Thursday, January 30, 2014

Bob Gervais: What Was He Thinking?

Bob Gervais is a photographer based in Portland. The final image below, taken at Santa Monica Pier, will be on exhibit next month at the 7th Annual International Juried Plastic Camera Show at Rayko in San Francisco.

Greenwich Village, NYC 2001

I was spending 10 days in NYC just taking photos. One of my favorite New York photographers is Berenice Abbott, so I was wandering around looking for spots where she had taken photos. This place in Greenwich Village was one of those. In the middle of a long (30+sec.) exposure a HUGE rat (the size of a house-cat) ran between my legs and off into the bushes. It scared the hell out of me but I managed to hold the shutter open and get the shot. Stupidly, I made only one exposure, when it could have easily been blurred.

Kunming, China 2007

We were wandering the streets of Kunming just checking out the city. I couldn't figure out what this figure was until after I had taken a very quick shot form 3-4 feet away, but I knew I had to try and get a photo. The figure wound up being someone in an inflatable suit, standing in front of a kids shoe store. In the background is a sign that says "1981". 1981 was the year that Deng Xiaoping opened up China to private enterprise, so the figure advertising a shoe store and a boutique named 1981 are very symbolic of the changes that have been happening in China.

Tomb, Shrine, Chicken, Kerala, India 2005

We had taken a taxi tour of the tea plantations and hills around Munnar, India. Unfortunately it is foggy much of the time in the Western Ghats, good for tea growing. Top Station is a lookout with a great view, but of course was fogged in. The only thing there was what looked like a shrine, or someone's tomb. I thought since it was the only view of anything I might as well take a photo. The area around the tomb was actually fenced off with several chickens living in it. So I called the photo "Tomb, Shrine, Chicken".

Mexico City, 2010

Kathy and I were in Mexico City and met up with Bruce Hall and Dennis Purdy after their long flight. They were jet lagged and we all wanted a beer and dinner. So we decided to go up to the rooftop bar at the Holiday Inn. The light was fading, but the scene was incredible. I kept jumping up from the table, saying "check out this view, guys". No one seemed much interested, but I had to try and capture the fading light and the cathederal.

Plaza Grande, Merida, Mexico

My main concern was not blurring the image. I frequently take low light photos with my Leica, using F-2 at 1/15 or even 1/8 second. This works if I can hold the camera steady. What this woman was doing was not clear to me. My own interpretation was that she was doing performance art or political protest. Her ghostly dress and multiple strings (tied to a lamppost!) seemed to imply shackles. I thought she was probably protesting Mexico being tied to the Church. Merida has been a hotbed of anti-church uprisings and protests in the past.

Mexico City, Organ Grinder

Wind the camera, stupid! Which I didn't. I thought my first shot was a little far away, then took one closer, but didn't wind the camera to the next frame. I didn't figure this out until looking at the negatives. But, it worked! Organ grinders are found all over the "Centro" part of Mexico City. They are some kind of tradition and work on tips. Some people find the music a bit obnoxious.

Santa Monica Pier, Los Angeles

Mr. two belts. He seemed to want his photo taken, but I probably did it without him knowing. Having grown up in LA I spent alot of time on Santa Monica pier, fishing. I even went to college a few blocks away. The last two years I have taken multiple trips back to LA to deal with my parents passing away. The pier has been a place for me to get away and take some photos. I was additionally inspired by the release of Garry Winogrand's unreleased works, with many taken on the pier. This piece is part of my LA portfolio.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Thoughts of a 45-year old man

"To really blossom, one must feel wanted, loved: must feel a place is open to one's especial capacity —not just any job. One's work must have social significance, be needed, —to be vital. Art for art's sake is a failure: the musician cannot play forever to an empty house. There must be balance—giving and receiving— of equal importance whether in sex or art. The creative mind demands an audience, must have one for fulfillment, to give reason for existence. I am not trying to turn the artist into a propagandist, a social reformer, but I say that art must have a living quality that relates it to present needs, or to future hopes, opens new roads for those ready to travel, those who were ripe but needed an awakening shock, impregnation."

—Edward Weston, March 30, 1931 (from The Daybooks)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Lesley Ann Ercolano: What Was She Thinking?

Lesley Ann Ercolano is a photographer based in Edinburgh, Scotland.

It was one of those weekends where I was determined to get out and shoot after a long and uninspiring week at work.

As usual the weather was not on my side. I was hoping that at least Cramond beach would cooperate and present itself the way I like it most, with low tide. As I got to the beach I could see the tide coming in from the distance. With me I had some old bread which I like to get rid of by feeding it to the birds. They are always very grateful despite the overdue sell by date. I walked around for some time but there were not many people around and the cold began to get to me. Feeling a bit deflated and with the rain beginning to fall I decided to feed the birds and then head home. Great numbers began to gather flying round me in big circles and hovering magically over the approaching water. Black birds joined the seagulls but not being able to compete with the seagull's greed and speed they mainly caught from the ground bread that seagulls dropped accidentally. It was a strange day and the sounds of the bickering birds were lost in the infinity of the beach. I started to get my enthusiasm back and began eagerly shooting. But my camera could not capture the true beauty and feeling of what I could see with my eyes. It was letting me down. 

With the rain damping the bread, my hands turned into slimy dough and so did my camera. Then the bread ran out. Once the bread was completely gone some birds left and the rest calmed down on the sand, black and white mixed until the final journey of the water came to an end the tide rushed in. The seagulls being able to float stayed put and the black birds, unable, made a hasty retreat where the water could not reach them. I was too busy cursing the rain and my doughy hands to immediately notice the divide that was created amongst the birds. With a double take, I thought hey hold on a minute...! And took a few shots. I missed better moments than this one in between cleaning my lens from rain drops. The birds were better spaced out. Nonetheless I enjoyed how everything in front of me evolved and I stand by the thought that everything happens for a reason.

As a child growing up in the Sardinian countryside, I was always surrounded by pets and farm animals. I have always loved animals and leaving home at 18 to start college in Scotland I was never able to get a pet as I could not commit to looking after it. Thirteen years later, feeling settled and owning my own home, I decided to get a rescue cat. I didn't know what I was letting myself in for. This hanging ginger nightmare is my cat, Trevor.

If I remember correctly it was a Saturday or a Sunday morning and finally Scotland seemed to be able to enjoy a real summer. It was warm, the sun was out and I had a few windows open at the front of my flat. Trevor began to run back and forwards like a fool, jumping in the air and off of furniture. Well, writing this I may sound as if I was surprised at this sudden outburst but it's quite a regular scenario in the Ercolano household. He began trying to jump on the second half of the window frame but with little space to stand on he kept falling. This is when I knew he was going to do one of his Trevor shows and I prepared my camera. I have taken many photos of him doing ridiculous stuff mainly hanging or jumping off of things; he is quite the character and a super a very cat kind of way...

I eventually heard the buzzing and realized he was after a huge fly. In the photo you can see a black dot on the top left of the window. I fully opened my blinds and waited for the fly to come to the glass again, hoping that Trevor would give a show for the camera and so he did. He hung several times, his back legs trying to push him up to no avail because his paws slipped on the glass. I quite frankly could not hold the camera still for laughing. It took several shots to get to this one. Oh, and the fly did not live for long after this.

I am grateful for his madness and determination. I hope to continue my little project on him and for that my house needs to carry on being destroyed for a little longer.

The weekend again. I had been drinking my morning coffee and listening to the news when the paper reviews began. On the front page of The Times was an image of a pink sheep relating to an article on farming. It turned out that these sheep belonged to a farmer here in Scotland. I began doing some research on the internet and found out that the sheep were only a drive away in the Pyramids Business Park near Bathgate. Farmer Mr. Jack had done this before. In 2007 he sprayed his sheep red. He said in an article for the BBC: "They are causing quite a stir with passers-by. It is a bit of fun and it does brighten things up. It was a bit messy and it really did take a while, but they look fantastic.”

I was intrigued and I decided to get ready, grab my camera and jump in my car. I really did not know what to expect and I avoided creating an image in my head before getting there. I tend to do that a lot, make up in my head what I'd like things to look like and dream of my ideal shot. As you can imagine I always end up disappointed but it is stronger than me and I will do it time and time again. I never learn my lesson.

After a 30 minute drive on the M8 I finally saw the pink dots in the distance. The M8 is a busy motorway and I feared that a one off drive-by would have been unsuccessful. In fact it was really unsuccessful. Luckily for me, further down the motorway there was a minor exit which took me off of the M8, and almost making a U-Turn via a smaller road I found myself back on the M8 right where the sheep were, running alongside them before joining the motorway again. I think I lost count of how many times I went round and round trying to get a shot I was happy with but either the composition or exposure was wrong or cars were in the way. Although I was able to go slowly on the smaller road, I could not stop my car completely so it all had to be done on the move. On my third or fourth attempt I noticed the road markings and how they complemented the pyramids. Suddenly the shot was not all about the pink sheep. Everything was falling into place. Everything in the photo was man-made. From the pink sheep, the edgy greenery and the road markings. Only the sky stood proud. I yet again drove round for another £20 worth of petrol until I got the shot I thought best portrayed this surreal world. 

I am not sure if I can love this photo. It is very controlled. Its representation of our appetite to be in control of our environment and our constant search for perfection makes me uneasy. Especially thinking back to what I did to get 'my perfect shot'. Certainly it tells me a thing or two about us human beings.

I love animals. Their innocence comforts me and I usually like to be around them when I am feeling annoyed with humanity. Lately I have been taking lots of pictures of animals.

It was a beautiful winter's day and Cramond beach was looking fantastic. The tide was low and sand stretched as far as the eye could see. Big puddles of water were all that was left of the sea and the still sand ripples were all that was left of its movements. The reflections were magical and the light was perfect. As usual I fed the birds and then walked as far as my wet unprepared feet would allow me.

On days like this one I forget I am not far from a city. I forget I am in Scotland and I lose track of time. There were many people on the main promenade with their dogs, bikes, children, flying kites, on skates, and eating ice cream, but I was not in the mood to join because over at the promenade in winter the sun usually is blocked by some tall trees. I stayed in the proximity of this particular spot. The setting was perfect and I knew something special could come out of it.

I stayed there for about three hours. I was focused and I frowned so much I ended up with a headache. Constantly taking photos, having cigarettes, waiting for the planes to come in, shooting the odd dog that would run past trying to catch the birds, the loved up couples hand in hand and the sporty types running their health away leaving behind their exhausted breath. And! I was glad to have had the camera over my face when these four black birds flew past. Otherwise I would have never been able to catch this. Let me tell you, luck was also on my side and quite frankly I have no idea what was going through my head when I pressed the button. I remember being compelled to look at the LCD straight afterwards saying to myself “please, please tell me I have not fucked it up?!” Phew, I hadn't. I give luck most of the credit, but I would like to think that that innate part of the photographer inside told me “NOW”.

No matter what, I had a great day (besides all the cigarettes I smoked). It made me feel good and I realized that special things really do happen. It is just a matter of being patient.

The British day at the beach. Dog walking is part of it. On nice days Cramond beach is filled with dog walkers. Unleashed dogs run around bringing their owners to meet each other. This is what I like about it all. It brings strangers together. And while their dogs meet by shaking 'hands' in their excusable dog way, people do the same with a little more finesse.

Many times it has brought me to talk to people but not owning a dog I thank my camera for that. By taking pictures of their dogs I have had the chance to hear many stranger's stories and discover a little about their lives.

I was drawn by this dog which, ignoring his owner's calls, strutted about proudly showing off his prize. You could tell he was avoiding his owner and almost teasing “look at me, look at me. Catch me if you can.” I decided to wait in one spot. I didn't expect much from a photographic point of view but I wanted to snap this for my own record. It was quite amusing. Here it came along and I followed its movements until it got caught out by his owner behind a tree. I didn't consider this for some time and a standalone shot would have not worked to really give justice to the events. The sequence sat on my drive for a long time. When revisiting this almost two years later I decided to put together a few shots from the contact sheet. It was simple but the story was told nicely.

It was an autumn morning. The air was crisp and clear and I had been taking photos in nearby Queen's Park. Most of the morning I had been walking around St. Margaret’s Loch. The autumn sun was inspiring. Parts of the water were frozen and I watched the swans and the ducks trying to break through the thin layer of ice, listening to the crackling sound they made passing by me.

This photo was taken on my return from my walk. I had spent some time taking photos of the sky and the peculiar trails the passing planes had left behind. I was not quite satisfied. Getting into my car I saw this small fallen leaf resting on my windscreen. The leaf was the perfect addition. By using dimmed flash I lit the leaf giving the impression it was illuminated by the sun and I took the time to work on different compositions until the plane trails vanished. I liked this idea of journey created by the trails. The leaf harmonized this very well and its falling gave me a sense of the fleeting time, perfect for the passing of seasons.

This photo was taken in Aberdeen and this is my Grandmother and her cat Buddy.

Some background story. My Grandma became a worrier after my Grandfather and her beloved son passed away. She was devastated to lose her son to whom she was really close, and it took many years before she was able to get back in touch with day to day life. In the years following her losses and with old age playing its part, she increasingly became worried about everything. This particular morning her neighbour, with a spray gun, was up on his roof cleaning moss. One of my Grandma's particular obsessions are her house gutters. She is forever worried they will get blocked. For most of this morning I heard her moaning about the mess her neighbour had made. Anything I said or did to try and reassure her was to no avail.

Her cat Buddy was let out for his morning wanders. I saw him on the shed and decided to take a few shots of him. Whilst taking pictures of the cat my Grandma came out and still muttering to herself walked in front of me. I shouldn't have but initially I was quite annoyed she got in the way. Then she turned towards me and looked up to the roof. I took three shots I think, one of them this one. Once we went inside, I showed her the photo I had taken. She could not understand why I liked it and what I saw in it. Although I took the time to explain to her the funny side of it she was not impressed but I was happy to have caught a slice of life in this quiet neighbourhood.

Not only does this photo mean something to me personally encapsulating my Grandmother's fragile and apprehensive personality but it also tells a story to you who view it. Is she looking for her cat? Yes, of course she is. 

Not long ago my mum told my Grandma I had won a competition with this photo, her reply to mum was: “Oh yes, that was the day I was looking for Buddy”. Bless you Grandma, I love you.

I had just left the house for an appointment. As I stepped outside my door on the opposite street I saw in the distance these two women, their backs facing my way. I was already late but I thought what the heck, took my camera out of my bag, and decided to catch up with them.

There was a distance between them and after getting closer the scenario was better than I expected. This shot was taken on a one way street. It was quiet. I took a few shoots anticipating them in gaps between the parked cars. They moved very slowly giving me the chance to get my composition right. What I liked the most was the alternate sounds created by the stick and the trolley: tick….weee….tick…weee…tick….weee, their tune resonating against the house walls.

I have to be frank. They moved me a lot. I thought of them for the rest of the afternoon. Were they sisters? Friends? What of their husbands? Their children? I wondered what they were like when they were young and if they had lived in this neighbourhood all their life. I made the assumption they lived together and imagined them in their house making tea for one another or helping each other put their scarf on before going out.

Months after this shot I saw them many times in the local supermarket. Always together, always helping each other out, always with their heads firmly towards the ground. I have now moved to another area of town and I have never seen them again. I regret not talking to them when I had the chance.

Christmas 2011 was approaching and Edinburgh's main street was closed due to the tram works. The council decided to put this closure to good use and set up festive entertainment in this area.

On this day I was meeting some friends for dinner and a walk around the Christmas market so I decided to head out beforehand and take some photos. I wandered around town. Lots of people were out and about and it was turning out to be a productive day. There were many characters around and just before meeting my friends I came across this storm trooper. Curious, I ran across the street to get closer to him. He was trying to light a cigarette but was having trouble due to his big storm trooper hands. I shot some frames and then he noticed me. In an attempt not to embarrass himself on camera while struggling to light his smoke he turned to a man that was next to him and asked him if he could light the cigarette for him. Just a bin away, a man was eating something with an attentive audience. I knew to stay put and take as many frames as I could until the scene run out of its charm. The man with the sandwich looked at me and slowly retreated out of frame. I knew I had not got the best shot yet and prayed he'd move back into my camera's view. Luckily he did and I got my photo. 

This is what I love most about living in Edinburgh. Old and new come together and some madness spices up our daily routines. I mean, I take Edinburgh castle in the background for granted but without it this photo would have not been as tempting.

My mum had flown from Italy to visit me in Edinburgh and together we took a few days to visit my Grandma in Aberdeen. This photo was taken in my Grandma's house.

When I was a kid my family took many trips from Italy to Scotland to visit my Scottish side. I was fascinated with the culture difference and loved my Grandma’s house. Many stories were told about life in this house and I was always keen to sit and listen. My Grandparents moved here when they were very young and brought up all of their four kids in these same walls. I imagined my mum as a kid playing in these very rooms. Getting ready for school, looking after her younger brother and sister. I imagined what life must have been like for her.

This shot was taken inside the bathroom. My mum told me many times that when they were kids her older brother used to torment his siblings by poking his face on the glass window. History repeated itself years later amongst my brothers, my cousins and myself.

I hated that little window. As a child I always used to be scared in case I spotted unexplained silhouettes passing by it. One of those childhood fears I guess, but still today I am very uneasy about it. I am an adult now but still that little window haunts me.
So, on this particular occasion I began reminiscing about the past and when this house was a busier place. That is when I got the idea for this photo. Grabbed my camera and my flash and called my mum up. It's not a candid. She stood outside and I took a few shots without the flash first. It was too dark. So I tried with flash and this is when the mask was forged. I wanted to create a sinister feel to this, a sense of unease. The different colour balance between inside and outside did just that. I tried a few more but my first attempt with the flash was the winner for me.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Young Fort Lee

The quarter guy was at the flea market yesterday (25 cents per photo) and I wound up with some good finds. No need to show all of them here, just the one below. Here's the very first postcard I came across flipping randomly through stacks. I'm serious.

Two weeks ago this image meant nothing. I would've skipped right over it. But thanks to recent news events, this is now the most notorious section of highway in America. So it went home with me.

Of course this is par for the course with old meaningless photos. Think of the Lewinsky-Clinton hug photo. Or the Dzhokhar Tsarnaev selfie. Or any rookie baseball card. One week they're floating anonymously in the global image stew. The next week they are plucked out and imbued with meaning. Any photo can become a star. It can happen overnight and usually without warning.

Among its other features, any photo serves as a reference point to past knowledge. It captures a data set, showing what we knew at a certain point. That's why dates are so essential to photography. Because when that knowledge base changes, as it always does and sometimes quite radically, our interpretation changes. That's why photographs usually become more interesting with time. An elementary school portrait can be mildly entertaining, but an elementary school portrait of an 80-year old friend is often fascinating. It's like re-reading the opening pages of a mystery after you know who the murderer is.

The photo above could be considered an elementary school portrait of sorts for highway infrastructure. It's a pretty plain photo by itself. I'm not sure why it was even taken. Maybe now it has some historic value, but what gives it real charge is the recent Fort Lee traffic scandal. Alla sudden, va-va-voom. This card just became interesting.

There's no date but I'm guessing this image is from the 30s. Traffic looks pretty light back then, but of course photos can lie. Who knows what the real story is. 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Thoughts on Quesofrito

Emiliano Granado answers a few questions about his new site Quesofrito, which offers "Three prints of one photograph every week during 2014. First come, first served. Ten bucks."

BA: What motivated you to try this sales strategy?

EG: I'd clarify first by saying this isn't a "sales strategy." It's an experiment. I have a lot of unpublished work that I really like and this is a good way to get that work "out there." I'm very interested in having this site live as a showcase for 50+ photos at the end of the year. Otherwise, the photos would be sitting on a hard drive. Also, I'm doing super limited runs each week. I want to sell out immediately, so that's the price I set. This minimizes the shipping/printing logistics. 

How do you choose the images? Is there any sequence or overall theme?

I don't have a theme or conceptual thread figured out yet. I think that's part of the experiment. Maybe something will emerge. Maybe it won't. Either way, it's important for me to think about that weekly, at least. 

What response have you gotten so far?

It's pretty great. Both weeks' prints have sold out in 10-15 mins. People are emailing me asking to set prints aside. A friend asked if he could just pay me up front every month, etc. Of course, I said no. The whole point is that every week I have to choose a photo and publish it. Then people need to jump on their computers and try to buy it. The pressure is on me and them. It's interesting.

Why only 3 prints per week?

Anything more than that seems like a lot of work. Especially if I'm probably losing money on the prints. 

How much does it actually cost you to make these prints? Is it less than $10?

After paying the shipping, ink, paper, and packaging, I'll probably break even. If you consider the time involved in scanning/retouching, I definitely lose money. But looking at it that way is so one-dimensional. There's value in pushing yourself to publish work, in getting people excited about your work, and creating a community of people that dig what you're doing. 

If you think about all that, then it's a win-win, for sure.

Why is it important to get the work out there as prints? Why not just put a new photo online each week? 

Having my work exist analogically is important to me. I still love doing printed portfolios, I still envision my personal work as prints or books. Also, I think it's powerful to take a few million pixels and turn it into something tangible. Theres a grace and beauty in that. I also think it marks me as a photographer that produces. Most photographers take photos. Some of those publish those photos. And some of those that publish PRODUCE something with it. I think that's important - to do something. Create something. 

What success have you generally had selling prints at more "normal" prices. I'm not sure what normal is but let's just say higher than $10.

I haven't really tried too much. I've had a few shows, mostly for my Time for Print project, but didn't sell very much. 

What about the argument that selling photos so cheaply will condition buyers against normal gallery prices?

Answer A) That's a good argument. It's probably correct.
Answer B) These prints are so inexpensive, that I can't believe anyone is comparing them to a gallery experience. I hope everyone sees this as something else. Something parallel to the gallery experience.
Answer C) So what? What's wrong with that? 
Answer D) I don't think the person that just bought the 4.3M Gursky is hitting refresh on every week to buy my print. Different markets. 

What do you think the role of limited editions is in photography? 

This quesofrito project isn't a statement about democratizing photography, if that's what you mean. But editioning work is a market strategy. I dig it. I don't have a problem with it. But I also don't have a problem with making large editions at lower prices. Larry Clark's prints are selling for $100 in a gallery right now. And I think that's cool. But Gursky's $4.3 million print is cool too. 

I think what your experiment puts on the table is the fact that the marginal cost of producing a nice print is actually quite low. It makes the idea of limiting prints to say 10 or 20 and raising price to $1,000 seem quite manipulative.

To try to answer this question is above my pay grade. Some economist or academic could give you a better answer, surely. I'm not qualified to talk about markets and supply and demand and who is buying what and why. How much does an Hermes handbag cost to manufacture? How much does it sell for? Why? I don't know man. 

No one is actually arguing that the price of a print should be based on the cost of the raw materials to produce it, are they? If you want my opinion on that perspective . . . well, I think that's incredibly naive. 

Maybe if more people were willing to pay $100 for a print, we could make editions of 1000 and sell them for much less. I think if I raised my print prices, even to $50, I'd have a much harder time selling out of 3 per week. Maybe I can experiment in 2015?

What prints have you bought in the past year by other photographers?

I bought a couple hand made books by my friend Graeme Mitchell. I've been trying to get Jody Rogac to make me a print to match the one I already have in my house. I'd love to get something from Daniel Shea. And Ryan Pfluger and I did a print trade. If I had money and more wall space, I'd buy a lot more. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Virtually Uncommon

Stephen Shore is an inviting target for GSV junkies. Not only are many of his best-known photographs labeled with precise address and date, his photos are so deadpan in their original state that they remind one of Street View. Rephotography is tempting, and all the info is there. It's just a matter of taking the time to investigate. I've made a few precursory stabs here, here, and here, as have Dalton Rooney and Kip Praslowicz.

But these are baby steps compared to Christian Storm's new Tumblr, Virtually Uncommon, the site whose subtitle says it all: Rephotographing Stephen Shore's Uncommon Places using Google Street View. Just a few days old, Storm has 60 posts up already, with GSV Shore scenes followed by links to the original photos. A labor of love worth checking out.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Q & A With Bill Dane

Bill Dane (from his website)
Bill Dane is a photographer based in Berkeley.

How did you first get involved with photography? 

Blake   I grew up with horses & work & hands-on  everything +  in the '40s+ and in suburban LA.

I had to move on down the line = TRUCKIN'…

OK,  horses and work...amidst a family legacy of achievement/education (Thacher School?)... Where does photography enter the picture (no pun intended)?

Oh dear  you've been digging.
ThacherSchool Vassar  Bowdoin  Yale - but small $$$  &! so what = not us & not me.
My Vassar mother pushed us to leave all that in the behind.  
I went to Midland School = chopped wood-horses-kerosene lamps-study/sports 24/7
I believe she was pushed 'left' at Vassar - '35.
IE: Her favorite uncle & Yale MD told her women can't be doctors.  
Edie was top of her class in biology & sciences.  She didn't try.  She was bitter.
She made it on her own with us three kids for years as a teacher & hospital Tech.
Me = always jobs since '49 & even signed up for 3 years in the army (hoped for language school).
I don't think Mom considered me & the army as a possibility! 
She joined the '60s Peace & Freedom Party before I did.
Poli-Sci at Cal was extremely not-pleasureful  not-stimulating  not-communal  !very dead-ended.
'63 moved over to the Art Department and drowned in pleasures. 
Painting & sculpture & histories.   
Environmental art-looking & photographing = '69 I start camera investigations.
'69-'70 was big for me = paintings-sculpture-photographs show in fine S.F. gallery. 
Fires burned my studio-living space and all my stuff - twice - '69 before the show & '70 after.
Hey! I still had my camera & that was that.
End of the road for me & this burning-man's studio and artist-isolation.
Into to the streets with Ruscha-Frank-Winogrand-Friedlander-Evans-Arbus-Atget +.

So the fire was a motivating factor? A reason to start over in a new medium?

Combo of confluences - some hot - some smoldering & $.
Blake  I'd always wanted to share my stuff.
How does one share much of anything painting cooped-up (my studio had been chickens' house).
!What . . . waiting to be 'recognized' by gallery & museum & magazine systems?
With my photo-picture-postcards & mailing  I was in small but inspiring control.

Bill Dane

Even before photography, you had a creative urge. Paintings, sculpture, etc. Can you trace that back to some root in your childhood or past? Were your parents artsy? Did they encourage you? Or someone else? What motivated you to make art?

Loved it = Mrs. Foote  my 5th grade teacher  included watercolor & singing in class. 
Curriculum for lil'billy brain-style kids.
7th grade art class = older kids got after me - disturbed my focus - loved it the more.
Nothing later that I chose or had pressed on me.
Edie was a hands-offer = no pusher.   We knew she had painted - read constantly - loved art history.
She did give me a set of oil paints after high school.
Made-up & painted one small picture of the KKK burning a black man at night.
Next = '63 undergrad beginning art-drawing-composing class at Cal. 
The future of post poly-sci BA looked real sickening.
Painting drawing sculpting made total sense. 
Then all Cal art classes for 1 yr + summer and I graduated … 3 times.
'64 BA,Art/Poli-Sci & '66 Teaching Credential  &  '68 MA,Painting.
'66 Berkeley Schools Teacher = painting & photo after-hours.    
Retired in '98 with Nancy's support! OXs!
A chance to do pictures full-time til I go away. 

What kind of sculptures did you make?

I had made sculptures only in classes.
For this gallery show I was inspired to hang a 10' x 20' plastic drop cloth from the gallery ceiling. 
I lightly spray painted the hanging plastic in pastel colors letting the mist fall to the floor. 
Also made a misty spray painted  4' x 6' piece of foam lying on the floor. 
Fabricated a 4' x 6' plastic panel & attached 4" x 6" transparent boxes in a grid pattern.
These held my 4" x 6" photos  for the taking by gallery viewers. 
Photo-pictures were influenced by the grossly-expensive commissioned enviro-art of this '69 time.
I taught in a clearly and sadly under financed USA school district. 
The elitist expenditure of millions on art projects is capitalist-cultural backasswardness.
Decided to create my version = environment-photograph-postcards @10cents each - gift & mail 'em, '69.

I suppose postcards are easier to mail than paintings. I think you were anticipating the internet with your distribution strategy.

It took my Monet & !Sun-in-law (Major Powers) until '07. 
They ignited my dawdling smoldering ass = internet-website-flickr +  connections.
Thank the spirits and stuff does happen if you keep on movin'. . .

OK, so you're taking photos and mailing out postcards. In 1970 or so? Who did you mail them to? How was your work discovered by the photo world? Was it through the cards?

Blake, it's '69+  & how many serious picture guys were out there?
Lucky me - young & old boys network = one best friend interns for Szarkowski at MoMA.
I see & hear Szarkowski present Winogrand pictures to his NYU class - unholy shit - I was hooked again.
This is the smartest picture guy in the world. 
I'll send him mine as postcards = let him react or whatever = that was that + somethings.
Luck-place-friend-inspiration-motivation = Bill Burback & me stayin' alive.

Which pictures did you send Szarkowski? Do you remember the first one? Or the one which caused him to notice you? Or reply to you?

I sent him a picture every day for years - until he quit - there's + - 5K pictures there at MoMA.   
He 'replied' by having Bill Burback create the slide show at MoMA in '73.
Unfamiliar places, A Message From Bill Dane

Selected images from Unfamiliar Places, A Message From Bill Dane, 1973

Which was a show of the original postcards?

A loop slide show of some of the picture-postcards I'd mailed - mostly to JS.
There were a few backsides - I wrote little stuffs.

Wow. Were these silver gelatin cards? Is that how you made them?


Over the years I built 9 funky darkrooms at Berkeley High & in BUSD alternative schools .
I always had a tiny one improvised in 4 homes.
I built a mailing list which reached +-99 folks. 
My students even mailed their photo-pictures all over - had pic-pals.    
We were hella-cool public-school guys  with-it  oh yeah  gelatin-silver hipsters  fa-sho!

Do you miss the darkroom? 

Never been comfy with tech stuff   from camera to processing film to printing & I was not good.   
Digital is my tech-salvation & it's cheap - actually - almost affordable. 
Pictures look swell to me.  I know there are pixels there  - hiding or not - used to be grains.
Editing is way more accessible and accurate & productive for my kinda guy.
Enjoying editing now   in good spirits!
I computer edit & now it's Lr5 which I can keep real simple = crops-highlights-shadows-colors.
Pretty much like darkroom adjustments.   
If it looks digi-tweaked = this is not good!
Right. But seeing a photo online is not exactly the same as holding a postcard in your hands. With handwriting on the back.

Of course it's not the same form of connection - but oh will I take it & it's My non-business  B-dear.
I have the internet to connect with 100s -1000s of folks now! not just my tiny selected mailing list.   
I love Mac-screen picture-viewing - if someone wants to hold one or 2 = For Sale!:
Open 24/7/365 @  & peoples' prices = we are the 99.9%ers.
Or drag from my Website for free!   Have a mini-picture.   I'm a mini-commonist.

Do you generally make prints of your photos now? Or do they exist just online?
I can only afford to print for buyers - they pay $99 plus production & shipping costs for a print.    
Pictures can be viewed at  Some Flickr - Ipernity pictures are available for sale.

Hmm. It seems you were willfully remaining outside that art-gallery world by creating art on post-cards and mailing them out. What could be less precious? Less fancy? Do you consider yourself an outsider in the photo world or in the art world?

We're all outsiders … it fits my picture-life  &  I am a disturbed human - pissed off … chips.
I've been feeling & looking since '38 … its not good out there on the planet +.
Lucky we have balancing stuff = oh bless the spirits for yin-yang = music-art-good-folks-commonisms .  
Human-nature fucking capitalism = horrifying union & we get the off-springers.  
No Qs!   I left the funky 'politics' of the art-gallery world for internet + 'possible-commonism'.
If I'd sold hella-stuff = who knows what I'd think  feel  say  today = I might be an off-sprung.
Always wanted to get out-there to art-connectors  which no established-game could provide. 
I engaged with Pop's diss of the masterpiece.  I felt in '69 we're all outsiders.  Byebye in '07. 
I've mailed to connect since '69 … connected at that level and never stopped. 
Maybe that's partially why I never sold = my pictures were floating around for free = good!
But! Lucky+  I did get 4 grants which let me take off teaching to travel with camera foe pictures.

Where did you travel to?
I tried to spend + - a week in cities  in Europe  Africa  Asia   South & Central America +.   
Volume one includes all the Guggenheim & NEA pictures & they are place-named.
Spent all the grant $ on photography.
!Oh - You could love this Blake:
After I digitalized my fave 777 negs by '07 - I took boxes of negs & funky prints to the dump.
Nancy screeched - I just couldn't handle the unholy-thoughts of editing all the years of 'rejects'.
I was in the local recycling-dumpster smashing my stuff.
A looking-on guy says  You Bill Dane?  Can I have one of those prints?  
"Hep r Sef "  (never forgot those Alabama gas-station road-signs).
Months later same guy walks by the house - yard sale day - buys an Outside Inside - 10$ - laughter. 

Bill Dane, Outside and Inside America,1993, 84 pages, softcover

Why 777 negatives? Why that number? Did you toss all of your negatives or just the ones you'd digitized?

I knew they showed  Walker Evans prints in NYC from digital files.   Beauties - a friend reported.
Tested & got a digital Nikon = D80 w/zoom-macro in Jan '07.
In '06 we found a lost bond that east coast Gramma had secreted.
Meeting of The Board = then spent 3.5 years & the bond digitalizing the negs of all the pictures I wanted to live with. 
777 pictures.  Saved these negs.  
Trashed boxes of most 'leftovers'  and all the prints I could not quality-tolerate.  (Re: The dumpster story.)

Do you pursue exhibitions with your current work? What is your relationship with Fraenkel?

I pursue sharing-connections on our for-how-much-longer-free-egalitarian Internet
Not pursuit - but connections-stuff happens occasionally & over years I've been around a few fruitful blocks.
Jeffrey and Frish seem real good to me - they surely do what they do 'successfully'. 
They tried to do me for years - loved parts.  I'm sad and ecstatic that it didn't work out.
I am a slow evolver - they pushed me  as I was always inching out to BD-heaven? = internet commonism!?
I repeat: 
What if I'd sold hella-stuff = who knows what I'd think-feel-say today.   !You?
What do you mean "it didn't work out". What happened?

+- No takers   I assume ?.
Do you still mail out postcards?

Not much.  I have some left.   I'll mail you one if you'd like = my pleasure.
I mail to anyone who asks.   Apparently un-wise capitalist practice.

Bill Dane

Sure, I'd love one. But I wasn't asking as a hint. Just curious if they were still happening.

Blake  I wasn't asking-hinting for a show at MoMA. 
I wanted Szarkowski to 'see and judge' my pictures.  
Didn't even know moma was The MoMA at the time - lil'billy's naivete will continue for better & worser.
Just keep on keepin' on - outside & inside is here & there & beyond & who knows what's comin'…
What was your reaction when you were offered that show by Szarkowski? Were you surprised? 

Musta been real happy  Blake.   
Szarkowski had several hundred pictures worth of decision helpers.   & I simply couldn't say No.
But! I did know people on the museum staff by then & in different Depts  because I visited NYC.
I knew there was strike talk - I'm an AFL-CIO Teacher Union guy (they just wouldn't postpone it!).
Damn!  Cross a picketline & with Mother & wife!  
Friends were actually on the line. 
 "Go on in Bill   Be happy  We'll take care of this".

What? Your MoMA show occurred during a strike?! And people had to cross a picket line to enter? What a star-crossed event! More details please.

There we all were fall '73 - joyous & very troubling (not a publicized dilemma) yin/yang.

What's your photo routine? Do you generally go to the same neighborhoods? Do you have a camera most days? Or just specific shooting hours? Do you have a photo group nearby to share and talk with?

I'm no group-guy Blake.
Although I did help logistic Moses & Esther thru their Jewishness. 
From 2.5 to 13 years and their very-moving Bar/Bat Mitzvah - with fine pleasure!
I have plenty of routes that I cycle thru & year after year.   
I add places every month & subtract a few!   
No big travels now.    
I live here.  
So much of us & this USA culture is right here hanging out on our surfaces.
It all evolves.   I do.    Now happily with my Fuji X-Pro1 w/35mm 1.4 (normal lens).
Hunt & gather when I feel like it.   Usually 4 days a week.   Having plenty home-work.
= spend big daily photo-time editing & sharing.

Selected images from Bill Dane's Volume 16: 2013

Let's set aside the process stuff for a moment. What are your photos about? Loaded question I know. But what are you trying to express?

You of course know that all the words are good-fun and 'instructive' sometimes. 
It's The Pictures! (not stupid). 
It can be very hard for folks to really look at and see pictures - real hard if they aren't grabbed fast.
Hard without experience  but not always.
It's real natural for me to be struck and grabbed when I hunt.   
But I'm not you and/or viewers looking at my pictures.  
I sure hope we do connect now and later.   
I just can't care if my pictures are accessible to folks.  I have this non-profit job to do.
The only plan I have on the streets is to take a picture when I'm struck-grabbed! 
Then I edit and find out what it looks like as a picture.
What does what-grabbed-me look like photographed (venerable poignancy).
My pictures are then 'about' what you experience  in your own way  when you view them.
I find my picture 'subjects' in public places.   Places generally familiar to you? 
I don't walk along internally-intellectually verbalizing my hunting experiences.  
I mumble shit - even out loud - a lot! 
In my pictures I do 'express' what strikes me-personally as true-unique-pieces of 'this life'.
My picture-pieces are presented to you in organized rectangles. 
Only when I feel their wholeness-completeness will you see them.
Form and content are inseparable-symbiotic = group dancing til I freeze the actions - canvas or print.
Blake  I spent 7 years drawing-painting = organizing rectangles into 'whole' personal experiences.
The frame is always a critical ingredient - there's always outside and inside - in n out - decisions all over!
With still-straight-street photography I accept and love the givens of the scenes and surfaces encountered.
I'm out here working up to my eye balls in treasures.   In the middle of life-stuff.   Decisions everywhere.
I do (seldom now = retired) show pictures to an audience. 
I point to clues they might use to help them to their own experience. 
I can't & don't often 'explain' stuff to myself.  I notice stuff.
I know what I feel & think & like!  Like You?!   
We can point.   
If we can tell-all - fagetaboutit - it's no poem.
The real right stuff  floats.
The picture-experience is for you to have . . .  I've had mine . . .
Good luck for all of us always.
!&  All of us please read - The Photographer's Eye  plus lots by John Szarkowski.

Is there any order to what goes on your website and in which sequence? Or is it just random?

Unholy shit Blake = nervy hippyster from Briceland to Eugene wit mazy website . . . . 
Enabling-Tabatha   3 boys    Brown University   older Toyota?    hoping animals?   nuffsaid!
You are not always funny  Blake.
We are creating the tasty-functional website starting place for future site-building pioneers!
We are the in faux-timelessness.  
My website's opening - splash page is a randomly presented group repping all Volumes.
This beauty-rest just might float over dead-heads . . .
Blake  I am one anal guy.   Lining up ducks & whatevers.    
'Random' only shows when authorizing-lil'billy is in otherwise fullish control.
I edit in Lr5 'capture order'.   I know stuff.
The sequencing of each Volume is my pleasurable-busyness.  ?Quixotic - possibly.    Keep out.
When the Volume in-progress is within my climaxingzone  I can feel it. 
On it goes.    Mostly in chronological order  doctor.
Blake.  You've poked me-us where others fear to feed.   Chow-down Bra.
How do you know when a volume in-progress is almost finished? 

I mumble stuff like  gotta get down to some serious editing here.   
Start engaging possible first & last picture sequences     # of pictures     passage of time +.    
The feeling of the 'whole' comin' on     fatigue  +.
What do you think connects the photos you're making now with your work in the 70s? Do you see any consistent theme? If I can generalize, the field of view now seems much tighter and more confusing/abstract. Is that a reflection of some internal change?

Every photo-picture is more-or-less out-of-context ! 
I've always worked in a continuum of more-or-less out-of-context.   ?Don't we all.
It's a huge ingredient for me in hunting-gathering-editing. 
Conscious or not it must be for you in experiencing my pictures for a connection to happen.
75 years of hella-slow evolution.  I can't think or care much about past pictures & themes & stages.  
? Why contemplate my pictures from day one. I hardly even look at my old pictures. 
I'm an intentionally-devoted-newish-eye-for-each-picture hunter. 
I find - new pictures and Volumes over time - therefore I am.

Your earlier b/w photos show the real world in a more "normal" context. I can look at them and have some sense of what's happening and what the scene was. It seems now you've gone past that. I can't tell much at all about where your photos were made or when or anything really.

From Bill Dane's Volume 9: 2008-9

Every photo-picture is more-or-less out-of-context ! 
I've always worked in a continuum of more-or-less out-of-context.   ?Don't we all.
It's a huge ingredient for me in hunting-gathering-editing. 
Conscious or not it must be for you in experiencing my pictures for a connection to happen.
My 'out-of-context' is clearly normal for me Blake - like yours is for you.
Pictures.   Foods.  Partners.  Musics.  Contexts.  All very personal engagements.   
If I don't believe pictures can be engaged with = I edit them out.
Not simply because they're mysterious   difficult  and/or ethereal  +.
All my 'changes' over time have been evolutionary - undiscussed with a board of directors.
All my Volumes and their pictures are in roughly chronological order.

I know. I like that presentation. Just a steady stream by date. It's almost completely counter to the prevailing style which is "This is project X", "This is project Y", etc.

I'm repelled by theme-pictures taking & presenting.   
I must try to maintain open eyes-mind-psyche +.   
One amazement at a time  please. 
Do you ever seek editing opinions of others?

Just want hugs - loud exclaimers - family yelling  Hell Yes! 

Is your family the primary target audience?

That could be humorous Blake.  They could be the ones that finally care.   
My target folks must be those who want to be targeted or by chance get caught in my headlights.
I would prefer that Time mag - sorry - The Nation - beatify my picture & before I go away.

Do you think your family understands your photos?

Assuming my family includes a few for these purposes. 
I know Nancy and Monet and Major Powers have as poignant understandings as I do = my pleasure.
Moses & Esther are 23 and moving … they get 'em. 
They wonder why I'm so far 'outside' and there's the money-business.
We care about a lot of stuff - I'd rather folks are housed & working & healthcared & commonized!
I'm plenty lucky enough.

Who you do consider your main audience? Are there some people you know who "get" your work? Or is audience important at all?
Mailing my postcards I knew the receivers.
Using the Internet the audience is mostly anonymous.    
You know how Flickr folks can respond = view-favorite-comment-email.
Way more people see my pictures and respond to me on Flickr than did with the postcards.  
? 'Get' my pictures.  Yes  I know of a few people.   
They talk to me.  They translate their experience of my pictures into words - talking - writing.
Half the time I say, "Never occurred to me." or  "Damn!."  or "Gotta love it." 
Audience is half of why I do this.

Ivar Theatre by Bill Dane

Switching gears, can I ask a few questions about the Ivar? I saw your photos from that scene in your book and also at the Drkrm Gallery. What drew you to photograph there? Did you engage with any of the other photographers?

The Ivar.  I visited with Garry (Winogrand) in LA we hunted there 4-5 nights '82+.
I assumed the other folks there were horny citizen - no Ivar chatting - I dropped Garry at home.
We were engaged by staff on occasion for walking around - we sat & then walked on.
I could do many trips to LA overs decades.   My mother had a house in Sierra Madre.
Garry is tempting  - for You.
Was this during your Guggenheim travels? Yes, Garry is tempting for me. What was your general impression of him? As a shooter? And as sometime to spend time with?

Tod Papageorge and his writing tells us Garry. 
Wonderful Tom Consilvio died and Szarkowski - Paul McDonough & Tom Roma know.
Garry was intense - he took a lot of pictures - we visited over years - we weren't buddies - my pleasure.
Which photographers working now do you like? What about photobooks?

I'm pretty much under n out - sorry Blake. 
Motivation and inspiration come from everywhere - from collecting experiences - psyche-evolution - the streets. See above - see below - see as much as you can.
Inspiration and motivation come from comrades - over the years - working separately-together in melieus.
It was African masks   Giotto  VanGogh   Picasso  deKooning   Warhol   Kiefer's big-wall-pieces +.
R.Bresson   Godard   Sayles   Tarantino +.
Dostoyevsky  Brecht   Robbe-Grillet   Beckett   Boll   Sebald   T.Morrison  Banks   L.Michaels +.   
Marx   Gandhi   Malcolm x   Chomsky    Moyers   M.J.leger +.    
It was  Ruscha  Frank  Atget  Evans  Weegee  Diane  Lee   Garry +.
I do have my very own Internet Volumes.  No books.  I don't need no stinkin' wonderful books.

From Bill Dane, Volume 4: 2003-5

Do you think books are important? I don't think I'd know about you if it not for your photobooks.

They're more important now than they were before you asked  thank you.
Picture books were important in my past.  I don't read easily - physically.  Visual memory here.
Blake I literally do not have the brain-style to be the intellectual-combo guy I'd love to be.
My mother had the academically-sufficient thing - my wife has it.    
I have what I have - try for more - work with it - mostly with pleasure.
In pop-terms I've decided it's some type of dyslexic-leaning.  So What.  ?!Luckier-me.

Tell me about Briceland  Blake.

Briceland is not much of a town. And I didn't live there, actually about 2 miles away up a dirt road in a house my parents built. Back to the landers, ex-hippies. I was born in Berkeley actually in a house found through community bulletin board.

& I was in Berkeley when you arrived.

I only spent about a day there before shipping off to Walnut Creek where my parents lived. Then they moved north a few years later.

Your wife's name is wonderful  must be ancient.

She's named after the Bewitched character.

No TV for us til '85  -  then we got this house & bills.
I lived & painted on Mt Diablo's back side '67-'69.
Nancy is a Professor at St Mary's College Moraga - last 3 years as Edu.Dept Chair = hassled by the minute.   
!She will have her sabbatical June-Feb.  YinYang!
And what do you two have planned for that time? Any adventures?

How to plan with our USA-planned-plutocracy - No-democracy - $college$ loan payment plan +.
We're not even Europe.  We are not a civilized country.
But!  Nancy will go (flyer miles) places with buddies and garden and rest and write articles +. 
I feed cats & do picture stuff + & I traveled a lot.   
Adventures small & big do show up if you just KEEP ON TRUCKIN'…
IE: Thank You Blake!   
This is a pleasureful adventure!   
Os Bill.

bs:  KEEP ON TRUCKIN'…  is R.Crumb  ZAP Comics   bet your folks know that & you too … tell the boys!