Wednesday, August 30, 2017

redoing the past

Midway through the 1960s I was looking for a career change. I enrolled in a commercial photo course given by a school in New York's financial district.  Toward the end of the program, I bought a boxy case to hold the matted photos I had made during the course, and I took that on job interviews.  I did get a few job offers, but the ultimate outcome of the undertaking was that I decided I did not really have much of an aptitude for a career in photography.  I did learn some useful things about photography, however, and I liked the pictures I made from that time.The negatives from my photo school days were all lost over the years, but I did hold onto my portfolio case with some of the mounted prints I had kept.

I was nearly ready for retirement when I finally got back to doing some more photography.  I shared some of my early digital work on and I decided to make some copies of my New York pictures to put on line as well.  At the time I did not want to cut up the big matte boards on which I had mounted several projects, so I just made digital pictures of the individual photos using a primitive Epson digital camera.  That seemed a good idea at the time, but looking at the pictures on years later I saw that the images were very small and of rather poor quality.

I decided that I would like to have some better digital copies of my early work, so I set aside my nostalgic qualms about cutting up the mattes so that I could copy the individual prints on my Epson flatbed scanner.  The outcome would have been better had I held onto the original negatives, but the new digital copies are quite a bit better than the ones I made originally with the little digital camera.  The photos in this series were made with a Nikon S rangefinder camera.  The film was likely Tri-X.  The pictures were shot over a period of several weeks on the streets of New York's Chinese community.




Jim Grey said...

That's some wonderful, classic street photography. Well seen and well composed!

JR Smith said...

Some really fine work here Mike. Even though you say you would have had better results if you were working with the negatives, I think the scans from the prints add to the gritty feel of good urban street photography. Thanks for sharing these.

Mike said...

I remember working hard to get good prints from these pictures. I did the processing and enlarging at home in my Brooklyn apartment kitchen. The night pictures were particularly challenging because the dark areas and the middle tones seem to fall apart if not handled just right. However,I still had a lot to learn about printing. When I moved to San Francisco I started using the community darkroom there that I think was on upper Market Street. I finally figured out at that point that I needed to adjust my exposure in the enlarger so that the image could fully emerge in the developer without pulling the print too soon and compromising the tonal depth.