Photo by Arthur Pollock
Photo by Jefferson Caine Lankford
Photo by Tommaso Sacconi
Photo by Fernanda Peruzzo
Photo by Alex Martinez
In the NBA, there’s a guy killing right now. His name is James Harden. I am not a huge fan though because while he does kill it in the regular season, he is often choking in the playoffs. Commentators always seem to mention that he has “the greenest light,” meaning that the coach, his team mates, and the whole organization all give him the go ahead to do whatever he wants on the court. For example if he decides to never pass the ball, that’s fine. Or if he happens to miss every single shot in a game, that is fine too.
Most players aren’t allowed this much freedom. That’s because your team would lose if the coach played it this way with an average player.
I guess we are going esoteric today. I got some questions about editing for projects, zines, and books. And usually I can tell that it is their inner coach holding them back saying things like, “You’re not ready for prime time.” I am here to give you the green light. The greenest light. Do whatever it is you want to do and don’t second guess yourself or your talents.
There are 2 main questions when it comes to self publishing.
How much are you willing to spend? Let’s say you want to make 100 copies, you are either going to spend $300, $1200, or $20000. Or somewhere in between.
What is it for? Are you planning on selling it and making money back? Or are you giving it away for promo? Or do you just feel the need to express yourself? Or do want to make something for the homies?
There are no right or wrong answers. But answering these questions will be part of the shaping of the edit. For example, if it is for the homies then running those 2 extra photos of Gary going crazy is fine. But if this project is for showcasing your visions in hopes to find work or other projects, etc. then maybe it doesn’t need any photos of Gary at all.
For me, I want to make something different and cool and I want to make my money back and little more so that I can put out the next one. I envision what my zines and books will look like on someone’s kitchen table. I want it to look odd next to other publishings like newspapers and magazines.
For Hamburger Eyes, I want to showcase a certain style of photography that we all know and love yet doesn’t get that much attention. For my own zines, I want to have fun and be as weird as I wanna be.
Sometimes it is a matter of just making 1 copy. Show it to some people, then work on it some more. Rinse and repeat till you can’t work on it anymore, then make 1000 copies.
Whatever it is you want to do, you now have the green light. Start today.
Photo by Ray Potes
After writing about darkroom stuff it made me think about when I started to cross over from shooting film to digital. I found this thing I wrote in 2013 about experiencing psychosis from the switch. Click here to read that.
For me, when I started hanging prints from digital cameras next to prints from hi res scans next to prints from the darkroom and pretty much no one could tell or didn’t care to notice, that’s when I started thinking it was ok.
Sure maybe people did notice and didn’t want to say, but at that time people around me had no problems telling me a photo I made didn’t work, or if I should have chosen a different cover for a zine, or if I printed something too dark or too light, or whatever. I always invited comments and criticisms. Yet no one ever asked what cameras or film stocks. Those conversations happened at coffee shops and bars with other photographers.
I would think at least the gallery people wanted to know. When you sell these things you always put down the paper stock which sort of implies the process. Like this, “Silver Gelatin Print” or “Digital C-Print”. Technically, you could use “silver print” for C-Print because there is silver in a chromogenic print. But no, it wasn’t a big deal what you shot it on, no one cares. I guess that’s what goes in the “Artist Statement” but I never had one of those.
Maybe some folks just assumed that we were all film and all darkroom. I could see how that assumption was made because we published black and white zines and had our own black and white lab.
Also, some of the photographers in our early issues like Vic Blue and Brian David Stevens were submitting digital photos. I didn’t know till years later and published them with the same assumptions as every body else.
I am not telling you to cross over. Do whatever it is you love to do. But the game has changed. When people say they love film, sometimes they are referring to camera mistakes and darkroom misshaps and imperfections. When I was in school, that was an F grade. F for fail. We had to make perfect negs and perfect prints. Same when working in commercial labs. So for some the switch to digital meant getting closer to that perfection, easier.
Just saying and sharing my thoughts. I know some will want to battle about it. For me there is also cost and convenience factors. What do you think?
Photo by David Uzzardi
Someone emailed asking about leveling up their darkroom printing. Some of you might be thinking, “This dude can’t be qualified to answer this. He mostly shoots with his phone and makes xerox prints.” Well, that is me today. But me 3 years ago I literally lived in a darkroom. I owned and managed a darkroom rental facility with 5 darkrooms for 8 years. I couldn’t pay 2 rents, so I moved out of my apartment and into one of the back offices at the spot. Don’t tell anyone, I’m not sure it was legal. I also spent most of my 20s working in commercial labs, mini labs, private labs, etc all for processing and printing black and white film.
TIP 1 – Make good negs.
When I was in school, we had to turn in negs. At first it was to make sure we were using the camera properly but mostly it was to learn how to expose the film and process it perfectly to make printing easier. (I went to Palomar City College for a few semesters. I remember on day 1 my teacher said she may not make me a good photographer, but she will make me a great printer. Their photo dept had won numerous photo awards surpassing some of the big name art schools and universities.)(They were very proud of their photo dept and apparently so am I.)
You need to be processing your own film to make good negs. Or find a lab that will hand process it, or find a better film that will handle machine processing for that particular lab. For instance, when I lived in Hawaii for a minute, turning in Ilford HP4 actually came out better than Kodak Tri-X when it came to the lab I was using.
Shoot the whole roll. I know this isn’t always possible, but for me, especially at night I would try to shoot the whole roll. That way I can process it a certain way. If no flash, I would add more time and go a little over. If I did use flash, I would process it a little under to make it less contrasty. And that’s not even mentioning yet pushing and pulling the film. Sometimes I would process 5 rolls but each had different processing times.
“Expose for the shadows, print for the highlights,” That’s a common black and white darkroom standard statement. (It’s opposite for digital, btw.) But I always thought it should be changed to, “Expose for the shadows, process for the highlights.” Meaning control your contrasts in the processing of the negatives.
Learn about pushing and pulling your film. Learn about all the different developers. I kept it standard and mostly shot everything at 400 or 1600. That’s T-max in T-max developer at 68 degrees. Tri-x actual rating is 320, but they put 400 on it because most people don’t know what they are doing. If I shot Tri-x, I developed it in Rodinal. The old school guys shoot their 400 at 200 or less. I can’t seem to find it right now, but there’s a book out there with all your favorite photographers recipes. I remember Larry Clark had a weird one in that book. He shot everything at 600 and 1200 or something like that.
The point is 90% of your printing problems can be solved if you know how to make good negs.
I know you’re thinking, “What if you have a good photo but a lame ass neg?” That happens. Sometimes you have to get off a photo and all the settings are wrong on your camera. Or sometimes you put the roll in the wrong batch. There’s a lot of ways it go sideways. It’s ok though, we’ll discuss that in the next section.
TIP 2 – Print the whole neg.
What makes a good print is pretty much defined in 3 parts. The first part is the photo itself. Is it good? But this is about Part B, which is details. And Part C, tonal range.
If there is details in the sky, like clouds or ufos, bring them out with dodging and burning. If there is details in shadows, bring them out with dodging and burning. This is another reason for turning in negs when I was learning. The teacher wanted to see if we were ignoring these things.
You tend to print for your main subject, like if you had someone centered for a portrait against a brick wall. But in that brick wall background there may be a rat’s head poking out, some weird graffiti, or some other thing you didn’t notice when shooting. Granted this also depends on the sharpness of the lens your using, but in general try to bring up all the details if they exist in the original neg. It will make for a better print.
Printing for the entire tonal range also makes for a better print. Try to represent all the tones of gray in one print. Especially if these tones exist in the negative, you are doing a disservice if you do not showcase them. I have seen people who would spend a week on one photo. Like 40 hrs printing one single image to try and bring out everything and anything that is there in the negative.
You have heard the word “richness” when people are describing contrast, they are talking in terms of all the different levels of grays. When I started printing, all the 100 companies making fiber paper each had 100 different ones to choose from. These papers would range from warm to cold, matte vs glossy, hi contrast, etc etc. all with the purpose of finding those deeper blacks and subtle creamy levels of white. Part of the fun is these discovering these things and then creating your own recipes.
When doing your test strips, try doing a full size one. The whole photo. And then do another test strip for all the filters. Do different test strips for different sections of the photo. Think about printing split filter. This means printing the highlights with a low contrast filter and the shadows with a high contrast filter. This means you are exposing the print twice, which means you could fuck it up in many ways.
I can’t describe how to do split filter without making a video, but I’m sure one exists. It’s a game changer. I’m not sure but I think it came from the Zone System guys. When I was in school people would whisper things like, “See that guy over there, he’s a zone system guy.” Better get out of his way.
Go find a museum and look at the black and white photos. Locate the good prints and make note of what makes them good. Work on your stuff and show it to other older photographers and ask them how you could do better.
In conclusion, I think people in general aren’t trying hard enough to make good prints. I know at the moment I’m one of those guys, so don’t follow what I’m doing. I’m like those mechanics that drive beater cars. They know they can just fix stuff, but they also know it looks like shit right now. My photos look like shit in general right now, but if and when I ever get asked to do another exhibit in a museum or fancy gallery, I know and they know that I can make some good prints for them.
For me zines and blogs are my chosen destiny though. It’s my vibe. What’s your vibe? Print for your vibe but get good at the basics first.
Photo by Jimbo Celzo
Ask Me Anything. I could blab on and on about pretty much anything. I have a handful of ideas about articles I plan to write about for this site, but if there’s anything in particular that I can help you with feel free to leave a comment or email me direct.
Photo by Graham Wiebe
I know, I know, I know. I was the main guy talking shit about social media, and now here I am back on it. I started a Hamburger Eyes Facebook Page. In order to unlock the extra features of Instagram, you have to have it.
The spying, the behavioral programming, the correlation between teen suicide and fomo, the vanity, the disgrace, all of it, I hate it. About a year ago I deleted multiple Twitter accts, multiple IG accts, multiple Tumblrs, Flickrs, and Facebooks. I had personal accts and Hamburger Eyes accts. I would start new accounts all the time for exploring new ideas, sometimes on my own and sometimes with friends.
In one day I deleted all of them, not disabled them or removed the apps from my phone. Deleted all the content first, then the accounts, as well as some of the email addresses associated with those accounts. I kept YouTube. I like making videos.
The plan was to just make zines, update blogs, and occasionally push out a video. I kept the email list so I can send out a news blast whenever pertinent.
There was lots of different reactions, “I’m gonna delete mine too,” or “You just killed your business.”
Our monthly sales did go down hill. Even though before I deleted everything I could prove that it should only be around 10% or less, it was more.
This all sounds like a disclaimer or a defensive standpoint, maybe it is, but here’s what it is. I want to do photography for a living. In order to do photography for a living you are either selling services like shooting and teaching, or you are selling products like books and zines. Personally, I prefer selling products.
Either way, “selling” is entrepreneurship. I could go the route of talking about social media is just marketing, and it is, but that sort of thinking is what soured me in the first place.
Before the internet, we would leave stacks of zines at cafes, record stores, and book stores. If I could sell them or consign them, I would. But if I couldn’t I would leave a stack for free for whoever wants them. My favorite was sneaking copies onto the shelves of the MOMA bookstore. Later people would be like, “I bought your zine at the MOMA.” And I am like how did they ring you up or even know what to charge for it, awesome though.
I would also mail a lot of copies to friends in different states. And then they would give copies to other photographers who want to be down. The best part of all of this is connecting with other photographers into the same type of photography.
And that’s my point. When I get an email from a kid in Puerto Rico or Jerusalem or Sydney saying they like Hamburger Eyes, then just that is enough to keep going. A lot of this correspondence happens through social media. This sorta does speak to the vanity of getting likes and comments, but it also speaks to finding and connecting and creating and collaborating.
I guess that what’s happening. It’s a battle between my personal concepts of social media vs what is Hamburger Eyes trying to accomplish. Both sides have matured a bit and the platforms themselves are figuring out better algorithms to make it a more pleasant experience. Photographers and photography outlets seem to be using it properly now and that is encouraging.
Hamburger Eyes is about to turn 18 years old and is coming into adult hood. I have surrendered to it. Now I’m really only here for when it gets arrested or hospitalized.