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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

May at the Farmer's Market: I love summer foods! Saturday I went to the Alemany Farmer's Market with a short list of things I wanted. I had already had some FABULOUS green grapes from my local grocer, and wanted more of those - but they were the only thing on my list I didn't find.

I got:
-Suhki's bharta spread (a roasted eggplant spread), and spinach and aloo parathas (stuffed tortillas, sort of)
-1/2 a flat of strawberries
-plums, which are small, and perfectly sweet
-yellow onions
-yukon gold potatoes
-red lettuce
-red bunching onions (green onions with red bases)
-cilantro (an ENORMOUS bunch)
-gai lon
-and absolutely perfect, firm, crisp nectarines.

I'm waiting for tomatoes to reach perfection, and for hot peppers to appear, though sweet peppers aren't making a showing yet. I was surprised by the lack of grapes. There is still plenty of citrus, and still lots of greens I can't identify. I need to take a friend who is better versed in Asian greens than I am to explain all of their uses... I still have a head of fresh garlic from a previous visit, and so had to restrain myself from buying more. (It's so good! So juicy! So fragrant! And the greens are so amazingly good! I have been sprouting garlic at home unintentionally, and so will plant some this week...) Eggplant is beginning to appear.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Saturday, May 28, 2005

A very good photoblog: After a lot of fussing and agonizing, I decided a while back not to do a photoblog. It takes me forever and a day to process the images I shoot in large volumes at once (100+ images one day, none for the next three, 64 the next day, etc.), and I figured I'd make better, gradual progress looking at images and dealing with them as sets, which is one of my big goals. (I am trying to look at my work more thematically across time. My database is helping me see these relationships now.)

I almost put together a 'cyanotype a day' blog, but I live on the edge of the fog belt, and knew that it would be darned tricky. So I've postponed that one.

But there are photographers who do FABULOUS things with their photoblogs, and Tomo of PHOTOMO ( is definitely one of them. Tomo is a graphic designer living in San Diego, and her daily images of local scenes, friends' houses, great textures and signs, and selected images from her travels are delightful, especially in their colors. She is REALLY LOOKING at things around her, which gives her images a great freshness. When she takes an image of glasses or dishes influenced by current trends (and it's hard for any of us not to be influenced), she chooses shots with really great colors and ensures they are beautifully saturated. (I wound up at her site looking for good examples of cross-processed photographs.)

I usually like photographers' travel photos better than images of their hometowns, but she's got a fresh eye for things around her, so I like her San Diego images best! All this, and it's a lovely website. (Remind me to hang out with more graphic designers!) So I recommend that you visit her site, which is an especially good example of a photoblog.
posted by Arlene (Beth)8:58 AM

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Good things in the SF Bay Guardian: The May 25-31, 2005 issue of the SF Bay Guardian has three articles about my favorite band, Sleater-Kinney, who are coming to the Warfield soon. Also, this issue has a special book supplement that has a great interview with Chris Carlsson. It can be found on-line (like most of their other content) here: Lit | San Francisco Bay Guardian. To give you an idea of what the Carlsson interview is like, read this sample:
In dark times like the ones we're living through, it's important to be able to imagine another way of life. It's difficult to do, especially when the media repeats ad nauseam that this is the best of all possible worlds - if you imagine change, it can only be for the worse. It is incumbent on radicals to discuss change as a positive vision, an exciting alternative to the world as it is, so as to invite people to improve our lives together.
Now I'm eager to read his new book!
posted by Arlene (Beth)1:10 PM

Day 2 of gum bichromate printing:black gum bichromate print of white-edged ivy Tuesday afternoon I had a chance to try gum bichromate printing a second time, and I decided to use "lamp black" watercolor as the pigment. It's a basic pigment (once made of burned kerosene, now of carbon) that many beginners start with, and being a beginner, I thought I'd try it.

black gum bichromate print of architectural abstract with vertical corrugated metal My first attempt at trying to lay the emulsion on the paper too heavily mocked me by staying gooey and failing to dry. So now I know I was right on the first day to coat the paper thinly. I used a sheet to make a test strip in 30-second intervals, from 0 seconds to 9 minutes, and learned that my images were only legible at normal developing time up to 2 minutes, after which the image became muddy.

black gum bichromate print of Bay Bridge with small sailboat Two minutes seems really fast (relative to my cyanotypes), but I used the afternoon to try two minute prints from a few negatives that had worked well enough with cyanotype. They came out okay for my experimental standards, but not as dark in the blacks as I'd hoped. I believe I could improve them with more pigment, so long as I don't add so much that the emulsions becomes grainy. (I find lamp black to be less opaque and more particulate than some of the other blacks I've used for watercolor.) The prints still show streaking from the brush marks that appeared when I applied the emulsion (which I think I can overcome by using a much wider brush).

The foliage images would likely have come out better with just one and a half minutes of exposure, and I might try that next time I can print.

black gum bichromate image of veined foliageOverall, I'd say the prints look like bad copy machine efforts at printing, from back when copy machines really struggled with photos. :-) Which isn't what I'd expected, but it's still progress. ("I can make bad 'Xerox' copies of photos in my backyard with a few chemicals and water! Woo hoo!") I have read that negatives with more midtones work well with this process, and so may use some negatives that were too mid-toned and low contrast for cyanotypes on my next try, to see if they print better.

Once I can get the midtones to print more clearly, then I MIGHT actually try to do a color separation print or two, or three, and see how those turn out. The ability to mix your own pigments is very exciting: the same image printed with different blues, yellows, and magentas could be thrilling for art geeks like me. Stay tuned!
posted by Arlene (Beth)12:35 PM

Mmmm. Coffee. I'm back at home from running my morning errands, which involved a long walk through the neighborhood, the post office, the bank, Peet's coffee, being followed home by a very friendly dalmatian mix, and wondering what the heck all of these people are doing hanging out in West Portal.

As someone who has had jobs since she was 11, I don't really grasp what's going on when I walk past a beauty parlor and see women getting their nails done in the middle of the day. Or why neighborhood restaurants are full at 1:30 on weekdays. Even now, on sabbatical (which has me working on a long list of projects daily), I still can't completely grasp it. And I still can't completely relax with my coffee when I have so many things to do. I was working on understanding, but now I'm working on willing a particular company to hire me, and so I don't have time for that sort of thing.


Packaged Indian food review: Having missed Wednesday's farmer's market, I wasn't sure what to make for dinner, and turned to those Trader Joe's packaged Indian meals. Last night we had their versions of "Punjab Choley" ("...chickpeas, tomatoes, onions and ginger in a spicy aromatic sauce") and Palak Paneer ("...spinach, ginger and garlic combined with tomatoes and onions and topped with soft Indian cheese") over home cooked Basmati rice. Both entrees were reasonably priced, and each is done after just two minutes in the microwave.

The Punjab Choley was actually hot-spicy!! That's unusual for packaged foods. S and I both sweat a bit while eating it, and we both ate it rather quickly. It overwhelmed the mild palak paneer, which is one of the milder versions of the dish I've had, despite the presence of at least one whole chili. (In Indian food, you can leave whole spices in, and trust your guests to know which ones to eat, and which ones not to. :-) The paneer was very tender and had a fresh, buttery taste. However, S likes the Tasty Bites saag paneer better - it has a bit more flavor.

So both dishes were good, and we'd happily eat them again, but we still have a slight preference for Tasty Bites.


I haven't been very inspired to invent new dishes lately. We've been having old favorites: my Mediterranean lasagna, broccoli and tofu in black bean sauce, pastas in tomato sauce or in pureéd marinated artichoke hearts, curried delicata squash... I made a polenta and covered it with pesto sauce and Gouda (as a change from tomato sauce and provolone or mozzarella), which was quite wonderful. I've also been making salad dressings with the abundance of fresh oregano from my garden, combining it with garlic, olive oil, white balsamic vinegar, a little salt, and a lot of freshly ground pepper. I've also varied it with majoram, which makes the dressing surprisingly sweet. But I haven't done any wild experiments.

I think I'm waiting for the full-on onslaught of summer produce to amaze me. It's on its way: the California avocados are delightful, and the stone fruit are starting to appear in the farmer's market (including nectarines!! Mmmm, nectarines), so I'm getting ready.
posted by Arlene (Beth)12:14 PM

Tuesday, May 24, 2005


Gum bichromate printing!!

bad pale green gum bichromate image of building with elaborate Chinese tile roofWith the repairs to my foundation currently halted, my garage workspace for photography experiments is disrupted... yet free of other people. And so I broke out the gum dichromate printing kit I bought from Montana's Photographers' Formulary (, mixed up a set of chemicals, and made some disastrous first prints.

Gum bichromate is a very clever and versatile process. You can choose any watercolor pigment you like, mix it with gum arabic (a sap from a certain acacia tree), add in a toxic photo-sensitive potassium (or ammonium) dichromate solution, and paint in onto the paper of your choice. When contact printed under strong UV light (such as the sun), the dichromate hardens the gum that gets the most light (through the pale parts of the negative), hardening it like a cooked egg. When soaked in water, the unexposed gum and pigment dissolves away. An image is left behind where the gum 'cooked.'

green gum bichromate image of pile of pale pumpkinsMy first efforts were disastrous, which is reasonable for any new process. I overexposed my first several attempts, thinking the exposure time might be as long as with old cyanotype, but realized that I couldn't even make a photogram, and so my approach must be wrong. Also, it takes about an hour of soaking with the paper I was using for the image to develop enough to see what the results are (this is a "developing out process," where the results are only visible after development, rather than a "printing out process" where you can see what's happening as you go), so I couldn't make adjustments during the short printing session before the emulsion hardened. I just experimented wildly, put the results in the sink, tossed most of my work out as a loss, and then had lunch.

deep green gum bichromate image of building with elaborate Chinese tile roofLunch is a wonderful thing.

When I returned to throw away the leftovers still floating in the sink, I found that one of them (the first image in this entry) had actually developed into a legible image! I then sized several sheets of paper with a nasty (non-vegetarian) gelatin size mixture, mixed up a second batch of chemicals/pigments to prepare a few more sheets, and had another round of printing disasters, from which these last 2 images came.

I was as excited as a child on Xmas eve. It's so fun to experiment! I have a fabulous collection of watercolor pigments, and have been fantasizing about this printing technique for a while. Yes, it is apparent it will take a long time to get the printing technique down: each pigment changes the exposure time (by interfering with the UV light reaction, I assume), and so each color will be a new experience. There are many good examples at's gum bichromate gallery.

Many of those examples are monochrome, but it's possible to print several layers, each in a different color, resulting in full-color, archival, gorgeous images. Oh yes. Look at Katharine Thayer's bowl of apricots ( as an especially luminous example. That's a three-layer gum print, and those apricots absolutely glow. I had only been considering this process for my monochrome work, but those apricots are terribly inspiring. And I have taken many color images in the past... So I'll consider it.

I have a long way to go before I get the hang of monochrome, but I'm still terribly excited about the possibilities.

Learning is fun!
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:10 AM

Monday, May 23, 2005

Another blogging friend! Finally, another colleague has a web presence. Monique's travels ( will be the travelogue of an office colleague just starting her international travel sabbatical.
posted by Arlene (Beth)8:23 AM

Sunday, May 22, 2005

It's a beautiful Sunday morning, and I am indoors, hiding from the sun, because I got badly sunburned yesterday. It only took 20 minutes! 20 casual minutes of sitting in the yard, sunning myself, trying to get my skin used to the idea... And shortly thereafter: lobster color across my neck and shoulders.

S is threatening to call me 'whitey.' It's just amazing that I could burn so easily. Especially considering my ethnic background. Apparently the pigment genes are recessive in my family...


I have all of these little draft blog entries stacking up since last Wednesday, incomplete, so I'll try to get them published this morning. I'll leave them as separate entries, on their respective dates. Please excuse any confusion this back-publishing may cause.
posted by Arlene (Beth)1:07 PM

The 18 Mighty Mountain Warriors ( have a new show which I saw last night, "A People's History of Sukiprata." It's the third variation of their popular Sukipratan skit collection. It has a lot of new material, and new variations of old material. I enjoyed it. I cried less while laughing hard than the first time I saw an earlier variation, but it is still good. My little group of friends got giddy when some of our favorite skits were acted out, like the tale of Sukirella, and When Pork and Human were Best Friends.
posted by Arlene (Beth)1:06 PM

S won second place in his age group in a runners' race in Hidden Valley Lake! Last weekend he entered his first race since high school, and he's pleased to have placed, though he's mad about the 12-year olds who beat him. And more mad about the 60+-year-olds. Though they were REALLY fit, and he shouldn't feel bad - he should just train harder.

He'd been on just 4 or 5 runs in the weeks leading up to the race. He now has the motivation to train harder and enter more events. I'm glad he's taken this up: his fond recollections of high school glory days always seemed sad to me, because they were so... distant.


HVL is a strange, golf-course development that is sort of a sub-sub-suburb of Middletown, California, which you might be able to find if you look closely at a map of Calistoga, wandering northeast into Lake County.

It gets very hot there. I have been known to melt in the car on the way there, reduced to a raisin-like state upon my arrival.

S' sister talked about how crowded it is getting, with so many of the lots that had sat unsold for decades being snapped up. She's been there for perhaps 6 years, and talked about how it isn't turning out to be the ideal of 'moving to the country' that she'd expected.

It made me think about the idea of "moving to the country." Back in the 1960s and 70s there was a 'back to the land' movement, where City people bought farms, grew all of their own food, made their own household goods, and dramatically reduced their material possessions as part of an exercise in examining life and learning to live it more directly.

The current 'moving to the country' ideal is a million miles from that: it's living in a suburb where you bring every city-life habit you've had with you, and wait for the city-like services to appear. It's suburban life, but with more trees and bigger lawns.

As someone who lived in the suburbs for two years, and found it to be lacking in nearly every way, I don't understand the appeal. There are just as many people, it seems; even more cars; services are minimal; on weekends everyone goes to the City... I'd rather plant more trees in the City, if a greener environment is what's really desired. Which I've done! I still haven't managed to get the grass stains out of those jeans, either...
posted by Arlene (Beth)1:04 PM

Friday, May 20, 2005

Boring, boring nudes. I've just read a book by one of the masters of 'the West Coast' style of photography. It includes a series of reasonably acclaimed nudes.

They are boring.

They are SO boring.

You may think any pretty image in black and white of a nude figure is art. But you may not have realized how oppressively conformist nude photos have been here for the last few decades.

The nudes are invariably female. They are invariably 18-34 or so. They are invariably white. (There was one exception in this book, for what that was worth.) They are invariably mid B-cup to mid C-cup. They are invariably slightly ribby. They are invariably pale and untanned. They are invariably a bit on the thin side. They are invariably low on body hair. They invariably have straight hair on their heads, which is invariably long.

Anyone who has studied art history has scene a fabulous range of figures reflected in art: buff men, old barrel-chested men, fleshy goddesses, bountiful mothers, lanky children, tall teens, chubby cherubs, athletic runners of both sexes... But no longer. Apparently, that was when art was about the glory of the full range of the human figure. Now (and in recent times) "art" nudes in photography can only reflect the standard model used in advertising and soft-core porn to please heterosexual men.

Those of you who have access to some of the mainstream skin magazines know of what I speak. I found a recent set of issues at a vacation rental, and went through them with an embarrassed male friend, pointing out that EVERY WOMAN IN THE ISSUE HAD THE SAME BODY. It was like fast food: each one looked the same, with only the slightest variations in skin tone and hair style.


If a photographer is really an artist, that photographer should be able to take a great nude photo of each of their own parents (or at least someone of age) and of a wide range of models of both genders. Variety in the human figure is universal. Photography doesn't HAVE to be an extension of the current conformist tastes of hetero men -- that isn't what produced such varied and wonderful bodies of work in antiquity. And surely we can do better than antiquity in representing a diverse array of figures.

Yes, I know the photographer whose book I was viewing had a habit of engaging in extracurricular activities with his models. That may be an explanation for the lack of that special something that would really impress those of us who are really looking for "art."

You'd be surprised that the debate over the purpose of nude photography is still alive and well, with (invariably male) proponents of the new conformity arguing that it is completely natural for their conformist sexual tastes to dominate a diverse art world, no matter how heavily influenced by advertising and other mass media they may be. I've even picked up an instruction book by a woman eager to use the same standards in hopes of achieving mainstream acceptance of her work.

posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Thursday, May 19, 2005

2005 Bike to Work Day logoIt's Bike To Work Day!! I biked to 'volunteer work,' but still managed to get quite a workout.

Yes, it was pouring rain all morning. Yes, my elected Supervisor decided that he didn't want to melt in the rain, and so when I showed up to be part of his BTWD entourage, I found no one. I biked down Mission Street, wondering if they'd left early, and then zipped over to the Valencia Street energizer station to find tons of happy, damp cyclists, fresh bagels, and news that it was unlikely my Supervisor would arrive. I chatted, waved BTWD bags (they are SO CUTE) to passing cyclists and lured them to stop with the promise of bagels, and then biked in a light mist over to SF State, where I staffed the energizer station until the last support team came by to pick up our empty coffee "cabro."

Despite the rain, it was fun. People like to be given presents for biking! People like free bagels and coffee! And pedestrians and cyclists alike were willing to join the campaign to Stop the plans to charge a toll to bicyclists and pedestrians on the Golden Gate Bridge! ( You can help by clicking this link and filling out the form.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Today I worked half a day at the SF Bicycle Coalition's offices to get things ready for Bike To Work Day. BTWD was the event that cemented my commitment to bicycle commuting.

Years ago, I lived about 4 miles from my workplace, and would take the bus to work every morning, and the bus home every evening. Once I got home, I would jump on my bike and ride about 10 miles, through Golden Gate Park and along Ocean Beach's multi-use path. Bicycling made me feel great: it took the accumulated work stress out of my body, and left my muscles relaxed. Fresh air, the way GGP smells in the evening, watching the sunsets over the beach while biking along smelling the sea and watching the gulls... It was so lovely. But it was a pain to have to wait until after my long bus ride home to start. Sometimes, especially when I worked just a little bit late, the bus was infrequent, and I didn't get home until it was too dark to start riding.

Once I started biking regularly, I began to notice bikes everywhere. In the morning, out the bus window. At the end of my block, biking past. Downtown, riding down market street. But I assumed that riding with traffic was too dangerous, and just looked on jealously from the bus.

Then I heard about Bike To Work Day. I learned that thousands of people ride their bikes to work in San Francisco, and that there were bike lines on streets my buses didn't travel on, which made the ride safer and easier. There were some reasonably direct routes from my home to my office. And there were treats to be had for people who biked in on BTWD.


So I trained. I took longer bike rides. I biked to my office on various routes, giving myself plenty of extra time in the mornings in case I had difficulty getting there directly. I explored different streets. I used bus lanes, and because my average speed was higher than that of a Muni bus (!!) which has to stop every other block to pick up passengers, I only had to share the lane with taxis. And on BTWD, I knew where to go, how to get there, and was plied with coffee cake and presents by super-nice bike people.

That did it. I was completely dedicated to biking to work 3 - 4 times per week after that. Even when I moved to San Bruno (for love!), I became a multi-modal commuter, riding my bike to Caltrain and from Caltrain to work (and back), making much more efficient connections than the streetcar did to the train, AND in summers riding every few weeks all the way from San Bruno to downtown San Francisco, a significant distance on roads I needed to share with freight vehicles. [Though even that could be fun. Third Street always had people waiting for busses on it, and sometimes they would actually cheer me on. I remember getting very hardy "You go, girl!" cheers from young boys, and thumbs up from a Latin cowboy...]

And I realized how GOOD it feels to be fit. To work out all office stress on the way home. To start every day feeling warm all over, feeling fit, having an endorphin rush, having an excuse to eat the big breakfast burrito, and knowing that I get to ride again on the way home, any way through my lovely City that I want to!

I moved back to SF, and was thrilled to be able to ride to work in the Financial District more often, on several different routes. Now that I have a cycling computer, I realize that I was riding farther each day than I thought: instead of 10 miles a day, I was riding 16 or more, depending on my route. This explains why I was so darned fit! (It didn't make me thinner: my upper body wasn't/isn't getting a workout, overall, and I continue to eat too much for my activity level. But darn it, my legs can go on 60+ mile rides for fun!) But it's great to be able to do it!

Our bodies are 'use it or lose it' systems, and while some people on my block have difficulty walking up the steep hill I live on, I can BIKE up it, even while hauling heavy things, even after a long, long ride.

So, Thank You Bike To Work Day!
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Tuesday. It's a cool, gray morning. A perfect morning for sitting in a quiet garden, bundled up with a cup of genmaicha, and thinking serene thoughts. But I'm out of genmaicha. [sound of sobbing.]

I'm making do with some wonderful herb tea from Peet's, which is steeping quietly in the kitchen while I sit in front of my computer, listening to the quiet chugging of the film scanner. I'm scanning some images from a trip to Lake Tahoe, which remind me of how darling I think that little island is in the middle of Emerald Bay. That part of Lake Tahoe, and the Desolation Wilderness adjacent to it, is just so lovely.

I've never been to DW in summer, and really ought to do some backpacking there. The landscape is similar to the amazing mid-elevation portions of the Emigrant Wilderness, which is one of the most spectacular landscapes I've experienced. Which is saying something: I've been lucky enough to see so many! This sabbatical has definitely allowed me to visit some places I've always longed to explore.


My sabbatical is now drawing to a close, 11 months (!!) after I started it. It has been a wonderful experience, one of the best things I've ever done for myself, and I've been very satisfied with the way I've spent this time.

There have been some surprises. I keep much longer hours than I thought I would, getting up early to rush out to photograph certain locations in morning light, or to prepare for another exciting round of contact printing with sunlight. I spend far, far, far more time at my computer, scanning film, editing digital images, and performing web research to resolve technical questions I have, then I anticipated. I spend less time in cafés than I was sure I would. [In the late 1990s, when I was working at a law firm full-time-plus and completing my bachelor's degree full-time on weekends, cafe sitting seemed the height of luxury to me. The concept of leisure time was so completely foreign to my experience, that my most precious fantasies all involved relaxing in cafes around the City, sipping soy lattés, reading newspapers, sketching in notebooks, and people-watching.] To my surprise, my time is so filled with photography projects that I get restless when I try to café sit: if there is any useable light available, after a short time I feel compelled to rush out and resume my work.

I had thought that I would ride my bike everywhere, racking up impressive mileage while scoping out potential photography scenes, subjects, and lighting conditions. But it turns out that I look more closely at my surroundings when I'm walking on foot, or looking out of a bus window. Bicycling engages too much of my careful attention for me to notice little details on buildings, or shadows in doorways. As a result, I'm a lot less fit than I anticipated being by this point, though I also have a lot more photographs than I otherwise would have.

I feel like I know San Francisco better than I ever have. Instead of just traveling between home and work, or home/work/school, I've had a chance to really choose an area and thoroughly explore it. I've walked down streets I have never before had reason to pass through. Some are boring; many are charming; but it's a thrill to KNOW what they're like.

This has been my most photographically productive (and experimental) period ever, yet every time I learn something I get more ideas for new projects and experiments. I'd read once that creativity can't be used up: it's more like a muscle, that grows with use. It must be true, because my planned project list keeps getting longer, and longer...


Another surprise is that I'm ready to resume outside employment again. Ready and enthusiastic!

It isn't a complete surprise: I had initially planned for a sabbatical of just 4 - 6 months in length. The planned end was a period of great progress in many of my projects, and I didn't want to lose my momentum, so I decided to extend my time off just a bit. At the end of my small extension, I discovered I needed to wait for the sort of position I truly want, one that puts me in a firm I'm willing to commit to for at least five years, to become available.

While waiting and checking the listings, I thought about all of the things I miss about working. I learn how the legal system works, who it works for, and how it shapes society; I learn about exciting local projects and companies, and get an insider's view of great industries, facilities, and agencies; I work with experts in a wide range of fields, who are excited to share their knowledge; I put my excellent organization and research skills to good use; I enjoy the camaraderie of working with other professionals; I enjoy the satisfaction of doing my job well; and I have been lucky enough to routinely earn high praise and be held in high esteem as a leading professional in my field, which is rewarding on several levels. And I even get paid! :-)

Just as weekend school provided me a respite from weekday work, and vice versa, I think that working both in and outside my home office will provide my brain with refreshing variety, and allow me to step back from my current obsessions so I can look at them with a fresher eye.

I hope to have news on this front soon. In the meantime, the film scanner keeps on humming, my project lists in my notebooks keep getting longer, and another cup of herb tea is waiting for me...
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:25 AM

Monday, May 16, 2005

Really neat abstract drawings: a friend of mine likened one of my abstract photograms to the work of a very talented and interesting artist who draws, paints, and makes relief prints of some fascinating, technical-looking patterns. Check out samples of this work at Barbara Krakow Gallery: Artists: Terry Winters ( It's great stuff!

This Internet thing is turning out to be interesting after all! :-)
posted by Arlene (Beth)8:38 PM

The Yosemite Valley is closed due to flooding! A friend left shortly before they evacuated the campgrounds and closed the roads. Check out the photos at Yosemite National Park: Highwater (
posted by Arlene (Beth)8:28 PM

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Misc. business: Here at I've updated the home page, updated Bookmarks, and made a few minor revisions to the Words About Pictures Page.

Over at I've added links to my new gallery at, tidied up the contact/news page, and added 8 images to the cyanotype collection.

And I wonder why I spend so much (too much) time on the computer.
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:28 PM

Last night I dreamt about making albumen prints. Yes, it's another old-fashioned alternative process. If you look at a collection of historic photos, especially some place like the Smithsonian, you'll see lots of albumen.

Yes, this does mean I'm obsessed.
posted by Arlene (Beth)8:22 AM

Friday, May 13, 2005

Thanks to everyone for the good wishes. I've received a lot of support and 'good vibes' these last few days from a lot of people, and to those of you who have been sending me goodwill, thanks!! I really do appreciate it. I will continue to use as much of it as I can this week, after which I'll hopefully have some good news about my daily schedule...
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:57 PM

Oh my: Top 50: World's best restaurants - May. 3, 2005 (
The Fat Duck serves items like sardine-flavored sorbet, snail porridge, or a puree of mango and Douglas fir.

At El Bulli, you might have monkfish liver with tomato seeds and citrus or barnacles with tea foam. Yeast soup may appear on the menu, too.

For some reason, molecular gastronomists really like ice cream. Ferran Adria makes a version that tastes like parmesan cheese. Blumenthal concocts his with smoked bacon and eggs.
Did I mention eeeuuuwww? Eeeuuuwww.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:40 PM

The Dartmouth Online: Tuck student markets flesh-flavored tofu on website (, 05/12/05). Best customer review:
"I don't like tofu and I don't like human flesh so I don't think I'll be buying this. It definitely tastes like something I've had at Food Court."

posted by Arlene (Beth)10:01 PM

Thursday, May 12, 2005

pink photographic abstractionI'm still thinking about mail art. This morning I was laying in bed, thinking of projects like etched Plexiglas postcards. I note, however, that many of the people who write about mail are speak of how overwhelming it becomes, and how they eventually burn out. Which is very easy to imagine, since cranking out original art work on a random, mail-demand-based schedule would be tough under any circumstances. But it could also provide inspiration for other work.

I note, however, that many of my artistic pursuits, such as watercolor painting and bookbinding, are things I'm currently forbidding myself in favor of a very long list of photography tasks and goals. So it's not like I could take up mail art as a pastime in the short term.

It doesn't hurt to daydream out projects, however. Which I'll continue to do...


My image editing projects today are tedious: I'm editing film that was scanned when the dust filter was off, and so there's a lot more work to do than usual. While the work is rather boring, it's nice to look at some of the images at unnatural magnifications, when they are reduced to abstractions with large grain. That's what the image at the top of this entry is: a close up of a succulent, magnified and cropped. I think the colors are fabulous. This isn't as abstract as most of the segments I like, but it does give you an idea of what is filling my screen today. There are many images I've wanted to print large as abstracts this way. Perhaps if I get an archival-ink printer later in the year, I'll work on a book of abstracts based primarily on the colors...
posted by Arlene (Beth)12:20 PM

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Mail art. The SF Center for the Book, a local art school, planted a seed in my head. The seed is the phrase "mail art."

I should tell you that I am a postal fetishist. I LOVE getting mail. I very much enjoy sending mail, but receiving it is even better, that 'better to give then to receive' lore aside. Over the years I have had pen pals in several countries and countless domestic correspondents. I have binders specifically devoted to notes about what I was writing about in my letters, so that I would not repeat myself in writing to my less responsive friends. There have been times when, despite being a sleepless architecture student or an overtime-overwhelmed paralegal, I have averaged one piece of outgoing social mail from my home PER DAY.

However, it was made clear to me over time that I should only write so prolifically for my own satisfaction: the mail I received has consistently been a TINY fraction of what I sent out. With some of my correspondents, every half dozen items of mail might induce a reply of one feeble note. I am eager to maintain contact with postal slackers, but have to weigh the effort on my end with the likelihood of actually maintaining contact with the recipients of my handwritten pieces.

A couple of years ago, when the mail coming in trickled down to nearly nothing, I had a discussion with my supportive partner, S. I announced that I was quitting: people who hadn't written in the last x months were off my mailing list forever.

He noted that my labor intensive efforts at communication with people were, in fact, maintaining a tenuous link to the [admittedly flaky] people I care about, which would break without my effort. He suggested that there might be a way to maintain such links with less effort on my part.

After experimenting with postcards I printed on my computer (but still containing handwritten notes), and expensive custom-printed yet very impressive cards from Ofoto (now Kodak EasyShare), I discovered and its variations. It's a service offered through a vendor of the U.S. Postal Service, which takes my photos and produces impossibly glossy, bright, saturated postcards that I can mass-mail to people in the U.S., with a message, my return address, and postage included. As a zealous photographer, this was a wonderful thing. As a zealous photographer on a sabbatical from the office she worked in for a decade, it seemed like the perfect solution to my suddenly-expanded 'keeping in touch' needs.

As wonderful as the cards themselves are, they are not having the intended effect. For example, I recently sent out a mailing of THIRTY SEVEN cards in a single mailing to domestic recipients far and wide, but especially at my old employer. 37. How many do you think have been acknowledged by a friendly message back?


I'm not cruising for praise. It's just a way to keep in touch by showing what I'm up to, so people can drop me a note that says, "I got your postcard, I'm doing fine, here's what's new." Just like people do with postcards one buys in stores. But four out of thirty seven is a rather poor response. One particular subset of about 8 recipients at the office have received five cards in the last 10 months, and I have heard from them zero times. I didn't even know they were actually receiving the cards, until a third party advised me that they'd been sitting around and talking about how much they liked them. To each other.

SO the idea of making one of a kind art pieces and sending them around the world to people who CARE and would actually respond is insanely exciting. It's a different enterprise entirely, of course - part of the point is to exchange with strangers. But every time I've considered doing something like a set of collages or drawings to mail to my current correspondents, I think of what my mailbox has looked like so far this year, sigh loudly. Knowing that there are international NETWORKS of people who exchange mail art... My brain just starts spinning in my head.

For a tempting description of what it's all about, read Going Postal By Chris Dodge (

When I can make cyanotype postcards again, I think I'm going to find some very new recipients for them! [Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!]


I may, as a last ditch effort, introduce the idea of "the postcard project" to the recurrent slackers on my current mailing list. I will encourage them to send me a postcard of their choosing or making on any subject just to say hi and let me know how they are. Depending on how that goes, I'll trim my list a bit more.


[Speaking of cyanotypes, I can't get the idea of making Tibetan-style prayer flags with the cyanotype process out of my head. I'll try to figure out how I would want to pull this off, but ever since watching a recent documentary, Dreaming of Tibet, the prayer flag idea just won't go away...]
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:01 AM

Kallitypes? Really? In addition to dreaming about writing novels, I have been dreaming about photographic printing techniques. I recently dreamt about printing kallitypes, which are made with iron and silver chemicals, and which I hadn't really considered making before. They're basically brown prints, and I can get brown prints by toning my cyanotypes to a lovely shade of chocolate using a few chemicals I already have.

But now that I've dreamt about kallitypes and done some more research, I realize they can be toned to make them lovelier than I think. Perhaps almost as lovely as platinum prints. And so now they're in the running.

As if I'll have access to my little, haphazard 'lab' space in the garage any time soon. [Have I mentioned that construction has started? Heavy construction has started. I cannot use the garage. Waaaah.]
posted by Arlene (Beth)8:59 AM

Is it NaNoWriMo yet? I recently wrote the following to a friend:
I had a dream the night before last that NaNoWriMo had been rescheduled to earlier in the year, and I didn't find out until the second-to-last day that it was about to end. I was eager to participate, but there was no way I could crank out 50k. I tried anyway, and was impressed by how large my draft printout was, but then realized that many of the printed pages were blank.

It was a strange dream to have in May.
In response, my friend noted that the official National Novel Writing Month site had quite recently been updated.

Novels are in the air!

Yes, I already do know what I want to write about in my SECOND novel. I do. It's something I'd started to write treatments for a few years ago, and then got distracted by working in the office too much. The idea will need some work to set it off in the right direction, but I think I have the basis of a good start.

S recently read the first draft I cranked out during last year's NaNo, and he liked it. So I'm feeling encouraged for the next time, even though I need to do a lot of work on the previous one.
posted by Arlene (Beth)8:52 AM

BBC NEWS | Business | America's Right goes green (05/10/05) may be a bit optimistic, but suggests that religious folks and neo-con politicos are rethinking the model of "patriotism = big, gas guzzling, tank-like vehicles."

This would help. A bit. But there is so much infrastructure currently devoted to car culture/obsession/dominance, that just switching to less polluting cars isn't enough. There need to be alternatives that keep people mobile without setting aside space and resources to accommodate each individual's personal elephant-sized vehicle.

But a 'rethinking' of the current, ridiculous model could be a start.
posted by Arlene (Beth)8:40 AM

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Speaking of alternative processes, this is a riot: Albumen Prints: Improvements (
Only the white of egg is used as albumen, leaving the problem of what to do with the millions of yolks. One of the more useful recipes Reilly quotes in his 'Albumen & Salted Paper Book' is from the British Journal of Photography of 1861, which gives a really excellent lemon cheesecake. It is delicious and probably the best reason of all to try albumen printing.

posted by Arlene (Beth)10:05 AM

I have a gallery at my favorite alt-process website!! : Elizabeth Graves: Cyanotypes!!!! YES!!!

I am very excited about this. I LOVE the work on this site, and agonized for months over what to submit. Each time I made any progress in my experiments, I decided that my earlier work wasn't good enough to share, but that the work from my NEXT printing would be perfect... Self-criticism is a painful way to procrastinate. But finally I just gave in, chose some work, and submitted it. Writing the artist statement/bio was the worst part, but I survived it.

I will be a featured "new artist" in June, turning up in the newsletter and on the splash page. Until then, you'll need to use the link above to find me there. - A site for artists and photographers working with alt. photo. and processes: Galleries, forum, technical information, articles and more.

posted by Arlene (Beth)8:28 AM

Sunday, May 08, 2005

For those of you who haven't yet had a chance to see Steven Chow's latest film, Kung Fu Hustle (, get out there and see it. It's as clever and funny as Shaolin Soccer (, which displayed some of the best comedic applications of the Matrix's special effects. KFH may be even better: more cinematic, more moody, smoother. A fun film. Also, be sure to play the very silly video games provided by the website.


I am surprised to report that The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy ( is also worth seeing. As a fan of the books, I figured there was NO WAY they could pull off a convincing film. But they did. It's pleasant to watch. The animations reflecting 'the Guide' itself are very clever and graphically pleasing. Zaphod is so fabulously obnoxious, it boggles the mind. The sets are nice. The actors all fit their roles. They hit all the highlights. Be sure to stay through the end of the credits.


The inaccurately named Hitchhiker's trilogy (5 books) raised some interesting questions that led to fun philosophical discussions among members of my HHGTTG-reading peer groups. In one of the books, we find the human protagonist of the series upon a low-technology planet populated by humanoids. They have no technology get: no ceramics, metals, paper, etc. Our hero knows he is from a planet with all sorts of fabulous technology - cars! computers! trains! space probes! - but it occurs to him that he hasn't the faintest idea of how those technologies work or are made. And so, wanting to share some cultural knowledge, he introduces the concept of sliced bread sandwiches (I can't recall what he used for a knife). Which was the best he could do.

My technology-oriented peer group thought they could do better. There was much debate as to what would be best to introduce. But the oddest comment came from someone who trained as a materials engineer in our group: "I would introduce gunpowder. But gunpowder is a double-edged sword."

This was, of course, patently ridiculous. He was trying to show off, but people without things like, say, irrigation, or metal, aren't going to get a lot of quality of life benefits from gunpowder. Another friend suggested the combustion engine, but I agree with others who think that causes more problems than it solves. S wanted to introduce musical instruments and perhaps even musical notation, which would mean I'd be handy to have around because I know how to make paper, both from papyrus (if they had it) and veggies, and I think I could make ink if the right materials were available. Charcoal for art would be easy, and they probably would have figured that out. But for paper to fully be utilized, there would need to be written language, which might be a bit ambitious as a starting project. Glass I only could make in theory, not in practice. I have historically known how to weave, though setting up a proper loom could be tricky. I know how to make thread from raw wool, though it's easiest with cards and a spinning wheel, I could do it by hand. (YES! I do! I have! Let's say I had a progressive education.) I know how the Egyptians were so good at irrigation AND making level bases for their great construction projects, which happen to be two related concepts.

The A number 1 thing that would dramatically advance any society that I could introduce is hygeine. Combined with the germ theory of disease, the concept of hygeine would probably be the biggest single positive impact I could have on a culture. Once I came up with that one, I haven't really been able to top it. Though I continue to think about it.
posted by Arlene (Beth)7:23 PM


Big Adventures in Big Basin

Berry Falls waterfall, Big Basin State ParkYesterday S and I went for a 7.5 hour hike in Big Basin State Park, a second growth redwood forest north of Santa Cruz. It's a lovely park, and we planned to see Berry Falls, a lovely waterfall which differs each time we see it.

The park was lush and wet: the trail from the Rancho de Oso entrance on Highway 1 was at times flooded, washed out, muddy, or part stream. But we both wore waterproof boots, and hiked the 6.5 or so miles inland to see the falls in relative comfort. I was thrilled that we were able to find a relatively dry tree beside the trail for our picnic/snack break.

The popular Skyline to the Sea trail was relatively uncrowded, thanks to the threat of rain, and it wasn't until we reached the deck beside the falls that we encountered a crowd. After exploring the upper falls a bit, I was looking for a spot to lounge before making the return trip, when S proposed that we continue hiking. There was a loop, he thought, a small loop that would add just an hour or so to our hike.

I didn't remember any such loop. The trail he was proposing, in fact, was a trail that had been part of our infamous "Great Adventure" many years ago. Did I ever tell that story? I must tell this story. As background, I should mention that S is "spontaneous," by which I actually mean he doesn't plan, and doesn't allow me to plan, day to day side trips and adventures. I may think I'm going along on a trip to run an errand at the grocery store, but actually I'm about to be dragged on a long hike somewhere steep, for which I don't have the right shoes/pants/water/whatever. That kind of spontaneity.

I'll include what I wrote in my journal in 2001.
Have I ever written about the Great Adventure at Big Basin? S took me on a spontaneous hike there. He was determined to show me three waterfalls. We started in the afternoon without water, food, or coats.

We came to a sign at the trail junction to the falls, saying the trail was a 6 hour round trip. S said that just applied to people who "walked slow."

Several hours later we were in pitch darkness so absolute that we couldn't see each other, with S leading me [by the hand] based solely on the solidity of the trail in front of us, one step at a time. Blowing SOS on my whistle didn't bring help: it took hours to work our way back to the car.

S had promised a "great adventure" on this hike. Now I make him promise NOT to take me on great adventures.
I left out the part about it being a moonless night; about using my new Yashica T4 to flash photograph the ground to try to find a trail marker; about trying to read a trail marker using the miniscule internal focusing light on the camera's viewfinder (and being blinded by an accidental use of the flash); about trying to figure out how to cross the creek when we finally were near park HQ and could hear, but not see, the creek; and about how when we encountered a bathroom light that made the creek (and a distant bridge) visible, S hugged me so hard he knocked my glasses off, and other fun details. But you get the idea. This great adventure occurred very early in our relationship, during a break in our girlfriend-boyfriend status. It didn't help my perception of our future, though S was convinced by a friend that I'm the only woman he's dated who wouldn't have either freaked out completely in the woods, or killed him upon reaching the car, and he seemed impressed by me for a few weeks afterward.

small waterfall in creek above Berry Falls, Big Basin State ParkANYWAY. S was proposing to take this trail, which was a portion of our Great Adventure which I was not fond of. But he insisted it would only take an hour. We had no maps, of course, because you don't need one to get to Berry Creek Falls; we also didn't have much left in the way of snacks or water. I bemoaned the dry, exposed portions of the Sunset Trail (which S didn't remember or recognize until we got there) and insisted he was underestimating the additional time. I also incorrectly believed that we'd need to use a fire road to backtrack if the trail dumped us where I feared it would.

Two hours later, we finished the loop on Sunset and Timm's Creek trails back to the falls. It was 4:30, and it meant we couldn't get back to the trailhead before 6:30. So I was cranky for the next two hours, and when we reached the car, we were both limping a bit. (The extra effort to avoid damaging a wet trail, or to avoid slipping in the mud, make for a lot of work; plus, portions of the trails we used were as steep as stairs, and some had actual stairs.)


To make up for our 2 hour detour (which S now jokes was MY idea) he took me to dinner at Two Fools in Half Moon Bay. It's a nice restaurant in old town. I had a nut burger with very tasty fries, which temporarily made me forget that I should really give up fried food. (I remembered later.) S had a lovely vegetable risotto. And then we both limped back to the car, and limped up the stairs to get home.

If there's a lesson to be learned here, it's that S' spontaneous trips are a BAD idea. And his estimates of trail time aren't so good, either. In the future, I'll try not to agree to these sorts of things.
posted by Arlene (Beth)2:12 PM

Was the hypothesis simply that women are random or insane? Here's a note from my cousin, who currently is posting images from his new Minolta digital camera at, one of his many websites:
Here’s a comment I sent to a co-worker that I thought I had sent to you.

Just a funny note. Every boy in the office said “You bought a Minolta? Why didn’t you get a Canon?”. (Mind you I don’t have patience for the questioning youth of today who don’t realize I’ve been buying camera equipment since before they were born!) But this article which shows camera purchasing habits based on gender is sort of a funny insight into the way people think as well as an odd bias the author and the typical reader must have regarding camera purchases: Women prefer Kodak digital cameras (
“20 percent of women surveyed use a Kodak digital camera.. Men appear to prefer Canon digital cameras… The explanation is that women in general are less comfortable with technology and therefore are more attracted to trusted brands."
The summarizing article reads like the choices women make are strange. It doesn’t appear to give any credit to the Kodak features themselves, nor targeted marketing, nor do they comment on the brand name that men migrate to roughly equaling “exploding phallus”.
You can see why I like my cousin.

I wrote back that if all women preferred Nikons, that the author would have insisted that we're just sentimental about that old Paul Simon song, "Kodachrome," and women are influenced by singers like Simon. :-)
posted by Arlene (Beth)2:02 PM

Fun with plastic cameras: Lomography 3.0~ / Missions ( is the "assignment" page from a plastic camera retailer. Each month or so, they provide an assignment, and accept submissions interpreting it. The current assignment is "nonstop," and the interpretations of this phrase taken with plastic cameras are interesting and varied. Sure, some of them don't make any sense, but it's all fun to look at.

There are LOTS of things to see on the site, which includes gallery shows, contest results, individual member pages, and a store from which you can order the cameras used to make this 'accidental' art. (The cameras don't make very conventional images, and while they appear to be best at taking wildly colored images of people at discos or parties, people are making some very artistic shots with them.) My favorite is still the world database, where people contribute their images of places and things, keyword them, and put them into the database. It's the sort of collaborative art project that I LOVE. There are also events (primarily in Europe) you can attend to share work, participate in group shows...

There is something liberating about the non-serious nature of toy camera shots that seems to get a lot of people to relax and just experiment.

I'm currently inclined toward black and white experiments, but many folks are shooting color and having it cross-processed so that it looks quite surreal.

This is an interesting and surprisingly inclusive, site.
posted by Arlene (Beth)1:36 PM

Saturday, May 07, 2005

This is a tasty, simple, and satisfying recipe: Couscous Soup Recipe ( It's broccoli, onions, couscous, and a few spices. We had this two nights ago, and found it very satisfying. I substituted soy sauce for some of the salt. I think this could easily be varied with the addition of other tasty veggies.
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:37 AM

Friday, May 06, 2005

Like summer! The weather is lovely today. I took a walk around Lake Merced while S ran around it as training for a runner's race.

I'd always thought the lake was a fresh water lagoon that had been artificially expanded, because of its odd shape - it has very steep sides, but clearly hasn't been a deep lake for a long time. There are structures along the waterline that predate me, and no historic photos of it filled to its rim. It turns out that the lake is natural, and was deeper ages ago, but earth movement broke a natural dam and dumped much of its volume.

There are yellow lupines as tall as my shoulders lining the lake; wild radish in full bloom, making clouds of pink, lavender, and yellow flowers beside and across the jogging trail; lush acacias; flowering eucalyptus trees; daisies and daisy-like flowers; all sorts of reeds down near the shore... The lake's sides are currently overflowing with plants eagerly climbing over each other while competing for sun. The birds love it, and with the sea breeze, the air feels quite fresh...

It takes me about an hour to walk around the lake.

Earlier this week, as rain clouds dripped on me, I scoped out a dozen or so scenes I want to photograph in infrared. The fact that I'm not allowing myself to buy an infrared filter until I have employment again is quite beside the point... I'm ready! I have infrared project plans galore. So, hopefully in the near future, I can share infrared images of Lake Merced, with its plentiful foliage glowing pure white.


Belated Happy Cinco de Mayo!
posted by Arlene (Beth)1:37 PM

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

2005 Bike to Work Day logoI'm doing a lot of volunteering for the Bike Coalition right now, since Bike To Work Day is coming up May 19th! ( SF people see this list of events ( for more info.

And yes, of course there is a party afterward!
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:38 PM

Scanning film is terribly boring. I've been doing some 'index scanning' these last few days from my archive, so I can have representative images from all of my film archive in my database. While I've also done some scanning for my agency, it's going VERY slowly, and has made me run away from my computer at nearly every opportunity. Though not far enough to get sufficient exercise to compensate for my high-calorie diet.

Sorry. I'm sure you were hoping that I was away, doing something fancy.

I DID do one fancy thing. I staffed the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition's Golden Wheel Awards, held on the fancy top floor of the LGBT Center on Market Street. The Center's lounge and outdoor patio are terribly posh - a great spot for admiring the city lights, taking in some fresh air, and people watching from above for all of the foot traffic down below.

Bike People are wonderful, and the event was quite fabulous. The ceremony recognized people who have worked hard to successfully make San Francisco a better place for all of us to live. Adam Aufdencamp took great photographs of the attendees (, which even include me! (Though that only serves to remind me that I'm kind of odd looking, but at least I'm odd looking while having a good time!) I should have organized a meeting of the International Redhead Conspiracy while I was there - we were well represented.


I also did a less fancy, but no less fun thing: I went to the ice cream social & neighborhood party celebrating the installation of bike lanes on San Jose Avenue. SJA is part of my route between home and downtown, and unfortunately it has been freeway-like for many years. Drivers routinely disrespect the neighborhood, zooming past from Army at freeway speeds in the narrow lanes, honking at each other, preventing pedestrians from crossing at those intersections without signals, menacing people trying to get into their parked cars, AND crashing into the houses on the street!!! A dozen San Jose Avenue houses have been hit by out-of-control vehicles in recent years!!

If the HOUSES aren't safe from the cars, imagine what it's like for the residents, for pedestrians, and for bicyclists!

Well, after years of effort by the neighbors, there are finally some big improvements, and that's what we celebrated on Saturday. A stoplight was put in at an intersection nearest St. Luke's hospital. Bike lanes were installed from Randall to Caesar Chavez (formerly Army), giving bikes and people getting into and out of their cars a safe space. And speed limit signs have been posted, and are being enforced by local police.

The neighbors love it. A father of two children who lives at 28th on SJA said that the honking he used to hear constantly has stopped; the streetlight allows him to safely cross the street with his kids on their way to the local park, and the bike lanes from the next big intersection up give him a way to bike home from that park. As a driver, he said that it makes it easier and smoother for him also.

The ice cream social was wonderful: kids, residents, two Supervisors, a police officer, personnel from the Department of Public Works, and local activists all stood on a large traffic island beside SJA to eat Mitchell's Ice Cream ( and enjoy safer streets.

Oddly enough, there were two cranky men across the street from us, who held up signs demanding the return of the lanes. Needless to say, they received no ice cream.
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:11 PM

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Blogger's spell checker now supports the Safari browser!! Yaaay! Prepare yourself for actual SPELLING accuracy in the near future!
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:02 PM

Monday, May 02, 2005

Well. It took much of the afternoon, but I finally made a submission to, a site I enjoy enormously, so that I might have my own cyanotype gallery there. If I weren't so self-critical, I could have had this done weeks ago, but now it's finished. I'm largely satisfied that I sent a few worthwhile samples of my work, though I'm always convinced my next batch will be better. (At the moment, with construction poised to begin in what had been 'my studio' in the garage, it will be a month or more before my 'next batch'.) I'll post an announcement (and do a wildly celebratory dance) when my images are posted.

I've also checked to find out when the results of a contest I entered will be posted, and apparently I'll need to wait until mid June to find out. Which may give me some false hope, but also something to look forward to finding out.


Photography contests are a complex thing. They are a way of showing recent work, a way of spending a lot of money on entry fees, a way of getting awards that could dramatically further your career... I only recently began entering photography contests on the advice of a friend, but am reluctant to enter more, despite obvious potential benefits.

Many of the contests are themeless, which is freeing but means that my picture of a plant or mountain will be competing with images of race cars, nude young women, stylized food... It seems so sketchy. The really GREAT contests have a history of genius-winners that frighten me, doing unearthly and wildly thematic work that both knocks my socks off, and makes me feel unworthy to fill out an entry form.

Though I picked up a real, all-manual camera for the first time in 1985 and remained firmly attached to it thereafter, my work didn't really develop into a recognizable style until at least 1992, and has continued to evolve. My plant photography is reasonably consistent; my landscape photography is more variable - pretty, but not always recognizable as mine; my remaining photography (black and white, architectural, medium format, night, abstract) feels completely experimental, in the sense that I'm trying EVERYTHING to learn more, but am not at a point where I satisfied that my images are telling a consistent story. This is a great learning period for me, but that makes me feel like such a beginner in a field where so many people are convinced (even wrongly) that they have all the answers they need, and promote themselves shamelessly and (at times) successfully. While others are insisting their photo essay documents absolute truth, I'm trying to write artist statements that don't say, "I feel like I was born ten minutes ago, everything is amazing to me, and please don't hurt me after looking at my images. I just thought this building was REALLY COOL."


When I was in architecture school, a lot of advertising-speak was required. Our drawings and designs were not supposed to stand alone: we were supposed to have a complete spiel that went along with them, explaining the inspiration behind the design, the wackier the better. We called this "the design concept," and the instructors required such PR campaigns, and ate them up. I'm a good speaker, but not necessarily good at B.S. My peers let me KNOW it was B.S., and I saw honest explanations rebuffed as being insufficiently outrageous, and so I had to play along.

I don't want to fake explanations about my photographs, though. I really LIKE the things I photograph. I look at them carefully; I study them in different lighting, in different seasons; I find them interesting; I find them reflective of my local environment, culture, climate, time in human history, social influences, fads, etc. Everyone is documenting the human condition, if only because they are human themselves and their selections reflect their quest, but I can't BEAR to say "my images of the natural and artificial worlds reflect my need to understand the human condition." I'd have to serve that statement with crackers, it's so cheesy. I just want the pictures to be judged as pictures, not part of my quest to be understood. I gave up on trying to be understood long ago - these pictures are not part of that kind of effort. But in an era when introspective and personal photo essays of one's children or elderly relatives are the rage, I can't figure out how to make my images of industrial buildings, old stables, and cacti 'fit' a promotional model simply not suited to any current trend.

I'll carry on about this more another time. When I'm next struggling over whether to enter a contest, for example...
posted by Arlene (Beth)4:14 PM

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