The Great Re-Print of 2015

Yesterday was the first day of the great re-print of 2015. Actually, yesterday was the second day of the great re-print of 2015. Monday, the 6th of July was supposed to be the first day of said reprinting, but I left my negatives at home when I headed out for school. Jeff, my department chair, called me a "dumbass" when I told him what I had done.

I am just coming off of a sabbatical. It was an amazing experience. I took some graduate coursework from the art department at Mankato State University, including some graduate photography hours with David Morano. There's a lot to say about how positive the experience of working with David was for me. It will probably have to go into the sabbatical report and not a blog post. Suffice it to say that I had been very stuck as an image-maker for many years, and working with David was incredibly helpful in returning to making photographs.

 Printing again in the darkroom at the Rochester Community and Technical College.

Printing again in the darkroom at the Rochester Community and Technical College.

One of the things that David offered up as a challenge was to print black and white in the darkroom. I took him up on the challenge. At first it was a matter of pride. Over the course of the semester, though, it turned out to be a strong tonic. Working in the darkroom returns me to a place where I remember being excited about making images.

The last comments David had during our final meeting were essentially, "These are really nice and all, but you know they should probably be on a warmer toned paper." It struck me at the time that he was probably right.

In the next two months, I have to re-print and frame twenty-five images. It seems do-able.

Unless I am going to have more days like yesterday. 

The first day back in over a month of not printing. It. Kicked. My. Butt. It took me an hour to track down what caused this:

 Contaminated developer, I suspect.

Contaminated developer, I suspect.

Best guess, the developer was contaminated somehow. At the end of the first hour, I dumped all of the chemistry I had just made, and started over. Problem solved. 

It took another couple of hours to come up with a print I could live with of this image of Matt and his son.

Over this course of the sabbatical, this body of images has evolved from images of my own family, especially my son, to images of fathers as they are spending time nurturing their children. 

Matt is a neighbor, and a friend of some friends, but not someone I know especially well. So it was a bit of a stretch to walk into his back yard for the first time and spend a really enjoyable late afternoon photographing. I really enjoy the process of landing in a situation like this. I get to make conversation with another dad while I am making the images. I am finding that I learn how other fathers approach childcare. I get to steal ideas about how to keep a kid engaged, playing and upbeat. For Matt, it's pretty easy. His son is at an age when the stuff in the garage is pretty interesting.

When I exposed this image, I was interested in framing Matt's son inside the window of his toy car. Matt had pushed the back seat of his own minivan out of the garage and was sitting on it. It seemed like framing his son in the car window set up a nice juxtaposition of a father in part of a grown up car and his son inside of a child sized car. There is something in that about modeling behavior and the beginnings of forming an identity. 

The Caddy...

 The Cadillac, Los Alamos, New Mexico, 1996.

The Cadillac, Los Alamos, New Mexico, 1996.

I found this article by Ken Hollings (link) on Salon in March that gets to the core of what fascinates me about my grandparent’s old neighborhood in Los Alamos.

From the article:

“Levittown’s original inspiration is the planned community created in secret at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, to house the technicians and scientists of the “Manhattan Project” busily engaged in developing the first atomic weapon...Levitt developed the basic models and techniques for preparing low-cost suburban homesteads out of prefabricated units while fulfilling military housing contracts during the closing years of World War II when storage facilities, dormitories, and administrative buildings had to be built quickly, cheaply, and in vast numbers.”

While Hollings is writing about Oak Ridge as a precursor to Levittown and the suburban neighborhood, He might as well be writing about Los Alamos (which was also part of the Manhattan Project.) The neighborhood my grandparent’s lived in was built by government contractors. Residents could choose from three different floor plans. My aunt has joked that as a kid, she always knew where the bathroom was in a house she was visiting.

Hollings goes on to relate the “low-cost suburban homesteads” of Oak Ridge and Levittown to the greater cultural freak-out in the United States at the dawn of the nuclear age. He makes connections between this new, pre-fabricated architecture and flying saucers, the rise of the military-industrial complex, and the creation of the American Psychiatric Association.

These relationships are what drew me to photograph in Los Alamos in 1996. The vaguely prairie-style design of government subsidized housing quietly suggested that there was much more going on in the place than you could ever capture with a camera.