Thursday, July 1, 2010

Multiple Exposure

It must have been Harry Callahan who inspired me to attempt making more than one exposure on the same piece of film. I wasn't aware of anyone else who was using this method so boldly. Man Ray's photograms were created in the darkroom, not the camera. Whatever the reason, I began to layer images in the camera. 

Please refer back to the post "State Hotel" for the story on how I met Al Everett. We did a number of photo sessions together, the majority of it PR photos for Al's performing career. I had forgotten the other images. This striking image has been lost for more than forty years. It represents a fitting segue into the new world of multiple images. At this time I had taken no drugs, which when they later came along helped to propel and further the surrealistic visions.

Today, this image might be seen as a metaphor of what the Drug War has done to people of color. Prohibition has returned them to slavery, with more black man now in jail than were in chains at the time Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin.

This too is a new discovery, as are most of these early multiple exposures. I was working hard and fast on dozens of things, and had little time to do more than shoot and process these images, now seeing the light of day for the first time in a new century.

The hand of the artist in a scene probably somewhere in Harpswell.

This image looks like a Callahan, letting the images play together in a random-seeming way. That was his gift. My tendency was more to arrange and control the elements.

This sort of arrangement is more in the style of Jerry Uelessman, who combined images from several negatives through a complex printing process involving up to six enlargers. I met Jerry at the George Eastman House during a seminar. When he invited students to learn the intricate details of his process, he got no takers that day. From my viewpoint, it was much more direct to do it in the camera. With careful masking and pre-visualizing, one could do quite precise arrangements, working in the light of day.

The earliest multiple exposures were made on the 120 camera, which had a resettable shutter for easy multiples. It took a while longer to reset the 35mm Pentax shutter, which required overriding the film advance by holding the film rewind knob and pressing the clutch button while moving the film advance lever. This manual feat took a while to master.

I remain fascinated with the magic that happens when images mingle. Something new and unexpected often emerges from the chaos. I quickly found a friend in contrast, which in the above case allowed  a low enough exposure to nearly blacken the lawn surrounding the deflated child's pool. When combined with a nearby lily pond, the textures became a new, third thing never before seen.

I know I start to lose some people with this sort of texture merging, too chaotic for some, but the mood overtakes the image and I can lose myself in the ripples.

Every image was a discovery as I roamed the landscape for characters to place in my little square dramas.

Another in the Callahan style, two angles on the same image. Perhaps it was the cubists who inspired Callahan.

This is something Harry Callahan would not do, but I am drawn to a formal arrangement, again taking advantage of the white car to suppress the background. The Zone System helped me control the areas of exposure, so the additives would add up correctly. The 1965 Volvo carried us through the sixties, here fairly new and dent-free.

The last is a single image, the shadow of time as I peer into the viewfinder seeking revelation.

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