09 Jul Early Photo Blog July 2001
July 1, 2001
A new month, and a new page. For your amusement, I present web statistics from davebeckerman.com for the week starting June 26, 2001.
General Statistics Hits Entire Site (Successful) 54,323
hits are not really important. each little graphic on a page counts as a hit. if you have a page with 100 little graphics and its looked at once, that’s 100 hits. people talk about hits as having some kind of meaning but they don’t…
Page Views Page Views (Impressions) 15,302
It’s page views that are important. When you view the home page, that’s one page view. When you click on the journal page, that’s one page view. Each time you show another picture to look at, that’s one page view. This is about average for me. The site has gotten as many as 22,000 page views in a week, and may get as little as 10,000 page views per week. But there is no advertising, and no banner exchange. Ninety percent of the people who find the site find it through search engines, usually looking for black and white photography.
Visitor Sessions Visitor Sessions 3,071
Now that is an interesting number. In one week, 3,701 individual sessions have occured. What exactly is a session? Say that you visit the home page (o.k. you’ve started a session) and now you view a few pages and move off to another site not to return. That’s a session.
Here’s a few more:
Average Per Day 438 Average Visitor Session Length 00:06:04
International Visitor Sessions 13.35%
Visitor Sessions of Unknown Origin 13.7%
Visitor Sessions from United States 72.94%
Unique Visitors 1,747
Visitors Who Visited Once 1,358
Visitors Who Visited More Than Once 389
More fascinating trivia — ordered nine 6 ft, by 2 ft wire grid panels from a company in North Carolina that I found on the web by searching for display fixtures. Each weighs about 20 lbs. My plan is to attach three grids together and put them at about 46 degree angles to each other, like a Japanese screen.
Once again, the secret was to know what the heck those things were called. I was searching the web for ‘grills’ and of course mostly getting stuff to cook hamburgers on. A nice woman in a nearby discount store told me the stuff was called ‘fixtures’. Ah. Eureka. I searched the web for ‘display fixtures’ and that was that.
* * *
Just came back from Lechters where I bought four plasticy bins for storing and transporting the framed stuff. I still haven’t found the right thing for the 20 x 24 inch frames.
I’m also not sure how exactly the 20 x 24″ framed picture will fit on the 2 ft by 6 ft grid when the grids are at an angle to each other. The other day, for the first time since I was in High School, I was trying to figure out how many grids I needed and how many would fit in the 10 ft. x 10 ft space, and found myself trying to remember the Pythagorian rule.
That was the first time in my life that something I learned in geometry was used (to my knowledge).
* * *
Just received word that my work will be shown at a Gallery in Westport on July 19th, which is the opening for the Westport Art Festival. Here’s the invite.
O.K. I’ve got most of what I need to do the show, but now I start thinking things like — what in the heck am I going to wear? I’ve been wearing jeans and tee-shirts and only have the one suit (which I call my funeral suit) which doesn’t even fit anymore. Of course artists don’t need to dress up, but honestly, that’s the first thing that popped into my mind when I got the invitation. I don’t even own a sports jacket.
I’ll go up to Westport on Weds. That will give me time to help with the ‘hanging’ in the gallery, and then I don’t have to go back and forth between NYC and Westport.
I’m done framing/matting. I’ll take some framing supplies with me to Westport. Its a lot easier to transport the stuff while its in pieces and do some assembly in the hotel.
It was a beautiful day in NYC today. Low humidity, and just crystal clear air. Was in Central Park for a few hours. I guess I’m still going back to my old haunts. I’ve always loved the North side of the Metropolitan Museum — the slanted glass wall that encloses the Egyptian exhibit. I’ve shot it many, many times, but there’s only one print of it that I like, which took place when there was some kind of event inside, and I was into this really grainy thing, and I’ve got one prin taken at night, looking into the museum, where you can just make out two men in chef’s hats. I’m always meaning to go back and find that negative and reprint it.
Anyway — today was also interesting, because as I walked up into the park, I noticed a glass repair truck. Oh, boy, I thought to myself, this should be good. They must be repairing the side of the Met. And as I came around the bend, my hopes were fulfilled. There were two sets of ladders with workmen leaning against the slanted mirrored surface, and some workmen hanging from ropes. I was close enough to hear one of the guys look at me and say, “Must be one of those fuckin’ reporters.” I thought to myself, those remarks will never be seen in the beauty of this shot, and ignored the remark. I took about five shots, but there is one that I remember well, and hope will turn out.
I’ve noticed in general that people don’t realize how interesting their own lives are. They wonder why in the heck someone would want to take a picture of them just doing their job.
Then I walked up to the resevoir, and for the first time the door in the building was open, and you could see through this building to the water. And of course, there was some kind of guard inside. And she came towards me, seeing me taking pictures of the interior, and I quickly said
— This is the first time I’ve seen the building open.
She looked me up and down. Everyone thinks your a reporter, or from some government agency.
— Really? She said.
And then checked that the door was locked, and walked away from me. I took a picture of her standing in the opposite doorway, silhouetted by the much brighter water. I missed not having the 35mm lens with me today for that one shot.
Received word yesterday that my work would hang in the gallery at Westport for the duration of the fair, and that I didn’t need to bring the tent and grids if I didn’t want to. Simply do the hanging in the gallery. So this kind of confused me because I had spent so much time figuring out how to set up the grids, and the canopy and all that. Maybe as many people wouldn’t stop by the gallery as would be on the street. But it was a nice thing to hear, and would make the event much easier to deal with. There will be five other artists on exhibit in the gallery. The Gallery
Making this change from computer programmer to photographer has not gone unnoticed by my psyche. In case you think this sort of thing is straight-foward — here’s a dream I had a few nights ago.
I dreamed that I was part of a scientific experiment — the idea was to take artists who had no real worth, and put their work up with other established artists. And the purpose of the experiment was to see if anyone noticed the imposter.
There’s a core, deep-down somewhere, which feels that there is some real talent, but there are also plenty of insecurities about it all.
Westport seems squared away now. At least I know what I’m doing. I won’t do the outdoor booth, but will bring my best stuff to the gallery, and bring along as many copies of prints as I can carry.
More shooting in Central Park today. A number of shots of people drinking water at the fountains by the resevoir. I guess that area is my favorite part of the park. Also some shots taken from the bridge that leads to the resevoir of girls on horseback. As they were approaching me, I had the camera to my eye, and waved at them. They all waved back and I took one shot. This was a split second sort of decision. The riding towards me wasn’t interesting enough. I must have had some idea of making it look like a postcard or something.
I’ve finished matting and framing and get to go out shooting again. I look forward to it in the morning, and may even have the energy to go out tonight and do some night shots, something I haven’t done in years.
Nine grids, which weigh about twenty pounds each, arrived this morning. Of course, I don’t need the grids anymore for Westport. Quite a workout carrying them up the three flights to my apartment. Now I need to take them back down again and get them to my sister’s basement.
* * *
Doing a lot more shooting these days.
* * *
From the age of fifteen to about sixteen, I was fascinated with photography. My family lived in a large apartment on Gunhill Road in the Bronx. Not a terrible neighborhood as far as Bronx neighborhoods go. There was a community center — the Mosholu Community Center — and I was involved in a program for teenagers — but it was filmmaking, not still photography. So I still can’t figure out where the idea came from.
I remember having a cousin who was going overseas to work in the Peace Corp…? Somewhere along the line he was going to stop in Japan. I knew, even at that age, that I wanted the Pentax spotmatic, but couldn’t afford to buy one here in the States. They were much cheaper in Japan, and after many months of waiting, my cousin returned with one for me.
Shooting in our living room, I had the idea of trying to make over my sisters (age 12 and 9???) into fashion models. I took an aluminum table and turned it on its side as a backdrop — and did what turned out to be high-key lighting — and a few of those 8 x 10’s survive to this day. But trying to remember where the impulse to do this came from? I know that there was a feeling even then of getting away from stictly posed — no I shouldn’t say that — posing was okay, so long as the person knew they were posing, and looked like they knew it. Not posing was better still. The instinct, was to reach into the being and preserve something real. Maybe there was a subtle understanding, that the camera could be used for more than just phoney snapshots of people saying ‘cheese’.
Maybe it was because, there was something mysterious about people, that I wanted to capture. Maybe, I knew, even at that age, how quickly time passes — how fleeting life is — or was there something more to it?
One of my first vivid memories of shooting, was when I was about sixteen — and it was at our kitchen table. My uncle (have I told this story before) — fascinated me no end. He was a very rough, sort of scary character who had been a bombadeer in WWII, and ended up spending some years in a P.O.W. camp. He cursed a lot, and was quick to anger. Probably the expression I remember the best was when someone honked a horn at him in traffic, he’d turn and say, “Blow it out your ass!”
This was pretty colorful stuff to a fifteen year old. Actually, its still colorful today.
So he comes to the kitchen table. Sits there talking with my mother, who’s standing at the stove or something. And I sit down next to him with a camera. I ask him, if he’d mind if I took some pictures of him. I’m sure he said something like, ‘what the hell do you want to waste good film for’? But he agreed. And using a 50mm lens at f1.4 (even back then I had a feeling of what a fast lens could do) — and I sat a few feet next to him, and just clicked away while he talked.
I especially liked it when he looked directly into the lens. There was a softness behind the gruffness. At least I thought I saw it. And years later, at his funeral, his kids had a sort of scrap book of pictures of their father and that shot shows up prominently. Taken by a fifteen year old kid at the kitchen table.
* * *
Have been walking more lately — but today was exhausting. Maybe because it was so humid, but by the time I had done my five miles or so, I was drenched and tired. Maybe its just too many people on the sidewalks during the weekdays because the same walk on the weekend went better.
I picked up four rolls from Duggal. These are the latest I’ve done with the Leica — and when I looked at the negatives on the lightbox I was quite amazed. Not only by the consistency of the exposure — big deal — but by how many shots were actually of interest. On the first roll that I looked at, perhaps half the roll was worth at least a work print! Not so much because of the technique etc. but because the compositions and lighting were so fascinating. I rushed down to a stationary store to pick up a book that I could use as a sort of diary of what shots were interesting on the lightbox and what shots would be interesting further down the line as prints.
In short, fully 1/3 of the shots are worth doing a work print of. This is amazing, since with the G2 and other cameras I would often find one shot worth printing per two or three rolls! Maybe this is all a fluke, but I don’t think so. Even the shots that were not that interesting, I knew at the time they probably would be a bore.
I’m also doing some fasting. During the last two years or so, I’ve been very inactive, and put on some weight, and now I’m trying to get back into shape for something — I know not what.
I used to be able to easily walk about 7 miles a day — sometimes with full camera pack and tripod — and I guess I’m trying to get back into that kind of shape.
* * *
Adams often compared photography to music. Printing, was like doing a performance. Shooting was more like composing. Anyway, what strikes me is that there are more similarities than that — because if you have a popular print, you are going to be asked to print it, or perform it over and over again. In this way, its really like those ancient pop stars who are still performing their best hits from the fifties. And although there may similarities to painting, i.e. both are using a rectangular two dimensional space to represent something else (is that vague enough?) — you generally don’t find painters doing the same painting over and over — the same style, the same subject, yes — but not literally copying their best hits.
* * *
Another naive and obvious thought that struck me is that the gallery needs your art as much as you need them.
* * *
Work at the ad agency, which I’m away from for three weeks or so, is fading in a mist. The closest image is of Kafka in his law office — papers stacked around — trying to find a stretch of time to write. It was amazing how he carried on this double life for years — I don’t remember what type of lawyer he was, but I don’t think it was criminal or corporate. At least in his diaries which I read years ago, it seemed very tedious. Yet he created some of his most lasting work during that period. Sort of like the fantastical art that came out of the repressive paranoid times in Russia. I guess I’m thinking of Master and Margarita… Gogal etc…
Repression may not be all bad — in that it forces the artist to transfigure things into new abstractions. Arthur Miller’s ‘The Crucible’ comes to mind.
* * *
Apologies for this theoretical nonsense.. but I guess I’m trying to bring up the level of this journal from just bitching about matting and framing.
Have been reading or rather skimming through, the daybooks of Edward Weston again… was kind of curious what they would seem like now, after my own sojourn into the field. There is remarkably little about actual technique. And odd things come up — that many of his exposures were as long as 5.5 hours! And most of the trouble he has, is keeping the little shells, or whatever the heck he’s photographing still during that time. There are always kids and women around, and it all seems like a French farce most of the time. I understand that film speed was quite slow then (say it was asa 12), and that he was working only with available light — and that this is with an 8 x 10 camera and a slightly telephoto lens, and he wants all the depth of field… there are remarks here and there that he may have been shooting at F256!
Yikes. Sometimes, I really ask myself if the guy knew what he was doing. I know that’s blasphemy…
He also doesn’t talk much about why he is doing what he’s doing. Maybe that’s asking to much. Maybe that’s supposed to be obvious. The things I remember are (this is all paraphrasing)
‘the artist should be a craftsman’ and work hard, and work with everything he’s got. (maybe, but sometimes you can overdo it and lose the fun)
‘the actual subject matter doesn’t really matter’ — he is very upset when Steiglitz (this is the second time around) isn’t crazy about some his work, saying that it isn’t really modern. Steiglitz was sort of the emperor of fine art photography back then — and both Adams and Weston took the pilgrimage (sp?) at different times to see the King.
At any rate, later on, Weston gets a letter back from a friend who had shown his work — I’m not sure what — but probably vegetables etc. or the shells? — and he is upset that Steiglitz can’t see how the subject itself is not important. Its the idea — the forms — the composition — the light — that are important.
But Weston, and Adams, who were then rebelling against pictorialism, kept talking about doing what photography was good at — i.e. depicting things. Deep focus! No fooling around. Show all the details of the object (of course if it wa a paid portrait you might remove some of these details). But if this approach is to be taken seriously, isn’t the actual object that you are photographing of supreme importance also? O.K. perhaps, he was saying that you can be modern without photographing modern or contemporary things. That is certainly true — But why not try photographing something modern as well? Oh yes. Now that I think of it — he does. I remember a very fine shot of a bedpan (for one thing).
You know what… maybe he had a point. Maybe you don’t need to shoot modern things to be modern — but now I don’t even know what the point of being modern was…
And as I lose the thread, I’m going to setup the darkroom now. Its been a while, and in addition to two orders that are waiting to be done (one for over a week) — I’m hoping to do a few test prints of what I got back from the lab yesterday.
* * *
Obligatory prints are done with — although I must admit, that this printing of Night Chess may be one of the best I’ve done so far. I’ve been using FB/VC paper, and have also changed the dektol from 1:3 to 1:2 (a few months ago)… and perhaps this is why the print has more luminosity — or maybe I’m just printing it a touch lighter?
Then had a chance to print something new — I had about thirty possibles to choose from, and decided to try a shot of a manhole cover with a black pipe running across it. Wow. I really like it. Tones are all there, and the composition, naturally a found composition, seems somehow audacious. Anyway, the fumes were starting to get to me and I was running out of steam, so that was all I printed from the new stuff today. I will say, that when I first pulled the manhole cover shot from the soup, I was quite dazzled.
More time in Central Park — this time took out a row boat and used it to shoot back towards the shore, in the plaza (I don’t really know what it was called) — there were some Spanish Dancers, and I shot them from the sea so to speak. At least that’s what it felt like. Also a guy who somehow managed to put a full double-sink, onto his bike and ride past me. I didn’t really get the right angle. And then a few hours shooting the Alice in Wonderland statue which I’ve always loved. And there was rain, and clouds coming in and out, and it was all relaxing. I really do feel like I’m shooting better and seeing better than I have in years.
Printed the manhole cover with pipe running across it, and put it into a mat, and just have it lying under my enlarger admiring it. I don’t really want to go through all the damned trouble of numbering things anymore. Its is so artificial. How about simply putting a date on it and let it go at that? The stuff that I’ve already number will unfortunately have to stay numbered, but the whole limited edition thing is grating on my nerves. I think that for images that haven’t been sold yet, or seen for that matter, I’m simply going to sell them as is, un-numbered.
Anyway — I’m on a good streak now and look forward to going out shooting again tomorrow. Perhaps rent a rowboat again. Perhaps a series of shots from the boat. I missed not bringing the 35mm lens with me today — and from now on am going to travel with all three lenses.
Have been doing a lot of shooting lately, mostly in and around Central Park. Walked into the Museum of Modern Art to find that some new-fangled sculpture — sort of big sheets of wire drapes, were hanging inside covering the inner spiral, which is to my mind the most interesting part of the architecture. I muttered something to myself like, “damned stupid artists” and left without viewing anything further. I was mumbling, “let’s get to the park where they don’t do such stupid artsy things”.
More work with sprinklers in the park. Mist and trees, etc. Rainbows. One funny moment with a turning sprinkler which I was timing to shoot just as it would point at me — and when it got around to me, it got me and the camera good and wet.
I guess its just been a really mild summer so far — really unusual. I am now without any money coming in — as my vacation time is over — and so have received my last check. Felt a little scary — but good.
Someone I hadn’t seen in a long time met me and said, “I hear you’re trying to be a successful photographer — how wonderful!”
And others winced on hearing that description of what I’m doing.
“An artist cannot fail; it is a success to be one.” ~Charles Horton Cooley~
The framed prints are wrapped in bubble-wrap and ready to go. I have rented a Blazer SUV for Westport, but I don’t think there’s going to be enough room for all the prints. Probably should have rented a mini-van. I figure I can always change at the last minute.
Noticed in the supermarket that they have some kind of ‘bonus club’ which gives discounts on groceries. That ‘bonus club’ has been around for years, but I never noticed it before. I guess, now I’m starting to count pennies.
I leave Weds. for Westport. Thursday is the opening. As those who have been reading these journals know, this will be the first time my prints will hang in a gallery.
Here’s one more quote that I like:
“The artist’s world is limitless. It can be found anywhere, far from where he lives or a few feet away. It is always on his doorstep.”
Fooled around with the prices of the open editions again yesterday. What I found in the past was that many people would buy prints at the $30 level, even though you often didn’t get the real feeling of the print at that size. And very few people would buy prints at the next size up for $50. So I made a kind of compromise, by removing most of the 5 x 7’s, and lowering the price from $50 to $40 for the 8 x 10’s. This seems like a pretty good compromise. At any rate, I think the idea for me is to keep the number of sizes offered to a minimum. However, what I am thinking about, is selling the same print ‘unmatted’. This saves me a few bucks on the mat and overmat, as well as shipping charges.
Heard from a photographer who did the Agora gallery show — who said he hasn’t sold anything through them yet. That doesn’t sound very promising.
Got the SUV to take the stuff up to Westport. I was going to use it to take the grids (9 grids) to my sisters house — she has some storage space in the basement, but it took us a while to figure out how to get the hatch on the car open. Anyway, she was reading the manual, and I was going up and down the stairs with the grids (I live on the third floor), and it was plenty humid. I would carry two at a time. When I got down, I would see her still reading the manual. I don’t know, could be we’re both idiots — but I couldn’t get the hatch open either. I think this stuff happens to everyone with rentals. Anyway, eventually, huffing and puffing, I get the last of the grids down to the car, and she’s managed to get the rear hatch open — and we pile the grids in, sticking out the back window. And then we sit down in the front and she turns to me and says, “You’re never goin’ use those things, are you?”
I’m kinda pooped at this point, and can’t see myself dragging them around to the next fair. Just too damned heavy.
I say, “Do you think we can get rid of ’em somewhere?”
This is NYC — you can’t put ’em in front of your apartment, ’cause big stuff like that is picked up on Tuesday (I think?) and we had definitely missed the pick up.
So we basically ride around the upper east side with 200 pounds of grids, looking for a place to just dump ’em.
Did you ever have anything with bad karma? These grids were just bad karma. They had to go. We stopped by a construction site, and I got out and asked a guy, “Hey, want some nice grids? I got ’em right here in the car?”
He looks at me like I’m nuts.
We drive on.
Eventually, we come to a nice quiet street — I won’t say where exactly — and we both jump out — my sister is a whiz at opening the back door by now — and in two minutes those nice new never-been-used grids were stacked against a garbage bin — and we were out of there. Sort of a reverse heist, I guess. I know I kept lookin’ in the rear-view mirror to see if we were being followed. But we made it out of there okay.
Tomorrow morning, with the help of a few friends — I pack up the car with framed pictures — and take off for Westport.
“So we loaded up the truck and we moved to Beverly,
Hills that is, swimmin’ pools, movie stars!”
* * *
Westport, or how I stopped worrying about Sales and learned to love oblivion
When I arrived in Westport with my SUV filled to bursting with prints, and drove past Main Street where the art fair was to be held, I noticed that the Gallery was not on the same street as the Art Fair. It was about a block and a half away — up a slight incline, and there was no line-of-sight between the fair and the Gallery. No way that was good.
Nevertheless, maybe there would be so many people that they would spill out of the place where all the art was, and flow uphill. Of course, people don’t flow uphill any better than water flows uphill.
Once inside the Gallery, I was given three free-standing panels (one side only) to hang my prints. The panels were black. Also not good since my frames were black. I crammed in three prints to a panel, but only the center three were at eye-level. I ended up with about nine large prints, each about 4 inches apart, and was also given a corner where two walls met, to put some smaller prints. I have to admit, that once again, it was not the way I pictured it. Directly behind the panels were tools and what nots for framing. Not the elegant look I was envisioning. I guess I could have gone with one print per panel — but that would have given me three prints total — and wasn’t the whole idea to show something that was representative of my work so far? I left after the prints were up, and took the ride back to Norwalk to some place called the Garden Hilton — there were no gardens that I could find, and I had an overwhelming feeling of sadness. Maybe this was just some opening night jitters. I found myself in the afternoon visiting graveyards in Norwalk.
The opening reception on Thursday night was packed. However, most of the activity centered on what wines were available and I remember thinking that if I could have had my work behind the bar — I would have turned a nice profit. I spent most of the night answering the three questions —
1. Where was that shot taken?
2. Where was that shot taken?
3. Can you tell me where you took that shot?
Somehow, I expected more sophisticated questions.
I don’t drink, and in trying to fit in, discovered that the bar was serving Cranberry juice. Sort of looks like wine, so I began drinking cranberry juice all night. But it was starting to make me sick to my stomach.
A guy, who I later discovered was a painter (Bill), noticed me answering the same questions over and over and said to his date that tomorrow he would be answering the same inane questions. He told me that I should start answering questions with questions. If someone said, “Where was that taken?” I should respond with, “Where does it look like it was taken?”
I tried this on one elderly couple. The woman asked me, “Where was that shot taken” — [never mind that I think most of the prints actually say where they were taken in pencil on the lower left hand corner] — and I smoothly replied, “Where does it look like it was taken?” And she said, “I don’t know, that’s why I asked” and got a bit huffy and moved on to get a refill of Chardonay 1957.
I didn’t know anyone at the reception, and didn’t know anything about what they were talking about — mostly rowing, and the stock market — and couldn’t really find a place for myself in the crowd. Every once in a while, the owner would walk by and say, “Mingle”. I would mutter, “I’m mingling, I’m mingling.”
But I am not a mingler, and never have been. I can be fairly entertaining at a dinner party, where you can sit around and make conversation — but I found myself trying to feign interest in rowing and wine.
Someone said, that their son or daughter was getting ready for the ‘nationals’ — and the only thing I could come up with was that it was horse racing — National Velvet? And I said, are they a jockey? And they looked at me like I was the alien from the Bronx (which I was) and said — “No, the Nationals are rowing championships. Rowing is very big out here.” I had noticed a lot of rowing on the river during my morning walks, but it must have been for beginners, because no one was going very fast, and there was always a little boat nearby with someone yelling things at the students. I didn’t know if the boat was there to save them in case they tipped over, or whether this was instructional.
Although there was some very big (size-wise) art hanging on the walls — I don’t remember anyone looking at it except by accident, as could happen to anyone who wasn’t careful. I mostly stood by my prints and if anyone looked mildly interested, I would say, “I’m the guy who shot these things. If there’s anything you want to know… any questions…”
– I have a question.
– Where were these taken?
A real-estate developer came up to me at the bar, and I told him how I had been doing computer programming and now was trying to make a living with photography, and he asked me if I had studied the Torah? I said something like, “Not really, I was a secular Jew.” Which basically meant I wasn’t exactly an Hebraic scholar.
He then said the only actually surprising thing I heard in the four days that I was in Westport:
“You know, that the highest purpose according to the Torah, is to create art?”
“Really, I did not know that.”
I wracked my mind for instances of Talmudic artists, but nothing came to mind. Were the guys at B&H Photo all secretly artists?
And he said it was so.
And that he wondered if he could use my artistic eye for something. He then talked about a development he was working on, and how he needed someone to do something… something that he couldn’t do because he wasn’t creative at all… and would I bring my camera with me tomorrow and meet him in front of the Gallery.
I wasn’t sure what he was asking me to do, but I said, “sure”. He shook hands with me and said with a grand gesture, “You’re hired!”
Hired for what? Well, whatever it was, I was ready. Maybe I wouldn’t sell any pictures, but would become a real-estate photographer.
That night, I left the party early, and slept very poorly. As far as I could tell, I hadn’t sold any pictures, and had been hired to do something with the camera, but wasn’t sure what.
The next morning, I arrived in front of the Gallery, and was waiting there when the Gallery owner arrived. She mentioned, casually as she was opening the door that three of my large prints had sold, the night before after I had left. I thought to myself — fantastic — my expenses are covered. Anything else is gravy. And I also wondered whether they had sold BECAUSE I had left? Possibly I was a jinx, or simply people didn’t want to buy things when the artist was around.
He was a “very big client” and he had bought three prints.
Well now. Maybe I was an idiot. Maybe I just had to go with the flow. Things were looking up.
And then the real-estate guy arrived, and I went outside and he was there with his contractor and they were looking at the facade of a nearby building and talking about how to get the display area further out to the street. He said, “You have a good eye, what’s your input?”
Was this what he had wanted advice about? Anyway, he got into a fast-moving conversation about the arch and building codes, and which way a door should open, and how much display space could be gained if they moved a wall, and I just stood there feeling quite dumb about it all. Finally, I said, “I have to get going. I’ve sold three prints and I need to get back to the hotel to pick up some more.” And he said that he wanted to take me out to his new development, that’s why he had called me down there, and was again asking whether I could take pictures that would show a certain color, and was pointing to a shade in the stucco of the store, and I was feeling lost again about what he wanted, and just said, “No. That’s not really for me.”
I still have no idea what he was talking about and guess I never will.
And so I headed back to the hotel to pick up more prints to replace the ones that had been sold.
When I returned with the prints, I told the assistant there that maybe it would be a good idea to keep the big red ‘sold’ stickers on the prints, so that it would give people a sense that something had already been bought, and would give them confidence that they weren’t alone in making their purchase. In fact, I was thinking that even if nothing was sold, it might be a good idea to do this. Sort of like priming the pump.
I left the Gallery and went to do some shooting.
Now it’s Saturday morning and I drive into town, and see the whole Art Fair being set up. It is huge. Over 100 exhibitors. The painting is very middle of the road stuff — flowers, landscapes, copies of various artists styles — oh, there’s someone who can do what looks like Renoir. There’s one that looks like Monet. There’s one that looks like it was done by a psychotic out-patient. Someone told me that unless “there’s a horizon line in the painting, it won’t sell in Westport.” I began to wonder whether I had any horizon lines in my prints? “Promenade” had a sort of horizon line — that should do well.
It’s about nine-o’clock, and its already 85 degrees. I walk up to the gallery. It seems even further way from the fair than it did when I first rolled into town. There are some beautiful girls at the entrance of the fair handing out flyers, and driving people into the main street — but I don’t see anyone walking up towards the gallery.
The painter that I had met at the reception (Bill) , and five other painters are setting up tents outside the gallery. Well, one tent is in front of the gallery, but a few smaller tents are down the block in front of what appears to be a dress store for teenage girls. I have a few wheely things to put my prints on, but no tent. I look for shade from a pretty barren tree, and bring my work out. I’ve been told to try and get people into the gallery by having some of my work outside.
During the first three hours, I would say that about ten people walk by. And even if they’re mildly interested, they’re not going to buy anything until they go to the fair first. And once they go to the fair, you never see them again.
There’s a sense of good-humored pessimism amongst the artists that I’m with, and we dub our encampment, ‘Little Siberia’.
Directly across the street is a bank with a large digital clock / thermometer. We stare at the clock as the temperature begins to rise. As the sun moves, I move my wheelies around following the shadow of the tree, to try and keep the prints cool. If anyone does walk by, they stop to look for a fraction of a second at my prints, but then there attention is grabbed by either the dresses, or the shoes or a big cage of turtle-doves that are nearby. One person is holding one of my prints in hand and asks me,
“Are those turtle-doves?”
“No that’s Central Park”, I say, feeling the first symptoms of sun-poisoning.
And I don’t notice any kind of spillover from the fair being sucked uphill to us. Nothing. Nada. Sometimes an entire hour will pass before someone strolls by Siberia. One of the artists says that really this should be called Alaska, since we’re not part of the contiguous fairgrounds. So Bill and I sit there under the tent, and drink water, and exchange the stories of our lives, and look at the digital clock / thermometer across the street, and as they said in the opening to Cassablanca — “we wait, and wait, and wait…”
Eventually, somebody comes by and wants to see more of my prints. I take him into the gallery. I notice that the red ‘sold’ stickers have been removed from my prints. I ask the assistant why she removed them, and she tells me that the person who had bought the prints, had come back the next morning and changed his mind. Its not like he had taken them home and seen that something was wrong with them, or they looked differently. They were still hanging on the panels in the store.
What could have happened? I like to think that he realized he needed the money for rowing lessons for his kids.
I’m outside again in the blazing sun. The glass in the frames is really acrylite. What’s the melting point of arcylite? What happened overnight to change that guys mind? What do you think could have changed his mind? Why am I here?
The thermometer hikes up another point. I think I notice steam coming out of one of my pictures…the glass has clouded up — I rush along with the other artists to move the pictures back into the shade. According to one Elizabeth, there is moisture in the mat that is starting to turn into steam.
My thoughts are running together, and now my family is arriving. My father and sister walk up the hill and see me wilting with the prints. This is getting embarrassing. My sister asks me how its going, knowing too well that its not going, its melting. I tell her, that in my humble opinion, its a disaster. An utter disaster!
There’s nobody around. All the action is down at the fair. I take them into the gallery to show them how the work has been hung. We’re the only ones in there. They just shake their heads sadly. My sister, who had managed to get me this ‘gig’ through a friend — apologizes to me. They stay around for about an hour, but its too painful to watch.
Eventually, I meet someone (I know you’ll be reading this but I forgot your name) who knew me from the web site, and has been keeping up with the journals. He purchases ‘Steps of Met’. My first actual sale. A little later, or maybe it was before, I’m pretty much sunstroke at this point, I sell a large print of ‘Midnight at Grand Central Station’. From the small band of artists out front, I’m the only one who’s sold anything so far. Bill, my new painter friend is praying to sell one painting.
“Just let me sell one painting. Please. Anything. Even a little one.”
I ask him if he’s religious. He says no, but he’s slowly becoming religious. He has one small painting of someone ‘rowing’. I urge him to put that somewhere prominent (and the next day he does sell this one).
Saturday, I go back to the hotel, having survived 8 hours in the sun. [I actually did quite a bit of shooting while I was in Westport — and I think did some interesting work. Mostly graveyards which seemed somehow appropriate for my mood. And one very promising shot of two kids in their pajamas dancing on a window ledge in Starbucks.]
The final day. Sunday. I arrive with the bright idea of making a sign and mounting it on top of the SUV. Bill thinks this is a smashing idea. He and Elizabeth (another member of Siberia) get together and make a huge sign, which we then tape to roof rack of the SUV. It says, “ART SHOW” with an arrow pointing to where we were huddled under the tents. At least we’re trying something to attract attention. We are saying things like, “Perhaps we should take our clothes off and lie naked down the center line of the road.” We’re toying with the idea of mugging someone should they happen by, but no one happens by. One of the slogans I remember was, “FREE SEX” and in smaller letters, “with your spouse”. And another idea was “FREE PARKING” which all parking was anyway.
There’s some construction going on across the street, and Bill and I rush there and swipe the orange road cones and put them in front of our tents so that cars can’t park there, and someone comes out with that yellow police tape, and we’re taping this stuff all over the place. I tell Bill that all we need now is a chalk outline on the sidewalk. Because this is truly beginning to look like a crime scene.
We decide that if the cops ask us what we’re doing with the police tape and the traffic cones, we’ll say that officer Mauldoon gave us permission (Mauldoon is from car 54). The manager of the teenage dress shop says that we would do better if we put the SUV with the sign on the opposite side of the street — but if I do that the arrow on the sign will be pointing the wrong way, so I drive to opposite side of the street and park the car in the wrong direction, facing traffic. Now we’re going to cause some kind of rubber-necking accident. Bill notices that the cops have stopped by and are about to write a ticket. I rush across the street. The officer says, “You’ve got to turn the car around”. Well, I can’t exactly turn the car around, so I drive it back across to our side of the street so its facing the right direction.
Bill says, “I owe him for that. Once the cops pen touches the ticket book, they must write a ticket.” I tell him that Group Siberia had already agreed to split the ticket with me if I got one.
Well, there were a lot of other things that happened that might be funny if they weren’t so sad. I did end up selling a few more prints — so in total I sold five. Two were sold to other artists who were out there with me. One was sold to a Canadian who must have gotten lost on his way to the fair. At 4:30, I packed it in — and all the care with which I had originally packed things when I went up there was thrown to the wind, and I threw stuff in the back of the SUV — exchanged emails and phone numbers with my fellow denizens of Siberia — and headed for I95 like a bat out of hell.
I do want to say, that the only thing that made this tolerable — were the good-natured painters who were out there all day. There was plenty of gallows-humor to be had — and by and large they all seemed to take it with more grace and understanding than I was capable of. Thanks to Bill — Elizabeth — David — don’t remember the other’s names — but it was fun to sit around and talk about Monet, and hear stories about Picasso, and have someone to grouse and complain with.
* * *
Just for the record — the prints that sold at Westport were:
‘Midnight at Grand Central’ (not on site)
‘Steps of Met’
And one other one which I can’t remember.
Print that drew the most questions: ‘Girl and Giants’
Print that almost burned up in the sun: ‘Night Storm’
Print that drew the most ‘oohs and ahs’ : ‘Promenade’
The prints that were sold and then unsold: [read previous entry]
Midnight at Grand Central
* * *
Dropped off 7 rolls of film at Duggal this morning. This is part of my ritual of walking the 4+ miles to drop them off, and then 4+ miles to retrieve them. Very muggy this morning during the walk, but after Westport, the walk to Duggal was a piece of cake.
I now have a backlog of about 20 new prints that are at least doing a work print of — things that I’m very excited about. Actually, I haven’t been this excited and eager to explore my negatives in years.
I may stop the limited edition thing for all new prints.
Here are a few pictures of ‘Little Siberia’ a.k.a. our little corner of the Westport Fair:
If you look hard, you can imagine the crowds…
* * *
Here’s a preview of some of one of the new pictures that I’ll be adding to the site…
Man With Sink
Bench And River
* * *
The only chips I like are those made out of sliced potatos. Lately, nearly everyone that emails me something has some virus attached to it.
This morning I go to scan a few negatives in with my Sprintscan 4000. Normally you put the holder in, and at a certain point it catches and the scanner pulls it in. Of course this morning it never catches. Windows 2000 says that there is no scanner attached. Hmmm. I haven’t changed anything since last night when it was working fine. I haven’t touched the scanner, installed any new software, touched the cables, or anything else.
So I pick up the Leica and go out. As I’m walking down the street, I gently press the shutter to check exposure, and voila, no lights turn on. The batteries must be gone. Weird — batteries are only a month old. [The new TTL model of the Leica has a pretty weird way of turning the camera off — you need to set the shutter dial to ‘off’ AND the camera should not be ‘cocked’. Of course I always cock the shutter after taking a shot so that I’m ready for the next shot. So either the batteries were low to begin with, or this thing really drains batteries if its on.]
Could something have happened last night? Was there some kind of electromagnetic wave that went through the house?
The printer has been on the blink also. First off — it has been ‘banding’ for months now. Printing every other line or something. Then it I start getting ‘connection’ not found errors. But they are sporadic. It might have something to do with AOL Instant Messenger. Seems to work better when Instant Messenger isn’t loaded.
Don’t you wonder whether all this efficiency that was suppose to be the result of computers has been realized? Are we spending just as much time making sure that the tools of efficiency are working? Are we going forwards or backwards?
Everyone on the upper east side has been wired to these little devices — palm pilots, organizers, phones, beepers, and soon to come, I’m sure, electronic implants in the cranium. After all, wouldn’t it be more effective to have the little gizmos in our brains, than having to wear them on our hips?
And then those out-patients from Bellvue who have been complaining that the CIA has implanted transmitters in their teeth, will turn out to be prophets.
And o.k. I realize the irony that I’m using this technology to broadcast these thoughts… and computers have been used to manufacture the lenses that I like to use and the cameras etc.
When I was a kid, if the radio went bad, you could open it up and see which tube had blown, or even get a little gadget to check tubes. I was about eight years old and could usually figure out which tube needed to be replaced. Now, when the radio goes bad, you generally toss the whole thing. That’s progress.
I was at the park today, roller-blading. Enjoying the pleasant summer day. I notice a father teaching his son how to skate. I watch them for a while, thinking about how my own father taught me to throw a ball, and I’m thinking how idylic this is. The father seems to be doing quite a bit of instructing. I have my walkman on, and can’t hear what he’s saying, but he is certainly giving some very thorough instructions to the kid. This whole thing is taking me back to thoughts about how these arcane skills are passed on from father to son — and I’m thinking of what skills are being passed down to sons in tribes in Africa, and my thoughts are wandering and I find myself skating closer to the father and son. As I approach, I take off my headphones, and say something like, “Nice day. It wasn’t that long ago that I was learning.”
The father looks at me closely, and at my skates, and tells me that I should really remove the automatic brake I have on the right skate. That its very important to at least raise the brake, or I’ll never learn more advanced techniques.
And instead of being relaxed, he’s very intense about it. Damn, I think, just another guy trying to foist his ideas about perfection down someone’s throat.
I ask him what advanced techniques he’s talking about. He tells me things like, cross-overs, and stop-spins, and a few other things that I don’t remember. And now, as I look at him closely, I realize that he’s not the kid’s father, but a professional blade instructor. And my whole picture of this scene fades to black.
First off, I never asked for advice. I know that what he is saying is exactly true. But so what?
Do I do the same thing with people? I too have ideas about what is a good way to learn photography — but I don’t think I give advice unless it’s asked for — and I always preface things with ‘What are you looking to achieve?’
Just received the postcards that were made up as invitations to the Agora show. Not bad, but not great either. They were done in four-color — of course the original print is black & white — and there’s a touch of sepia in parts of the print (Marsh, Central Park). Also, the size that they’ve indicated for the print is wrong (4″ x 6″) — but I guess it gets the idea across. Kind of my own fault — they wanted more money to get a ‘proof’ done first, and I decided to try and cut that expense, plus proofing took longer, and I wasn’t sure I’d get ’em in time. C’est la vie.
I’m doing a day a week at the ad agency as a consultant. If I had to depend solely on the sale of prints, I’d be on welfare in six months.