4×5 Photography

Assignment: Please research and find 3 photos by 3 different photographers done in large format. Do some outside research about the photograph/er, and write a few sentences as to why you picked these photos. Be creative and try to avoid “traditional landscape” photos or older/more famous photographs – find something somewhat contemporary.

I didn’t exactly follow directions – I tend to go beyond the basic perimeters, especially when looking through a single artists’ work. I have trouble limiting myself to one image if I find three. So here, I have 7 photographs – 3 by Gordon Osmundson (in black and white), one by Matus Kalisky (in color), and three photos that are a sort of triptych by Tommy Oshima (in black and white).

Each has its own reason and although they are all shot with large format cameras, they really do not have much in common other than the sheer detail visible in the works. The black and white pieces play off each other because of the way they play with light, as black and white is wont to do, however the color one is starkly different from the others, if only because it is in color.

All of them call to mind a feeling of abandonment, of being left behind, of a story untold, unknown, or waiting to be discovered.

Gordon Osmundson

Form in Sands

Corta Madera Wye, Larkspur, California, 1973

Light Falls #3, East Ely, Nevada, 1996

  • “n 1996 I made a couple of trips to Colorado, I stopped in Ely both times. On the second trip I went into the machine shop and spent some time inspecting the work being done on the #93 which was being repaired after a head on collision with a runaway flat car on the grade up to Keystone. After doing some photographs in the machine shop, I went through the door into the engine house.

    I was greeted by a stunning sight. It was Friday and the #40 was being steamed up for the next days run. Although the engines smoke stack was under one of the buildings smoke jacks, smoke still curled through the room. In the ceiling of this large dark room were clerestory lites (vertical skylights) running the length of the room. The sun was at such an elevation in the sky that it cast a broad narrow beam down from the clerestory lites. This beam lit up the smoke creating a gossamer curtain of light running the length of the room.

    I looked at this curtain of light and I said to myself “If I can see it, I can photograph it.” The challenge was to work it into a composition. I got my camera and set it up. Next I used a card with a 4×5 hole cut in it to isolate scenes and frame compositions. I worked out a composition looking up into the lites with the curtain of light streaming down toward the camera. Visible through the curtain, the ends of rail cars lurked in the shadows. I did several exposures using both of the Grandagon lenses. In each exposure the curtain was different as the smoke drifted through the room.

    I expected the sun to move and the curtain of light to vanish, but the path the sun took through the sky was mostly parallel to the clerestory and the light held for some time. I had something that seemed, and later proved, to be satisfactory, so now I could take my time in exploring the room and seeing what else could be done. I did several more images from the open isle under the clerestory down the center of the room then walked down between the rotary snowplow and the wrecker with its tender.

    The boom of the wrecker, with its hook hanging down, loomed up on my left. Behind it was another curtain of light from a second clerestory. Space was very tight and the only way to work was with the Grandagons. The whole thing was so overwhelming I had to suspend critical judgement and I shut off my internal dialog. But I didn’t stop working. I have noticed this happen before, if I’m working alone with a productive subject, I find that I just don’t have to think about what I’m doing. I just know what to do and do it instinctively. My awareness of what I’m doing is very acute. I made two compositions one aimed at the body of the wrecker with the boom on the left, the other is the one you see here. It doesn’t have the kind of balanced symmetry I usually strive for, suspended judgement, but the forms are very dynamic. I titled this image “Hook and Boom.”

    With the deep shadows and bright sunlit areas there was a lot of contrast. N-2 development was indicated and this was accomplished in a two solution D-23/Borax developer. I have printed this negative a number of times. At first it was printed medium on #2 Galerie, 1 1/4 minutes Selctol Soft and 1-3/4 minutes Dektol. Then, sometime around early 1997, Ilford made a change in Galerie, a change they will not acknowledge, and it lost about a half to 2/3 of a grade of contrast. I now print this image with two minutes Dektol and no Selctol. The prints get quite a bit of edge and corner burning and the curtain of light above the boom gets burned in slightly.

I chose this work because of the light. I love the way Osmundson works with light, particularly in the second piece. The heavy directional curtain of light is just stunning. I am a fan of industrial and abandoned imagery and there’s something so striking about these three pieces. There is a very nice formal quality to the first piece – the repetition and rhythm in the concrete poles and the detail in the way the light reflects in the water is just incredible.

Matus Kalisky

Slovakia, Spisska Nova Ves – (west settlement) – photographed from 7th floor.

The aerial perspective on this piece is very unique and fascinating. I always found myself wanting to photograph from my balcony, the simple lives of others as documented in the things I saw below – courtyards, parking structures, bicycles, garbage. The way people leave their environments is fascinating to me and is an evidence of a life. Formally, this piece is quite nicely arranged – the buildings have a nice variation of color and surround the courtyard in a triangular shape which is then crisscrossed with lines in the grass. This is somewhere between a courtyard and a ruin – a playground and a disaster. It seems somewhat unsafe, perhaps, but it reminds me of a memory – a childhood lost through time. It is incredibly striking.

Tommy Oshima

Graffoto (January 2007, Tokyo)
Graflex Speed Graphics+Ektar 127mm f4.7+Polaroid type 55 film

graffoto I:
photographing of a work by an anonymous street photographer

graffoto II:
photographing of a work by an anonymous street photographer

graffoto III:

  • ….I had a chance to come across the “street exhibition” (by the unknown photographer) spot a week later, and found out that it’s still there. Just that there are only 5 shots left on the wall. Nobody knows where the rest has gone.

Random installation art is so fascinating. This simple 4×5 grid of photos – why would an artist choose to place these here? What is the artist saying in these photos? This documentation of this art installation tells us nothing about the installation except that it exists and documents what happens to it over time. Did people take the photographs? What moved them to do so? Did the wind or elements removed them? Where did they go? Did anyone ever find them and wonder why they were there or what they meant or place a personal significance to them? This kind of found item inspires a sort of melancholy in me that I have a sort of guilty pleasure for – the old, the found, the things with histories we will never know. These things drive me and make me wonder and dream. The documentation of such a thing is intriguing. It bears mentioning that this is a 4×5 grid of prints shot with a 4×5 camera – is that a statement, too? How interesting.



The next assignment in photography has not been well defined yet, but it starts with a walk and a reading from Wanderlust: A History of Walking by Rebecca Solnt.

Here are some quotes from the book that particularly stood out in the short portion that was read aloud to us during class for inspiration.

  • “Where does it start? Muscles tense. One leg a pillar, holding the body upright between the earth and sky. The other a pendulum, swinging from behind. Heel touches down. The whole weight of the body rolls forward onto the ball of the foot. The big toe pushes off, and the delicately balanced weight of the body shifts again. The legs reverse position. It starts with a step and then another step and then another that add up like taps on a drum to a rhythm, the rhythm of walking. The most obvious and the most obscure thing in the world, this walking that wanders so readily into religion, philosophy, landscape, urban policy, anatomy, allegory, and heartbreak.
  • “Thinking is generally thought of as doing nothing in a production-oriented culture, and doing nothing is hard to do. It’s best done by disguising it as doing something, and the something closest to doing nothing is walking. Walking itself is the intentional act closest to the unwilled rhythms of the body, to breathing and the beating of the heart. It strikes a delicate balance between working and idling, being and doing. Is is a bodily labor that produces nothing but thoughts, experiences, arrivals.”
  • “To make walking into an investigation, a ritual, a meditation, is a special subset of walking . . . Which is to say that the subject of walking is, in some sense, about how we invest universal acts with particular meanings. Like eating or breathing, it can be invested with wildly different cultural meanings, from the erotic to the spiritual, from the revolutionary to the artistic.”
  • “The rhythm of walking generates a kind of thinking, and the passage through a landscape echoes or stimulates the passage through a series of thoughts. This creates an odd consonance between internal and external passage, one that suggests that the mind is also a landscape of sorts and that walking is one way to traverse it.”

Interesting sites of note about mindful walking include:

I haven’t yet taken my walk – I don’t know if I’ll record anything personal about it. I’m debating between taking my camera and/or my phone and/or a voice recorder to record my thoughts while I walk.

Years ago I used to walk to clear my head. I think better when I’m in motion. I used to carry an old bulky tape recorder with me and transcribe the thoughts when I got back. I walked best late at night in the winter in a small rural town where I knew all the paths. I didn’t think about where I was going – just let my feet take me there and let my mind go where it wanted. I’m a little excited about getting back into this and being more aware of the things I see this time around.

One of the things I love about photography is taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary and I think that may be a lot of what this assignment ends up being about.

Jack and Jill went up the hill and broke his crown

This is the final version that was turned in, mounted on black board. There are some changes that need to be made, primarily that the bottom of the hill needs to be stretched down into the foreground and cropped so it’s not just floating above the bottom of the square. Some text needs to be moved around and the instructor would like more depth. I got a B but I can make changes to bump it up to an A. I’ll get around to that eventually.


Although I haven’t posted my finished work for Jack & Jill & Fool on the Hill (it’s forthcoming), I need to continue to move forward. My current work is a news headline in the style of Lucian Bernhard.

Via Wikipedia, I learned that Bernhard was a “German graphic designer…through the first half of the 20th century…”

He was influential in helping create the design style known as Plakatstil (Poster Style), which used reductive imagery and flat-color as well as Sachplakat (‘object poster’) which restricted the image to simply the object being advertised and the brand name. He was also known for his designs for Stiller shoes, Manoli cigarettes, and Priester matches.

Here, an example of his work for Manoli (in 1910-11):

And here, an example of his work for Stiller shoes (in 1908):

Wikipedia lists several typfaces that will be invaluable to me in the process of emulating Bernhard’s work.

Typeface will be executed in illustrator, while imagery will be arranged in photoshop. Ideally, I’d like to be able to vector the primary image that I choose to use in the poster in illustrator, as Bernhard’s style lends well to that, but we’ll see how it goes. My skills in Illustrator are sorely lacking.

The piece must contain a headline from a newspaper (current event) and then, of course, imagery to match, but all must be rendered in Bernhard’s style.

I believe the headline I am going to use is one from the Denver Post from a few weeks ago: Gun debate locked and loaded. Witty headline writer is at it again. I really enjoy the punnery in the headline and it lends well to a single graphical image.

More examples of Bernhard’s work:


A World War I German propaganda poster urging the sale of war bonds in the Plakastil style pioneered by Lucian Bernhard.

Lucian Bernhard, Priester Matches, 1909 by kitchener.lord on Flickr

The Priester Match poster is a watershed document of modern graphic design, or rather, proto-Modern design. Its composition is so stark and its colors so startling that it captures the viewer’s eye in an instant. Before 1906, when the poster first appeared on the streets of Berlin, persuasive simplicity was a rare thing in most advertising: posters, especially, tended to be wordy and ornate. No one had yet heard of its young creator, who, thanks to this poster, was to influence the genre of advertising known as the Sachplakat, or object poster.

Hail Bernhard the Magnificent

To be continued.

Will Blucifer’s 5th birthday be last at DIA?

Nuggets: Waiting for Superman

Booked up

Gun Debate Locked, Loaded

Mars Rover Drills Deep

Climbing price of fuel won’t shift into reverse soon

Northeast digs out after blizzard

Love your heart

Treating Addiction