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I ~ Finding My Way

Engineering, Marketing, Photography, Printing

Epiphanys seem to come out of the blue. My first was while I was working on a master’s degree in solid state physics at MIT and doing a dissertation on semiconductor magnetic sensors. Half-way through I realized this was a mistake and as a teenager in audio I had the bug. So who at MIT was working in audio but Prof. Amar Bose.

So I knocked on his door. He took me to his lab, I looked around and said “I‘m home,” and it completely changed my life. I found myself recording the Boston Symphone Orchestra and generally having a ball. Nevertheless I finished my master’s thesis and started on a Phd with Amar Bose as my faculty advisor. I finished all requirements for the PhD except for the dissertation and so came epiphany number two.

After 7 years at MIT, 2 or 3 more was out of the question. It was a great place, but tension and anxiety were a part of the life. My father, in his dream for me getting a doctorate would not let me leave MIT even for a good summer job. There are limits.

So I told Prof. Bose seven years was enough and about 10 seconds later he said “Do you want a job?” but I wanted to be certain.

So I interviewed around the country for a month, had two good offers but Professor Bose was a special person and even though an alternative was to work with a world-famous acoustician on concert hall design.

Prof. Bose who by then I knew very well was too strong a pull and I became employee no. 5 at a very tiny Bose Corporation. It was one of the best and most important decisions in my life.

Photography was still a casual hobby but there was more free time and not a schedule with problem sets and exams with hard and fast dates.

Then after 7 years in engineering I was asked to move into marketing and life turned inside out.

During my years in engineering I became familiar with dye transfer printing and that triggered something. The prints overwhelmed me with their realism aND beauty. Then I attended Eliot Porter’s exhibit, Intimate Landscapes at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Porter was an inspiration (and a dye transfer printer).

At Bose I was asked to move from engineering to marketing and began creating advertising worked with the best professional (always large format) photographers in Boston. I bought a 4" x 5" view camera, mounted it on a pack frame with all its accessories and began hunting.

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I gave up golfing, decided that to be competitive I would eventually have to make my own dye transfer prints and spent every spare minute looking for things to photograph. I roamed New England a fair amount but working for Bose had an advantage. They sent me west on business trips and a Bose friend in Salt Lake City lent me a van so I could explore some of the famous national parks. That was an important lesson when I realized you had to live near where I photographed in order to be at the right place at the right time.

In 1978 I built a lab in my home just for making dye transfer prints. No compromises because unless you did it my way, anything and everything could go wrong. Eleven sheets of black and white film (separation negatives, color correction masks, matrix film) and all had to be in register, precisely aligned so the three coclors of dye lay exactly aligned. I eventually developed the capability for 32" x 40" dye transfer prints. I am not aware of anyone making such prints outside of a processioal lab.

Finding my way never stopped. Part I above is kind of a preface. 2 to 5 below more of a table of contents. Shooting, marketing, printing, printing technology: I don’t really know how I kept it up. Without Michael Conrad, no hope. I will try to expand as much as I can on each of the topics but it really would take a book.

2 ~ What, Where And When


The Bose business trips exposed me to Brice, Canyonlands and Arches National Park as well as Anchorage Alaska. Later exhibits in Lousiana and Georgia gave me opportunities to shoot the Smokies Shooting turned out to be mostly Massachusetts and Maine, but there were at least a dozen or so other states, two trips south through the Smokies and an assignemtn that took me to Arkansas, Oregon, and back. And a few other shorter trips (Arizona, Alaska, New Mexico, south to Florida and Lousiana and a few others.

In 1983 I worked out an arrangement with Bose to work half time, in 1987 I opened a gallery and lab in Worcester, Massachusetts and in 1990 began devoting full time to photography.

Printing turned out to be a career all by itself and I describe those adventures under printing. along with stories of where I most like to photograph and the style I had developed.

By 2005 climate change was having an impact and I had published the second of my Walden/Thoreau books. About that time the clock ran out on the view camera. It was time to find new subjects and to go digital. Now in mid-2021 in my 80th year the job is to fill out this website and find a permanent home for my work.

3 ~ Two Side By Side Careers

Shoot & Print ~ Print and Shoot

For me, photographing and printing when hand in hand. There was no such thing as handing my work to a lab, even the best lab.And over the years I learned by the number of artist’s proofs I made.

Lighting was critical: always the same (5K) color temperature, adjustable intensity when possible; then look, study and reprint; look study and reprint.

It was especially hard in dye transfer days since it took a days work to print a new image, then another day or more to optomize it. Today it’s a dream with digital, but it often takes just as long. I always offered no-questions-asked print replacement and it happened only once: print did not fit the color scheme of the room.

What you chose to photograph reasonably accurate color photographs onto powitive transparency film.

For the most part the leading photographers were taking pictures of something with an inheritat interest, whether it be a mountain or a group of peppers. And if the medium was black and white, there was infinite expression possible in just how the print was made.

But there was frustration with making color prints. Not only was there little one could do in making the photograph (filters and polarizers did help) but prints were of dubious color quality and there was no reasonably easy way to control the contast and color saturaton. That changed with the invention of dye transfer printing (Technicolor movies were the same technology) where the three primary color layers in a negative or transparcy were separated and now by several different means the image could be adjusted (or manipulated). And since printing was done with pure dyes, rather than with papers containing chemicals that tured into dyes during development. It was a tricky process (I had to make 17 black and white films before I could transfer the dye to the paper. I chose to use it because of the control and quality of the image it offered. I built my own darkroom devoted from the ground up to making dye transfer prints.

Dye transfer still holds the record for intensity of color, although the latest digital prints due well enough that the final result is more than sufficient for the vast majority of images.

4 ~ Digital Descends

Shooting My Feet Out From Under Me

So here I was in 1978 using a process developed in the 1930s because it was the only process that put me in the same position regarding how the image looked as black and white printers.

Then my world fell apart: digital arrived and in 1993 Kodak stopped making dye transfer materials and the we either went digital or went out of business. Digital cameras were horrendously expensive, digital printers were not yet adequate. We continued making dye transfer prints with the extra paper and chemicals we had, and we bit the bullet and laid out $35,000 for a drum scanner. Then came EverColor.

With the termination of dye transfer there followed a period of confusion.

1. None of the printers using dye based inks, such as the Iris printer, had adequate light fastness. The Iris was good for abut two years. Attempts at improving it were only marginally successful.

Three pigment transfer processes were underdevelopment:

1. Ultrastable Permant Color Prints from a one person company in California. We experimented with this process for two years finally producing a dozen or so good prints. The process was finicky snd when we finished our experiments were told that all the materials had been revised.

2. Meanwhile Polaroid was experimenting with its own process and deonstrated it for us, but it was far from ready.

3. In California, Bill Nordstrom assembled a group of angel investors in an effort to the Agfa Proof proess, normall used for making proofs for commercial off set printing to adapte it for fine art printing. It seemed ideal in that it used a cumstom machine feor processing and deposted dots of piagents onto mylar base with not left over contaminents.

Agfa agreed to make runs of special pigments to improved color quality and 'EverColor was establishedd. We dod ex[ero,emts woitj tje [rpcess amd ot appeared promissing. Then I was offeredd the position of CEO of Evercolor, accepted and moved the company to Worcester, Massachusetts.

However, despite early very promissing results including outstaanding light faastness, for some images (this with areas large areas of uniform color,) the roller processing achine left traces of uneven pressure as bands of color variation. While attempting to solve this probelm, Agfa disconginued the process because of the competion of digigtal printerss. The investors in EverColor declared bankruptsy and closed the business.

The only process left was something called the LightJet that exposed conventional chromogenic papers with lasers. It produced excellent prints but with the liitations in light fastness of chromogenic dyes. Fuji produced a paper, Crystal Archive, that gave suprisely good lightfastness, but I considfered igt insufficient. I closed the Worcester business and for ten years made occasional prints on the Light Jet at the E.B. Luce lab in Worcester.

5 ~ Digital Lands

Landing On My Feet

In the meantime Epson was showing better and better results with its pigmented ink jet printers and in 2005 I purchased the model 9800. This procuded excellent results. I have since upgraded to the 9900 and now the p9000 which produces excellent images and, with the latest inks, excellenet lightfastness. I expect this will be my final printer.

This short summary cannot convel the turmoil and costs of the down-time and expderiemmtal effort attempting to find a satisfactory printing method.

The p9000 will print on almosst any material with maximum width of 44". Hundreds of papers and canvas materials are available. The downside is that with dye transfer we had almost no competition, the process was too difficult. Now, however, only the quality of images and skill in preparing them for printing were issues.

A documentary photograph is not usually intimately dependant on how it is printed. A fine art landscape image is. Although this opinion is not shared by all photographers I believe it is evident in my prints.

Having seen in the early 1970s examples and exhibits of dye transfer prints and seeing the results of other processes (C-prints, Cibachrome, direct positive prints) I concluded that I had to make my own dye transfer prints.

I began photographing in 1974 and in 1978 decided it was time to begin printing. I watched a Bill Butler, an expert printing, make a dye transfer print. However, it was clear it was a complex process (ultiately I made 11 black and white sheets of film before adding dyes) and often photographers failed when they tried make “dyes.” Since a critical part of the process was temperature control and registration I decided to build a lab especially for makeing dye transfer prints.

This involved a rocker table for dying matrices, an electronic temperature controller for developing separation negatives and matrices, a large vacuum fram for holding matrices in register, a special negative carrier for the enlarger to keep separations in register, and an enlarger firming anchored (in my case to the major support beams of my home). It took me a year and the help of a professional machinist.

Under the menu item “PRINTING” is a gallery of images of a slide show we made in my lab of me making a dye transfer print.

Eliot Porter, when he meade his own prints stayed with relatively small 16" x 20" prints. Because the details of texture were important to me I began with 20" x 24" prints and later added 32" z 40" prints, something very rare out side profession labs. In fact, as dye transfer was being phased out, we were contracted to finish an order for 32" z 40" Eliot Porter images.

6 ~ A Never Ending Adventure

More Processes and a new company.

Dye transfer was a so-called “dye imbibation” process and was the same techology used for Technicolor movies and is the only reason "Gone with the Windæ," "The Wizard of Oz" and other filsm from the 1930s retain their brilliant color for the original images were preserved on three black and white separate negatives.

However, Technicolor was expensive and Kodak switched to color negatives in the early 1950s which have all fraded out of existance.

Kodak continued to make materials for dye transfer printing until the early 1990s when digital technology made it obsolete. I made dyes from 1978 to 1995 and then began an odessy that lasted for ten years.

7 ~ Places and Subjects

That I Loved

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