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The Hidden World of the Nearby

Equipment


Not too fancy.

I have an engineering philosophy which is to pick the least expensive and easiest way to build the first version of something. (An example was using the overhead flourscents to light my flower pictures. They, of course, worked perfectly since they are the best of their kind. But I was still surprised.)

For a view camera, the analysis was rather careful in terms of bellows draw, swings and tilts, and a rotating back; for $175. It was not perfect but worked well. Putting it all on a pack frame and it was comfortable and I had two free hands. Wore out one camera and got another just like it.

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Photography had been a part of my life from the age of eight when Dad brought home a 4 by 5 Speed Graphic for me to tinker with. From then on I always had a camera of one kind or another. After seven years in engineering at Bose Corporation I moved into marketing and advertising which was very good luck, for I got to work with the best photographers in Boston who were using view cameas to make images for the advertisements I was creating.

Along the way I had seen exhibits of dye transfer color landscape prints and they almost felt like a new kind of life form. The color looks unbelievable even today.

However, although I call myself a landscape photographer that is misleading in two ways. My two most popular images, Dreamed Brook and Spring Sunrise I, were gifts from mother nature for I was looking for something quite different as I think you will realize in browsing through my galleries.

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When I discovered Eliot Porter’s Redbud Tree in Bottomland and then found my own redbuds on the Mass Pike I began to see nature differently and eventually realized what I was attracted to was texture made from details which I would then compose into an image. This was, of course not always possible but the butterflies I felt upon seeing the pointillist budding trees on the Pike I will never forget, nor the time I spent trying to find a way to photograph them other than the guardrail on the Pike. I failed at that and had to make friends with guardrails. Whether this was a good idea you have to decide. The image below is representative of images made in early spring.

Early Buds on Maple Trees I

Early Buds on Maple Trees I, Interstate Highway 90, Weston, Massachusetts. May 1982 cat. 4841

Printer


The reviewer for the Boston Globe called me a virtuoso (and put me in the same bottle as Art Tatum and Vladimir Horowitz – both icons of their respective professions) yet decided neither of us could be listened to or viewed more than once: we were too perfect.

Given the number of recordings each of these musicians has sold it is obvious the reviewer did not understand what was going on. As I began to develop a portfolio of images I decided that the only way to make good prints was to have my own dye transfer lab and to make them all myself. In 1978 I spent one year building a lab specifically designed just for dye transfer printing. It is a difficult process requiring eleven black and white films made from the original transparency before color is added. You can see a print being made by me in my lab. From 1978 until Eastman Kodak discontinued the process my assistant, Michael Conrad, and I made thousands of 20 by 24 dye transfer prints. We also made 32 x 40 dye transfer prints, but that is another story.

Dye transfer was a victim of the digital revolution but I was not about to adopt a giclée Iris printer with a print life of about two years. So I began a search for a pigment transfer process. This was an expensive multi-year adventure with three different processes. I tell this story under pigment printing.

In the course of this work I was hired by EverColor® of Sacramento to be CEO of their printing company. I moved EverColor® to our lab in Worcester and renamed it EverColor® Fine Art. The process was an adaption of the Agra Proof process but using specially chosen pigments (at about $125,000 per color). The quality of the prints and their life under illumination (one year in the California sun resulted in zero fading) was spectacular. However, much to my chagrin (because I had noted some of this difficulty while visiting in California but dismissed it as something we could fix) the process had a fatal flaw when printing large smooth areas. The processing was done by a so-called “roller transport” machine which meant ultra fine dots of pigment traveled over rollers. In busy prints (like mine) this was not a problem but in areas such as open sky, the smallest variation in pressure on the pigment changed its area and hence the intensity of the color.

Agfa went so far as to make us a machine with rollers and gears of stainless steel rather than plastic, and air-freighted it to us. (My guess was that it was at least the size of four side-by-side home refrigerators).

However, this issue became irrelevant when when Agfa discontinued the process, also because of the encroachment of digital. I fell back on a high quality digital “C-print” laser printer while waiting for the new pigmented ink jet printers to reach maturity. This happened in 2005 with the Epson 9800 printer. I now print on a ten-color Epson P9000 that approaches the quality of dye transfer prints in the most vivid colors and exceeds it in a number of areas.

Dye transfer and the Technicolor movie film process were identical in principle. The “Tech” in the name was inspired by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where Herbert Kalmus and Daniel Frost Comstock, inventors of Technicolor, received their undergraduate degrees in 1904 and were later instructors. (See History of Technicolor.)

The image below shows me rolling on the last of three matrices. The yellow and magenta matrices have deposited their color on the right. Under my hand you can see the result of rolling on the final cyan matrix. It is just barly possible to see the four register pins imbedded in the granite that position the matrices so the three dye images are aligned properly (in register).

Rolling the cyan matrix. Note the full color image to the left side.
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