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Monday, 23 July 2007


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This has been quite an inspirational day for me, thanks to you, Mike; Chuck Kimmerle and now Henry Wessel.

I believe that you pointed out Henry's work recently. But, perhaps distracted or just dumpy, I was not very impressed at that time. He looked like just another old 1970's-style "everything-is-so-damn-important" clicker.

But now taking time to watching his interview and then look again at his work I get a much better impression. Yes he's very much a chip off the Stephen Shore something-from-nothing block. But hearing him talk about his methods and concepts in such an enthusiastic, yet unpretentious, style I really got hooked.

Cheerful, unpretentious enthusiasm wins my vote every time regardless of what you're shooting. So I "voted" by buying the guy's book (which I need like a 3rd ear). Thanks.

One body, one lens, one incredible eye!

I bought it on the basis of your first comment and some browsing. I found it really impressive for the clarity of his seeing. For example the zen garden of rocks in front of somebody's trailer, out in a state where rocks are the landscape.

Has anybody got a comment on the "five books by Henry Wessel" item also available at Amazon? Are the pictures also in the recent retrospective or are those five books independent?


Thank you for pointing us to the video of Henry Wessel, a history lesson on how we worked in the last century.
How different it is to use film and visualize in black and white, how odd it is to see the darkroom and drying racks, and the loupe, and a lens that does not zoom, plastic pages of negatives, contact sheets and that pile of work prints, oh the profanity.
How civilized we are today, we create files and use digital asset managers, and printers that spray pigment, these hands will never again soak in chemistry, these lungs will never again breathe the fumes of tarnishment, ah the humanity of our century.

I'm not quite sure from that where you stand on any of this, Richard....


Very interesting, thanks!

Does anybody know how to safe this video?

It is not in the "Temporary Internet files" folder.

Mike when I look down at my feet I see that I have crossed the line, into another world, and when I viewed the video I remembered where I stood for thirty years, and it seemed so poignant.
I came to California from New York in 1971, to the San Francisco Art Institute to study painting, returning to New York in 1980 with a Masters in Photography from San Francisco State University.
Henry Wessel was one of the artists whose work we studied in graduate school, and I remain to this day an admirer of his photographs.
Watching the video I was transported back to the years I spent working in the same manner as Mr. Wessel, the darkroom and the work prints and the loupe, and yes California itself, a flood of emotion came over me, an overflow of purple prose.
Coherence might not be my strong suit, but as an artist I have always tried to contribute something to the greater dialog.

Ah. You are understood, kind Sir.


P.S., me too, sorta. I swear I have stacks of workprints just as high as the one in the video (oh, okay, not from just one year), although I've recently been a good little archivist and decanted them into acid-free clamshell boxes. Wessel's integrity appeals to me as much as anything--same camera and lens for 40 years, a real method, a constant focus, energy and commitment. My hat is really off to him. What a great career.


I have just posted this on eolake.blogspot.com:

Thanks to Mike Johnston for pointing to this video about Henry Wessel's photography.

For some reason I was not aware of Wessel's work, but it's really wonderful. Exemplary "street photography".

The video itself is also impressive. It shows the difference between the typical U-toobe video and a professionally produced one. Even in the sheer image quality: you can view it at 200% and it's still sharp and no artefacts.

I would debate this, though:
Henry Wessel: "In the still photograph you basically have two variables—where you stand and when you press the shutter. That's all you have."

Well, you also have:
* Choice of B/W or color.
* Direction in which you shoot.
* Contrast.
* View angle of the lens.
* Aperture.
* Shutter speed.
* Focus.
* Exposure.
* Framing. (Though this is a result of a few of the above.)
* Camera format (influences sharpness etc).

Notable also that Henry uses the kind of camera that we are still waiting for in digital photography: compact, high quality build and high image quality, light weight, very responsive, fast, simple to use.

Stephen Shore suggests the four key factors are vantage point, frame, focus and time, but Wessel appears to have simplified this even further!

On that note, I have to thank you, Mike. I'm sitting in my home office trying to work through a stack of work-related emails and tasks while ignoring the various bumps and yells from my family in the rooms above, and I don't feel I've had much time for photography since our second child came along five months ago. But instead I've just spent a quiet and absorbing eight minutes watching this video, and really enjoyed the break. And then I added the Wessel book to my Amazon wishlist.

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