Monday, October 09, 2017

A Chance Discovery

Morning folks - do you ever get the feeling that time is playing tricks with you?
I do. I have a mountain of printing to do, but the weekends just seem to run away and before you know it, it's back to the daily usual and nothing done.
Anyway rather than me trying to shoehorn in another Dundee thing (we are The City Of Discovery - literally, Captain Scott's Antarctic ship is berthed here and well worth a visit should you ever decide to visit - but just about every single business in the city tries to fit 'Discovery' into their wording, or so it seems) instead, I will pen a little ditty about coming across something of which I was not aware, but which surprised the heck out of me.

If you've read FogBlog much you'll know of my enormous respect and love for Joseph McKenzie, 'father of modern Scottish Photography' (whatever that is!), mentor, friend for a time and purveyor of jokes, tea, chat and advice. In other words the sort of person anyone would be glad to have around.
Whole days spent in his office, spotting prints and talking and the enormous push towards a degree show, which showed a lot of my landscape photographs . . 
Err, what a fantastic idea eh? 
Go for a graphics degree and end up displaying nearly as much trying-to-get-the-spirit-of-place landscape photographs! 
Ah yes, I was a stone cold genius (read fool) predating the rediscovery of landscape by the masses by oooh a few years (and if you believe that you'll believe anything). 
Still it was a stupid move really, but you know what? I was proud of my photographic exhibition - it is the only one I have ever done.

Anyway, that's away from the main drag - which is the discovery of an image that I personally think is absolutely stunning. 
I found it a few years back (can't remember where, so don't ask) when trawling around for Joe's images on t'net.
It stopped me in my tracks, mainly because I was unaware of its existence, but also because of the technical mastery. 
Now I would say that it appears to be a lithographed print (because it is a poster) so one does wonder whether any tickling-up occurred during the plate-making process. 
You never know. 
It does seem to have that heavy 'graphics' look to it . . 
This was something I practiced, oooh, decades ago when at school and preparing a portfolio for admission to college. 
It's a simple technique - basically, look at something with half closed eyes - your brain will render that down to shapes and light and shadow - then draw it. 
It can also be very useful when taking photographs of iffy subjects too, especially in even dodgier lighting; it renders things down, cuts out superfluous detail and you can get an idea of what a good bit of heavy-handed (or light and delicate!) printing will do to the negative. 
I still use it if I need to.

Back to the poster, though - yes the 'heavy' look is there, but also if you look at the sky below the bridge spans, that looks pretty damn naturally photographic to me. 
The New Tay Railway Bridge bridge opened on the 13th July 1887 - at the time it was a marvel of Scottish Victorian engineering. 
Joe's Centenary photograph gives it an air of wonderful permanence and solidity and dare I say it for something which is so huge - a certain grace and beauty too.
As to the 'graphic' aspect, well certainly he could print anything, and the fireworks do have that aspect, but look closely too - it does have the look of a proper Scottish Summer night, when it never really gets that dark. So, tickling up or not, you decide
Technically, well, it was Joe so more than likely he was using Tri-X and D76 . . it doesn't look like it though does it . . . 
Anyway, that's an aside. 
Here's the poster.
I think it is a technical tour-de-force - let me know what you think.

© Joseph McKenzie Estate 2017

I would dearly love to see the original print . . .
It actually very much reminds me of (if they'd had the same speed on their plates) something that could have appeared in Steiglitz' Camera Work in the early 1900's. 
Maybe that was his intention - it wouldn't surprise me.
If you look closely, you can see, beside the firework traces, the remnants of explosion clouds; those, balanced with the solidity and power, well, one can only wonder at the marvellous happenstance that brought together, light, gunpowder, water, engineering and technical mastery of a medium.
Hands down, it's the best fireworks photograph I have ever seen.
I love it.

Anyway, that is that, more treading water by me till the next 'proper' FB creaks its way out of the fog on its battle-cart . . .

So, before I head, I'll ask you to charge your glasses and raise them to Joe (again).
Photographer, mentor, friend to many, and all-round good egg.
Cheers Joe!

© Joseph McKenzie Estate 2017

TTFN and remember to keep taking the tablets.