Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Been A Swell Ride- FAREWELL, AND PEACE...

I was looking at my website recently, and despite my plethora of art world rejections (as regular readers will attest), couldn't help feel some small sense of accomplishment. It was short lived. This weekend I discovered that much if not all of my 'photographic legacy' had been damaged to some extent by some insidious mold, fungus, whatever. Losing one's original images is every photographer's worst possible nightmare- losing all one's equipment is a cakewalk in comparison. You can never get back yesterday, the year before, let alone any decade previous.

Photography has been my one personal joy (and torment), and my photographs, more than anything, are my... friends. They accompany me throughout life, some go back aways and we know each other well, others, newly formed acquaintances, and we're just starting to have fun. But young or old, new or familiar, we were all family- and I wanted to protect them.

And protect them I did in a small, fireproof safe- but it was my very precautions that would prove my undoing. I 'upgraded' to a modestly priced safe that was not only fireproof, but also supposedly waterproof, complete with rubber linings. It helped put my mind even further at ease- not only would my precious negs not melt into an unrecognizable blob, they also wouldn't suffer water damage form the fireman's hose. I'll never know if those seals would have ever done their job of keeping water out, unfortunately, they were more than capable of keeping moisture in, therefore providing an excellent environment for negative devouring fungus/mold. How's that for some wicked Greek tragedy?

So now I get to wake up every morning for the rest of my life, and the first thing, the very first fuckin' thing to come to mind is- how does losing some of the most important moments in your life for the last forty years feel, Stan? Hhhhmmmm???

People tell me tomorrow is another day, there'll be other pictures to take. They mean well, and yes, there (hopefully) will. But how does one relive and redo the fleeting moments of forty years of youth? When you're about to break that most disgusting of numbers... 30 may be the new 20, 40 may be the new 30, 50 may be the new 40, but 60 is still fucking 60, and it sucks any way you look at it. And yes, I fully realize there are people throughout the world with much greater and much more pressing, real life problems- like... where are they going to eat or sleep at day's end? Granted.

I always strive to turn things around in some positive manner when hit by one of life's seemingly endless supply of pernicious, personal injustices. One of the reasons I feared this one so, is because I full well knew there would be no recourse, no positive spin, no happy face to put on it. Still, deal with it I somehow must- if only for my own sanity.

I took the following day off work (I could barely function), sat down and started cleaning said negatives with Edwal's film cleaner (Isopropyl alcohol) and managed to get through 350 strips of negatives (from 9AM to 1AM)- and that is just the start. I hope to salvage around 60% (maybe more) of my work- the alcohol actually cleans up some of the fungus on the less affected negatives and should cease any further damage; those more heavily damaged can only await some miracle software of the future. After cleaning, my first move, my only move, is to make high resolution files of what remains and go about restoring them as best possible with my admittedly limited skills. Hopefully, I'll be able to salvage enough to ultimately self publish what remains. Point is, that's one helluva load of work that starts now, and ends...

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Which means my friend, that Reciprocity Failure has finally come to the end of its run. Perhaps, I'll post something in a fit of rage, or perhaps in a year or two to update my progress; but for all practical purposes- it really has been fun. Thank you, one and all (truly) for dropping by. Keep caring, keep shooting- and best to all...

21 comments:

colin pantall said...

So sorry to hear that Stan. Indeed, the photographer's worst fear and a terrible thing to happen. Sorry to hear that the blog is ending too. I always enjoyed Reciprocity Failure and its interesting right-on content. As well as salvaging the film, are you going to do anything with the damaged film/fungus? Could be an opportunity to scan it and repurpose it in some way?

Colin

Minnesotastan said...

Best wishes, Stan, for the huge task awaiting you. Speaking as someone who passed that 60-year milestone many years ago, life at this stage is a continuing process of letting go of the past. Too bad, though, that such was forced upon you so abruptly.

Stan B. said...

Colin, I'm hoping (hoping) that I can, in fact, salvage most of my work somehow, someway- first after cleaning, then via PS. Scanning and post processing silver B&W is daunting under the best of circumstances, so this will be quite the task considering the necessary restoration. And as stated, some are worst than others.

I have quite the workload ahead, especially considering the backlog I've allowed to accumulate throughout the years- now's the time, at least to start. Once I have a considerable amount finished (and we're probably talking my remaining life expectancy here), I'll probably self publish a few small books covering various themes- at least that's the hope!

Stan B. said...

Minnesotastan- "Letting go." Funny- photography is all about refusing to let go!

When I was young and (and even more) naive, I thought old age was a time to retire and... chill! Now I got this, a low paying job that I'll have to do till I drop, and... deal with my aging parents, one of whom has just been diagnosed with Alzheimer's- something I believe you've had some experience with.

"Letting go" is starting not to sound half bad right now... In the meantime, I'll continue to read your blog on breaks...

Eric Rose said...

I understand where you are coming from. To lose ones art is very akin to losing a loved one in many ways. It's something you have laboured over, nurtured, found ways to improve and to the best of your ability protect. To grieve is normal and expected. Take awhile and if you have the heart come back to your net family. I know I will miss you and I am sure many others will too.

Michael said...

I am so sorry to learn that this has happened to you. It is grief, and grieving is hard work. I know, I'm doing it. But there is sometimes a glimpse that grieving is only one feature in a larger and more spacious landscape. I hope you can find some of that ease.

I will miss my daily hit of your spirit. I'll keep checking in anyway.

Michael

Stan B. said...

@ Eric & Michael- Yes, it very much is a grieving process. If I had, in fact, lost the vast majority of my images and/or if it wasn't for digital technology to save the day, I'd probably be hospitalized right now- seriously.

Eric, I know you suffered something similar a while back, and it struck such a nerve that I don't think I even responded when you mentioned it- forgive me.

Michael, sorry for your loss- I have two very elderly parents that I am "preparing" myself to deal with when the inevitable arrives.

I will certainly miss doing the ol' blog; started it in '05 when I was temporarily unemployed (that's a story!) before I switched to Blogger in late '07. Lately though, it's been more of a crutch, an excuse to waste too much time on the interweb and avoid making the hi res files which if I don't make, who will? And I also have two ailing parents that will need more immediate attention.

My plate is full, something has to give, and when these major life occurrences occur... it's time to take stock and change it up- hopefully, for the better. I'll be tempted to come back (I do have an addictive personality), but I really do need to create something outta all this- instead of just another blog post.

I'll probably start posting my "newly renewed" images on Flickr sometime in the future...

jurassicpork said...

Stan:

That sucks donkey balls on a couple of fronts. Please keep me informed when you break your silence. But I've been thinking for years of hanging it up, myself. My fiction writing is as important to me as your photography and I'm finding it impossible to do both as well as market my novels as they go live.

So, let's just say, "See you around" and never "Goodbye."

Mr. Poremba said...

Wow, Stan. Sorry for your loss! That happened indirectly to me when my dad passed away and my sister got all of our old family slides from the 60's. She stored them in similar fashion and they all got ruin't. Sucked. Know the feeling, and I hope that you will be able to salvage the majority of your work...

Stephen Cysewski said...

Even with damage they still have value. Don't do anything rash! Seriously.

Stan B. said...

Thanks, Stephen- always good advice, especially for those prone to doing rash things... people like me!

Robert Kalman said...

Dear Stan,

How impossibly sad, to lose one's life work while simultaneously coping with other, pressing matters in one's life.

And we only just met...
And it feels, nevertheless, like we've been old friends for decades...

I join the other voices in thanking you for your wonderful insights, ironies and humor. I look forward to a time when you've been able to heal from the loss and start writing again.

You were incredibly kind and thoughtful to me when you discovered my work. If there is anything I can do to reciprocate your kindness, please let me know.

The one thing I offer to you now is a reminder that we go through five stages in experiencing loss. Sometimes, it just helps to recognize where you are along this continuum:

Denial
Anger
Bargaining
Depression
Acceptance

Be well. Heal well.

Robert

Stan B. said...

Thank you, Rob- I go through all 5 every day.

Robert Birnbaum said...

Stan,

I was tipped towards your problem with corrupted negatives reading Mikes TOP (should have known your blog earlier, by the way). I once had a similar problem when scanning old slides where obviously the gelatine had crackled, maybe due to too dry a storage (I live in Berlin, Germany, where the normal natural humiditiy is something between 10 and 20 percent).

Being lazy, I've tried to tackle the problem with software. Processes in nature like crackling or fungus grows often form a somewhat regular pattern, and this pattern often shows up in a very narrow range of luminosity. Same does digital noise. I don't remember which software solution finally worked for me - I've experimented with Lightzone, a now open source raw software which has an uncommon ui but gives a very easy way to restrict every correction to a certain range of color and/or luminosity.

Second tip and also open source would be ImageJ (or Fiji, which is the same program but a bit easyer to handle). ImageJ is THE standard platform for scientific image work. It offers interesting basic mathematical functions (e.g. "Remove outliers" is the base of most noise reduction programs), but vou can add lots of macros and add-ons for very special purposes. A really strong tool, but with a very steep learning curve.

The software solution came with a prize: it removed (or at least tamed) not only the crackle but also some parts which where acutal parts of the picture. It's the same deal as with noise reduction. But for me in most cases it seemed good enough that way.

And now to something completely different, as Monthy Python said: Photographie is a melancholic art; when you've pressed the shutter the reality you've caught starts sinking into the past. You can salvage some moments for yourself and for the next generations, but it's a question of luck and hazard which will survive. Ask the old Mesopotamians - they even carved and baked their memories in stone, but what was left was a crude mixture of kings speech accompagnied by hundreds of thousands of ordinary merchand bills ...

Best wishes and good luck, Robert

Stan B. said...

Thanks, Robert- will make sure to check out (although just reading about Fiji is making my head spin)!

satrain18 e said...

So much for film lasting forever...

Stan B. said...

As I said, had I just kept them in a shoebox (as I did a small batch of others)- they would still be fresh today, though decades old. All things considered, (B&W) film stills hold the sweepstakes for longevity without needing regular reformatting.

I HUSTLE AND OTHER THINGS said...

I thought you were quitting your blog? LOL ;)

Stan B. said...

I did- these are just sporadic musings during the only 'retirement' I will ever afford or know...

Shannon Trainer said...

Well you should have put a bag of desiccant inside.

Stan B. said...

Initially, I did. But I had also threw in my passport for safekeeping, and when I saw how the desiccant shriveled up its pages, I freaked and (erroneously) took it as a sign it would also deleteriously affect the negatives...