Slipping into the moment.

Outside the Termini train station.  Roma.

This isn't a Holga image.  I added some blur in the darkroom using a small device called a Pictrol.  It was a device that was like an iris that you put on your enlarging lens. You could then dial in the amount of edge blur you might want.  When you dialed it in little, wavy, transparent plastic blades (like the aperture blades on a lens) would stick into the light path and distort the edges of the frame.  Close the blades all the way down and you'd have total soft focus over the entire print.  

I didn't mount the Pictrol on my englarging lens.  I preferred to hold it under the lens so I could move it around during the exposure for random mixes of hard and soft light in different parts of the frame.  That's part of the technique you see in many of the images I present here that were originally interpreted on prints.

But this wasn't meant to be a primer on the dying art of enlarger printing.  

The photo above reminded me of the magic times when you are totally in the moment and you walk through a city looking from side to side and everything you see is a photograph.  You don't stop to think about whether or not people will like what you see or if it will pass muster as art or whether your parents will understand.  You're walking and it's a brisk day and you are unencumbered and free.  You are in a state of total self-determination.

It never hits me the first day in a city.  In fact, given my track record I should just leave the camera in my hotel room for the first 24 hours after arriving.  But somewhere around the third or fourth day you start to ease into the rhythms of the city and you just float through street after street.  You've become an anonymous drifter.  You have little or no skin in the game and you just seem to be able to lift the camera to your eye and make art.

And even if, when you return home, you later discover that all the images seem like crap you remember the wonderful feeling of capturing them and it's okay.  The ultimate pleasure is to come back and examine your work and find that you really love it.  And then it transports you back to the moment you clicked the shutter and you somehow knew you'd gotten the best image a particular scene had to offer.

For me, getting into the moment requires that I have no schedule, no appointments and no itinerary.  I need to be able to follow my nose and my camera.  If my target is the fresh produce market but  nothing is happening there I need to be able to change direction without inertia and continue along another path.  When I go with the preconception of what I expect to get it never happens the way I would like.  If I think that I'm just going out for a walk, for exercise or fresh air, then images present themselves. And if I go out without a camera beautiful stuff is everywhere.   

When I go out now I take a notebook and a camera.  I write when there's nothing to see and I see when there's nothing to write about....


David Eisenberg said...

Kirk -- with all these old pictures, I have to ask: how do you scan them in? I have a whole attic filled with slides and negatives, but the last time I checked getting a good scanner was very expensive. Do you have a recommendation? Thanks man... fabulous work by the way... a long time fan here.

kirk tuck said...

David, Interesting that you should ask about scanning. A few years ago I was asked to do a show of photographs from Rome. Almost all of the them were done on MF black and white film. I no longer have a darkroom and the one I did have wasn't conducive to printing or washing the 24 by 24 inch prints I wanted to make. I had one lab do a test on a drum scan but it didn't seem right to me. To everyone's shock I bought an Epson V500 scanner and started scanning the film directly. No oil bath or anything like that.

I did some post processing to the scans in PS and then had Precision Camera output them onto a nice lustre inkjet paper on their 9000 series Epson printer.

When photographers walk into my studio they can see six of the prints, still in frames. They all insist that the images must be from the darkroom. I tell them that I did the scans on a $250 flatbed scanner and they think I'm lying to them or joking with them. The technology in the scanners is very, very good. I'm looking at the print of The Russian Model on The Spanish Steps and the delicate wisps of blond hair are fully delineated. The scanner holds highlight detail magnificently and the shadows are rich and noise free. It doesn't hurt that the negatives came out of super sharp camera lens combinations and that we were shooting in good light. Beats the crap out of my best digital cameras. You could do a hell of a lot worse.

People tend to over think, over measure and over complicate everything in their lives. It's amazing how much you can do with inexpensive gear that represents mature technologies.......

Thanks. And thank you for supporting the VSL (visual science lab).

john taylor said...


Anonymous said...

Hi Kirk,

Your post captures some of what I find inspiring about photography.

First you have to relax or be in the moment enough to look outside yourself to see what is out there.

Second, while you are focusing on a picture to take, you may see something that really strikes you. If you were not using a camera, you might completely pass the scene by.

In the days of film, you got a third moment of pleasure when the negative or slide came back and you saw what you had captured. With Digital, you may get a quicker confirmation, but still can get another moment of delight when you upload the pictures to a bigger screen.

Moments of real seeing. Thanks for the post.

Daryl Davis said...

Thanks, Kirk! I learn something new from you daily.

The timing (for me) of your recent posts couldn't be better. I'm going back through almost 3,000 photos I brought back from Vietnam in 2007, trying to pick the ones that speak most strongly to me.

I struggle with the artistic vision thing, and am high in the running for World's Worst Photo Editor. Fortunately, I only shoot for myself and the family and don't have to meet deadlines.

BTW, I recently handled the E-P2/EVF combo at my local camera store. They had a photo expo weekend, with manufacturers' reps on site. If I'd had any cash, I'd have walked out with one.

Poagao said...

Yes, the walking and exploring, the freedom and potential you describe is what I love to do more than anything else.

I have a regular printer/scanner already, would you suggest buying a scanner like yours just for negatives or a negative-only scanner?