Archive for the 'Behind The Scenes' Category

What’s Behind the Glass Wall?

Posted by on Jul 09 2011 | Behind The Scenes

Any visitor who comes in through the main entrance of George Eastman House will notice a large glass wall to the left. Through this glass you can see the Richard & Ronay Menschel Library, curatorial departments such as Motion Pictures, Photography and Technology, and a staircase that leads down to two more floors. While you don’t need to make an appointment to visit the Library (especially this summer, when due to a shelving project we are all enjoying a rare treat of the Library’s photo and cinema books and magazines temporarily relocated to our Entrance Gallery), you do need to make one to visit the archives that contain our spectacular collections.

 From time to time, we host visitors where I work: the Kay R. Whitmore Conservation Center. A few weeks ago we took a small group of friends interested in preservation ‘behind the glass’ and one floor down for a special tour of the photograph conservation laboratory. The purpose of this visit was to raise awareness of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s challenge grant.  Here’s some of what they saw:

 

 

A view of the Kay R. Whitmore Conservation Center.

 

 An accelerated tarnish experiment testing daguerreotype enclosures.

 

 

The Conservator’s tools of the trade.

 

Conservation practices at Eastman House are critical to the care of photographs we have in the collection, exhibit in our galleries, or loan out to other museums. When the department was established in 1974, it was the first of its kind dedicated solely to photograph conservation. For nearly 40 years, our conservators, fellows, and interns have contributed to the preservation of history and culture — through photographic objects — at Eastman House and at institutions around the world.

In the Whitmore Conservation Center, we conduct research and report findings on Notes on Photographs , in journals or at conferences. We also hold workshops on historic photo processes for collectors, artists, curators, members or anyone interested in the history of photography (we even get a chance to go one more floor down to see choice examples in our photography collection). Eastman House is helping to ensure that photographs made since the beginning of the medium in 1839 through today will exist for as long as possible in order to visually tell our collective stories— and its these stories we love to share and discover behind the glass wall.

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John Deere Tractor Green Carbon Printing

Posted by on Apr 25 2011 | Behind The Scenes, Other, Photography

I had a small group last week for the carbon photography workshop, which made it easier for me and unusually spacious in the darkroom for the participants. Though no matter how few people you have making carbon prints though there never seems to be enough hot water, so calls of “more hot water” were regularly heard in the darkroom for three days.

We made the first batch of carbon tissues using casting frames, coating rods and our fingers so that everyone had the experience of trying different ways to make the tissues. After everyone made their initial exposure tests and first prints we made two new color batches of pigmented gelatin and prepped other support material; watercolor paper and glass.

David Developing Carbon

 

Drying Tissues

 

‘John Deere tractor’ Green Orotone

 

My demo in action


One of the colors that came from this freedom of extra time was a sort of John Deere tractor green. We also made a lovely cool blue tissue. One of the participants wanted to make a carbon transparency on glass and at the time thought he had chosen the blue tissue. He was really surprised when we turned on the white lights during the development and saw that his beautifully made transfer was actually green. When the plate was dry I held a sheet of bronze coated paper behind the image so the group could see how it would look as an orotone. The green wasn’t so bad.

 

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Eastman House restores “Local Color”

Posted by on Mar 18 2011 | Behind The Scenes, Exploring the Archive, Motion Pictures, Other, Student Work

One of the great pleasures in working for George Eastman House, and in my particular case the Motion Picture Department, is the opportunity for rediscovery. In the cold storage vaults here we house tens of thousands of films. The classics are many – Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz are  just two that are often noted.

But by and large the collection is made up of thousands of films that film history has forgotten or ignored in the years and decades since their release. Now I’ll be honest some of these films have been forgotten for very good reasons. Sh! The Octopus, anyone?

Still others have been forgotten and neglected for reasons not of their making. Wonderful films that in some cases were trampled when American audiences were captured by the birth of the blockbuster. In 1977 filmmaker Mark Rappaport released Local Color.

"Local Color," 1977

Film Critic Roger Ebert called this funny, and melodramatic tale of the interconnected lives of New Yorkers “a strange and wonderful movie.” Shot in black-and-white, Local Color has the look and feel of another NYC-based film that would appear two years later, Woody Allen’s Manhattan. But like many films released in 1977, Local Color would never have a chance to find its wider audience as another little film steamrolled across American movie theaters. That film was Star Wars.

 The role that George Eastman House plays in Local Color happens 30 years later when Mr. Rappaport decided to entrust the original negatives of Local Color to the Motion Picture Department. Received in 2008, Local Color was almost immediately on our preservation radar.

By now Mr. Rappaport was a well-known and respected independent filmmaker of the 1980s and 1990s. Many of his films had garnered a following, but prints in screenable condition were quite rare. Initial inspection of the material also revealed something very troubling. The original picture negative was exhibiting signs of “vinegar syndrome.” Long-term exposure to above average temperatures and humidity cause film made on acetate film stock to give off an acetic acid, vinegar-like smell. This is usually just a sign of deeper problems. Film naturally shrinks over time and vinegar syndrome can expedite this process. The film can become warped. The photo emulsion can become soft causing the image to loss definition.

 Luckily for us and the film, preservation funding was obtained through the Avant-Garde Masters program funded by The Film Foundation and administered by the National Film Preservation Foundation. We worked with the Los Angeles-based laboratory Film Technology to preserve Local Color.

 Along with the original elements, brand new negatives now sit in our cold storage vault. New projection prints have been struck and are just beginning to make their way to screening venues. It is appropriate that our new preservation of Local Color was screened recently at Anthology Film Archive in New York City. Hopefully those audiences were able to rediscover the charms of Local Color.

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Eastman House experiencing and “working at” AIPAD in NYC

Posted by on Mar 18 2011 | Behind The Scenes, Other, Photography

Go ahead, be jealous. I DO have the best job in the world.  How many other people can spend three days looking at 82 booths bursting with photographs and call it “work”?

It's the first day of AIPAD 2011 ...

 I’m in New York City for the annual AIPAD photography show at the Armory on Park Avenue. AIPAD is the Association of International Photography Art Dealers, and the fair brings dealers from around the world to New York City to sell everything from the finest vintage photographs to head-turning contemporary work.  Dealers bring what they think will sell, and each year their selection differs.

I have been to AIPAD shows in which I saw the same photograph in ten different booths; that’s not the case this year.  Yes, if you are looking for Ansel Adams’ “Moonrise Over Hernandez” or one of Aaron Siskind’s images from his Levitation series, you will have several places to compare prices. But by and large, there’s not a great deal of replication this year, and that makes for an interesting exhibition. 

Vintage photography "rules" at AIPAD.

Yes, vintage rules at AIPAD, but there are contemporary highlights to be sure. One of the first booths you’ll see is that of the Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery, pictured here. Bryce’s gallery, located in Chelsea, represents artists from the Helsinki School, many of whom are incorporating new technologies into their photographic work, with great success.

Contemporary work showcased at AIPAD

 

Thousands are gathering today at the AIPAD fair.

Fun, too, to see the work of friends of George Eastman House on display. The Weinstein Gallery is featuring the work of Alec Soth, the Monroe Gallery is presenting the work  Steven Wilkes, Steve McCurry is well-represented by the Fetterman Gallery, and there are four galleries showing Alex Webb’s work – all these photographers have lectured at Eastman House in recent years. And the Julia Saul Gallery is exhibiting the work of Debbie Grossman, a native of Rochester whose photographic career is really taking off. 

For those interested in photographs as historical documents, there are few better places to be this weekend than AIPAD, where you can find photographs from the Civil War through the present day. A couple galleries, including Gallery 339 and Galerie Priska Pasquer, are sharing the work of contemporary Japanese photographers.  In fact, at Galerie Priska Pasquer, proceeds from sales of the work of Lieko Shiga are being donated to Japanese relief efforts.  Shiga’s home and studio were destroyed last week in the earthquake and subsequent tsunami. Sort of puts it all in perspective…. 

 Back to the show … if you’re here, hope you’ll say hello!

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Daguerreotyping at Eastman House

Posted by on Mar 03 2011 | Behind The Scenes, History, Other, Photography


I’m just now packing up my head stand and posing table to take home after the daguerreotype workshop last week. We had a great group here with people from all over as usual. Mike Robinson and I haven’t taught together for years, but it was like the old days back in the mid-1990s when Mike, France and I taught the first process workshops here at the museum with Roger Watson. The images made during last week’s workshop were extraordinary. Todd Gustavson showed the group gems of the technology collection including American and European daguerreotype equipment and Joe Struble laid out an exhibit of rare daguerreotypes I had chosen the week before. The whole experience was as magical as the process.

Daguerreotype of me posing for Mike Robinson.

 

Workshop attendee David Vogt sitting for the camera.

 

 David’s Daguerreotype.

 

Joe Struble and attendee Paul d’Orleans amazed by the results.

Mike and I will cross alternative process paths again this summer in July. France and I will be teaching the Dawn of Photography workshop [photogenic drawings], followed by a workshop on the Wet & Dry Collodion processes at Fox Talbot Museum at Lacock Abbey, Wiltshire, England. The reunion will be complete because Roger Watson is now the curator of Fox Talbot Museum. As we’re packing up from the collodion workshop Mike will be prepping for a Daguerreotype workshop he’ll be teaching the next week.

As for me, it’s on to carbon printing next…!

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