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2004 26th year

same old address:
145 Boyd Way
Carmel CA 93923
831 624-5535

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Al Weber 2004 Newsletter

Victor School to Reopen

Closed for sixteen years, Victor School will once more offer workshops in photography and related arts. People tell us they miss the old program or wish they had been there. Well, here it is, one more time, in the style of 2004.

It’s a long story that reads like a soap opera. Victor School ran for ten years until 1987, when owners Suzie and Al Weber (that’s me) sold the school and the program to Norwegian Hallstein Kjoellsdal, who had grand ideas but questionable habits. Repossessing the school in 1988, we resold it to an investment group on Wilshire Blvd. when gambling was legalized in nearby Cripple Creek. The crusty old 14,000 square foot building was converted to housing for miners, a video store and a mining office. The boys with white shoes proved they too could not make it work, and one more time, Suzie and I owned the school. Dan Fong, decided he’d like to take a crack at it, putting in new central heating, plumbing upgrades and electrical improvements. It went well through 1999, but, once more, Suzie and I had to take the property back in December, 2003.

When we first bought the school, I was 47 years old and Suzie was 33. We’re no longer young, but scar tissue has replaced the vigor of youth, and we think the old 1899 building needs to be a school again. We won’t be running 45 workshops a summer (as before), but will get into a slower pace, where students can come, work and associate with fine folks who are good photographers AND, outstanding teachers.

Sadly, some of the people who made Victor School what it was, have passed on. Joe Vanderwalker died in 1998 at age 93. A Victor native, renaissance man supreme, Joe could fix or build anything. Everyone loved Joe, and it will be difficult to even think about running the school again, knowing he is gone. Gone too, shortly after Joe, his colorful wife Mac. Many a night, after Joe had retired, Mac and I shared a nip or two of Jack Daniel’s. Al Goodwin, one of Colorado’s finest prospectors also has died. You can’t mine the gold if you don’t know where it is, and Al was uncanny in his skills. Gone is Eleanor Baker, Postmistress supreme for decades, whose dislike and distrust of UPS and Federal Express were similar to the Hatfield and McCoy feuds. She hated the sight of their trucks and I have memories of her standing on the curb shaking her fist at them. I first heard the term Fed-UP from Eleanor. Jim Keeler was mayor of Victor for most of the years we were there. He was blunt and narrow minded, with a heart only for Victor and the mines. He fed his dog every morning by opening a can of dog food at both ends, going to his window on the second floor and pushing the canned meat down to the waiting dog. One day while I was walking back to the school, with an arm load of toilet paper from the Fortune Club, Jim called to me. We walked towards each other and met in the intersection of Victor Avenue and Third, the Time Square of the City of Gold Mines. I’ve forgotten what he wanted to talk about, but while we were standing there, a tourist drove up and honked at us to move. Jim waved him around and just kept talking. When the tourist honked again, Jim had him cited for disturbing the peace.

On the up side, Dudley Wiltse is still in town and ready to jump in once more. For that I am grateful. Dudley and Joe were our dynamic duo. If one of them couldn’t do something, the other always could. Miriam Birmingham still has her hands on the Cripple Creek & Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad. She owns the Woodpecker, a wonderful old two story log cabin on the South side of town, known as a swell party house. Miriam is an outstanding artist working in silk screen she learned at Victor School. She is part of a small group, mostly women, who excel in their art, and help June Bradley at the Monarch Gallery put on one fine art festival every year. Cherry Hunter is a outstanding painter, and you can see her everywhere around town, painting, painting, painting and volunteering at the Museum. Her husband Ed, is manager of the Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mining Company, and that is what Victor is really about: GOLD. A recent project at the old Cresson Mine was to reclaim tailings formerly considered as waste. The waste came from production of over 2,000,000 ounces of gold from the past. Current work is bringing in 1,000,000 more ounces, just from the waste. You work the numbers, gold is currently $425 per ounce.

Over a ten year period, Victor School had a staff of 101. There were few who weren't outstanding. Suzie and I are proud that we can name known photographers today who were unknown when they were scrubbing floors at Victor School.

As then, we ask, trust us. The new crew know they have large shoes to fill. No one can replace Todd Walker, Lou Stoumen, Morley Baer, Cole Weston, Dorr Bothwell, Edmund Teske, Bill Brice, Hal Halberstadt or Edna Bullock and so we can't offer the same program. We can offer a new one though; and the new kids will do just fine. I guarantee it.

We will open June 9th and run into October, fall color/early snow time.

There are RV sites at the school, room for tent campers, dorm space with bath and kitchen privileges and a few small private sleeping rooms. Nothing fancy, but very clean. Three short blocks away is a first class hotel. Six miles west is Cripple Creek with the usual gambling type facilities available and good food at reasonable prices.

The nearest airport is 45 miles in Colorado Springs. There is no public transportation to Victor. Drive your car, rent a car or walk. Once there, walking is easy to everything.

Victor is at 9,717 feet on the south slope of Pikes Peak, a 14,110 foot Colorado landmark. It is a cool climate. In 1900, the population was 18,000. Today it is around 500. Victor is about mining gold. It is one of the largest and most productive camps ever. Today as a hundred years ago, mining is extensive. Today it can be done efficiently with large machines and few men. The sleepy town has a fine museum that is heavy in Lowell Thomas lore. Thomas grew up in Victor. He went to Victor School, his father was the town doctor. Two weeks before he died, he was a guest at Victor School and Suzie fed him a nice lunch. The Monarch Gallery is the place to shop for local art, crafts and antiques. Proprietor June Bradley is a Victor fixture and a real lady. Across the street Mac will serve you a swell ice cream soda or malted milk in a legitimate old fashioned soda fountain at the Fortune Club. Mac is the token man with class. he drives a Rolls Royce, and it fits perfectly. Two doors up the street is It's Someplace Else. Draft beer, Coors of course, a pool table, a long bar, good hamburgers and outstanding burritos. The grocery store contains the post office, and both are more than adequate for a town like Victor. Next door is a gunsmith shop, and Gus knows guns, especially old ones. He just may be the friendliest gunsmith in Colorado, and the shop is a good place to get a free cup of coffee. Every afternoon you can catch up on the news as Gus hosts the local seniors, and they all are willing to tell you their views about national events. The ring leader here is Robert Pederie, whose name is still on the honor roll in the entry hall at Victor School and who was the last custodian at the school before the school district sold it to us in 1977. Robert is a tad past 39. At the Rocky Mountain BROOMWORKS, on South Third Street, you can purchase elegant brooms made the old fashioned way using wonderful and natural materials with machinery that dates back a very long time. Quiet friendly people, who offer every type of broom from a whisk broom to one used to reach tall ceilings. junk shoppes or antique stores (both about the same) are abundant. Travis Allen, who runs jet Service will tow and repair your car, using a real tow truck. If you're lucky he may park your car with the other old wrecks around his business, many dating back 70 plus years. This gives your contemporary auto a honor status that is indeed rare.

These are hard working people. There is little crime. justice is swift and somewhat severe. There is no unemployment. There are jobs for anyone willing to work. Many of the miners are from Mexico. They come for a specific job, do the job, and go home. For years Victor School has rented rooms to the miners. They are good tenants, and besides, I like mariachi music and the aroma of beans on the community stove.

I spell these things out to make sure you understand you are not visiting Aspen, Vail or Jackson Hole. In Victor, to be called a redneck is a compliment. In all the years I've been around Victor, I've always felt welcome. With camera in hand, you will feel the same. They recognize you as revenue, and Victor doesn't have hoards of tourists.

Come on up to Victor. Our workshops are not intense, as advertised in 'other' programs. The building is an old mess, but with class. It's warm, dry, clean and safe. The teachers Suzie and I have chosen are experienced, friendly and patient. Our goal is to make you a repeating customer. You can't do that unless you satisfy people. If you are concerned about the elevation, we suggest you add a day of travel and take the ride up in stages.

Victor School has no telephone. In 40 years of teaching workshops, I have found no equal to the telephone for being disruptive. You may bring your own phone (which probably won't work anyway in Victor) or walk down to the pay phone at the Fortune Club, or reclaim your freedom from that infernal machine, at least while you are with us. Just think, you won't be, can't be, bothered by telemarketers.

To Stay at the School Staying at the school is inexpensive. It isn't fancy. It is very plain, and well used. Bring a sleeping bag and a lawn chair if you don't want to stand all the time. If you plan to use the community kitchen bring your utensils and cookware. Gifts of used and comfortable furniture are welcome.

There is a no smoking policy at the school. Any sign of substance abuse is immediately reported to the Victor police, and if you think that is funny, drop by the police station and take a look at the 104-year old jail.
To Apply In the past I have worked up complex application forms. Few use them. If you want to sign up for a workshop, send a check made out to Victor School at, Victor School, PO Box 47, Victor, Colorado. 80860. Say which workshop you want, and I'll send you an information sheet. Any money sent will be cheerfully refunded should you decide to cancel and I don't care why. I ask that you notify me of cancellation prior to the workshop. Your name will be placed on a roster only when I have received a check. We never have retained deposits from those who change their minds. We stand on a no questions asked refund policy. Can't afford to lay out the cash for what you would like to do? Tell us, and maybe we can help.
Housing Information Stay at the school and choose: To tent camp: ($5 day). Bring your RV ($7.50-$10 day). Stay in a small sleeping room ($10 day). Or in a shared dorm ($7.50 day). Or, stay in a grand restored Victorian hotel a couple of blocks down the street ($80 a day and up). There is: a community kitchen, there are hall baths and a coin laundry.
Workshops for 2004
04-01. The Salinas Valley. April 23, 24 & 25, $275 Wooden barns, old tractors, small by-passed towns, missions (the ones not on post cards) row crops, wine production, narrow roads, slow moving trucks. the upside down river (the Salinas), rich fertile land, unequaled anywhere, all terminating at Moss Landing, a deep water fishing port with miles of estuary sloughs and bird life. And we shall dine daily on the finest of California cuisine. (Let's hear it for the Pit Stop at San Ardo where a delicious egg and chorizo burrito, with home made chips and salsa is a whopping $2.50). We'll camp at King City, next to a 100 year old black smith shop. Scheduled when the valley is the greenest and the possibility of wildflowers the greatest.
04-02. Rendezvous at Songdog Ranch. October 15, 16 & 17. $115 Dating back to 1988, the gathering is designed for those who have attended previous Weber workshops. Portfolios are shown and discussed, without criticism. There are general discussions of topical issues and a print exchange. Tuition includes two nights camp fee, 2 dinners and 2 breakfasts and a neat old lodge where we meet. The meals are cooked cowboy style, chicken, turkey, tri-tip, beans, garlic bread, SOS, scrambled eggs and lots of coffee at picnic tables. Just like camping out, but you don't have to do any cooking or clean-up. The idea of a rendezvous dates back to thinking there are many who have been in workshops, would still like to get out and mingle with others, but don't need further instruction
04-03. The Pinnacles, Old Hernandez Road and San Juan Bautista. October 23, 24 & 25. $275 South of Hollister, along the western flank of the Great Central Valley, lies an agricultural area of California that has just sat there for decades, drawing little attention. Wonderful old fence rows, wooden barns, big ones, huge oaks that reach out over the highway, and fields, as far as the eye can see. The workshop will camp at Pinnacles National Monument. The Pinnacles are a workshop to themselves; full of mystery, straddling the San Andreas Fault, Old Hernandez Road looks like a real John Ford set, Sunday breakfast at Mikes in Tres Pinos and over to San Juan Bautista; great mission, fine old buildings and early California history. Nothing intense about this trip. Easy going, fun, great photographic exercises just ripe for the picking. Tired of all the conceptual contemporary politically correct crap? Tag along on this one for a breath of fresh air. Scheduled when the landscape is dry and golden.
In Montana
David Vestal The last two weeks in August With David Vestal at the Photographers Formulary. Two workshops, one week each. Take one or both. Run and shoot and process. Vestal with hand held small format black and white. Weber with color and advanced Zone System techniques. Many cross-over sessions. Traditional approaches by two who have been there for years. Cantankerous friends who agree on many subjects, but not all. A chance to clarify your process, maybe learn a few new/old tricks and get some honest but positive feedback on what you are doing. David and I have known each other since 1967, but not until 2002 did we team up on a workshop. It went well, and both of us look forward to working together again. This time with the Formulary. This is an unusual chance for input from opposing and different points of view, both with decades of experience. For details contact Bud or Lynn at (800) 922-5255 or e-mail
In Colorado
04-07. Victor Workshop. June through September. By Appointment. Staff. $100 per day. $250 per week Total flexibility in scheduling. Bring your project, Stay at the school and choose to tent camp ($5 day), bring your RV($7.50-$l 0 day), stay in a small sleeping room ($10 day) or in a shared dorm ($7.50 day). There are: a community kitchen, hall baths, a coin laundry, and a cable TV area. Or, stay in a grand restored Victorian hotel a couple of blocks down the street ($80 day and up). The ultimate in Individual Studies. Although there will be other workshops during the summer, this is the underlying strength of what happened in the early 1980s and what we will bring to the table one more time. Throughout the summer, there will be an ever changing participation by working photographers and teachers, all available to you, and all overseen by Al Weber.

NOTE. A residence program will include Erik Lauritzen, David Williams, Don Rogers, Jenny Newton, possibly Phil Hyde, Peter LeGrande, Paul Schranz, Kazu, Paul Christean, Charlie Morrell and Oliver Schuchard, Jan Pietrzak, Bruce Haley, Doug Busch and maybe a drop in visit from David Vestal.

04-08. Think Platinum & The View Camera. 09-13 June. Jan Pietrzak. $500 The antecedent architecture of Victor, which evolved at the turn of the century and reflects an incredibly wealthy society during Colorado's prime gold production, was secretly designed to be photographed at a later date by photographers of Polish descent, using view cameras and working with the precious metal, platinum, Fine tune your view camera techniques, and learn one of the most beautiful photographic processes ever to come down the road. Pietrzak, whose association with Victor School dates back to the very first year, is a highly skilled and sensitive photographer who excels in contact prints and the gentle extended scale beauty of Platinum.
04-09. High Country Landscape. 14-18 June. Charlie Morrell. $275 Charlie lives in nearby Alma, one of the highest cities in the state, elevation, 10,543 feet, There is an old saying in the high country of Colorado, "Never trust anyone under 9,000 feet," Working high brings on a euphoria and energy burst peculiar to elevation. The air is incredibly sharp. The sky is a spooky deep blue. Clouds all look like they originated in Hollywood, Charlie will lead you over high passes with old ghost depots along the way, including some of the most beautiful Bristlecone Pines anywhere. This workshop is specifically designed for those who want to travel and shoot. Bring lots of film, or, if you work digital, this is a paradise.
04-10. Phantom Canyon. 26-27 June. Al Weber. $175 Once upon a time there was a narrow gauge train that delivered coal from the mines in Florence to the gold mines In Victor. The route, through the hellish but beautiful Phantom Canyon is spooky, steep, scary and ate trains a hundred years ago like an inferno from the devil. Beginning at 9700 feet, the road descends to 6,000 feet in 32 miles. It goes from deep ravines on the south slope of Pikes Peak to the vast prairie just north of Pueblo. Old tunnels that are intimidating and trestle bridges that raise the eyebrows of the most hardy, this is not a ride for flatlanders. Come along with Weber, who has worked this road for 25 years. This is real Colorado. Camp in the canyon or return to the dorms of Victor at night. If you like to photograph a rugged landscape, take this workshop.
04-11. Documentary Photography. 28 June-2 July. Bruce Haley. $450 Think about the work of Paul Strand in documenting a complete area, consisting not only of people in their daily lives, and portraits but workplace interiors, architectural details and landscapes in a most broad-minded, wide in scope interpretation. Haley, internationally recognized for his war photographs, winner of the prestigious Capa Award and former shooter for Black Star, brings a wealth of experience and sound taste to the table in documentary work, maybe the most important photography we have.
04-12. The Sheff Rood. 03 July. Al Weber. $95 So you made it down Phantom Canyon and think you are pretty smart. Are you up for another one? The Shelf Road between Canyon City and Cripple Creek parallels Phantom Canyon, but is about twenty miles to the west. I've never understood why anyone would want to go to Canyon City, home of the Royal Gorge and Old Max, Colorado's notorious prison, but the fact is, back then, It was a stage route. What views. What rock formations. No motor homes or trailers. People from back east don't care for the Shelf Road, but if you have a bit of adventure In your soul, come on along.
04-13. The Nude & Working in the Weston Tradition. 05-09 July. Kim Weston. $450 Kim brings the tradition of the Weston family, photographing the nude with 8x10, building sets, pyro developing by inspection, rich silver and platinum printing, personal energy and commitment that have made all Weston photographers outstanding for over 80 years. This is what being a photographer is all about. No part time something else, Photography as a way of life and refined by Kim, his father Cole, his uncle Brett and of course his grandfather, Edward. The tradition and spirit live on. Cole was a major contributor to the old Victor School, and now Kim is stepping into his shoes
04-14. Introduction to the Zone System. 11 July. Al Weber. $125

Take all three Zone System workshops for $625.

A one day overview of the Zone System from the first presentation in 1948 to now. Demonstrations, using Polaroid and conventional films clarify the philosophy and strengths, and also point out the limitations. Applications for roll film cameras and color will be covered. Digital techniques, in comparison with the Zone System will also be included. Those attending should have completed the equivalent of a basic class. This one day class is meant to help you decide ff you wish to pursue the Zone System. In essence, one should come away with a understanding of the characteristics of how the system works, what it can do and what it cannot do.
04-15. The Basic Zone System & Testing Procedures. 12-16 July. Al Weber. $450

Take all three Zone System workshops for $625.

How to read film and prints. Determining actual film speeds. Placing values. Understanding the Characteristic Curve. How to choose a film. Necessary Lab Techniques. Meter selection and use and the solving of problems that come up as we all photograph. Al Weber has been actively involved with the Zone System more than fifty years. He taught it for Ansel Adams in his Yosemite workshops for eighteen years. He can help you decide which way to go.
04-16. Advanced Zone System Application and Philosophy. 17-18 July. Al Weber. $195

Take all three Zone System workshops for $625.

For those now working with the Zone System who would like to explore other methods that fine tune the System. At this stage one is probably committed to the silver gelatin print, and has developed a taste for emulsion prints that have a unique depth not available In an ink jet process or most of the alternate process. The Zone System, which dates back to 1948, sometimes takes on a aura of mystique that is uncalled for. Materials have changed since 1948, and early practices are sometimes no longer practical, yet some cling to early theories that simply no longer work. If you are to continue working with the Zone System, you must address changes that have occurred over the past fifty years. Weber has written an article for Photo Techniques, publishing date not yet committed, that addresses these issues in an effort to keep the Zone System alive and healthy. Those attending will test for themselves, to establish contemporary methodology.
04-17. The Antecedent Architecture of Victor and the POLAROID PROCESS. 19-23 July. Al Weber. $450 Those offending will develop a portfolio of Polaroid prints depicting Victor as they see it. This workshop will take advantage of the process, incorporating It's strengths and most importantly demonstrate the rare advantage of having a fine, finished photograph right in your hands just after you shoot. Polaroid is different. Those who understand the characteristics are able, to make one of a kind and precious pieces of art. Many are too impatient. They want the latitude of conventional or digital processes. Latitude is just how much of an error you are willing to live with. Adhere to the characteristics of Polaroid and enjoy the beauty of a photograph where subject and scale are perfectly aligned with film and print. The result, is an exquisite photograph, reflecting perfect use of precious materials. Emphasis will be on 4x5, both color and black and white.
04-18. Still Life with Polaroid. 26-30 July. Kazu. $500 Work with our favorite still life photographer, Kazu, from Chicago, using the view camera and Polaroid materials. Explore the beauty of Polaroid in the studio atmosphere where light can be perfectly aligned to the film. As W. Eugene Smith used to say, "I use available light." That means any light that is available. Electronic flash, tungsten, daylight or even pyrotechniques. This is a great chance to create a series of small jewels in the 1500 square foot studios of Victor School, where everyone has adequate space to function, under the tutelage of a master of constructed imagery.
04-19. Transfer Printing. 04 August. Cynthia Blanchetta. $125 Cynthia has dwelled into the elegant and limited arena of transfer printing. Students will work from 35mm slides, through the Polaroid process to a final print which rides the boundary between painting and photography. Cynthia and her husband, Daniel, are long time staff at word famous Esalen Institute, and are involved with education there. They work with spiritual themes, influenced by pre-Columbian historical remnants. Both are fine print makers in a number of processes.
04-20. The Digital Book. 05-08 August. Paul Christean. $395 From idea to finished book, Paul will take you through the whole process of making your own book, all with your own computer hardware. Start from existing film, or shoot new on digital. Organization, paper selection, layout, and binding, both color and black and white. Photographers have never had such freedom or control of their work in published form, and there are few who have the expertise of Paul.
04-21. Alternative Composition: Exercises from the Bauhaus. 06-10 September. Paul Schranz. $450 Paul, Professor Emeritus from Governors State University, has practiced what he preaches and has been a long time student and advocate of what happened at the Bauhaus 75 years ago. The Bauhaus, recognized for achievements in art education, had some startling but most practical theories. Using physical analysis from their training, time-space continuum studies, and event seeing, this workshop is designed to help photographers move beyond object seeing to more advanced visual relationships based on reasoning that directly affects compositional organization. Results for those who attend will be easier and quicker when Polaroid or Digital photography are used.
04-22. COLOR. E-6 film, POLAROID and the digital approach. 13-17 September. Charlie Morrell & Al Weber. $450 The best way to get the best results. This workshop is a direct attack on those with tunnel vision, regarding process. "I'll never use a digital camera," or, "I can't stand Polaroid," are spewed by the unknowing in selecting a way to work with color, COLOR is the important thing, and each process has advantages and disadvantages. It is a matter of exploration and careful judgment to decide which approach. They are all good, but they all are different. If you truly like Color, this is the right workshop for you. If you need help with web site design, this also is the workshop for you.
04-23. Fall Color in the Rockies. September 20-24, 2004. Tuition: $575 Virginia Newton and Al Weber. Cosponsored with University of California Extension, Santa Cruz and scheduled when the aspens are at their spectacular best. Fall colors are early in Colorado, because of the 9,000 foot elevation. The first snows come in mid August, followed by a balmy, pleasant Indian Summer. It lasts a few weeks and with it, the aspens turn. The Rockies are splashed with brilliant reds and yellows, complimenting the blues, greens and deep purples of the mountains. Days are warm, nights are cool and there is the pungent aroma of turning leaves. Victor School, former high school of Victor Colorado, sits at an elevation of 9,717 feet above sea level, on the south slope of Colorado's famous Pikes Peak. This is Gold country. One of the richest mining communities ever, and it is still very active. The small towns are all picturesque and dominated by turn of the century Victorian architecture. Come and work with Virginia and Al, friends and coteachers for many years, as they take you through a understandable and dependable method of working with color. Color negative, color positive, Polaroid and digital will all be used, with daily service for negative color and in house E-6 for positive (slide) film. Using the old school as a base, participants will travel out each day to locations, photograph, return for processing, and review in the evenings.
04-24 Draw Point or Photograph the historic mining towns of central Colorado. 27 September to 01 October. Oliver Schuchard. $450 Professor Emeritus Oliver Schuchard, University of Missouri Art Department, will return to Victor for this workshop. He is known for gentle and sensitive mid west landscapes with mellow colors and quiet tones. Oliver has incredible patience and much experience in teaching. For decades he has explored the mining communities of Colorado, teaching, photographing and painting. This is an exceptional chance to interact with photography, painting and drawing, no matter where you are at the time, with an experienced master.
Well, that's it for now, see you when I see you,

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