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2007 29th year

145 Boyd Way
Carmel CA 93923
831 624-5535
(nuts to email)

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Al Weber 2007 Newsletter

“Once upon a time in the high Rockies of Colorado there existed a magical place called Victor School, which was filled with a special fervor, respect, generosity, a lot of FUN, good people and love. Victor School had all the right stuff.”

—Peter Robert Thompson, from Simple American Places. Portfolio #1.

Thanks, Peter, for writing the above. Peter was a Victor School Grunt. We were blessed with many wonderful grunts over the years. Suzie and I owned Victor School in Colorado from 1977, where we ran workshops. One hundred three photographers came to teach for us. The student count was in the thousands. After ten years we sold the school. It came back. A number of times. It just seemed the 1899 Victor School building didn’t want us to leave. Finally, in 2007, Mark and Tarla Perdue from Vail, Colorado came along, bought it, and now it is the Rocky Mountain Soccer Camp. Everyone is happy and we’re milling around, trying to decide on the ‘next step.’ I doubt it will involve an old building in the mountains.

Suzie is retired, after teaching since 1969 for a incompetent school system whose methods were always frustrating. In just a few weeks, my wife looks younger and has more energy. Anyone who teaches in public schools today is crazy. Idiots with a fistful of degrees, but not one ounce of common sense run the show. Those caught with sticky fingers, are given a healthy pension, benefits and a golden watch. Suzie got flowers from the local Safeway.

But this is a newsletter about photography. Bruce Barnbaum has an exclusive on politics, David Vestal does the intellectual and historical materials. Stephen Johnson covers electronics, Kim Weston tells you about traveling in the British Isles or Mexico. It’s rumored that John Sexton may release one of Ansel’s secret zones, soon. Gad, what’s left for me?

Enlarger Tune-up Telephone call this morning from Houston. Len Kowitz with a enlarger question. Len works with 35mm and 6X6 in BW. Good photographer, bright with clean habits in the darkroom and a passion for quality. Later I got to thinking and decided that maybe what he really needed was a good old fashioned tune-up. Maybe you too would be interested in some do-it-yourself easy adjustment/repairs. This goes along with what I wrote back in 2005 about making your darkroom a place you want to work. User friendly is the popular term. I call it ‘nesting.’ I came up with the idea one day as I looked around our house and came to the conclusion that what Suzie, my wife of 38 years, has done with our home is build a nest. Unlike the g-d computer, most things in a darkroom can be serviced by the user. I like to tinker with my gear, keep it working smoothly and make small changes here and there. Lets start with the enlarger. All moving parts like a squirt of WD-40 once in a while. Wipe off the excess please. Condensers and lenses need a window wash on a regular basis. Don’t use Windex; do use a standard lens cleaner. Cold light heads need to be vacuumed; itty bitty critters creep in, crap and creep out and it’s always between the tube and the diffusion glass. I don’t give a hang whether you use diffusion light or condensers; they both make good prints. They both also can make bad prints. Material for another newsletter perhaps. If your cathode tube is old, consider a new one. Aristo makes high intensity WHITE tubes. They’re brighter, and colorless, which of course is better when using VC papers. Len’s problem was fall off towards the edges during projection. Surprise: The manufacturer considers this normal. A Beseler rep told me one time that if the light at the edges was within one stop of the center, that was acceptable. To them, maybe. but not to us. Projection lenses rarely transmit as much light toward the perimeter as they do at the center .A fault found in many field lenses also. Schneider makes a correction filter to balance this fall off. It costs almost as much as the lens, AND absorbs mucho light. Bummer. Most of us simply grit our teeth and dodge the edges. It is fast, simple and doesn’t cost anything. In olden times when men were men and enlargers were ENLARGERS, there was a magnificent company called Elwood in Indianapolis. Their enlargers were heavy, solid because they were cast iron, had a huge lamp housing that was quite good, glass negative carriers (which hold film flat) AND a special drawer just above the negative stage, where one placed layers of thin tissue, in the light path, to even out the illumination before it reaches the easel. Maybe your new whiz bang enlarger has a place to do the same. Look for a drawer that usually is designated for heat absorbing glass. Balancing the light is easy. Turn off all safelights, turn on the enlarger, focus to about 16X20 and scan the easel with any decent light meter. When you find a bright spot, cut an appropriate piece of tissue and stuff it in the enlarger to balance things out. Wasn’t that easy?. When all else fails, a different enlarger may be the answer. The Vivitar VI works well with it’s fiber optic light pipe that puts out a very flat field of illumination. The Vivitar VI never caught on. It reminds me of Saab automobiles. Practical; everything where it ought to be, but simply has never caught on. Too bad; both Saabs and Vivitar VI enlargers are better than their competition (in my opinion). Find a used one on E-Bay. Finally, alignment. The negative stage, the lens stage and the easel all have to be parallel. If you use a view camera, this is obvious. If any one of the three is out of adjustment, you will have problems with the focus. Some enlargers have adjustments to address this. My favorite is a Vivitar VI, which is totally adjustable. Other enlargers, without adjustable stages can be persuaded, usually with a few friendly raps with a rubber mallet. Easels are the simplest to correct by simply shimming, with strips of cardboard. To see the alignment, one needs to place a level at each stage. You can buy a enlarger level at a camera store or buy a torpedo level at a hardware store, which will do the same thing, but for a fraction of the cost. Enlarging lenses that come with the enlarger are usually cheap and poorly corrected. Treat your darkroom to a bit of class with good glass. Schnieder Componon (not Componar) anything made by Leitz, Nikkor, some of the Fuji’s (not all of them) and Rodenstock (which I prefer). I admit to being a lens freak. To me a lens is like a diamond. Today, most lenses have similar characteristics. There is little difference among the above. Early lenses really had personalities. Some were best for portraiture, some were best for technical purposes. If I were to do a lot of portraits, I would seriously consider looking for a lense made around 1920. Contemporary lenses are just too contrasty. So now we’ve got the enlarger working well, and maybe the next thing to work on could be the timer. I still see old Time-o-lites and Greylabs around. These are mechanical machines, with metal parts (the old ones). They are in the darkroom which has a high level of humidity. They rust. Inside and out. Digital timers are the only was to go. Vivitar digital timers are waterproof. You can throw them in the developer tray and they still run. I like old CP timers. When Ilford bought them out, they changed the timer and ruined it. Thus it no longer is on the market. I still see them at swap meets; usually for $25-$50. CP is for Creative Phototronics, who also designed the Ilford M-10 print monitor, which I also like. Today, in my opinion, the best timer available is made by Redlight Industries (hi Erik and Karl). The Metrolux Darkroom Lamp Controller. It compensates for electric variation. and light intensity, and has a sensor directly on the light source. If the light dims suddenly, the timer picks it up and adjusts accordingly. It can be re-calibrated by the user. It truly is new and improved, not just an old alarm clock with a fancy coat of paint.
Gourmet Section

Traveling around the west, usually by car or truck, one is constantly on the lookout for a decent place to eat. It need not be fancy or what is called gourmet, just clean, good food at a reasonable price. This is for those who cringe at the thought of another cookie cutter chain with the plastic exteriors, plastic-like food, served by people with a plastic smile and you give your money to a under nourished man in an oversized white starched shirt with a skinny black tie. In Twin Falls, Idaho, (I know you pass through there a lot) don’t miss The Depot Grill, since 1927. Good plain food, served by fun people, fast service ... and good, very good. The price too, is right! I had a ham and cheese sandwich with potato salad for $4.95. It was outstanding. Breakfast, lunch and dinner at 545 Shoshone Street S. Try the bean soup. You won’t be sorry.


We’ve got some doozies.

cannery row a time in between. Diana G. Dennis. tidewarp ventures. $17. A great story of love and romance and the magic of a place called Cannery Row. Lots of fun photographs for illustration. A screaming notice that it really is wonderful to be alive. Diana modeled for me many years ago and was great then. Now she’s a bit older and even better, with heaps of energy, and it all shows. Help from Pat Hathaway brings in some fine historic views of the row.

Bloodthirsty Bitches and Pious Pimps of Power. Gerry Spence. St. Martin’s Press. $23.95. Not photographic but Gerry really is a fine photographer too. Read and laugh your way through all the screamers on TV. You won’t be sorry. One more pithy Spence-ism.

(Read My T-Shirt) for President. Judy Seigel. Front & Back Press. $18.00. Can you imagine all the T-Shirts in New York? The ones with the outrageous sayings? For and Against everything/body. Well Judy has found all of them and photographed them delightfully. Judy did the Photo District News, and finally retired it, much to my regret. It was one fine newsletter, full of good scoop and sage advice. This book of hers….is a true history of the political front-and back. It appears Judy Seigel is alive and well, thank you.

Poetry as Insurgent Art. Lawrence Ferlinghetti. New Directions. $12.95. San Francisco has never been my favorite City. I’ve always had to trick myself to go there on business. Since the sixties, my procedure has been to have lunch at some small North Beach restaurant, like Jakes, just off Columbus and Powell. If an evening needs to be spent, I’ve gone to the Purple Onion and taken in the Smothers Brothers. The sounds of Dave Brubeck and Cal Tjader still resonate in my head. Grant Avenue coffee houses, Alan Ginsburg-those were the days; for me at least. The huge Carol Doda neon sign on Broadway, a hamburger at Mikes, a bit of Bingo at Peter and Paul Cathedral, coffee at John Graffeo’s, and of course the hippies. The climax however has always been a leisurely visit to City Lights Booksellers at Columbus and Broadway, run by that elusive proprietor, Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti has been the glue that held it all together.

Well, let me tell you, old Lawrence is still around and he’s still at the poetry gig. This new book, this new book by this old guy, wipes out all the cobwebs. If you are a poet, read at your own risk. If you are just a reader of poetry, find out what you are missing from your usual fare. Here we have a primer of what poetry really is, could be, should be. He is in fact the poetic conscience of America, and that is no over statement.

Advice for Photographers: The Next Step. Al Weber. Café Margo, Publisher. $10. $12 by mail. Well I finally did it. An accumulation of all the things I have been yelling at you for 40 years. Could the following be true?

“Just read Al’s book and it seems to me it is certainly not limited to photographers! Good advice for all who aspire. Carolyn Gilbert, Pandora’s Box, Electra, Texas.”

“Somewhere between a verbal kick in the pants and a tender nudge from the nest-“ Rita Bottoms, former Head of Special Collections, McHenry Library, UC Santa Cruz.

You can have your copy, all 6” x 4.5”, (pocket size) by writing me at 145 Boyd Way, Carmel CA 93923. Send $12. Or, chase me down on the freeway. I’m the old goat driving the silver Volvo wagon. Retail outlets: San Francisco. City Lights. Carmel. Weston Gallery. Monterey. Myrick’s Photographic. Santa Fe. Photo-Eye. Electra (Texas) Pandora’s Box. Rockport (Maine) Timothy Whelan Photography. Connecticut, the Merwinsville Hotel in Gaylordsville.

Silent Waves. Douglas Busch. Paper Mirror Press. $10. A small book showing a new and different Doug Busch. Intense, Haunting. Tasteful.

Notes On a Shared Landscape. David Bayles. Image Continuum. $45. You know David from his co-authorship with Ted Orland with Art & Fear. Here he speaks alone with his personal thoughts and concerns regarding the West. David is one of the true thinkers of our times, regarding the environment.

The View From the Studio Door. Ted Orland. $12.95. Image Continuum. First with David Bayles in Art & Fear, and now this. Few speak or write with a better understanding of making art than Ted. Carefully exploring the fallacies of higher education and what it has led to on gallery walls. A companion to Art & Fear, along with friend David Bayles and his Notes on a Shared Landscape, (also Image Continuum) this direction in writing is new, clear, truthful, and most importantly, helpful.

For Sale. From a private collection; Bullock. Scrimshaw Press. good. $125. Widening Stream, Water damaged. Peregrin, $30. Family of Man. Good. $60. Wynne Bullock, The Enchanted Landscape. Aperture. Excellent. $125. Al Weber. Portfolio I, Fifteen Photographs. (1972) $1,500. Call me for details.


What’s that song? “The Old Gray Mare, She Ain’t What She Used To Be.” Here I sit, fat, sassy and 77 years old. I’ve been in the workshop business forty four years. It’s time to cut myself a bit of slack. That old saying, “Grow old with me, the best is yet to come.” is a bunch of horse pucky. I prefer the poster on my darkroom wall, “ Growing Old is Not For Sissies.” I’d like to find time to do non-important things, like nothing at all on some days. The Zone System is tired, film is gasping, real cameras are being replaced by itty bitty toys that are obsolete before you can get the bubble wrap off. I’ll try to merge that which has proven itself with some new things that look interesting.

#1. The Rendezvous at King City. 19-21 October 2007. $125. Every year since 1988, on the third weekend of October, we come together to share photographs, trade information, socialize and trade horror stories. Open to anyone who has ever attended a Al Weber workshop and would like to meet with contemporaries. This is a good way to get feedback (not criticism) about what you are doing and to see what else is going on. The tuition includes a camp site at San Lorenzo Park for two nights, and a swell California meal on Saturday night. In 2006, 71 attended, and I imagine this year will be similar. Lots of people, photographs and noise. There will be a $500 cash award for some young photographer.

#2. Antecedent Architecture of Virginia City. May 14-18, 2008. $775. I’m planning a workshop with St Mary’s Art Center in Virginia City. Nevada. A fine old mining camp, where massive riches came out of the earth 125 years ago, and a great town surfaced. Mark Twain helped make it famous back then and today there are many examples of honest Victorian Architecture. The workshop would headquarter at St Mary’s, a good example of architecture of the day in what was then the town hospital. Included is a room and the use of the school kitchen. For those with view cameras, where we can immediately take full advantage of view camera characteristics.. We will be using the facility that Oliver Gagliani built and used for many years. His ghost shall be looking over our shoulders. Enrollment limited to 8.

#3. Pt Lobos to Big Sur. 14, 15 & 16 June, 2008. David Vestal and Al Weber. $375. In 2007 Vestal joined me in Carmel for a workshop and it went so well, we decided to do another. This time, mostly in the field. Join us if you like, two old nomads with decades of scar tissue, as they traverse up and down the central California Coast along Highway One, into some back country, photographing, mostly with small cameras. Day trips and evenings back at my studio for prints and talk. If you’d like to do the coast, this will be a good ride.

#4. Tag-Along. Vestal and Weber. 17-20 June. $175. Stay on and caravan with David and me, through Nevada, into Idaho and wind up at the Photographers Formulary in Condon Montana, where we will do Workshop #5 at the Formulary. We’ll tie it all together, travel, photograph the west, and finalize it all with lab and studio work. Lots of time to take or make pictures. Some may not be able to make the whole trip, so any part of it can also be done. We’ll motel it along the way and search out those elusive but tasty eateries at meal time, and carry coolers for those times when we find a spot for a picnic.

#5. Photography Seminar. June 22-27. $825. Join Vestal and Weber for a week of traditional black and white photography for input from opposing and different points of view. Shoot, process, print, and discus your work in a casual and supporting atmosphere. Right down the middle of the road, with a smidgen of technical and useful science. Go on with what you do well, and we’ll try to fix what you do poorly, mostly in simple ways, without any pain. Work with the idea that we all make mistakes and few of them are fatal. If it works, jump on it. If it keeps working, stay with it.

Hang out in Montana and work with film and chemicals .We’ll argue and not agree on everything. Mysteriously we’ll keep making respectable photographs. Old fashioned suspicious hardware that seems to just keep working, and doesn’t go out of date with a change in the weather. A week of black and white photography with emphasis on hand craft. Stay in a swell room, shared or alone, your choice, camp or stay down the road in a motel. Let Lynn and her crew pamper and feed you like royalty. The meals alone are worth the tuition. Outstanding and well equipped darkrooms, and a great chemical supply house.

Take one or all three workshops. If all three are taken, the Tuition will be reduced $200.

The Formulary is a special place. The surrounding landscape is mountains and lakes. Glacier National Park is just to the north. Bud and Lynn Wilson have tastefully built a wonderful complex that combines a peaceful meadow and lodge setting tucked up against rugged peaks. Wild life is abundant, horses and dogs are very much at home, rooms are comfortable and modern, or you can camp in a quiet glen. Lynn does a delicious job with meals and there is always time to sit back and take it easy. The labs are spacious and open during off hours. Those attending are expected to work, but there is no pressure and there is ample time to discus and evaluate photographs. Vestal and Weber fit right in, this will be their fifth year at Condon, both enjoy working with students, they’ve been around quite a while, both are easy going and knowledgeable with the photographic process, and both respect and pursue craft.

Write the Photographer’s Formulary for #5. PO Box 950. Condon MT. 59626. Or call at 1 800 922-5255.

The Dick Baker & Charlie Morrell Scholarship

$500 cash plus a free tuition to the Rendezvous. Support a needy student. It’s good for some of the old timers to see what younger people are doing. No strings attached. Winner only needs to attend the Rendezvous and participate. Spend the money anyway you like. For an application, contact Jim Noel. We know Dick and Charlie would be smiling over this one.

And here’s a little guest commentary by an old friend, addressing a subject dear to my heart.

I’m Not Dead Yet!!
by Virginia (Jenny) Newton

Our good friend Al Weber has been rescuing photographs for many years. If you’ve hung out with Al, you may be familiar with the story of Steve Crouch. The life work of this preeminent west coast photographer was literally in a pickup truck headed for the dump when Al was called by Hunter Witherill, told what was happening, intervened, and saved it from destruction. After Steve’s death, the family was cleaning out the darkroom and had no idea that anyone would be interested in all that “junk.” If Al had hesitated and arrived a few minutes too late, none of Steve’s impressive black and white and color work would have survived.
Al also helped to save Oliver Gagliani’s work. In failing health and not sure what to do with his archive, Oliver had started tossing photographs into the fireplace when he received Al’s call. Al was instrumental in placing Crouch’s and some of Gagliani’s archives with the McHenry Library Special Collections unit at UC Santa Cruz. He has also worked with a number of other photographers to help them make decisions that will ensure that their photographic work is around for the enjoyment and education of future generations.

Al is passionate in his belief that the significant work of many unknown and unsung photographers who have documented the culture, landscape and history of their place and time deserve to be preserved. While he recognizes that it’s not possible for one institution to accept all of this work and that it may not be possible to find a home for every single collection, Al and a small group of friends with similar concerns have created the Foundation for Photographic Preservation (FfPP).

FfPP’s goals are to preserve the significant work of career photographers, identify suitable archives for bodies of photographic work, and assist photographers, their families and their estates in preparing collections for placement. FfPP can offer creative solutions about what to do with the “junk” in the darkroom, and serve as an intermediary between archives and donors.

In the past six months, FfPP has worked to place the photographic archives of the late Ralph Putzker and Hal Halberstadt. CSU San Francisco where Ralph taught for many years is interested in his archive. Halberstadt’s archive is scheduled to go to UC Davis Special Collections. Hal’s advertising photography for food and wine clients is especially relevant to the new Mondavi Food and Wine Center at UC Davis.

“Yes,” you might say, “but I’m not dead yet!” Even though all of us will die someday, it’s not a topic we like to address. But no matter what our age, it’s never too early to think about and create a plan for what we would like done with our lifetime body of work if one fine day the cruise boat sinks or the Mack truck doesn’t see our little red sports car.

With all the details that have to be dealt with in the aftermath of a timely or untimely death, you can’t blame your loved ones for not being able to cope with all that “junk.” You need to talk to them now and let them know what your wishes are. Let them know about the possibilities that might exist for your work. Put it in writing so there’s no question about what to do with it after you’re gone. You might also talk with your financial advisor about creating an endowment to help support preservation of your archive.

Our creative work consumes a great deal of our time, energy and other resources during our lifetimes. Yet, it’s hard for our friends or our families to understand just what it is that drives us to create. Although they might like certain of our images and respect how important it has been for us to make them, they probably have no inkling of the overall significance of our archive as documentation, art or history. They most likely would not have a clue as to whether it should be preserved or how to go about preserving it.

That’s where FfPP can be of service. We serve as an advocate for the body of work. But in order to help, people have to know about us, and we have to have funds to sustain our operation. That’s where you come in. You can help us get the word out to photographers and curators of collecting institutions. You can also help us through your financial support. Your donations big and small are greatly appreciated. Donations may be tax deductible. FfPP is a California non-profit corporation.

Contact FfPP, 240 South Thirteenth Street, San Jose, California 95112. You may also visit our website.

Print Sale To Benefit FfPP A limited number of original black and white tone line prints by Hal Halberstadt have been made available to Al Weber by Erik and Hans Halberstadt to sell for the benefit of FfPP. If you are interested in purchasing one call Al at 831 624-5963.
How to sign up for a workshop #1, send money. #2 tell me who you are and where you get your mail. THEN I’ll send you pertinent information. My workshops are not intense. They are casual but serious. They are not vacations. No politics, no religion. Dogs and children are not welcome. Non participating adult partners are welcome. Depending on the workshop, there is a fee for these folks; to cover insurance and stuff like that. Full tuition is required with application. If, for any reason, you can’t make the workshop, all of your money will be refunded. No administrative withholdings or other hidden charges.

So long, I’ll see you when I see you,

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