In 2005, a friend offered me an antique Korona 7×17″ banquet camera in exchange for a few of my prints. I accepted. I had been working with panoramic formats since the early ’90s, sometimes cropped from 8×10″ negatives, but mostly in the form of triptychs comprised of 3 8×10′ negatives printed side-by-side as a single image. This had become my signature style. I did a bit of experimenting with the 7×17 in the first year I had it and all seemed well, so when I set out on a road trip in 2007 that took me all the way to Newfoundland, I decided this would be my primary format, in honor of my mentor Dick Arentz, who worked with this as well as larger banquet formats. Little did I know all the difficulties that would follow.
It turned out that 3 of the 5 film holders that came with the camera did not fit the back quite right resulting in light leaks. I guess I had only used the other 2 holders previously. Luckily, I had stopped to visit a photographer friend in Maine, Jonathan Bailey, and discovered the problem while using his darkroom to develop some film that I had exposed on the way there. I was able to send the offending holders off to Sandy King to be modified. Meanwhile, I had some extra time to roam around northern New England while waiting for them to be returned. It was actually Jon’s stories about his trip to Newfoundland a couple years earlier that inspired me to go there.
The other problem, though turned out to be much more of a headache. The film that I had bought for this trip, 8 boxes of Bergger BPF200, turned out to have a coating flaw in 6 of the 8 boxes, which resulted in a lovely pattern of dendritic lines throughout the film. Only a handful of the 150 or so negatives that I made on this trip were free of these lines, about half of them were so bad that I didn’t bother cataloging them. The other half were mild enough that I kept them in hopes of being able to salvage something from 5 months of fieldwork. Fortunately, I also did a small amount of work with 8×10, 4×10, and 4×5 formats that had no issues. In 2009, I had several of the hopefully salvageable negatives scanned at Digital Fusion in Los Angeles, a lab owned by an old friend Hugh Milstein. I was successful enough with the first group of 8 7×17″ negs, though it was costlier than I could afford for a large amount of work, that I decided to get a scanner capable of handling these large negatives so that I could do the scanning myself. The used Creo Eversmart Pro II that I found is a huge beast, but it has served me well. The digital repair work that I have been doing has been slow and tedious, but it is starting to bear fruit.
Initially, I was not quite satisfied with the palladium prints that I was making from digital negatives produces from the scanned and restored originals. This turned out to be a printer problem but I didn’t realize that until much later. I had been proofing my work digitally as inkjet prints from the beginning, so I decided that maybe that would have to be the medium for this body of work. Jon Cone’s Piezography system is capable of producing incredibly beautiful monochromatic prints using carbon based inks, and I could make them look very much like my palladium prints printed from original negatives. I could also make them significantly larger. But as a long-time devotee of Platinum/Palladium printing, I found that I was unable to be satisfied with this approach. The prints were almost too perfect. So this body of work has been sitting on the shelf, so to speak, for the last couple of years.
Late last fall I replaced my aging Epson 3800 printer with a new 3880. I got to work calibrating it for digital negatives and immediately noticed a significant improvement in the quality of the negatives. This looked promising. Then in January I discovered that a particular Japanese paper (washi) called Gampi Torinoko was available again after a long absence. I had tried this paper around 15 years ago and loved it, but at the time I thought it was just too expensive for me. Then the man who made it, Masao Seki, passed away and the paper was no longer made. Recently it has been revived by Kensho Ishimoto. I think this new version is even better than the original. This paper has a lot of texture, somewhat like distressed leather, which probably won’t appeal to most printmakers. I find it to be incredibly beautiful and so far I think it is working well with the material in this body of work.
Last month I began the printing of this work, which I aim to finish by the end of this year, with images made on the way to and from Newfoundland from Colorado where I was living at the time. The bulk of the work was made in Newfoundland, and I will begin printing those hopefully later this month. I will continue posting images of new prints here as they are completed.