I/Eye: On Photography

From “Los Caprichos: after Goya”: O te hundes o sales a flote (“Sink or swim”)

Posted in Los Caprichos, Uncategorized by Sheila Newbery on June 3, 2017
"O te hundes o sales a flote" ("Sink or swim"), from "Los Caprichos: after Goya"

“O te hundes o sales a flote” (“Sink or swim”), from the series of platinum palladium prints Los Caprichos: after Goya.

 

In late 2017, my first complete set of Caprichos will become part of the collection of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. This means they will live under the same roof as a set of Goya’s eighteenth-century originals. This would have seemed like a guarantee of permanence (and a flattering proximity) even a decade ago. But libraries are fragile things; they burn, they’re looted, they’re lost in political chaos.

Today is the day after  President Trump announced the US’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, which many governments labored to construct under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). 

An analysis of the political and legal repercussions for His Highness (and us) of His Highness’ Colossal Climate Tantrum can be read at the LawFare blog, in a post by David Wirth. Take what heart from it you can.

Homage to Diebenkorn

Posted in Uncategorized by Sheila Newbery on September 23, 2015
Homage to Diebenkorn. 2015

Homage to Diebenkorn. 2015

Brad Boca at Candela Fine Art has been doing beautiful drum scans of the still life work I shot during the summer months when it’s too hot to print (with the temperatures soaring into the mid-nineties in the platinum palladium room). Here’s a sample. I work on a combination of instant film and color transparency. The instant film is for proofing the composition and lighting. The color transparency is for the “final” image and is the medium that gets drum-scanned.

Tagged with:

Green beret

Posted in Uncategorized by Sheila Newbery on September 15, 2014
2014 © Sheila Newbery

2014 © Sheila Newbery

Tagged with:

Studio work

Posted in Uncategorized by Sheila Newbery on September 13, 2014
Still life on instant film, 2014

Still life on instant film, 2014

Fuji’s instant film is gorgeous; I’ve shot with it often enough before, but never to do still life. The trick to getting consistent results on instant film is to swab the polaroid back rollers with alcohol before loading each new pack. (The parcheesi men here were stowaways in a vase I found at Urban Ore, Berkeley’s greatest recycle and reuse store—aka junk shop.)
 

 

Los Caprichos: Tantos adeptos

Posted in Los Caprichos, Uncategorized by Sheila Newbery on July 28, 2014
"Tantos adeptos", from *Los Caprichos: after Goya* (platinum palladium, 2014)

“Tantos adeptos”, from *Los Caprichos: after Goya* (platinum palladium, 2014)

New work for Los Caprichos: after Goya: the caption can be translated as “so many followers”. The original Caprichos contain a number of images that show dubious authority figures and their fulsome adherents, either emphasizing the blind slavishness of the latter or the fatuous pretensions of the former:

Here I give you a contemporary riff on that theme.

Los Caprichos: Salvese quien pueda

Posted in Uncategorized by Sheila Newbery on July 19, 2014
Salvese quien pueda from "Los Caprichos: after Goya" (2014)

Salvese quien pueda from “Los Caprichos: after Goya” (2014)

 

The first post in a long while: I’ve been working intensively on the Caprichos. The lettering has been the hardest part: my aim has always been a simulacrum of the 18th-century round hand script used by the master calligrapher(s) who inscribed Goya’s legends. (For a sample of the elegant fluidity of the original, click here.) When I first encountered Goya’s plates years ago, I naively assumed that he’d written the legends himself, on each of the images. Subsequently, I realized that would have been impossible: he produced thousands of individual Caprichos during the brief period of their production, and hand-lettering them all would have been staggeringly difficult for all the reasons I’ve already encountered: you simply can’t afford to make mistakes! Last year, I had the chance to inspect one of the British Museum’s bound presentation albums, prepared by Goya for a patron/friend. With the chance to hold it in my hands and eyeball it in a raking light, I could see clearly that the lettering was part of the plate, something Robert Hughes also notes in his study Goya (New York: Knopf, 2003), but which I’d somehow overlooked in my reading. So that explained a few things—yet knowing this didn’t diminish my admiration for the skill of the calligrapher; in fact, it increased it, because I can’t imagine how it was done (drypoint directly on the plates?).

Meanwhile, I’ve been writing my legends out by hand (this is the laborious, somewhat nerve-wracking part) and then scanning them so they can become part of the negative, which is ultimately printed in platinum-palladium. The one you see above is a recent one. The translation in  English would be “every man for himself”.

Note: in “Goya’s Caprichos” (Print Quarterly, vol. 10, no. 2, June 1993, 187–189), Janis Tomlinson questions Juliet Wilson-Bareau’s position that Goya was responsible for making the captions to the Caprichos.  The fact is that the orthography is varied—and this has always made me wonder about the calligraphic aspect of  production.  Tomlinson also emphasises how little we know about the origins of the project: “Despite the seeming familiarity of Los Caprichos, our knowledge about the series if very limited. […] [W]e in fact know very little about the artist’s motives or intended audience.” What we do know is that it was the first of Goya’s works to be offered for sale to the general public, and that it was a financial disaster.

Smoke stop

Posted in Uncategorized by Sheila Newbery on January 28, 2014
Smoke stop EMY-DEN (2014) © Sheila Newbery

Smoke stop EMY-DEN (2014) © Sheila Newbery

I decided to go to Denver for the “One by One” show at the Colorado Photographic Arts Center—by train. I like the feeling of moving through the landscape (as opposed to rocketing through the air); there are fewer things that have to go right to prevent violent death, and the mechanical failures of trains—though legion—are generally harmless, though like as not they will cause delays. There is also the leitmotif of the “smoking stop”—the conductors may be the last officials in the travel business who take into account the fact of addiction; accordingly, there are stops along the way of more or less a cigarette’s duration. Then the whistle blows and the chuffing progress resumes—and no remorse for any left behind. We’re reminded at each approach that once the train departs, it doesn’t stop for anyone.

But I know this isn’t strictly true.

I once witnessed a woman stop the train at Grand Junction—with great presence of mind. She had had a smoke on the platform and wandered off, unconcerned. When she saw the train pulling away, she didn’t panic. She hoofed it into the station, assumed her best “frantic mother” demeanor and told the station master her baby was on board that train. She was thoroughly convincing, and hopped neatly back into her car (one ahead of mine), with a little kick of her heels.  She was the talk of the train.

Of course, there was no baby…

Smoke stop EMY-DEN (2014) © Sheila Newbery

Smoke stop EMY-DEN (2014) © Sheila Newbery

Smoke stop EMY-DEN (2014) © Sheila Newbery

Smoke stop EMY-DEN (2014) © Sheila Newbery

Anyway, I’m glad I went. Rupert Jenkins, Paul Sisson and the staff at CPAC made good order and a handsome display out of the bewildering variety of pictures on view, and Eric Paddock very sensibly addressed this in his opening remarks where he stressed that photography is no longer one kind of practice, and no single medium. It’s many things. I kept thinking of David Hockney’s lament that the “chemistry” of photography had replaced the “hand” of the artist (in the sense of drawing or painting), but even this pronouncement seems now almost quaintly out of step.  Photography is strapped to the atom, the electron: its essence is speed. We can barely keep up.

Last Chance to see “Ohio Woods”

Posted in Uncategorized by Sheila Newbery on December 5, 2013
from *Ohio Woods* (palladium print, 10x10"), 2013

from *Ohio Woods* (palladium print, 10×10″), 2013

“Ohio Woods” is open only a few more days! I’ll be at the Arterra Gallery, 300 Berry Street, San Francisco, starting at 1pm on Saturday, December 7. If you’d like to have a tour of the show before it comes down, email me and I’ll be happy to take you through. After that, I”m packing it up.

Later next week I’ll be shipping one of the prints — “Squirrels’ Nest” — to Colorado where it will be on view through mid-February in a group show, “One by One”, at the Colorado Photographic Arts Center, juried by Eric Paddock, Curator of Photography and Media Arts at the Denver Art Museum. (If you don’t know Eric’s work, I can tell you that he put together the luminous show of Robert Benjamin’s work at DAM in 2011, and collaborated with Benjamin and David Chickey to produce Notes from a Quiet Life, published by Radius Books. You can read a review of the show by Leanne Goebel here. Joerg Colberg also reviewed the book enthusiastically here—though I suspect that Benjamin and Colberg see rather past one another…)

I’ll welcome anyone who wants to come on Saturday, and will be happy to talk a bit about how the photos were made.

Getting ready for November

Posted in News, Still life, Uncategorized by Sheila Newbery on October 24, 2013
Bosc (platinum palladium print, 2013) © Sheila Newbery

Bosc (platinum palladium print, 2013) © Sheila Newbery

In addition to Ohio Woods, the body of slow-shutter work I’ll be showing at the Arterra Gallery in SF in November, some of my still lifes will also be on view—including this platinum palladium print (above).  Please come join me at the opening reception on November 7, 6–8pm, at the Arterra Gallery, 300 Berry Street, San Francisco.

Snow storm, Ohio

Posted in Uncategorized by Sheila Newbery on September 12, 2013
New Year, Ohio (2013) © Sheila Newbery (platinum palladium on Arches Platine).

New Year, Ohio (2013) © Sheila Newbery (platinum palladium on Arches Platine).

Tagged with: