology, education and creativity.  There were so many different voices and perspectives on the subjects that the conversation was wonderful.  We all seemed to agree that if/when all of photography becomes digital it will be a tremendous loss to the depth of the medium.

Edward Weston - Dunes, Oceano, 1936

In my mind, I keep coming back to the Weston prints of the dunes.  Weston’s prints are remarkable objects, and there is an essential quality and subject in his work that simply can’t be seen in reproduction. I was speechless and deeply moved standing in front of them.  And it was such a treat to share this moment with such a good friend, and also with a photography that’s been both a hero and mentor to me for years.  It was the best kind of photographic day.

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