Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A new stage

Now that BHS has all the portrait files. I have been working on the next stage of the project. For me this is a chance to create something new from the hundreds of images I created during the Face of Brooklyn.

With so much material, it became very difficult to keep track of all the images. I selected over 100 of the most promising portraits and had them made into small prints.

Using the small prints I created a really fun and endless game of matching and arranging. After selecting a few groups that interested me I began to test out different methods of arranging the groups. I had to make decisions about scale, paper type, distance between each portrait and if I was going to create a separation between each image. In order to determine these things I really need to be able to see them. Even though I am a visual artist, I can't just imagine it in my mind's eye and have to make many images that won't ever be shown to anyone else.

Having solved some of these questions I can move on to making the large prints. I have selected 24" as the dimension of the height of all the prints. This works well, as I can buy 24" x 100 feet rolls of paper to print on. I have a very large printer that can print 48" by 90." It is very fast, but uses 12 colors of ink. When the giant ink cartridges need to be replaced it is a tremendous expense. It is believed that the inks are archival for over 100 years. I traditional chemical color print is archival for less than 25 years. This is evident if you recall family photos from the seventies and eighties that are turning orange.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Article In Brooklyn Daily Eagle

An article about the Face of Brooklyn, my talk at the Brooklyn Historical Society on Wednesday night and the Interpreting Brooklyn Project. Click here for the full article.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Talk at Brooklyn Historical Society

Thanks to everyone who came last night to the Brooklyn Historical Society. Kate and Julie spoke about the Interpreting Brooklyn grant and BHS's photo collection that was the inspiration for my project. Julie brought out some of the files of "orphaned portraits' that I looked through as I started to research for the project.

I showed photos and told stories about the production of setting up portrait studios at eight Brooklyn parks. I also talked about my previous work , Free Sitting that investigated the curious conventions of our everyday family portraits. Then I showed portraits that became part of themes that emerged during the project, such as siblings, friends, couples, mulit-generational families, and athletes.

The audience had some great questions and comments that spanned from issues of archival preservation of the digital files, to fashion trends. One of the suggestions was that the behind the scenes photos of the portrait booth and me at work be included along with the portraits in the archive. Thanks to Kelly Rio Saxton and Nancy Borowick for snapping these photographs of us working. 

Thursday, March 5, 2009


Yesterday I mentioned the potential incarnations that my photographs may have as part of the Brooklyn Historical Society's collection. During our meeting this week, BHS archivist Julie May alerted me to the fact that any images that are part of the BHS collection without copyright can be used by patrons for any purpose. This includes commercial use. As an example, she said a man from the television show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, came in to do research. I grew anxious thinking of one of the portraits I made, of an unsuspecting participant being used as a fashion example on a network television show. 

In the end,  I will define how the portraits can, or can not be used outside of BHS. I have to find a balance that allows the portraits to function in the same way as the other photographs in the collection, but that protects the rights of my subjects, and my right as the author. I can stipulate that I am given attribution as photographer, or that use is limited to education purposes, or restricted from publications, or restricted from commercial use, or copyright is restricted all together.

When I left  the meeting with Julie my head was spinning from all the scenarios that she outlined, but I felt grateful that she had brought all of these permutations to my attention. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Deed of Gift

Today I met with Kate Fermoile, vice president of exhibitions, and Julie May, the Photo Archivist at BHS. It was a great feeling to slide three DVD's that contain 281 digital portraits that will now be processed into the Brooklyn Historical Society's permanent collection. For the photo archivist, librarians, digital collectors, and photo nerds ( I know who you are!) you might be interested to know that the files are 16 bit TIFF files at 3200 pixels. Along with the digital files, Kate helped me photo copy all the accompanying surveys the subjects filled out. Julie also got a digital copy of all of those, but also wanted hard copy.

Now it will be one of her intern's jobs to to go through and clean up the meta data. Meta data is all the "aboutness" for a photograph and includes photographer, date, location, but will also include information that the subjects supplied about themselves including name, address, occupation, time spent living in Brooklyn and the "wild card" box where they could write anything.

Julie supplied me with a sort of temporary receipt called "Temporary Custody Receipt"while BHS is in the processes of revising their "Deed of Gift" form and I have more time to contemplate how I want to treat the copyright of all of my images.

As a photographer and a contemporary person, my consideration to photographs began by first being the subject of photographs (this happens to nearly all of us at birth). Much later I began to consider photographs as a viewer. Later my relationship with them has been taking and making my own photographs, and considering how a viewer will interact with them. When I think about a viewer, it is almost strictly people seeing my photographs in gallery exhibitions.

Doing Face of Brooklyn has expanded my realization that any photograph I take could have a a lifespan that far exceeds my mortal life. As I have mentioned before, I began to think about photographs in multiples, as collections, and after my conversation with Julie about copyright, I realized that these Face of Brooklyn portraits will have a much longer life than mine, they could also have many incarnations and that "viewers" would mean much more than a person who attends an art exhibition.

Tomorrow, I will post about all the possible incarnations that could await them as part of a collection at BHS.