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Archive for October, 2011

River of Shadows (Book Review)

Friday, October 28th, 2011

River of Shadows

River of Shadows: Edweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West is a photography history journey through the mid-to-late 1800s American West. It is made all the more compelling because it takes an exceptionally interesting character, Muybridge, and places his work and that of other famous artists and inventors and melds it all into a broad historical context. The wild west that was… and the wild west that people believed in.

The underlying premise of Solnit’s journey is the role photography played – along with the railroads and telegraphy – in breaking down the human perception of space and time. In a relatively short space in history people could move vast distances watching panoramas unfold through train windows; they could send a message almost instantaneously over vast distances; and, they could capture time and space in a photograph.

This shift in perception and possibilities can’t be over-emphasised in that before photography the average person had no way of knowing what their forebears looked like – only the rich had paintings to record their image. Suddenly, in the grasp of many, the portrait appeared and the landscape extended the vision of human possibility.

Muybridge’s most famous contribution to photography was an extensive series of ground-breaking motion studies created using the wet-plate collodion process. This can be said to provide the first step toward cinema. But what I found more fascinating than the discovery was the context of the west itself – the Ghost Dance, the Modoc wars, Sitting Bull stopping in battle to calmly smoke a pipe with comrades amid the gunfire, the turbulent history of San Fransisco and its ability to nurture self-reinvention, the back-story of Yosemite and the irrevocable greed of the big four robber barons.

And Muybride was an interesting man in his own right. He was an artist, an inventor, an entrepreneur, a murderer found not guilty against the directions of a trial judge (and should have probably been hung) – and he was a driven perfectionist. He was constantly pushing the new medium of photography into new directions and working at improving it’s technologies to reach those goals.

I couldn’t recommend Rebecca Solnit’s book more highly. It was a compelling read with the historic depth of character to bring everything to life in its own manipulation of space and time. I’d call this one a must-read for photographers and history buffs alike.

Photoforce has Closed its Doors

Saturday, October 15th, 2011

This morning we went to the Photoforce garage sale and put our names down on their list to be notified when the photography assets were being sold. This is almost the end of an era for Hobart.

Photoforce has been processing film in Hobart for 29 years and at one time there were over 20 places you could send film for processing. The only two film processors remaining are Stallards Camera House and (what may now appear to be closed three years after this article was written) Perfect Prints.

As far as I’m aware, neither service targets the professional photographic print. I’m not sure if either provide true black and white processing or high quality larger one-off prints.

Photoforce are recommending their clients onto Atkins Technicolour for E6 processing at 20% discount until the end of 2011. Atkins Technicolour are located at 89 Fullarton Road, Kent Town, South Australia, 5067 (email: info@atkins.com.au).

In a brief conversation we learned the major reason for Photoforce’s closure was a landlord unwilling to let them utilise the spare space they were renting. It needed renovation and the rent was already high. One room leaked. So they had no choice, if they couldn’t use that space to diversify and offer new services then there was no profit left in the industry for them.

So that’s a truely bastard landlord after 29 years paying a high property rent.

My initial guess was that with a declining market for film processing and a changing industry all-consumed toward digital that our explosion in water fees and other overheads just took their toll. In a way, I guess they did.

However, R and K strategies offer a little advice for us on this one, too. Early in an industry an R strategy says the advantage would be taken by those who rent and lease assets. In contrast, in later stages of an industry (and not much is more mature than 29 years of film processing) the advantage is in following a K strategy.

The K strategist invests in the assets. They would buy the building… or a building.

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark (aka nortypig) and I live in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a photographer making pictures with film. A web developer for money. A business consultant for fun. A journalist on paper. Dreams of owning the World. Idea champion. Paradox. Life partner to Megan.

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