Saturday, February 28, 2009

Cloning the Past

(Above) “Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling”, 1527 by Hans Holbein the Younger
(Above) “Portrait of a Young Girl”, 1460 by Petrus Christus
(Above) “Maria Portinari”, 1470 by Hans Memling
(Above) “Lady with an Ermine”, 1490 by Leonardo da Vinci
(Above) “Portrait of Margaretha van Eyck”, 1439 by Jan van Eyck
(Above) “Girl with a Pearl Earring”, 1665 by Johannes Vermeer
(Above) “Portrait of a Chambermaid”, 1625 by Peter Paul Rubens

Rainer Elstermann is a Berlin commercial and fine art photographer who did this series he calls the “Old Masters” (how about that for a title, huh?) and recreates these art historical paintings with… children. What he has come up with is a 21st century spin on classical art. It’s fun.

Have a great Saturday.

Friday, February 27, 2009

The “Dark Room” Is In Use

(Above) Come on in.
(Above) Photographer Scott Ferguson and unidentified friend.
Above: The Dark Room is cultivating a new audience of young art directors, designers and photographers.

Click on any image for larger view.

(Above) This scene, with the last spike of sun just before the sky turned black, was on-screen for exactly 3 seconds. I was lucky.
(Above) Definitely click on the above pic.
Click on any image for larger view.

Above: The house is falling.

IT’S ALMOST 1:30 am AND I AM FALLING ASLEEP, but tonight my wife and I watched The Wizard of Oz (1939) in it’s entirety to the music of Pink Floyd’s 1973 album, The Dark Side of the Moon.

It was at FK Photo, run by Mark Katzman and Scott Ferguson. The Dark Room is a part of FK Studio, a large party room that is beautifully designed—and the ultimate place to get to know folks in the industry. Why, I even met a beautiful young woman who claimed to be a descendant of Robert E. Lee? Wow. I was seriously impressed. I had to sit down. The movie was about to start.

Anyhoo, the film was projected at least 20 feet across in Blu Ray, Hi-Def. The quality was AMAZING. Fifteen feet in front of me the quality was just about like a giant print. Except it was moving. I knew I was seeing something special.

Because the image was Blu Ray Hi Def, I started shooting images right off the wall with my digital camera. I was just blown away by the incredible sound and images and the detail I had NEVER seen in this film before. After all, I remember seeing the film for the first time it was shown on color TV! That was analog euphoria. This was hi-def euphoria.

Some of these pics—to me—very much mimic the haphazard style of many snapshots I like. Additionally, what I like is the way these pics are so familar, but way darker. And even scarier than I remember.

If you have seen the Pink Floyd music and video—let me know what you think. Was this an accident, or an intentional Pink Floyd mind freak? I say it is an accident— that we’re locking onto the occasional coincidence—forgetting all the places it doesn’t match.

The Dark Room is a private room, a part of FK Photo in St. Louis. FK Studio can be reached at 314.241.3811.


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Mark Katzman and the Wet Plate Process

This is Mark Katzman’s camera, which has a portrait lens made in 1860.

Click on any image for a larger view.

IN THE FALL OF 2006, NOTED ST. LOUIS PHOTOGRAPHER MARK KATZMAN decided to use an obscure photographic process called “wet plate” collodian process to photograph the people on the street outside his studio. Many of the people he photographed were on their way to or from the St. Patrick Center (a homeless shelter) just down the street. When I asked Mark about this series, he said: “You know, I was overlooking the fact that some of the greatest faces I had ever seen were right here—walking past my studio every day.”

The wet-plate collodion process, commonly referred to as an Ambrotype, requires the emulsion to be hand applied to a glass plate. The photograph must then be exposed and developed before the emulsion has a chance to dry. For this process to work outside of the studio Mark used a custom portable darkroom installed in the back of his Suburban. Most subjects stayed for only one single photograph before continuing on their way.

The images are not only strikingly different than most images you see today, they expose the flaws, ripples, uneven surface and unique suface of each image made. No two processes are alike. There is always the chance you will develop something too little or too long—and the plate itself must be carefully prepared. Not only that, the process uses deadly chemicals, specifically potassium cyanide for “fixing” the image to the glass.

Mark’s images in this series are fabulous, rich and deep. I was fortunate one day about a year ago to have my portrait made by Mark Katzman in this wet plate process. I thought it was so interesting I decided to use this as my photo I.D. on my blog.

Katzman is a highly published photographer, and one of the most important collectors of vintage antique photogravures in the United States, and perhaps the world. He has a Web site that is devoted to the art of the photogravure. It’s thorough and educational, and you’ll want to go there. It’s called Art of the Photogravure.

A special Web site about Mark’s wet plate Ambrotypes, like the ones shown above, can be found at

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

H2O in Cast Iron

THESE WATER METER COVERS—we’ve all seen them, are in every small town and big city in America. Fabricated and cast in iron by foundry’s in every state, there is no telling how many different designs there are.

I am sure readers of this blog have stopped from time to time to marvel at the design of their big brothers—manhole covers. Think of these as “mini-versions” of such. Each are about 6-9 inches in diameter.

It’s amazing how good something looks on a well-made stand!

They were spotted some time ago at Splendid Peasant Antiques in Sheffield, Massachusetts.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Michael Noland: Imagine the Fantastic

Click on any image for a larger view.

I FIRST MET MICHAEL NOLAND nearly 15 years ago at an obscure little folk art auction in Columbus, OH where I had gone to review and and possibly bid on some stone sculptures by the artist Popeye Reed (1919 -1985). There were some questionable items at the preview, the most obvious being a 4” tall stone carving said to be carved by William Edmondson (1875 - 1951). Everything about the piece was just wrong, besides the fact that Edmondson did not make tchockies. The time for the auction of the item was at hand, and as the item was described, the auctioneer used his words carefully but obtuse enough in hopes of starting a fierce bidding competition.

That’s when a booming voice from just behind me interrupted the auctioneer with: "EXCUSE ME! Are YOU saying that in your PROFESSIONAL opinion as an auctioneer, that you are standing behind this object as a William Edmondson?? I mean, this object is no where close!” It was a beautiful moment. I think there might have been some applause as the auctioneer attempted to answer with more “uh’s” than the actor Jimmy Stewart in Frank Capra’s film You Can’t Take It With You. It’s not everyday you get an auctioneer tongue-tied. The item was passed on, to my memory.

Well, later I had to meet the man who was responsible for this auction-interuptus and I walked up and introduced myself. It only got better when I caught a glimpse of a tattoo on his arm and as he raised his sleeve, I saw a glorious tattoo of one of self-taught artist Martin Ramirez’ stags. We have been close friends ever since.

Mike’s work as a painter has made him one of the most watched Chicago artists in the last two decades. Mike’s work emerges from the Chicago Imagists tradition, yet he has a style that is recognized as uniquely his own.

The imagery in Mike’s work stems from his childhood in Oklahoma, where tornados, tall tales, horse trading, record-sized catfish, buffaloes and desert flowers were rich source material for his creative life. Besides being an accomplished artist, Mike Noland has one of the most original and passionate collections of folk, self-taught and outsider art in the United States. As an artist, curator, published writer and collector, Mike Noland is truly a multi-dimensional person. Did I say he was also a husband and father of three great children?

Mike’s work is represented by several galleries, including the Tory Folliard Gallery and the Philip Slein Gallery.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

A Mega Horn to Shout About

Click on images for larger views.

FOR MUSICIANS, MUSIC BUFFS OR POP CULTURE ENTHUSIASTS, this 19th century hand-painted mega phone (or, mega horn) would be a fine addition to your collection. Lyrical and authentic, this piece is a fabulous object. You can find it at “East Meets West Antiques” in Los Angeles. It’s made of metal and leather and comes with the stand. The length of the horn is just under 2 feet. Painted on the side is the word “SWANNEES.” The price is $2,650.— not cheap, but then again—there’s only one of these.

East Meets West Antiques
160 North La Brea Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90036, USA
Phone: 323-931-0500
Fax: 323-931-0564


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