Hitting Stage Two

May 27th 2010: New Work, Travel

Germany is not a very big country, but makes up for that by being about as densely populated as a mall on Black Friday. It’s half the size of Texas with four times as many people. You have to put up some serious effort if you want to get lost. Walk 20 minutes in any direction and you are bound to find a path, a road, or a town. Because of the short distances and the limited space, the roads are narrow and the cars small and efficient. As a result, many Europeans living in the US become obsessed with the American road of life. The seemingly endless stretches of highways and landscapes between places. The diversity between the American cultures at both coasts and the country in between. The true bear and wolf wildernesses. And the big cars with their massive engines. I’m one of those Europeans.

Inspired both by my own desires and by the example of photographic heroes like Stephen Shore and Robert Frank, I will be driving across the US to see and experience *everything*. A two and a half months trip covering 12,000+ miles, split into three legs. A journey
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The King is Dead, Long Live the King

May 24th 2010: Thoughts, Travel

A long plane ride will not only transport you from one world to another physically, but also mentally. By the time you arrive at your destination you have shed your old self in anticipation of the new environment, the new you. As you soak up your new experiences the old ones fade very quickly, feeling strangely far away. Once again in my old stomping ground, city by bay, city of light and fog, San Francisco, it is hard to believe I just spent the last three months in Buenos Aires. In Argentina. In South America. How quickly time passes. It both felt long and short. Being in a well known place I am both pleased to, for once, have familiar surroundings, but I also admit to missing the excitement of the foreign. So, looking back, what is the conclusion of this trip?
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Better Travels

Feb 21st 2010: Travel

I hate to admit it, but the services airlines charge extra for these days are worth it. After having a great experience the first time I started making a point of paying the upgrade to Economy Plus whenever possible. The extra leg room, a standard ten years ago, allows me to stretch my legs and it’s amazing what a tremendous difference that makes on arrival. Instead of being sore, stressed, and exhausted I land relaxed and ready to enjoy the day. Traveling economy-ish never felt so good. And there are additional perks: you are usually in the first boarding zone, the over-head compartments are not as crowded, and on Virgin America you get free snacks and movies (usually paid services).

My suitcase full of rolls of film has freaked me out over the last few days. All those little canisters. That has to look suspicious! Even though already armed with a letter from the TSA justifying why you cannot check undeveloped film and a long rehearsed speech to give to the security guy’s supervisor, I decided to pay for United’s Premier Line security service. The fee was peanuts if you consider the value of all that film. Best airport security experience evaaar! Walking past long lines at the overcrowded security check point I got into a short line where instead of the one overworked security guy five of them were just waiting and ready to help me with anything. And there was no pressure to get through security! No one pushing you. No mother’s with their toddlers giving you the “you better hurry or my baby will eat you” look. No guard bitching at you for not taking off your belt. No “IT” inspiring nightmares. Instead smooth, stress-free sailing. As for the film, it stayed rather long in the x-ray machine but given that at threat level orange there are more important things to worry about, the officer let it pass without any further inspections. Best security experience ever! And worth it. This time at least.

Now I am relaxing in the waiting area with my favorite Peet’s drink and two full hours to spare. And I keep wishing that there was a way to sit by myself in quiet, without the bleach blond, L.A. woman next to me telling her bestest girlfriend in a loud and unflattering voice how many romance novels she has read in the last two weeks alone. Next stop: business class lounge. I wish. Lottery tickets anyone?

Update: made it to BA without any problems. At customs they looked at my suitcase full of film and then recommended I should switch to digital. Haha! Only bummer is that the TSA found my developer in my checked baggage and confiscated it with a nice note telling me I shouldn’t send Hazmat material on the plane. It’s only $100 worth, but I doubt this particular developer can be found here. It’s not even produced anymore. Live and learn.

The Most Important Show Yet

Feb 16th 2010: New Work

This past weekend Jeremy and I had another exhibit which reminded me why I love the Bay Area so much: it is the winter month of February and the sun is shining, it is actually warm, we hang out outside at our show, a grill provides lunch, friends come over with beer, random people pull up with their bicycles to investigate or are dragged in by Otis. A fantastic afternoon. We sat about with the deep feeling on satisfaction of having pulled together yet another show and just enjoyed the day.

After our last show in October Jeremy and I have made considerable progress with our individual work and wanted to take the opportunity to show case that work before I’m taking off next week. As both projects are still evolving, this “Work in Progress” is meant to be a mile marker along the way, a checkpoint, a first accomplishment. And yet, if I dare say so, it’s also has been our most important show yet as this work is already turning into our most interesting, most challenging, most personal work to date. Although I guess that’s true for every show: the latest is, or at least should be, the greatest. Would you like the new and improved model? Of course you would. So keep coming back!

19,000 Blank Canvases

Feb 11th 2010: Travel

This is what pure potential looks like!

The silver grain of 19,000 blank canvases waiting to be exposed to the light, frame by frame, over the next few months. And then waiting to be developed, their emulsion swelling from the liquid, until the unexposed salts are being washed away by the fixer to reveal the final image. Can you feel the film? Can you smell the fixer? Very, VERY exciting.

There can be no more fitting beginning to this blog than showing the “before” image: 500 blank, unexposed rolls of Arista Premium, a wonderful TX400 substitute. They’ll be traveling snuggly tugged away in my carry-on suitcase straight down to Buenos Aires and hopefully won’t raise too much suspicion with the TSA.

During my studies over the last three years I exposed almost 200 rolls of film, where about two thirds of them were shot in the last year alone, usually five rolls a week. Dedicating myself full-time and shipping 500 rolls to BA will allow for 3-4 rolls per day. It’s hard to gauge whether that’s way too much or way too little. At $8 a roll in BA (vs $2.50 in the US) I’m hoping it to be a conservative estimate. Keep in mind that Robert Frank shot 28,000 images for The Americans over a period of 8-9 months and I think I should be set.

The film will easily impose itself to be the biggest component of the traveling camera equipment. Their companions will be one beloved Leica M7, the heart of my equipment and my most precious belonging, two Leica lenses (50mm, 35mm), one light meter, one Canon S90, one laptop, one film development tank, and two litres of Rodinal film developer. Apart from the film, it will be light traveling indeed. Clothing and other secondary items will have to travel with the checked baggage.

These rolls of film are a great example of what I am setting myself up for, providing some indication of magnitude, and represent what I am excited to spend the next year of my life on. But as I generally despise equipment posts, I promise to keep them to an absolute minimum going forward. German beer promise!