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Artwork: Photography

Wednesday, 07 March 2018 03:24:16 -0800

E1 era—2004:

J Altfas, “Jerry Uelsman at PAM 2004”, multilayer photograph, 2005

In Feb 2004 I acquired an Olympus E1, the first 4/3 DSLR produced by Olympus and my first DSLR. A few days later I took the camera with me to a lecture by Jerry Uelsmann at the Portland Art Museum. The talk was fantastic. I snapped a few photos during the Q&A.

The camera was not a spectacular low-light performer, the images were mostly subject motion-blurred. Nonetheless Uelmann's expressiveness showed through quite cleanly. Using the relatively (at the time) primitive open-source tool GIMP, I made a layered composite of the shots. BTW I added the cat because Uelsmann included his dog in many of his composite images. I didn't have a dog or any dog photos, but did have this cat's picture on hand.

The “portrait” turned out pretty good. Proved the old maxim, when none of the individual images are all that great, go ahead, make a montage.

Cruising from Kawai—2018:

J Altfas, “Heaven's Faces (Sunset Near Kawai)”, photograph, 2018

Yes, very much how the sky actually looked, among the most spectacular sunsets known to humankind. As a woman standing nearby exclaimed, “How could anyone see it and not believe in God.” Sure as hell not disputing that commentary.

J Altfas, “Kawai, view from the sea”, photograph, 2018


J Altfas, “We are graduates!”, photograph (on hand-coated paper), 2010

Playing with the idea of photograph as literal “likeness”, the image was distorted to reflect the mood of the girls celebrating their achievement: graduating high school. We were walking across the Morrison Bridge during Rose Festival. When the young woman spotted my camera, she opened the window and leaned out wanting me to take her picture. I was happy to oblige. She explained the circumstance, and how pleased she was to have “made it” through academia. All in about 30 seconds—the duration of the red light.

Storm—January 2017:

J Altfas, “Bad day in Portland, OR”, photograph, 2017

Year of bridges—2014:

Stereoscopic images have always fascinated me. Years ago I discovered that adjacent frames on a contact sheet often showed a kind of stereo effect, I called it "accidental 3D". The pairs were never perfect 3D renderings, but often remarkable—and entertaining.

J Altfas, “Under the Golden Gate in 17 seconds”, photograph, 2014
J Altfas, “Twelve 3D views: Lion's Gate Bridge, Vancouver, BC”, 3D photograph, 2014

Taking photos on a ship traveling under a bridge I suppose it's inevitable that the effect would occur, but interestingly I didn't notice it in these sequences until very recently. A notable feature is the "serial 3D" view, that is the right-eye image of a 3D pair is the left-eye image for the next 3D pair. If you can see it, it's a kick.

The backstory

Hard to remember exactly when I started using a camera, around age 10, I think. It wasn't long before I was setting up a darkroom in a storage closet in the tiny house my family occupied. I may still have some pictures from that early epoch, some day I may find them in a dim corner of the deepest deep storage I own but ATM they remain out of sight.

Of course that was all in the glorious film era, which BTW isn't yet ancient history, in fact interest in the old processes has taken an upswing in recent times.

Nonetheless, it's been all digital for over 15 years. Whatever esthetic demerits one assigns to digital imaging, on the positive side the archive of images is far more accessible. That accounts for the inventory of photos on this site.

Practitioners of digital photography will tell you that the image capture is just the beginning of the creative process. The subsequent “post-processing” is a crucial component of the “pipeline” to a final image. It takes place on a computer, using sophisticated software to manipulate images in a dizzyingly variable number of ways. Therein is a good bit of the fun, and perhaps an even greater share of frustration.

The collection can be divided into “straight” vs. “modified” images. Naturally, all digital photos are electronically “manipulated”. Where the content has obviously been altered for artistic effect, it's a judgment call whether the image still qualifies as a “photograph”.

In your world, you get to decide which is which. But to me what you call it matters not…