The Land That God Forgot, Part Three


The No Name Trailer Park, Pearsonville, California – April 1999

Driving through the Mojave is like passing through successive layers of California history. There are haunted places where nothing has changed in decades: little mom & pop motels quietly disintegrating, ruined roads that lead to contaminated sites, dormant volcanoes and lost fortunes. The landscape is stripped of everything we take for granted: trees, houses, roads & bridges – and the raw earth is revealed in geologic time, littered with broken dreams.

I was driving north through the upper Mojave Desert on my way to Nevada when I came across the No Name Trailer Park on the west side of I-395, the highway itself a relic. Blasted airstream trailers littered the property and the EAT sign, the only remains of another defunct roadside diner, rose like a monument, into the desert sky.

I had my reliable Mamiya 645 with me, and this image was shot on Kodak TMY 400 using a polarizer and an R25 to kick the clouds off the sky. Let me know if you’d like a print.

Posted in American Photographic Artists, Kodak T-Max, Kodak TMY, Mojave Desert, Owens Valley, Pearsonville, Sierra Nevada | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Los Angeles, California – 1969


   Burned Fender Stratocaster – Shrine Auditorium,  Los Angeles, 1969

1969 was an interesting time to be alive in Los Angeles. Running into artists, actors and rockers was an everyday deal – something we all took for granted. Folk rock was happening in Santa Monica, John Mayall lived up in Laurel Canyon and you could see Canned Heat trying to surf at Topanga. They were shooting Pretty Maids All in a Row at my high school, weed cost $10 an ounce and The Byrds were playing at the Ash Grove.

I’d just turned sixteen and Hendrix was booked at the Shrine Auditorium. In spite of the cool weather, it was an oven inside – all the doors were open, heat pouring out into the cool February night. The show was amazing – it was the Electric Ladyland tour and my ears were ringing for two days.

Jimi opened the show without the band, launching into a beautiful arpeggio – as the passage hit a crescendo, he stopped and laughed in pure delight -it was that kind of show. The next morning Kathy Wolf and I went back downtown to the Shrine to see if the band was breaking down or if we could find any interesting artifacts – a poster, a pick – anything. The auditorium was locked up tight but around back at the loading dock there was a beat up truck – and in the back was a burned Stratocaster.

As always, I had my camera. Let me know if you’d like a print. Open edition, signed (verso), 11X17″ $200

Posted in B&W negative film, California, Color negative film, color negatives, color transparencies, Film, Fuji RDP3, Jimi Hendrix, Kodak, Kodak P3200, Kodak Plus-X, Kodak T-Max, Kodak TMY, Kodak Tri-X, Los Angeles | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

God & The Devil In The Land Of The Sun



I’m part of this great nation because my grandfather was born here, in Cincinnati, Ohio. He took a horse, back in 1895 and rode it all the way down to Guanajuato looking for his American dream. Not a penny in his pocket, only dreams in his head. And he was an immigrant coming from the States into Mexico. And he found his American dream in Mexico – Vicente Fox

Posted in B&W negative film, Baja California, Catavina, Color negative film, color negatives, color transparencies, desert, f/64, Kodak Plus-X, Kodak T-Max, Kodak TMY, Kodak Tri-X, Mexico | Leave a comment

Panteón de Santa Rosalillita – Baja California

Panteón de Santa Rosalillita - Baja California

There was a smell of death all through Mexico you never got away from, no matter how far you went. No matter what you said or did, not even if you laughed or drank, did you ever get away from death in Mexico. No car went fast enough. No drink was strong enough – Ray Bradbury, 1948.

Something about Mexico is best left unspoken. It’s clear, obvious almost, but to an American traveling south, looking into death’s steady gaze can be unsettling. Best not to linger too long while the winter sun drops below the coastal range.

645 B&W negative: Kodak T-Max 100; R25 + polarizer. December 1998.

Posted in American Photographic Artists, B&W negative film, Baja California, Cabo San Lucas, Catavina, f/64, Film, John Durant Photography, Kodak P3200, Kodak Plus-X, Kodak T-Max, Kodak TMY, Kodak Tri-X, Mexico, Photography, Volcano | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Make Something Beautiful (part two)

Canon F-1n                  Japanese woodblock: my vintage Canon F-1n (20mm f/2.8)

Start with something completely familiar – like an analog single lens reflex. Find a chunk of clear Douglas fir and sketch directly to the wood surface. Can’t draw? Doesn’t matter – that may even make it better. Cut out the drawing and ink the block. There’s something lovely and imprecise about the nature of wood: you can’t cut against the grain – it just splinters, but it still looks good. Straight lines get wobbly and clean curves are non-existent. The overall result is low-tech and organic, which is pretty much the exact opposite of photography. Don’t worry, you’ll like it.

I used my faithful Canon F-1 as a model for this woodblock first thing today. I inked it after lunch. Made a few corrections and called it done at 2:00PM. I’ll be creating a set of 10×10″ prints on Arches 100% cotton rag paper. Let me know if you’d like one – prints are $50/each, signed.

Posted in American Photographic Artists, B&W negative film, Baja California, Canon F-1, color negatives, color transparencies, f/64, Film, Fuji RDP3, Fujichrome, Ilford Delta 400, Ilford FP4, Japanese block printing, John Durant Photography, Kodak P3200, Kodak Plus-X, Kodak T-Max, Kodak TMY, Kodak Tri-X, Photography, Rolleiflex, San Diego, Vintage cameras, Wood block printing, woodblock | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why I Shoot Film – Part One

Why I Shoot Film - Part One

Roadside Gas Station (retired), National City California

Film has built-in limitations – but it’s honest. It has reciprocity problems and grain, but it’s film grain – not noise. You can’t shoot a 16 bit digital frame and desaturate it to B&W. Exposure has to be right on – it can’t be salvaged with white-value recovery in a RAW processor. If you load the camera with B&W film, that’s what you’re shooting and that’s what you get. There’s no going back to the original file and adding a 50% desaturation layer for some kind of antique look. If you shoot film, you’re connecting with state of the art twentieth-century technology: exposure and development times better be right on or you’ll have nothing. Think of it as practice. If you practice photography with film, it’s the equivalent of playing a Bach etude – a solo piece written for piano, meant to be played on a piano. Analog, old school and pure.

If you shoot film, you have to load the camera. That conscious choice will rest on other decisions: weather, time of day, filter factors and what’s on your mind – how you feel. Antonin Kratochvil uses Kodak P-3200 and the film’s grain works with his gritty subjects. Ansel Adams used a fine-grain continuous tone approach so the photographic process didn’t get in the way of the images. It’s personal.

I spent my life as a photographer understanding what light would look like printed on a piece of Agfa Brovira double-weight paper. I learned that it will be sharp, warm and feel like memory – only more real because every time you feel the heavy uneven weight of the paper you’ll be revisiting a moment in time that photograph was an attempt to understand. The photograph is an abstraction: a fairly convincing representation of a slice of your time and consequently your existence. It’s real – not a collection of ones and zeros on a hard-drive. It takes up space, it can be handled and it insists on being taken seriously – with a touch of respect. You won’t print every single frame: only the ones that can speak for you.

I shot this single frame using Kodak TMX100 through a Toyo Omega 4×5 camera – a combination in wide use since about 1901 – to explore my feelings about California before freeways, before daily school shootings and instant telecommunication via social media. I was looking for a California before there was a television in every room – a time when you had to know what you wanted in order to get it.

Posted in American Photographic Artists, B&W negative film, California, Color negative film, color negatives, f/64, Film, Fuji RDP3, Fujichrome, Ilford Delta 400, Ilford FP4, Kodak Plus-X, Kodak T-Max, Kodak TMY, Kodak Tri-X, National City, San Diego, Vintage cameras | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Land That God Forgot – Part Two

John Durant Photographer El Progresso, Northern Baja California – December 1998

Driving through Mexico in the winter is something I’ve done all my life. Traveling on highway D-1 brings to mind the classic topics of life, death, creation and eternity – mainly because that’s what the land looks like: eternity, or maybe the surface of a distant planet. In California you can go weeks, maybe months without a trace of existential thought. In Mexico it hits you about sixty miles in on the transpeninsular highway. Winter light is low and clean. It reveals and hides in equal measures. The land is covered with a fine dust that has the flavor of tequila and you find yourself wondering if what you’re tasting is the country – the earth itself is in your mouth and eyes. You will also find yourself taking time, going on hundred-mile tangents and forgetting what day it is.

My friend Philipp Rittermann had been using an English B&W negative film: Ilford Delta 400 – and for a year I tried, but could rarely squeeze the kind of response he was getting out of it – except on one day in December of 1998. For one day, in the wilds of Baja California, it all came together with the help of my faithful Mamiya 645 and an R25 filter. This photograph was taken while traveling north, fifty miles off the pavement east of El Progresso – just before sunset.

Posted in American Photographic Artists, Cabo San Lucas, Catavina, Color negative film, color negatives, desert, f/64, Film, Fuji RDP3, Fujichrome, Ilford Delta 400, Ilford FP4, Kodak P3200, Kodak Plus-X, Kodak T-Max, Kodak TMY, Kodak Tri-X, Mexico, Mojave, Philipp Rittermann, Photography, Vintage cameras, Volcano | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment