Stare Network
Home  |  Newsletter  |  Workshops  |  Contact
2010 32nd year

145 Boyd Way
Carmel CA 93923
831 624-5535

2009 Newsletter

2008 Newsletter

2007 Newsletter

2006 Newsletter

2005 Newsletter

2004 Newsletter

2003 Newsletter No. 2

2003 Newsletter No. 1

2002 Newsletter

2001 Newsletter

Al Weber 2010 Newsletter

To Mount or Not to Mount (photographs, that is)

David Vestal wrote in Photo Technique Magazine about why he chooses to have his photographs un-mounted. That caught my eye.

His thoughts, as usual, are well taken. For instance, buying museum quality mat boards has become costly. Back orders are common. Consistency has become an issue. When you pay $22 for a 32x40 sheet, and it has flaws, that hurts. Mat board appears to be going the way of plywood. It’s called crap, the product of a company that doesn’t care.

But cost isn’t the only issue. It takes time to do finish work, and time is one commodity those in the arts cannot waste. We don’t work 40-hour weeks and retire with a pension at 65. We knew that from the start. It goes with the territory.

David mentions that cost isn’t a factor when dealing with a gallery as they do the finishing ... sometimes. But who really pays for that? You, the photographer, that’s who. It’s just not up front. I’m unaware of any gallery that does anything for nothing.

I’ve run a few numbers regarding all this, and if a photographer farms out the finishing, which gives him/her more time, that’s a plus. However, I find if I do the finishing myself, it’s like earning $100 an hour for my labor. Sometimes I make more money finishing a photograph than I do taking it. Add it up. You might be surprised.

And what about just plain laziness? Why do something if you can avoid it? Gee, showing unmounted prints is sounding pretty good.

But now, let me tell you the good side of doing your own finishing and taking the time to mount and over mat your photographs.

You have total control while positioning the print on the board in good light and not at the easel or on some stinky little monitor. You can decide the size relationship, print to board. You can play with big boards or little boards, cold white or cream white, smooth or textured. The choices are many, and if you take your time, it can be satisfying and rewarding. The small things add up. When you’re finished, it’s personal, and it feels good. This is the time when I do my own evaluation of the photograph, with no external influence.

Far from being drudgery, I find print finishing relaxing. It’s not hard work. No one is yelling at you. It’s a solitary time to be with your work, understand it to the fullest, and then enjoy it. Photographers always seem to be in a hurry. Take (or make) the picture, do the processing, and get it out there for everyone to see, as quickly as possible. Little time is given for self-exploration and evaluation. The reason behind a photograph can rarely be discovered if it is subliminal.

Methodical study while finishing, reveals needs and potential changes in process that make the photograph speak more clearly. One gets to know their work. One needs to be able to self-critique. Until that time comes, someone else is always contributing; actually being a co-author.

Applying a loose print to a mat board protects the print. Many papers are fragile. It’s easy to crimp, bend or otherwise damage a loose print. Like white space in newspaper advertising, the mat also sets the print aside from surroundings that can visually intrude on the viewer.

So, David and all those of you who choose not to mount your photographs, you have valid reasons for what you do, but I don’t agree. One more time, the old cliché, “there is more than one way to skin a cat.”

You can buy all the needed tools by selling that lens in your ‘gadget bag’, you know, the one that doesn’t get used much, but you just had to have.

The Artist Statement

I steal from David one more time. He drills it in a letter he wrote about artist statements, with his usual clarity. I quote, “They are mostly non-sense because inarticulate visual artists tend to believe in the profundity of critictalk and try to say things like that themselves. It’s mostly naiveté (and there I go throwing in French, which I don’t speak, just like a critic or curator or dealer).” David’s own statement. “I photograph what I want to show you.”

The Telephone

My daughter-in-law, Sara, was talking on her cell phone as I walked into the living room. From there into the dining room, a distance of 20 feet, was my son, Robert, sitting at the table and also talking on his phone. They were talking to each other.

At the airport in El Paso, a group of teenagers sat nearby in the waiting area. They were talking to each other on their cell phones.

Approaching Winnemucca, Nevada on Interstate 80, already driving substantially above the speed limit, a car passed me. They were really hauling. The driver was on his cell phone.

In line at the post office, John Livingstone was talking on his phone. He didn’t really need a phone as everyone in the building could hear him.

Cruising the aisles in Safeway, a man blocked others as he got instructions, via his phone, on which brand of tomatoes to buy.

On TV, a man dressed in blue jeans with no belt and wearing a T-shirt introduced a new electronic gadget at a San Francisco trade show. I’m told he is a genius. His name is Jobs. Now I’m told his gadget is faulty. What do you expect from someone who dresses like that? Twelve weeks at Parris Island might straighten him out (Marine boot camp).

Growing up in Denver, I remember our telephone. It quietly sat there on a recessed shelf by the front door. It rang a few times each week. Someone always answered it. Today, rarely do I reach a real person when I place a call. Push this or push that. They’re always out or on the other line. “Your call is very important to us…..” If it’s so important, why don’t you just answer the phone?

Of all the people who should be competent with a telephone, AT&T seems obvious. My darkroom phone quit and Suzie called for service. The Keystone Cops or maybe the Marx Brothers couldn’t be funnier. Almost an hour of press this or press that, then several hang-ups and finally a recording offering a repair man in 5 days, who would arrive somewhere between 8AM and 8PM.

No one, it seems has one telephone. They’re all over the house. And then there is ‘Call Waiting’ and blocked numbers and on and on.

We live in a frenzy dominated by telephones. The time wasted, just waiting for that call back, is maddening. The advertisement says, “Just ask your doctor.” Who are they kidding? The cardiologist I go to may be very smart when it comes to fixing my body, but he can’t seem to figure out how to use a telephone. Neither can his receptionist.

The only people skilled in telephone use are the marketers, always at mealtime of course.

It appears this man Jobs contributes mightily to our plight, our uncontrollable attraction to a complicated, expensive device that has become more of a toy than a tool. But it’s so magnetic, and the colors are so cool. There are so many functions and it makes us feel so hip. I’d like to suggest one more function to Mr. Jobs. Bring back the reliability of the old telephones.

Workshops The Mission at San Antonio. April 14-17 and April 21-24. $550. The third and probably last of the mission series. Two sections to avoid crowds. California has 21 missions, established by Spain and the Catholic Church between 1769 and 1823. Next April I’ll do the third in a series on the missions. This time at San Antonio de Padua. We’ve made arrangements at this somewhat remote but exquisite mission to do two workshops back to back in April. Tuition includes lodging in remodeled monks quarters and catered meals. One needn’t be Catholic to appreciate the importance of this part of California history. We’ll do a workshop at the mission, from which the mission will receive a portfolio of fine prints, and full reproduction rights. Of course each participant also gets a cased portfolio. A good show is arranged at the National Steinbeck Center. Participation in the portfolio is optional. My usual staff will be there. Expertise from non-silver through conventional to digital. How to light a church interior-how to make your 35mm act like a view camera, and in-depth discussions of photography and art. Only a few slots are still available.

The Rendezvous at King City. 14-16 October 2011. $125. Same time, same place, same price. Open to all who have previously attended one of my workshops. Same program, same swell BBQ, same swell crowd. Need more information? Look it up in last year’s newsletter.

A Platinum Workshop (a doozie)

Are you interested in learning Platinum? AKA Pt/Pd. Here is a workshop I endorse. Jan Pietrzak has relocated from La Crescenta CA to Santa Fe NM and has set up his studio and lab and is now ready to resume his workshop activities. So go to Santa Fe, I know you’ve always wanted to go there anyway, sign up for the workshop, learn platinum from an exceptional practitioner, have a good time with this swell guy, take in the Santa Fe scene, and satisfaction is not only guaranteed by Pietrzak but by me too. This is one you don’t want to miss.

The Pt/Pd workshop will be two weekends: September 23, 24 and 25 (pt/pd 101) and September 30 and October 1 and 2 (pt/pd 102). Students that sign up for both parts will get use of the darkroom/studio and Jan on the 26, 27, 28 and 29th to work on negatives and other issues. So that’s the deal.

Jan Pietrzak
12 Conchas Loop
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87508
505 466 2302

The Bitch List The mute button on the TV and the delete key on the computer; what joy they bring. Have we always been in such a dumbing movement? Does TV make sense to any of you? How many law enforcement shows, complete with multiple corpses and killer women in sexy outfits and barely contained breasts are necessary? How many times must we see the same episode, over and over? I enjoy Clint Eastwood movies but it has come to the place where I can recite the dialogue of Josie Whales without the sound. Then there is the weather. They call it news, but instead it seems to be incorrect weather guessing. The local news was on yesterday, and good old Jim was saying what a fine day it was. Then I looked out the window and couldn’t see across the street because of ground fog. I guess newsrooms don’t have windows. Have you noticed; no matter where you live, all they show is what is going on in Georgia. So, we switch to public broadcasting, which should be re-named continuous whining and begging by insensitive people unaware of the term, attention span. I’d support them if they’d just shut up.
The Aerial Photographs of Al Weber

Next June, in Carmel at the Center for Photographic Art, I’ll have a show covering fifty years of photographing from the air. This is fun for me. I’m enjoying searching files and making prints from old film. For those who are fans of Henry Wilhelm and his accelerated fade testing, I’d like to report I am making very good prints from early color negatives, dating to the late fifties. As I’ve been saying for years, I think Henry’s testing is questionable, and now I have the prints from old color negatives to prove it. My secret is to avoid using any storage materials labeled ‘archival’ from Light Impressions. Old shoeboxes seem just right. Ordering from Light Impressions has become a big laugh, even bigger than it always has been.


Listed are books of interest. Book publishing is going through changes, especially with the POD (Print On Demand) availability where anyone can now have a book, even just one book. Gone are the days when the only option to publish cost lots of money. Conventional book publishing, granted off shore, is now in reach. Only a few years ago, a quality book with good reproductions cost $35,000 to $100,000. Today, (see Tom Millea’s Book of Palm or Stu Levy’s Grid-Portraits) a fine book is reachable for the individual, and it is good. How come?

Have we been getting ripped off?

Anyway, most on this list are self-published and none cost a fortune. To buy a copy of any of the POD books, you’ll have to contact the author direct for information, or if the POD publisher is listed, you can order direct from them via the internet by searching their website.

Continuing The Light. A collection of photographs dedicated to John Scarlata. Photographer/Educator John Scarlata died after an exasperating struggle with cancer. A group of students has assembled some of their photographs as a tribute to John in this small tasteful book. What a wonderful way to remember him. Some teachers make a life long impression on their students. John was such a person. He taught much more than photography. A BLURB book.

San Juan Bautista Mission. A Photographer’s View. Kim Weston did a workshop at the mission and this BLURB book is a collection of the student photographs. Tasteful, it is a swell way to wrap up a workshop, for the students, for the mission and for Kim. Handsomely designed.

Earthbound Philosophy. Tools to Assist in Recognizing and Solving Problems In Contemporary Society. Jerry Wolfe. The title says it all. Friend Jerry has put together a literal toolbox for solving political and other problems. In his usual clarity, making sense and outlining pitfalls, he maps strategies for all of us, if we will take the issues to task. A BLURB book.

North Olympic Peninsula. DJ Bassett. If you were with me in workshops in the 70’s and 80’s, you’ll remember DJ, who always traveled with me. Gregarious and a Brooks dropout, DJ was a fixture in the old Victor School program. Now married to Magdalena from Poland, they’ve moved to Sequim Washington. That’s about as far north as one can get and still be in the USA. They’re into Lavender, Magda is a fine graphic artist, DJ is involved with the local art center, they do historic preservation and now DJ has done a swell book, designed of course by Magda. Born and raised in the mid-west, DJ clings to barns, tractors and live stock-related paraphernalia, all in the purest and strongest of colors. This is a real screamer, and another BLURB book.

Three Black Squares. Cartoons (sort of) Volume II of ? David Glenn Rinehart. A Doonesbury level humor in conceptual format. David is absolutely one of a kind. And this book proves it. If you like the work of Paul Christean you’ll love three Black Squares. Sample page: Square One. “I can always tell an idiot”. Square Two. “But you can’t tell it much.

The ImageMakers of Monterey. Luminosity: the Art of Image Making. The ImageMakers is a group of photographers , mostly from the Monterey Peninsula, who meet and share work on a regular basis. Founded by Richard Garrod in 1996, the sixty participants maintain a handsome and varied level of expression. Although they frequently participate in group shows, this book brings together their efforts in book form, and it is very handsome indeed. Co sponsored by the Center for Photographic Art. A BLURB book.

Photography by Karen Howard. A day-to-day diary in picture form of Karen Howard and her travels from Seattle and back while attending workshops. Karen is a quiet woman who seems to always be just out of step with her contemporaries. Hooray for her. Her resistance to conventional format is deliberate and refreshing. A KODAK GALLERY book.

SPLENDID NONSENSE. Paul Christean. A collection of photographs by Christean at his finest. Quote: “Many people looking through these photographs would consider them drivel or nonsense. To them I would say they are right but it is a splendid nonsense. One could argue that life is nothing but acts of nonsense strung together to form our individual depravity.”

Paul Christean’s COMPLETE NONSENSE Calendar. A zany companion piece to the above book guaranteed to keep you smiling from month to month. A tasteful gift for your mother-in-law. Most days have a short saying, such as: February 8th, “rearrange your underwear as you walk down the street today.”

Paul doesn’t operate in normal ways. Inquire about the above two items.

White. Photos by David Vestal. A bound book of 22 of David’s ink jet photographs. David has done a number of these hand made books, but, in my opinion, this is the best. From the introduction. “White is relative. It’s the opposite to black and has the same no color.” David Vestal at PO Box 309, Bethlehem CT. 06751.

The Book of Palms. Tom Millea. Possibly the most serious and dedicated photographer I have known over the last 40 years, and usually recognized for his stunning platinum prints, frequently of nudes. Here he shows a breakout into a totally new direction. The intensity is there, along with the personal demands and sacrifices seeping from every page. One of the few photographers I recognize as a true artist. Introduction by Jim Enyeart, and who could do a better job?

Wynn Bullock. Color Light Abstractions. In the 1960s, Wynn Bullock did a remarkable series of micro color photographs, exploring the physics of light transmitted through shards of glass, gathered from fragments at the Palomar Observatory. Using a early Exacta camera and the simplest of props, in typical Bullock fashion, he made much from little. Bullock never has received the recognition he rightfully deserves, possibly because he simply didn’t play games or do much backslapping. So this work has quietly sat, with little exposure until now. Daughter Barbara has done a swell job of organizing both this book and a traveling exhibit. Printed by David Gardner, and tastefully designed with several brief essays, we finally get a peak into one more facet of Bullock, a most important photographer of the 20th century.

Snapshots. Book III. Workshops. Russ Tinsley. Russ is a much better photographer than he thinks he is. By no means a humble man, veteran of a lifetime in the zoo of Hollywood with 16 Emmys to the credit of his studio, he still has maintained a sanity level illustrated by a sustained production of personal photographs. Many are of the “I was there” category, but it is a “I was there” with class. For 30 years he has brought a breath of fresh air into my traveling workshops, and the whole story is in this POD publication.

Grid Portraits. Stu Levy. Nazraeli Press. One of my favorite people and one of my favorite photographers, published by my favorite publisher. Portland photographer Stu Levy runs deep and clear. This collection of carefully built portraits is unique and thoughtful; a masterful way to look at those of importance. You may need a dictionary to understand the text. Information at: Nazraeli Press. 2871 NE Alameda Street. Portland OR 97212.


Two fine prints for sale. Bargain prices. Have you always wanted a Kazumitsu Okutomi photograph? Here are two for sale. One interior from the Mission at Soledad (17.5x24 on 26x33) and the other is a reconstruction at San Miguel Mission (18x25.5 on 25x34) both nicely framed. $700 each. Contact Kazu at (

From the estate of Jim Thacher.

Used but everything in excellent condition.

Make offer.

Bronica cameras, 6X6. Five to choose from. Very good condition.

Bronica lenses. 50mm, 75mm, 75mmPC, 100mm, 105mm, 150mm, 200mm, 300mm.

Bronica bellows, extension rail, lens hoods, prisms, 7 6X6 & 1 6X4.5 magazines, various filters,

Leica G. 50mm f3.5 Elmar lens. Excellent.

50mm f2 Summicron lens, for Leica M series

35mm f2.8 Zeiss Biogon lens

Gossen Luna Pro meter

Gossen Sixticolor (color temp) meter


To file a complaint about this newsletter, follow this link.

So long, I’ll see you when I see you,

contents copyright ©2010 Stare Network; all rights reserved