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"CS #1" photograph 1" x 71/2" Dan Zamudio
Intimate is one word often used to describe a small black and white photograph.
Whether it is a daguerreotype from the 1850s or a snapshot of a great grandparent,
the smaller size image gently invites the viewer to “come closer” for a better look.
My photographic work focuses on creating the small, square, slightly faded images
that are similar to photographs found inside old photo albums. I seek out a subject
matter considered a link to the past and compose the image by excluding anything
that would destroy the illusion of a vintage photograph. The majority of the images
are printed full frame, without cropping.
I use a toy camera called “Diana” to create my black and white images. The Diana
camera is made of plastic, including the lens. The plastic lens produces a slightly
blurred focus that adds an aged quality to the photographs. These cameras were
discontinued in the late 1960s and early 70s.
The neon sign is quickly vanishing from the Chicago landscape. At one time the
neon sign was a common sight in every neighborhood of the city. These signs
brought an energy and excitement to a community that would attract people to
local gathering places such as restaurants, theatres and bowling alleys.
Through time and continuous exposure to harsh Midwest elements the neon signs
began to decay. During the day the remnants of many old signs display faded paint,
rusting sides and empty holes where glass tubes were once housed. But at night
some signs still glow like a beacon on a dreary street.
My latest photographic work focuses on capturing the neon signs during their
shining hour. In old noir crime and detective films of the 1940s and 50s, film
directors would capture the energy of a city scene by showing neon signs overlapping
each other in different angles. I am using that same noir overlap technique to create
images similar to a movie still from that era.
This series is inspired by the panoramic work of Art Sinsabaugh. Photographer
Art Sinsabaugh’s panoramic images were large, long and sharp images of urban and
rural environments. Using the Diana camera, I have taken Sinsabaughs concept and
the brought it to a smaller scale. Through some experimentation I discovered that the
toy camera negatives did not lend themselves to a larger scale print image. As the
image size was increased with the darkroom enlarger, the already limited detail of the
image of lost. My decision to create smaller scaled images was a direct result of the
limitations of the toy camera. The small scaled images retain their detail and contrast
from negative. Unlike my other work which uses the full frame of the negative to create
the image. These images are cropped to create the panoramic effect. The average size
of these images 1" x 3 ˝.
Like the neon signs in the Noir Series, the water tank is also quickly disappearing from
the urban landscape. Unlike photographing the neon signs where I could often lift the
camera to “zoom in” on the sign, the water tanks are mostly located on the rooftops of
older buildings. My compositions would depend on whether or not the water tank was
visible at street level. Once again these images are cropped and printed small. By printing
these images of water tanks in a small format I am once again bringing an intimate quality
to a subject that is often distance and foreboding.
Contact Sheet Series
A contact sheet is a routine darkroom procedure where film negatives are placed directly
onto print paper then exposed to light. After the print paper is processed, a positive index
of all images will appear. This index is used by the photographer to select the best image
or images to make into individual prints. The majority of my photographic work is shot
with a toy camera called “Diana”. Since the Diana is a toy camera with no zoom, no focus,
and a slightly off viewfinder, I am generally limited to how much of a composition can be
framed within the single exposure. To combat the limitations of the single frame image, I have
been experimenting with the creation of a more complete image using the contact sheet. The
Diana camera allows 16 separate exposures per roll of film. On one contact sheet I am able
to see the entire roll of film laid out into 4 rows with 4 separate images exposures per row. By
breaking down a composition into 4 levels each with only 4 exposures I am able to piece
together one larger image onto the contact sheet. There are two main factors that contribute to
the overall abstract look of the complete image. The first is in understanding that the Diana
camera is always going to “see” a frame composition differently then the photographer. It’s a
compromise between photographer and camera to what will actually get on film. A second
factor is the film is advanced manually after each exposure. This consists of removing the
camera from the line of perspective and then making a reasonable guess to how high and
where the next frame should be exposed. After the film is developed, the negatives are placed
inside a plastic sheet where I can see how the total image might look before making a print.
If one or two frames are a bit off but they do not disrupt from the overall composition then
I will proceed with making a print. If an entire row is off I will then have to shoot the entire
composition again. I cannot re-shoot one frame or row to replace the bad exposure. There are
too many variables such as lighting, shadows and time of day that would be inconsistent
with the original image. On the average I shoot 3 -5 rolls per “image” before I’m able to
achieve my goal.