Tag Archives: Spending Time

David Gardner

Summer is a good time to look at work about being on the road.  But for David Gardner, summer isn’t the only season that allows for wanderlust.  David has recently retired after 30 years in the construction field, and a decade working as a production artist.  Though his income was generated from a life outside of photography, he has continued to hone his skills, his eye, and education over the years.  And as he states, “Now essentially retired, I photograph full-time.”

David was born in San Mateo, California and now lives part time in the San Francisco area, when he’s not spending time traveling across the country in a recreational vehicle. With his series, Life on Wheels, he explores the culture of those off the clock. David has exhibited nationally and has been published widely. He was recently selected for Center Forward by the Center of Fine Art Photography at the Denver International Airport that runs through September 7th – October 20th , 2012.

Life on Wheels: The New American Nomads: This project looks at those Americans who have willfully traded traditional lifestyles of home and property for a nomadic existence of full-time life on the road in recreational vehicles.  For much of any given year, I can be found traveling cross-country in my motor home photographing the landscape.  Over time, I have become aware of a certain group of fellow travelers who seem somehow different from the typical vacationer.  Know as “full-timers”, they are most often retired, but some do still work from their RV’s – using the advantage of mobility to increase flexibility and improve prospects.

Full-timers are often
found in out-of-the-way Bureau of Land Management campgrounds, stay in the same
spot for extended periods and are acquainted with many other campers in a
particular area.  Living largely off the grid, they have embraced modern technologies
when needed, such as Skype and WiFi to stay connected to loved ones.  They
use advanced solar technologies and energy storage systems to power their rigs. Using GPS devices to coordinate meeting places, they tend to gather in unexpected and remote areas of the landscape all across the country.

I began approaching them, asking into their doings, and found their fierce independence and positivity toward life a compelling argument to the porch and rocking chair. Photographing them in the environment with their rigs, affords me a unique look into a lifestyle that breaks down traditional notions of home and retirement. I am curious as to how this sea change in attitude affects perceptions of familial roots.

The journey thus far has brought me to unexpected realizations of how the older generation has adapted to the Golden Years. Along the way I’ve discovered that many of the diesel pushers, class C’s, trailers, 5th wheels and toy haulers seen traveling down the road are not at all simply vacationers, but an entire subculture of wanderers looking to the next adventure. 


The Darkroom: Nostalgia for a Dying Craft

The thought that most photographers working today will no longer, or will never, step foot in a traditional analog darkroom is remarkable for me. So much of the public imagination historically (and cinematically) with “photography” has been tied to the image of a man or woman hunched over trays of liquid watching an image appear on paper while enshrouded by the warm, amber glow of a safelight. Will that collective image ever be replaced with one of someone sliding a cursor along a histogram while bathed in the cool glow of a Macintosh monitor? Adam Bartos’s new book from Steidl Darkroom sheds some white light on the dying craft of analog printmaking and the environments that have produced most of the medium’s greatest images.

©Steidl—Adam Bartos

The cover of Adam Bartos’s new book from Darkroom.

Bartos is a photographer of the generation where working in a darkroom was a natural extension of the artist’s process and although I suspected this book to be a kind of lament to their near extinction, Bartos himself has been making digital prints of his work for over a decade.

“I’ve never thought that spending time in a darkroom makes for a better (or worse) photographer. That’s a matter of choice and process…The difference might be that I make distinctions about prints because I have a feeling for them as objects with history. Those of us who have spent time in darkrooms may be more likely to share that experience, but I hope that photographers who haven’t will be interested in what the possibilities of printmaking are before thoughtlessly accepting the standard product. It’s quite easy to make a digital print that looks alright, but it’s still very difficult to make one that is beautiful and expressive.”

Bartos’s still-lifes describe how darkrooms are part laboratory and part personal spaces – lived in and decorated with talismans; a ball compass hangs from a safelight fixture, old test prints and penciled notations are left pinned to walls, layers of dust coat unused equipment. (I recall reading a story about the American photographer Garry Winogrand and his darkroom enlarger upon which hung several items including an old bow-tie and a string of rosary beads. When asked about these things he simply replied, “They can’t hurt.”)

I have spent most of my life as a printer in such environs so the first few images bring a flood of memories from the last twenty-five years: Printing in Helen Buttfield’s ancient darkroom above the old Irving Klaw Studio where Betty Page was often photographed at 212 East 14th street; Trying to print on GAF photo-paper that had expired in 1968 – the same year I was born; My printing teacher Sid Kaplan pouring his hot coffee into the developer tray because the chemistry was “too cold”; Coming home to find a pigeon sitting on my film drying lines in my improvised darkroom in my 35th street tenement apartment. Discovering my cat Bun-Bun had once again used one of my 16X20 developing trays as a litter box. Having my exhaust fan tumble out of my window and somehow shatter my downstairs neighbor’s window. The shrill beep of my Gra-lab enlarger timer as it counted down: 5, 4, 3, 2…

Adam Bartos’s Darkroom is available from Steidl this now.

Jeffrey Ladd is a photographer, writer, editor and founder of Errata Editions.

Sarah Wilson

Tonight I will be attending my high school reunion. It’s reluctantly that I go back in time, but I look forward to spending time with friends on the dance floor and I will surely enjoy one cocktail too many. Having this opportunity to think about a time in life when we stood on the threshold of possibility, I was reminded of Sarah Wilson’s poignant and wonderful series about blind teenagers at prom. This series has been well exposed, but it’s always a pleasure to revisit this work and share in the excitement and joy that her subjects are experiencing.

Sarah has returned to her hometown of Austin, Texas after spending almost a decade in New York city studying and working. She works as an editorial photographer for magazines such as The New York Times Sunday Magazine, Time, The Atlantic Monthly, Marie Claire, Texas Monthly, Mother Jones, and others. Her work his held in numerous museums and she has exhibited all over the globe.

In my recent series, BLIND PROM, I’ve had the opportunity to explore the lives of a group of teenagers attending the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. I began photographing at the school in 2005 while working as as a stills photographer on the PBS-funded documentary, “The Eyes of Me”. Since then I have volunteered as the prom night photographer for the school each spring. I am to capture the entire prom ritual, starting with hair and makeup in the dorms, until the last dance at midnight.

Prom is an important rite of passage for the American teenager, and it is just as significant for these students. Not only do these images memorialize this special event for the attendees and their parents, but it is my intention that will will ultimately serve a larger audience as a medium for consideration of what life might be like as a blind teenager.



Right about the time you are reading this post, I am going to be sitting in a large ballroom in Portland, spreading my portfolio in front of a significant gallerists, curators, editors, and persons in-the-know. This is the third time that I have attended Photolucida, an amazing photography event in Portland (it occurs every two years), and as life would have it, I’m am hardly ready. April presented me with a platter full of exhibitions opportunities, and the Earthquake in Japan presented a whole other project, Life Support Japan, and all my energies went elsewhere. But no matter, I will still show up and happily participate.

a four day intensive portfolio review, combined with lectures, exhibitions, and lots of connecting with other photographers. Along with all the positive, comes the stress of preparing the work, the “leave-behinds”, figuring out the reviewers to select, and ultimately why you are going and what you want out of the experience. This process brings up all the not so positive part of being an artist–doubt, fear, and questioning. What ultimately helps carry one through these events is seeing a familiar name on a name tag, or a smiling face makes the experience so much richer. I am looking forward to finally meeting long time e-mail friends, and meeting new photographers and experiencing their work. And I am looking forward to spending time with a group of Los Angeles Photographers attending the event.

Portland will be ready for us, offering a host of wonderful exhibitions (and a lot of rain). Next week, I will give a full review of the event and begin to share some of the terrific work I’m sure I will be seeing. For now, think good thoughts, and wish us all luck!

MOPLA: Dan Shepherd

Looking at photographers and exhibitions featured in The Month of Photography in Los Angeles.

Dan Shepherd, as photographer, is a perfect example of someone shooting what they know best. I say, “as photographer”, because Dan is many things–environmentalist, conservation organizer, photographer collector, excellent dresser, enthusiastic supporter of all things photography, a smarty pants, and, yes, a photographer too. And these attributes combine into someone who thinks about the natural world with an informed and unique sensibility, which also comes from spending time in New York City and the Pacific Northwest.

It seems to be the year of the tree, and Dan’s images fit right in with the theme. Two series are featured below, the first, Draw Me A Tree, where Dan asks people to draw a tree that has some significance in their lives and photograph the actual tree with the drawing to explore memory and human connection. My contribution is the large fig tree on the campus of my son’s preschool, another is a tree that marks a pet’s grave, another marks a devastating teenage car crash. The second series, Blinded by Science, looks at the natural world in abstract new ways.

Dan currently lives in Los Angeles, and is opening his first solo show at the f/9 Gallery in Culver City, CA on April 9th. The opening reception is on April 14th from 6-9 pm.

Draw Me A Tree, asks the viewer if we remember when we had a stubby crayon in our hands and happily scrawled out our houses, our cats, a blue sky with the sun up in the corner and a tree in the yard?

One of the few artistic endeavors that we all have in common is drawing a tree and with this ongoing project Dan will explore our connection to nature by asking people to Draw Me a Tree. But not just any tree, Dan is asking people to partner with him and illustrate the trees that have had some impact in their lives and together they visit these special trees and document them through a unique double exposure process.

Draw Me a Tree helps show how intrinsically connected to nature we are through a series of visual tree stories that can be found everywhere in our yards, parks, gardens, forests, and streets.

Some say ignorance is bliss. As a former botanical professional, a walk through a garden can be a challenge to just enjoy the colors, shapes and textures when your brain is clouded with lots of scientific plant details. With the ongoing project “Blinded by Science,” I am using the power of abstraction to create images of some of my favorite plants and trees which helps me filter out the science details and lets me focus on the pure beauty of nature.