A few weeks ago I sorted my looses prints that I had stashed in boxes and drawers. My first thought was "Whoa! That's a *lot* of prints!" So I culled through them and pulled out all the "working prints" that aren't quite up to snuff for selling and gave them to a local mixed media artist. Still I have a lot. Then Kodak and Efke made their respective announcements that don't bode well for a diverse future of film photography. This made me want to buy film, but I don't have a ton of money and film prices have gone up, pretty much across the boards excepting some use-at-your-own-risk emulsions from China. That and the Christmas art sales are rapidly approaching and I need more matts, backing boards in order to prepare. So I thought I'd try a fun grab bag sale and see if that could help generate some income so I can continue this thing that I do.
The first is a grab bag of 10 pinup/girlie prints. Some will be my own work, others are from vintage negatives I've collected and reprinted. No duplicates, all darkroom NON-digital prints for only $65.
The second batch is of urbex, scenic, and lighthouse pictures, same deal as the pinup except all of these are shot and printed by me.
Boxes stacked on boxes between full filing cabinets. Drool....
Bette Page negs alone are worth north of $700ea! As a b&w printer it'd be magical to just have access to that collection for a year or more. So much pinup and movie star fun could be had. I can't imagine what the auction house valued that collection at. It bottles my mind.
So an awesome friend of mine (Dave Gersh) picked up some "History of Pinup" books for me he found at a garage sale. One thing that instantly struck me was a notable omission. Bettie Page was remarkably and completely missing from one book, the other made a passing mention of her in a paragraph that focused mainly on the magazine that had published the image of her. The books (listed/pictured below) were published in 1972 and 1974. In terms of models they seem to mostly focus on blondes, Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable, and the like. This struck me as odd because, for most, Bettie Page is the undisputed Queen of Pinup. What happened in the last 40 years that caused such a turnaround? I don't really know but I have some ideas.
One idea is that Betty Page worked closely with Erving Klaw. The two not only made tons of pinup work but also lots of bondage and fetish images together. In 1957 the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency's Kefauver Hearings, of which Bettie was summoned to, basically condemned their work (as well as others') as pornographic. Subsequently, Klaw's lawyer advised he dispose of the negatives. Klaw burned more than 80% of his work, the only negatives that remained, unknown to Erving, were saved by his sister. The damage had been done and Bettie's modeling career was pretty much over at this time. Perhaps the ebb of Bettie was still in effect in the early 1970's? Perhaps the lack of original negatives made publishing images of her less desirable as one would have to essentially make copy negatives and in order to do so first find quality positives.
The internet might have a lot to do with it as well. Some years back when I first started pinup photography. I downloaded every picture of Bettie Page I could find. Literally 100's and still more are being found. This year I've seen a bunch of new-to-me, Bettie pinups. People find the images, scan them in, upload them, and her fans repost them all the time. Another aspect of how the internet might be making Bettie bigger than she was in the 1970's is the normalization of fetish. It's much, MUCH more mainstream these days. Or at least it seems that way with sites like fetlife, the popularity of people like Dita Von Teese, Madonna, Lady Gaga, books, art shows, even pop songs. A little kink seems to just be a part of younger-than-gen X's universe. Because of Bettie fetish and pinup are closely related, possibly more today because the undergarments of her day are a fetish today.
It also seems that these books assumed that a strong connection with movies would bolster a model's popularity within the genre. A good deal of time is spent on pinup model/actresses. But yesterday's black and white movies are almost completely lost in today's full color competition, and few people watch the older classics. In fact younger folks might even have a hard time watching them as the pace of movie editing is crazy compared to even the 1980's (thanks MTv). Bettie wasn't in many movies, and the movies she was in were pretty small, some were even just loops.
I still like the books, they are very interesting and I'm looking forward to delving into them further. The books are:
I was just flipping through my Taschen catalog and noticed that Chas Ray Krider's "Motel Fetish" is in it's second printing!
This is really good news if you're an analog (film) photographer and/or enjoy pinup. Before this second printing I literally waited YEARS before a 1st ed print in fair-poor condition became available for less than $50. I think I got mine for just under $25 but most were $50+ Now it's available for the entirely reasonable price of $11.34 +shipping on Amazon.com. Fair warning, there is a good amount of nekkid in the book. In Classic Glamour Photography Chas discusses using a 6x6 Hasselblad camera and Kodak Portra VC160 for this project, after which he switched to digital. Lighting for Glamour Photography contains more information about how Chas accomplishes his look including lighting diagrams. It was all this info combined with my love for the look that inspired my to do some Motel Fetish themed shots at this year's Photostock:
Chas Krider is also one of a handful of pinup photographers that inspired me travel down this road. I'm thrilled one of his great bodies of work will be accessible to a whole new range of people.
I actually fielded this question a LOT (or a variation of it) in my Saginaw Art Museum exhibit earlier this year. I kept thinking "If this were 1985 everyone would know what a silver gelatin print was." Anyways, here's a short video giving a brief overview of the history and technique I use to create images:
So one evening I'm at the Red Eye Cafe and I meet Scotty. I was told Scotty is the new person in charge of art exhibits so I asked him if he'd be interested in have my work on the walls for a third time. His response surprised me. "We have an opening in two weeks." Yikes! After negotiating for three weeks I got to work developing about 9mo worth of film and printing, printing, printing. The result is the biggest and possibly the most awesomest display of my work ever! All totaled I put up 31 pieces, 9 of which were 16x20s. Some were of brand spankin new shots from Treman Park, NY that turned out really nice. Many were of local interest of either local abandoned structure interiors or pinups of local models. I've already sold one print off the wall and another loose print. In the process of hanging and labeling the exhibit, I met two people who bought earlier prints. It's been up less than a week and it's already been a great experience.
Earlier this year my work was exhibited in a show of local artists. Here's what my 13 16x20s look like in a museum!
I have 9 or so 16x20's hanging up in the new ThunderBrew Coffee Company in Bay City, MI! It's looking good.
Arangement and Photos by Jason Armstrong
Also I've updated (within the last few weeks anyways) my prints at Pasong's and I signed myself up to do a solo show at The Red Eye Coffee House starting July 26th! In the mean time I have over 20 rolls of film to develop spanning the gamut from pinup to urbex and landscapes. Gotta get busy!
I originally started with this recipe: http://www.chilirecipes.org/worldsbestchili.html and modified it to suit my tastes and shorten the prep and cooking time. Total prep and cook time is approx 2hrs.
2/3 rds Cup Water
3 splashes of Vinegar
1/2 a bag of frozen chopped bell pepper
1/2 a bag of frozen chopped onion
4 Jalapeno Peppers, Chopped
3 Cans Beans, Your Choice [Pinto, Black, Red, White, Kidney] rinsed/drained
2 Large Cans Diced Tomatoes, Drained
3 heaping tsp of Minced Garlic (from a jar or fresh)
2.5lbs of Lean Ground Turkey (93/7)
4 Tablespoons Cup Ground Cumin
4 Tablespoons Chili Powder
6 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
1 Tablespoon Salt
1 Tablespoon Hot Madras Curry Powder
1 Tablespoon Paprika
1 Tablespoon Oregano
1 Tablespoon Black Pepper
3 Bay Leaves
Put a 6qt Dutch oven on medium high-ish heat. Add the water, vinegar, onion, garlic, and bell pepper. Grab your jalapenos and chop one up and taste it. I find jalapenos vary greatly in heat; if it's really hot I only add 1-1.5, medium 2, mild all 4. Add your chopped jalapenos and cover. Meanwhile, take your ground turkey and a wire colander and under cold water rinse a pound at a time. It should turn amorphous but you don't want it to be complete mush, you're just rinsing a good deal of the collagen off. Drain as much of the water off as you can in the colander then put the ground turkey in a large, nonstick, frying pan and brown it. Draining the excess water helps speed the browning process. Add the browned meat to the dutch oven along with one can of diced tomatoes, and two of the cans of beans. Add spices stirring every two table spoons. Add the last can of tomatoes and beans, stir, bring to a light boil, cover and simmer on low heat for an hour (longer if you like). If desired, 1/2 a bag frozen, or 1 can of corn can be added during last 30min. If chili is too thin before serving, mix a couple tablespoons of four or cornstarch with cold water, stir the mixture in the chili and cook until desired thickness. Serve with shedded cheese, sour cream, and tortilla chips.
My b&w negatives can be categorized into two groups: self and lab processed. The split occurs around 2006 or 2007. Everything before was developed and proof printed in a lab, everything else I did and most have contact sheets. Another difference is organization. Compared to the pre-2006 negatives, my more recent ones are immaculately organized. My earlier shots are a jumbled mess and often I get nervous when I have the urge to print one. The nerves come from the very real probability that I just might not be able to find what I'm looking for.
The nerves came today when I got the bug to print my shot of Edgar Allen Poe's original resting place this coming Wednesday. I started off close, digging through old Holga shots I took when I lived near Baltimore. My hopes were dashed when that pack of photos wasn't in with the rest. In totally I looked through 3 large boxes, my darkroom, my old darkroom closet, and on my camera shelf only to find the necessary packet buried on my desk about 1.5 feet from where I'm typing this.
Before 2003-ish most all photography was film. 2003 saw the introduction of the Digital Rebel, a 6.3mp dSLR that was the first real digital camera an enthusiast could afford and want to use. So when I go negative searching in the pre-2006 tangle I see a lot more everyday shots. Shots of old friends and co-workers I rarely get to see. Weddings I attended, places I vacationed at, and lots and lots of crappy shots of just stuff I took when I was learning photography.
Two things really hit me this time as I sifted through memories and attempts at meaningful photography. The first is that I had no idea "we were just kids" in our 20's. You feel all grown up at the time, but looking back from the second half of 30 I can't help but think "Geebus, you were just a kid." Maybe I'm just getting old.
The second epiphany is how downright shitty of a photographer I used to be. I'm not saying I'm a genius now, but I used to be gawd awful. Heck I had to use a Holga to make even interesting stuff look interesting. A lot of today's search had me scratching my head wonder WTF I was thinking, if I was thinking, when I took that *ROLL*. Whole rolls of mindless drivel, shots of whatever happened to be around me and every once in a while a gem of something I'd actually consider printing today. I started out, probably like most people, a really, really, crappy photographer.
Nested in this second realization was a gratefulness. I am so grateful that my life led me to Michigan. I love shooting urbex and have been more this year than previous this year. It's a real calling for me. Not only do I find the images compelling to look at, but these abandoned, often historical structures are quickly being demolished. Documenting their very existence as well as this period of transition in history feels very important to me.