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2001 22nd year

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2001 Newsletter

Al Weber Newsletter
Gossip, Books & Workshops
(in three acts)

Gossip: Act I

Books: Act II

The Workshops: Act III

Gossip: Act I Well, it’s here. The War has begun. Digital versus traditionally made photographs. Two camps have formed. Pro and Con, plus a third group who is waiting to see; you know those who let others do all the fighting. Remember when photography was questioned as art? Remember when only black and white was considered fine art? Some of you are young enough to look forward to the “next” debate. Be assured, there will be one. I’ve bought a new computer. I’ve bought a photo quality printer. I’ve bought a digital camera. BUT I am not closing down my darkroom. Traditional photographic techniques have been a part of my daily routine for many years and I am not about to alter that. If you have never worked for extended times in a darkroom, no one can explain it to you. That would be like trying to explain orgasm. A darkroom is a distinctly personal place. Everyone who has one, continuously modifies it until it fits, just them. Some are like a clinic. Most are like a slightly upscale cave. Fastidious people who have immaculate homes, will willingly hire a wood butcher to form a darkroom for them. Carpentry and plumbing found in lots of darkrooms are incredibly crude. Why buy a nice stainless sink when you can hire one made from plywood with ill fitting corners and sloppily applied epoxy for the same price. “Yours” is custom, and when working with it, it is very user friendly. You will never pry this element from their darkrooms. Never, Never, Never.

I work with the computer as a word processor or to fuss with digitizing photographs. The monitor sits in front of a window with a view towards the Pacific Ocean. Adjacent shelves hold reference books, prints and the small trinkets all of us crowd around our desks; snap shots from friends and relatives, the eternal coffee cup, AND THE TELEPHONE. Sitting on my ergonomically correct chair, I believe this is what Stieglitz might term an equivalent. It too is a place where I can generate prints, be they not of silver of course, or azo dyes, but INKS.

In my last exhibit of 58 prints, only some were conventional. They were all framed with glass, and there were no descriptive labels as to process. During the opening, no one asked how the prints were made. I find I am getting more resentful about all this mechanical talk, which printer or scanner or paper. I once met a sculptor who I was told was the best in Finland. We talked about good coffee, we talked about attractive women; we didn’t talk about his chisels or my cameras.

I rarely look at magazines, except Fine Woodworking, but once in a while one comes through the door, and I take a quick peek. Lenswork has thrown some fat in the fire with their program of archival silver gelatin prints from exceptional photographers at cheap prices. You can buy fine prints for $50 to $100. How can a great Wynn Bullock print be had for pennies on the dollar? I’m not going into detail, and even if I tried I probably would goof it, but a quick explanation is that the photographer generates one good print, with all the controls available in the darkroom. This print is then scanned and a full-sized quality negative is produced, from which contact prints, back on standard black and white papers, are made. The result is remarkably handsome. It is not an original print. It still is a “copy” print, but a very good copy print. It is not unlike the method used by W. Eugene Smith, in which he made a best possible print, copied it and then printed from the copy negative. When looking at a Smith photograph it is obvious that his print making was laborious and time consuming. There was extensive bleaching, for instance. To make duplicate prints would have been tedious. For some time I have been watching Huntington Witherill perfect this methodology. To my knowledge and in my opinion, what Lenswork is doing springs from Witherill’s work. And no one can fault either the photography or the craft of Hunter. (see book section) The question of value comes to the surface. Is this new printing approach valid? Let me pass along a short story. In the early 1980s an Ansel Adams Moonrise sold for $60,000 and it was in all the papers. (Incidentally it sold to a young man who was a bouncer in a bar in Boulder, Colorado who turned the print immediately for a profit.) At the same time, Todd Walker, one of the great photographers of our time, had a show in Tucson. Todd converted silk screen to litho on his press in the carport. As you entered the gallery, there was a small table with a stack of Todd Walker lithographs, all hand made by Todd. On the wall was a tear sheet describing the Ansel Adams transaction. Another sign on the wall, directly above the Walker lithos said, “Free, take one.” Does one buy the art, or the craft?

To those opposed to this digitizing process, let me remind you that besides Smith, copying and reprinting has been going on for a long time, usually undetected and usually not mentioned. The 1944 photograph of Woman behind Screen Door, Independence, California, Plate 8, Portfolio V, by Ansel Adams is made from an 8x10 copy negative made by George Waters from a heavily retouched print, including air brush work. Morley Baer obviously had copy negatives made. I saw a print at Photography West Gallery in Carmel that had a distinct dot pattern. I saw the same print, offered as an original, in a print auction.

So this business of duping, digitizing, scanning and copying should come as no surprise. In some form or other, it has been going on for a long time. If you owned a print by W. Eugene Smith from the Minamata series, and found it was printed from a copy negative, would you discard the print? Not me, baby. I have worked most of my life in commercial photography. I am familiar with copying black and white photographs, using Kodak 4125 copy film. Rarely is a copy inferior to the original. Usually, it is better. Some day when I get old, I may make some special edition prints by copying. Doug Busch thought of this several years ago, and at that time I was opposed to it. I’ve changed my mind. By using copy film, one wouldn’t need an expensive scanner or a computer at all. The whole process would be totally photographic and manageable in any darkroom. Gee.

The Dwindling Market of Photographic Materials

Complaints about the quality and availability of black and white enlarging papers are topical. There are references to Varigam, Varilour, Medalist, Kodabromide, Ansco Jet, Defender, Velour Black, Opal, Indiatone and Azo. The only one left from that list is Azo, and I’m told by those who contact print that it isn’t what it used to be. It seems that current papers don’t have the character of earlier papers. They are without personality. Then we had Agfa Brovira, Portriga Rapid, Ilfobrome, Oriental Seagull, Pal (there was a nice paper, especially the chloro-bromide) Poly-Contrast followed by a couple other variable contrast papers, Brilliant, Elite and Gallerie. I’ve stayed with Gallerie. It gives consistent results although the base isn’t as white as I’d like. In the fifty years I’ve been printing, papers have changed. I’m not sure the change is all bad, it seems more of a change to align with contemporary taste. Cars have changed, clothes have changed, houses have changed and quite obviously, cameras have really changed.

This unsettling among black and white print makers, due partially to all the changes, may be responsible for a resurgence in alternate processes. Of these, Platinum/Paladium has certainly been the most popular. Now, with digital imagery motoring up to speed, we see the old black and white slipping further and further behind. One might say this is simply the way the pendulum swings. We probably will see manufacturers lose interest in B/W, as that market dwindles. It no longer is the main stream item it once was. Well, what are you going to do about it? I don’t have the wonderful (in my mind only) old papers, but somehow the newer papers work alright. Good things come from problems it seems, and for me, this change has forced me to look at unprinted negatives. Now, instead of going to Point Lobos for the day, I slip into the darkroom and see what might be in the 1967 file that I overlooked when I was 37 years old. Being older and less mobile has changed my outlook for many things. Some long days in the dark room are interesting, and there is an occasional find, one that was overlooked, that can now be brought to life and slipped into the portfolio. With all the hype about vintage prints, it’s hard not to cheat a little and date the new prints back to when the film was shot. When I was young, I really thought I was a great printer. Now that I’m older, I realize I wasn’t so hot. If I were to buy an Al Weber print today I sure as hell wouldn’t want an early print. I notice some photographers have memory lapses; they just can’t recall when a print was made. Shades of Ronald Reagan. David Vestal sent me a print (a very nice print at that) and I was interested in his numbering system, which he explained to me in a half page of single spaced type. Intriguing to be sure, but beyond me and my work.

Books: Act II

It seems books I like sometimes are not available at the bookstore down the street. The local booksellers are complaining about the chain outlets; all the while not carrying books I want. The chains are wonderful if you like TV dinner-type publications, but forget it if you want to see a small press. For several years I’ve told you about books from Ten Speed Press and Nazraeli Press, two of my favorite small publishers. New Leaf Press in Los Angeles does neat stuff; none of which can be found at Barnes and Noble or Borders. Noel Young at Capra Press, one of the West Coast’s premier publishers has fallen to ill health; Peregrine Smith, now known as Gibbs Smith, has become what I term, contemporary yuppie. Aperture is a joke. What has happened to those real books of yesteryear? Well designed, with real content, nicely printed by intelligent people. Why can’t publishers like Aperture and Smith do what they used to do? Have we reached a stage where this is no longer a possibility? I’m told that to get a good book into print, in a quality format, it might cost $75,000. I remember when publishers paid authors an advance against future sales. Talk about vanity press in action. I’m listing a few books and will make some of them available. Some, like Gordon Hutchings’ Book of Pyro, are not available on the Monterey Peninsula. For me, this is a must book for any serious black and white photographer. Tell me why, in the Mecca supposedly of black and white photography, not one camera store, not one book store carries it. You can buy the TV dinner-type schlock at the local stores—it’s like Christmas advertising before Thanksgiving; tasteless, but what the marketing people direct. God bless Stanford. God bless Yuppies. God bless The following books listed are no bargains, but they are available. You will pay retail plus packaging and shipping, and sales tax if you are in California. If it is a used book, I’ll say so and probably charge an outrageous price as a penalty to you for not buying it when you should have.

  1. The Book of Pyro. Gordon Hutchings. $25. Soft cover. Much more than a book about Pyro. Follow this book and your BW process will become more orderly. Many things you should have learned in Photo 101, but the instructor didn’t know. Gordon has brought Pyro into alignment with current films, complete with tables, and most importantly, explains good working procedures so often overlooked in schools.
  2. Art & Fear, Observations On The Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking. Ted Orland and David Bayles. $12.95. Soft cover. A must for any person who works in the arts, by two guys who know the road. Required reading in my workshops.
  3. Salvation Mountain, The Art of Leonard Knight. $29.95. Soft cover. Photography by Larry Yust. New Leaf Press takes full advantage of what is available now in contemporary publishing. First, the topic, Leonard Knight and his Salvation Mountain are delightfully interesting. Second, Yust has done a swell job of photographing a complex subject and making it look clear and simple. The printing is fine; not overkill or heavy, just fitting to the subject. The text which is introductory and then commentary-type with Leonard is tasteful, and most adequate.
  4. Carmel, a Timeless Place. Steve Shapiro. $29.95. Steve sees through all the tourist junk and makes Carmel really look good. Buy the book and don’t go to Carmel, you’ll be happier. And you’ll save lots of bucks.
  5. In Plain Sight. Douglas Busch. $95. Hard cover with slip case. Maximum quality, printed by Black Box in Chicago (the best) from Doug’s 12X20 contact prints. Forty-six plates sequenced and presented in a 120 page 12”x18” monograph. Sheer class.
  6. Garrod & Gilpin. Richard Garrod & Henry Gilpin. $20. Soft cover. A 1970 catalogue beautifully designed by Doris Gilpin and duotone printed by George Waters, before all this laser and digital stuff. These pages really have character. Twelve swell photographs. a good $5 book for $20. I had the foresight to buy a box of them twenty years ago.
  7. English as a Second F*cking Language. Sterling Johnson. $6.95. Soft cover. How to swear effectively, explained in detail with many examples taken from everyday life. If swearing is good enough for Shakespeare and the Queen of England, you can bet your ass it’s good enough for us.
  8. This is Photography. Miller and Brummitt. $10. Hard cover. Good old fashioned text for an introduction to photography. As good as I ever found. Used, good.
  9. Ordinary Miracles. Lou Stoumen $40. Hard cover. Street photography at its very best. Excerpt: Woman, Times Square 1979. “We have a brief one-sided conversation. ‘Mothafuckah!’ she says. I can’t blame her. She thinks I’m a cop or a narc.”
  10. Time Square. Lou Stoumen. $35. Hard cover. Forty five years photographing Times Square, starting in 1939. The work began as a Pennsylvania country boy’s love letter to his adopted city. Over the decades it grew into an obsession.
  11. Journey to Lands End. Lou Stoumen. $25. Hard cover. “Lou Stoumen may be the Orson Welles of the 80s. His Journey to Lands End is caring and scaring. But don’t worry, it’s only a paper movie.” Cornell Capa, and, “Lou Stoumen has shaped for us a profoundly satisfying new kind of book. It is beautiful, wise and may be our first look at the literature of tomorrow.” Ray Bradbury.
  12. Ablaze with Light and Life. Lou Stoumen. $40. Soft cover. His last book. “What can happen with a well-taken photograph of a face, or a perceptive revealment in words, is that we see into them as into a mirror. We are shocked to recognize in the eyes and heart of a stranger our own consciousness.” Lou’s words. A retrospect of Stoumen photographs, in book form.

     NOTE. Lou Stoumen died in 1992. He lived and worked at a time when great photographers had names like Weston, Bullock, Cunningham, or Adams, who did landscapes and nudes and still lifes. Street photography had not arrived, yet. Lou was never swayed. His early film making, all documentary featured Walt Whitman, the Civil War and to me his finest work, The Naked Eye, the work and lives of Weegie and Edward Weston. His first book, Can’t Argue With Sunrise: A Paper Movie, startled many photographers. I am truly sorry I have none left to offer. In the 1980s I sold dozens of them at Victor School, where Lou was also one of the hundred photographers we brought in to teach.
  13. House of Three Turkeys. #202/250, hard cover, signed, Jett and Bohn $60. There was a time when books like this were common. A wonderful and provocative description of one of the best preserved Anasazi ruins in the Southwest. Handsome design, typography and photo reproduction.
  14. House of Three Turkeys. #223/250,
      hard cover, signed, Jett and Bohn $60.
  15. House of Three Turkeys. #240/250.
      hard cover, signed, Jett and Bohn $60.
  16. House of Three Turkeys. Jett and Bohn, soft cover. $25.
  17. At Mono Lake. Friends of the Earth. $40. Soft cover. The catalogue of the show, now housed at the Mono Lake Visitor Center. Edited by Stephen Johnson. New, but scuffed a bit.
  18. Rambles Through an Alaskan Wild: Katmai and the Valley of the Smokes. Dave Bohn. $45. As new, hard cover. Bohn at his best. A classic, by one of the very few real wilderness photographers. Stark and straightforward addressing issues of preservation with quiet, powerful photographs.
  19. El Niño in Big Sur and the Reconstruction of Highway One. Jeff Klamer $10. Soft cover, 17 pages. During the big storm of 1998, Jeff Klamer lost his home, moved into his car with his cat and cameras, talked those with authority into letting him photograph the reconstruction of the coast road and even talked Cal Trans into sponsoring this book. He did it all, the photographs, text with the aid of Cal Trans and formatted on his computer. More of a scrap book than a book book. It is the real story of that god awful mess and how it was rebuilt.
  20. Along The Way. Mark Citret. $55. Hard cover. Meet Mark Citret, husband, father, athlete, well coordinated, active, prolific, gregarious to a fault, my kids always referred to him as the “Cookie Monster” or “Springs.” Meet the work of Mark Citret—highly crafted, secretive, somewhat surreal, delicate, intellectual, and very quiet. Interesting. A well done book. Beautifully printed in Italy, nice design, spartan text. Also available in a deluxe boxed edition @$400 with a print.
  21. Tides In Time. Douglas Isaac Busch. $30. Hard cover. Also available is a special edition that includes a print for $250. Twenty-three photographs of the California Coast and The Salton Sea in black and white on, I assume, 12x20 film. Black Box Collotype in Chicago has done the printing and they are indeed very good. Few have taken large format to the limits shown in Busch’s work. His drive for subtle detail extends beyond using a large sheet of film. Tides in Time will give us a look at how this former midwesterner now responds to our western landscape.
  22. In C Minor And Other Works. David Thorn and Annie (A.V.) Pike. $15. Soft cover. This is a wonderful, gentle volume. Annie Pike’s photographs are filled with universal symbols that speak to us of myth and allegory, taking us from the trappings of everyday life. A perfect match for David Thorn’s evocative poems.
  23. Marta Becket: A Theatrical Portrait. $10. Soft cover. A wonderful catalogue about Marta, her Amargosa Opera House and her life as an artist. Full of early photographs and text outlining her career from New York to her 1968 arrival and life long comitment at Death Valley Junction.
  24. Martin Blume. Photographische Novellen. Lindemanns Verlag. $65. Hard cover. What more can I say. I wrote the introduction. Martin epitomizes contemporary taste in Germany today. A very serious, highly-crafted monograph exploring a variety of topics that intrigue Martin, from conventional landscape to passages about concentration camps to philosophical nudes. Be sure to see plate 53. Beautifully printed in Italy.
  25. Oliver Gagliani. A monograph, signed. $35. Soft cover. Shop worn covers, good inside. “His photographs are a clear expression of delight, delight in the play of light that illuminates, as a thought illuminates.” Aaron Siskind. Also, without doubt, one of the finest craftsmen of our time.
  26. Oliver Gagliani. Above monograph. hard cover as new. $50.
  27. Orchestrating Icons. Huntington Witherill. $59.95. Hard Cover. Along with a few other photographers of note, Hunter associates his music background with his photography. The introduction by Paul Caponigro, who also makes strong ties between music and photography plays to this. It not only is interesting, it obviously is valid. Photography has many who have come from other artistic disciplines. The sensitivity and discipline add profoundly to the later discovered photography. Such, is the case with the work of Hunter. Orchestrating icons refers to the way Hunter moves from a traditional black and white negative through a scanner and into the computer for final manipulation and control. The resulting elegance is obvious. This is a book of Landscape. Although Hunter photographs in areas other than landscape, he has chosen to limit the scope of this book. Assuming there will be subsequent books to show those other areas, this is a wonderful concentration of Hunter’s perception and sensitivity, using landscape not necessarily as subject, but as a means to a greater end. It is timely, it is tasteful, it a fine example of the black and white process used by a contemporary master. Indeed the craft rises and does join the art. For more information or to purchase the book, go to:
  28. Healing Energy. Virginia Newton. $12.95. Personal stories of healing-Individuals with cancer, AIDS, chronic fatigue and other illnesses share personal experiences of their path to health using Tibetan Qigong. We finally are looking at and listening to healing procedures long practiced in Eastern cultures. Chinese medicine, acupunture and related herbs are becoming household conversation. My friend, Jenny Newton, has compiled and written this wonderful book, described as a bridge to introduce people of the West to Tibetan Buddhist Qigong. If you have reason to question medicine as it is practiced, you might look into alternate procedures, and this small book would be a wonderful way to do just that. It is available at:
  29. Making a Digital Book. Stephen Johnson. $15. Soft cover. A complete guide describing exactly how Steve produced his award-winning book, The Great Central Valley. Every step, which hardware, which software and total planning.
  30. Early Photography. Nancy Linn. $6. Soft cover. A small charmer. A collection of Linn’s portrait photography of infants and toddlers in black and white. This one grows on you.
  31. Madonna plus Child. Nancy Linn. $12. Soft cover. Photographs of young women taking part in a parenting program at Bellevue Hospital in New York City, where Nancy Linn works.
The above two books are examples that show that you can do it. These books were totally produced and sold by Nancy. They are charming, they paid their way. They now can be had through a resource called Printed Matter, Inc. 77 Wooster St, NY NY 10012. Simply stated, Printed Matter fosters the dissemination, appreciation and understanding of publications by artists. Wonderful catalogue; countless publications, take your choice.

High-Lonesome Books, Silver City NM. Web site at: and a catalogue listing new and used books of interest to anyone who loves the West and the great outdoors. One teaser. Tales from The Bloated Goat. $4.95. Who could resist such a title? Last year I found a early Elliot Porter book on the southwest in B/W. Swell.

To purchase books, (except Orchestrating Icons, Healing Energy and the two by Nancy Linn) send a check to Al Weber along with the titles. California residents must add 7% sales tax. Packaging and shipping, $5 first book, $2 for each book thereafter. Cash or check only. No COD’s. Call first (831 624-5535) about used books.

Special Edition Prints. I have made special edition prints since 1979. The idea has been that I could offer prints at reduced prices. The number has always been limited; sometimes 100, sometimes 25. Some years I skip the program for a breath of fresh air. That’s what I’m doing now.

Poster. How about a nice quiet poster, 20x24. Laser printed by Bill Nordstrom. Hanks Trading Post in Arizona, the best trading post ever. Photo by AW and the Tag-A-Longs. $25 plus s&h($8).

The Workshops: Act III #1. The Nevada Landscape. May 6-16. $200.*
Nevada has always been that place I drive through to get where I’m going. I’ve always said to myself, “Someday, I’ll work this landscape.” Someday has come.

For ten days the workshop will traverse Nevada, from the Oregon border to Las Vegas and back up to Pyramid Lake. We will search out places of interest to photograph and camp. Everyone must be self contained. It will be better if you have been with me before; like in the Southwest, The Sierras, the Mojave Desert, Utah Slickrock, Colorado High Country or Jackson Hole.

In 1970, a man from Fresno joined my workshop in Big Sur. He was a Superior Court Judge on the outside, but a Motherlode cowboy on the inside. He traveled with me more than twenty years. He’s gone now, but I’ll never get him out of my system. I still look in my rear view mirror and see his truck. I can still smell and taste the fantastic beans and onions he cooked. His day started with a “Henry’s Birthday,” (bourbon and orange juice), and ended the same way. Although his Aristocrat camper would sleep four, the way he traveled, there was barely room for him. Numerous ice chests, a case of Ancient Age, cheap red wine for dinner, a couple of cameras, a sawed-off shotgun, a .38 cal revolver (liberated from a murder trial) one clean shirt, just in case, and a greasy old slouch cowboy hat. He was a fixture in my workshops, and everyone loved him. They couldn’t help it. He had a thing for Nevada. He always wanted me to do a workshop to photograph just brothels. It was tempting, but it didn’t quite work out.

I’m looking for a dozen easy going, non-whining, not-too-clean independent souls who can think for themselves, who like to photograph, hang out in small beer halls, sit in the sun, read a book, shoot a little pool, maybe play a few hands of poker, you know, the kind of stuff Denver Charles Peckinpah would have done were he here.

#2. The Alabama Hills and Owens Valley. September 23 to 26. $175.
Hang out in the lower Owens Valley for four days. The weather should be fair and maybe some fall color. Those who choose not to camp can find motels in nearby Lone Pine.

#3. The Southwest. 30 September to 10 October. $500.*
I’ve been putting workshops into the Southwest for more than twenty years. It’s great country. Everyone must be self contained, but we do find a motel once in a while. The essence is to get away; to have time to think, without interruptions from the office. For ten days, the store will keep, believe me. Camping and traveling in open country does nice things to your head, and to your heart. There is time for long conversations. There is time to prowl through ‘real’ trading posts (yeah for Hanks). There are Polaroid demonstrations, and the Zone System and color theory for everyone and small format and even large format and of course medium format and no format too. The itinerary is flexible and open to the whims of the group. Old mining towns, prehistoric ruins, rock art and the wonderful Southwest landscape are all there for the taking. Photo expertise is of no concern. I get a lot of comments from people that some day they are going with me to the Southwest. I’ve been doing this for quite a while, and I’m thinking it might be about time for a change. As one might expect, the area has changed a lot in twenty years. Some of the changes just don’t feel good to me, so I may not go to the four corners area after 2001. Migrating Californians and New Yorkers have found the Southwest, in large numbers.

#4. Rendezvous at Songdog Ranch. 19-21 October 19-21. $115.
For those who have previously attended my workshops. This is a crowd of about thirty-five who seem to enjoy getting out for a weekend, sharing work, discussing problems and sitting around a campfire at night. The Songdog Ranch, about half way between Santa Barbara and Bakersfield, is a remote and quiet camp, catering usually to bikers. Camping is beautiful but rustic. (pit toilets). There is a great lodge we use for meetings. Camping and four meals are included in the tuition. The meals are Friday and Saturday suppers plus Saturday and Sunday breakfasts. There are motels within fifteen miles for those who choose not to camp. The order shown is the order of sign-up. Sign up first, show first. One need not show at all. There is no pressure to show and there is no criticism unless asked for. As the years roll by, the Rendezvous evolves. Print viewing has been trimmed to one day. The second day is open for field work, demonstrations and discussions. It seems to be working well.

#5. The Halberstadt Memorial Retreat and Workshop. January 4-6, 2002. $175.
From Ragged Point to Morro Bay and Montana de Oro, an area I covered 25 years ago for UCSB. The workshop will camp along the coast, mostly north of Morro Bay. Those not camping can easily stay in motels. Hal Halberstadt died in July 2000. I know there are a few left who came to workshops we did together years ago, and just might like to re-live those experiences of tenacious conversations and field work. Hal was a fierce, demanding photographer. If you stayed with him, you gained huge hunks of early Bauhaus philosophy. If you shared meals with him, cooked on a Coleman three-burner stove or at the nearest cafe, you ate very well. If you listened to him, your work was changed forever. There will be a voluntary Halberstadt type critique; crusty, direct, with limited words and very few positive comments, but honest. Polaroid demonstrations will drive on color subtleties and color as a subject. Once in a while, we all really need a shot of a Hal Halberstadt, and now that he is gone, I’m going to do my best to continue his spirit.

#6. Death Valley Junction. March 15-17, 2002. $175.
Marta Becket and the Amargosa Opera House. A Mini-Rendezvous. A workshop that studies the above. Marta owns the town. She lets us use the hotel dining room for our meetings. There are seventeen hotel rooms available. There is ample camping next to the abandoned Chevron station. There is a gas station and casino six miles down the road, complete with nickel slots machines and a cheap restaurant. Death Valley itself is half an hour away. There is the opera of course and you can get reservations. Marta joins us for casual and informal discussions concerning her life as an artist. Winter sunshine on the Amargosa Desert is worth the trip alone. You have access to normally restricted areas, there are wild horses swimming in the lake, and burros nosing around. A heavy hit on view cameras and Polaroid materials. Outstanding guidance on playing nickel slot machines. One day of looking at your prints, one day of multiple choice field options, including photographing the interior of the opera house. A substantial part of the tuition will be donated to the Amargosa Opera House, a non-profit corporation, in support of the opera and Marta as an artist. Those attending who have paid a tuition will become members of the Amargosa Opera House Guild. I assure you that you will feel good about that. The hotel has limited rooms available. If you plan on attending the workshop and staying at the Amargosa Hotel, early workshop registration is necessary.

The Times Between: The Tag-A-Longs.*
This has been the cream over the past few years. If you attend a workshop and there is extended travel to or from the workshop, travel along with me, free, and we’ll photograph and camp and chase down all those nooks and crannies between ports of call. Available times are: 26 September to 30 September between the Alabama Hills and Arizona. Next is 10 October to 18 October, between Arizona and Songdog Ranch, which will probably include a visit to Leonard Knight at Salvation Mountain. All who attend a workshop are welcome to ‘tag-a-long’, going to or from.

Workshop policies.
Read before you enroll. If you sign up for a workshop and find you cannot attend, all of your money will be refunded if you notify me three days before the workshop. No-shows will be charged a 20% late fee. Non participating wives or husbands are welcome at no charge. Other traveling companions will be charged half a tuition. Dogs and children are not welcome. Those with cell phones have always been a nuisance. Conversations about politics, religion, etc., are the same. I expect those participating to concentrate on workshop activities. Workshops are not vacations, nor are they democratic by nature.

Send your application and a check. No partial attendances. You must acknowledge that you have read the workshop description and above policies.

Other Workshops.
People who were peeling potatoes last year are advertising “intensive”and esoteric workshops. The whole photographic workshop arena is burdened with hokey charlatans who are grasping at anything, looking for a niche, and heavy on the glitz. Beautiful (or at least expensive) brochures tout their years of expertise, international exhibits and corporate sponsorship. Sort them out sweetheart.

Let’s hear it for Stephen Johnson. Working from a studio and gallery complex in Pacifica, California, Steve runs a fine series of workshops directed towards digital photography. No one I am aware of is as advanced as Steve, and few others have the proper training to teach. Steve offers the complete package. Not a rented space with tired old computers, but a real digital lab, with state of the art equipment and printers and scanners and ... expertise you wouldn’t believe. Soft-spoken and easy going, Steve has years of experience and it is all on the walls. Write for a brochure and calendar of on going classes. Stephen Johnson, 580 Crespi Drive, Suite A2, Pacifica CA 94044. 650 355-7507. email: AND check his webpage:

Sacred Earth Photography. Workshops with Cynthia Johnson-Bianchetta. For those who know Esalen Institute, where Cynthia has taught for many years, the door opens. Skilled in the craft of photography, Cynthia outlines that the workshops also include Poetry and Journal Writing, Circles of Sharing and Ritual, Meditation and Gentle Movement. The workshops run throughout the year, but it appears the feature program is a six day retreat exploring the Polaroid Transfer called Women’s Creativity Retreat. May 13-18, 2001 in Cambria California. For information, 831 667-2502 or email

Sun Mountain Photography Workshops. PO Box 1007, Virginia City Nevada, 89440. Noland Preece and Erik Lauritzen run workshops from the old St. Mary’s Art Center in Virginia City. Two that appeal to me are: 1. Black and White Photography and The Nevada Landscape, $450, and 2. Noland Preece-Intaglio Techniques, $400. Lodging in what was the town hospital is included. Lab facilities are very good. St. Mary’s Art Center offers a summer series of art programs, modestly priced and lots of fun. Email: for Sun Mountain information and also St. Mary’s.

Don Cameron in Santa Clara is doing a field workshop, A Photographic Exploration of the North Coast, May 17-20. Call him at 408 727-7763 or fax 408 982-9243. e-mail: Good guy, knowledgeable and efficient. From his studio, Don also has a running series of classes and tutorials. If you’re in the Silicon Valley area, his in-house program is most convenient.

Other Newsletters. I hold fast that David Vestal still writes the best newsletter in the country. Grump. PO Box 309. Bethlehem CT. 06751. Can’t beat it. $30 for six issues. I also like Post Factory Photography. Crammed with pages of highly detailed craft and comments. A great guide for buying stuff. $24 for 4 issues. 61 Morton Street. New York, NY 10014.

Press 9 to forward all complaints and gripes, and I’ll see you when I see you.


Application for a workshop

Please print and mail; I'm not accepting anything over the Internet. Yet.
Also, please write or print legibly.



city, state, zip:



workshop number and name:

tuition enclosed: $
U.S. dollars only

I have read the workshop description and policies, and understand them: ___ (initial)

If you sign up for a workshop and find you cannot attend, all of your money will be cheerfully refunded, no questions asked, if you give notice three days prior to the start of the workshop. NO SHOWS will pay a 20% late fee.


* These workshops call for extensive driving. There will be days when 200-300 miles must be covered. There will be some really rotten, twisty up and down narrow roads, not impassable for a car, but rough and dirty. (They all lead to great photographic sites) All vehicles must have reasonable road clearance. Basic map reading skills are necessary. Finicky eaters or those on tedious diets may find the road trips impractical.

2002 Newsletter

contents copyright ©2001 Stare Network; all rights reserved