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I finally got all of the film from my summer trip to China developed, and I think there are a lot of good photos amongst them, based upon what I’ve seen from looking at the negatives.
Still, I’m going to hold off on those as I posted a lot of color photos from China last time. Instead, today I’m posting some of the photos from my trip to the Delaware Water Gap region of New Jersey and Pennsylvania last month, where I photographed Nadine Stevens, Evyenia Karapolous and Johannsdottir.
These particular photos come from the first two rolls of film, which I had developed along with the last of the film from China. As I began photographing midday on a mostly sunny day, I decided to stay indoors as the high sun outside would not have been conducive to good photographs.
The photos here all involve the use of one wooden chair. As a roll of 120 film as used with my camera has ten frames on it, I decided to photograph each of these beautiful young ladies individually for five photographs, with the final five on the second roll being all three together, with Evyenia sitting and Nadine and Johannsdottir standing behind her.
I’ll try to get some or all of the remainder of the film from this day developed this week. Stand by for more photographs to follow, though first I’ll probably return to posting images from my 2014 trip to Iceland, as well as my trip last year to Ireland, which I have been sadly neglecting.
I began writing about my July trip to China last month, posting some photos that I had made on the first half of the trip with my small Canon S90 digital camera. Those were photos from Beijing, Xian and Chengdu.
Now I’m finally getting around to the second half of the trip.
I wrote in that first post that I had a problem with photos from later in the trip, and this is part of the reason why I’ve had to wait for so long to post them. The second half of the trip included several days in Lhasa, Tibet, a short visit to Chongqing, a three day Yangtze River cruise, one night in Wuhan and finally, three days in Hong Kong.
Unfortunately – and I don’t even know how I did it – I somehow changed the settings on my digital camera to go from taking JPEG files to taking DNG files early during the time in Tibet, and I didn’t realize it until the end of the trip. The problem with this is that my photo editing program cannot open DNG files, so for a long time, I was stuck.
I tried one thing or another to make it work, but alas, no success. Finally, I happened upon a website that will convert files from one format to another – including DNG files to JPEG – for free. The only problem with it is that it will only convert individual files, rather than a batch, so you can imagine the amount of time it took for me to convert all of the ones I had in mind, and then do the final editing on them.
Still, I recently finished working on that, so here we are.
As to the trip itself, I had written that the first half of the trip was very hot, and the second half felt even hotter, but before that we had a respite of three days in Lhasa, Tibet. That’s because it’s at an elevation of around 12,000 feet and things are a lot cooler up there. The down side, though, is dealing with the high altitude and the lower level of oxygen that it has.
On my first trip to Tibet in 2007, I had no problem. People were even surprised that I didn’t take any altitude sickness pills. This time, though, I wasn’t feeling very well on the day we flew from Chengdu to Tibet – and it didn’t help that we had to fly there twice. Why twice? The flight time is two hours, and everything was going fine until an hour and a half into the flight. With only half an hour left, the flight crew announced that because of heavy rain at the Lhasa airport, the plane would have to fly back to Chengdu and then wait until the weather cleared.
So, back we went to Chengdu, flying another hour and a half to get there. We then sat on the ground for about two hours, waiting for the airplane to be refueled and have more food delivered. Then, we finally made the two hour flight to Tibet, but what should have taken two hours ended up being five hours in the air and more than seven hours on the plane – exactly what I needed when I wasn’t feeling well, right?
I skipped dinner that evening and just rested in my hotel room, as the combination of feeling unwell to begin with, combined with the thin air, made me feel even worse. Still, I did begin to feel much better after breakfast the next morning, though I did play it safe and decided to skip the trip to the Potala Palace – the former home of the Dalai Lamas – with its 13 floors worth of steps to climb, especially as I had gone to it the last time.
After Tibet, though, it was back into the high heat, our first stop being the city of Chongqing. I had read in my guide book back in 1989 that the three “furnace cities” along the Yangtze River are Chongqing, Wuhan and Nanjing. In that regard, Chongqing did not disappoint – and neither did the Yangtze, where some of the days there, I heard, reached 40 degrees Celsius, or 104 degrees Fahrenheit, and humid, too.
Still, getting to relax on a ship for a few days was nice, and it was very interesting to pass through the locks at the Three Gorges Dam, especially at night with lightning flashing all around.
The visit to Hong Kong was my third time there, and it continues to be a somewhat unique place. Of course, the weather was pretty hot, too, at around 95 F. That didn’t stop me from doing a lot of walking, or what seemed a lot of walking because of the heat and humidity. I find the architecture of the place to be rather fascinating, as the buildings all seem to be either very new or very old, with not much in between.
Hopefully I’ll finish getting all of the film from this trip developed this week, and as I get the time to scan them, I’ll begin posting some. For now, please enjoy these color snaps.
It’s time for another post from my 2014 trip to Iceland, so I’m continuing to post photographs in the order that I made them.
The photos I’m displaying today were made on a beach in southern Iceland that is well known for its black volcanic sand and stones. I had been to this place on my first trip to Iceland way back in 1995, and when I decided to try to photograph nudes in Iceland, this was the number one place that I had in mind.
That first art nude trip was in 2013, but I didn’t get any photos here. It wasn’t because I didn’t try, for I surely did. In fact, I tried twice. My models and I stayed near this spot for one night, so first I went with one model late in the evening on the day of our arrival. It was still light out because of Iceland’s extreme north location, when it never really gets dark in early summer. There was nobody else around on the beach, either.
Unfortunately, the summer of 2013 was the coldest one in memory in Iceland, and on that evening, it was cold, windy and blustery – not exactly good conditions for nude modeling, so we didn’t even try for any photos.
I went back the next morning with the other model, and while it was not quite as it had been the evening before, it was still pretty rough. Still, after waiting there for a while, the model decided to give it a go for a very quick roll of ten photos – but it was now around 8 a.m., and as she was about to begin to disrobe, another person showed up on the beach.
We waited for that person to leave, but before he did, another tourist showed, followed by another – and another – and another – and ……. We waited for about 45 minutes but did not have one single moment to ourselves. Finally, we gave up and went back to our car, where I took off my baseball cap and flung it down in a fit of frustration.
Not getting any photos here was one of the reasons why I decided to return to Iceland the next year, and in 2014, I was able to get the photos I wanted. Of course, it wasn’t easy. I went this time with Zoe West, and as I stood there close to midnight with nobody around, finally able to get some work in, I thought to myself, “I am finally here, ready to go. What kind of photograph can I create to make good on this special moment?”
Well, here are my first efforts. I knew beforehand that I wanted to use the sea stacks in the background as important elements in the composition, so I used them as framing devices, with Zoe standing in front of the larger one. I think that I had thought of having her full figure framed by it, but that would have required a much longer lens than I had.
In going through my old 35mm slides a few months ago, I came upon some photos that I made in Berlin, Germany, in December 1982, during my second trip to Europe.
Among those photos were these two that I made at the Egyptian Museum in West Berlin. Berlin was still a divided city back then – the Berlin Wall would still stand between East and West for another eight years – and each side had its own Egyptian Museum. The one in the East was part of a group of antiquities museums there, and they were certainly much larger than those in the West, and contained some truly spectacular things like the great altar from Pergamom in Asia Minor and the fabulous lion’s gate from Bablyon. Being in the communist East, these museums also had the virtue of very few visitors, making a visit there an almost private experience.
Nonetheless, Nefertiti was in the West and was the pride of the collection there – as she continues to be today, now that the city is one and the museums have been unified. She now resides, in a gallery set aside just for her, at the Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection in the Neues Museum in the former East. She also continues to be an object of international contention as the Egyptian government tries to get her back and the German government steadfastly refuses to hand her over. (I read recently that the Germans claim that she is “Egypt’s best ambassador in Germany,” or some such thing.)
Who was Nefertiti? “The Beautiful One Has Come” (as her name translates) lived from about 1370 to 1330 BCE and was the queen and Great Royal Wife of the 18th Dynasty pharaoh Akhenaten. He changed his name from Amenhotep IV and instituted the radical idea of monotheism in Egypt by practicing the worship of only one deity – the sun god Aten. Tutankhamun – King Tut himself – would become the king for his short reign not long after Akhenaten and Nefertiti, and was part of the family.
Partially – or primarily – because of this particular portrait bust in Berlin (found by German archaeologists in the studio of a sculptor named Thutmose in Amarna, the modern name for Akhenaten’s capital, Akhetaten), Nefertiti is one of the best known queens of ancient Egypt. She even made an appearance in a recent episode of “Doctor Who.” (Well, an actor portraying her did.)
Still, this post is not simply about art and history. It’s also about photography.
I took a look recently at the website for the Egyptian Museum in Berlin. The Visitor’s Information page there is an odd mix of German and English. Here is an example of it, under the heading of Photos:
“Photographing in the exhibition is allowed without flash or tripod. Im Nofretete-Raum ist das Fotografieren nicht erlaubt!”
That last sentence, written in German and emphasized with an exclamation, translates as “Photography is not allowed in the Nefertiti Room!”
So, why is photography of Nefertiti verboten when it is permitted in the rest of museum? Does the museum want to force people to buy postcards of Nefertiti? Perhaps, but I don’t think so. After all, the museum sold postcards back in 1982 and people were still allowed to photograph her.
I think it’s because of another reason: cell phones.
A few years ago, I read a piece written by the late photographer Bill Jay in Lenswork magazine. He wrote of an experiment that he made at a party. Jay placed a small, toy hammer on a table and waited to see what would happen. Sure enough, after a short time, people began to pick up the hammer and give others little bops on the head with it – not because there was a reason to do so, but simply because they could.
I think he was alluding to some of the things that photographers would do with programs like Photoshop, altering their photos in different ways – not because there was a good reason for it or because it made the photo better, but simply because they could.
The same can be said for much of cell phone photography: people do it not because there’s a good reason for it, but simply because they can. (I would also add talking on cell phones to the list, but that’s another story.)
We now live in a world where a person has not actually seen or done something unless they photograph it with their phones and then (naturally) post it to social media. I’ve seen people post dozens of unedited photos on Facebook of something that they’ve done or seen when a half dozen of the best of them would have sufficed.
To some extent, I am guilty of this myself. As a fan of Doctor Who, I like to get photos with the actors when I get their autographs at conventions or at the theater, and then post them for people to see – but as a friend once told me, “You haven’t actually met them unless you get a photograph with them.” (Really???)
Then, of course, there are those people who feel the need to show the world (or their friends) what they had for breakfast, lunch and/or dinner, as if the world (or their friends) really cared.
Clearly, the bust of Nefertiti is not something that you pop into the microwave or burn on a grill. It is a world treasure and definitely worthy of photographing, but in 1982, when I made my pictures, photography was different. You needed to have a real camera to do so, and since most museum visitors did not bring cameras, photographing her was not a problem.
I have not been to Berlin for a number of years, but I can only imagine what it’s like now. The city was an isolated place back in 1982 – a lone island of democracy behind the Iron Curtain – so I would think that it gets a lot more visitors today, with a lot of them flocking to the Egyptian Museum to crowd around its star attraction.
Now just imagine all of them trying to photograph Nefertiti with their cell phones, blocking the view of others as they stand there to get their shot. It’s no surprise, then, that the museum would prohibit photographing her, because who wants to have to stare at somebody else’s back when you’ve come there to see the queen of Egypt?
This also makes me think of my last two visits to another of the world’s great art treasures: the Sistine Chapel. This great hall in the Vatican, with its paintings by Michelangelo, Botticelli and others, also draws lots of visitors. I was first there in 1990, and noticed the signs saying that photography was prohibited. The guards took it seriously, too. If they saw someone take a photo, they’d go over and tell the person to stop. (So, you might be able to get one shot in, at least.)
On my next visit there in 2009, I saw that the signs were still there. What had changed was the attitude of the guards. This time, they didn’t even try, for with so many people with their digital cameras snapping away at will, any attempt to put a stop to it all would have been futile. (To this I must also admit “mea culpa,” as I figured that with everybody else doing it, I may as well take some with my little digital camera, too.)
For someone who calls photography his “primary avocation,” as I often do, it’s somewhat remarkable how little photography I actually do. You would think that I’d be photographing all of the time, or at least on a frequent and regular basis, but to put it simply, I hardly ever pick up my camera.
That’s not to say that I don’t work on my photography frequently. In fact, I wish I had a lot more time to do things like scanning negatives, editing and printing. Those post-production activities are what take up most of my time devoted to photography. Actually going out (or staying in) with the camera is only the first step in a long, time consuming process, and it’s that lack of time which, in part, accounts for my limited camera time. (Another factor is money – or the lack thereof – and the cost of travel, film and processing.)
Still, the time does come around now and then when I do use my camera to take photos. For my travel photography this year, it was a day walking around in London with my Holga, followed by my three week trip to China last month. For my art nudes, though, I had only gone out to photograph with one model for a couple of hours – until last week, that is, when I actually had not one but two photographic events.
One of them was a continuation of my 20th anniversary celebration around Woodstock, New York, last year. The location where I photographed the nine models in the water had a lot more photographic possibilities than I was able to take advantage of last year, so I decided to try to go back there with some of the models from last year.
I did indeed go back this past weekend, but I had another photo event early last week thanks to a visit to New York from Johannsdottir, a model who I had worked with in her native Iceland on my trip to that country in 2014. She and I – along with one of her friends, Evyenia Karapolous – ventured out to meet Nadine, who had come with me on my trip to Iceland, and a day of photography with the three models followed.
For the event in the Woodstock area, I asked Erica Jay and BlueriverDream to join me, as they were with me there last year and had expressed an interest in making a return visit. I had also asked another model from last year’s event to join me, and though she agreed, she unfortunately had to drop out for personal reasons at the last minute.
It was therefore fortunate for me that Johannsdottir had also said yes to my invitation to come along. Besides being a very beautiful and very good model, she was making her first visit to New York, and I wanted her to see some of the beauty of the State of New York’s rural areas in addition to the urban sprawl of New York City.
As to how the trip went, we left Brooklyn on Friday morning and stopped to make some photos at a location north of the city. By the time we got there it was the middle of the day, and it was a sunny day at that. Contrary to what many people think, sunny days are not good for photography – at least, not for photographing models in a forest when the sun is high. I was fortunate enough to have some clouds block the sun for a while to create some soft, even light, but then the clouds basically disappeared and I could photograph no more.
The big day, however, was Saturday, when we went back early in the morning to last year’s location. I was able to work there for about three hours, moving past where I had gone last year but still leaving a lot of great spots to go back for another time.
As if that wasn’t enough, I decided to do something a little different and photograph in the hotel that night, where the expected (and some unexpected) hijinks of models having fun ensued.
Finally, on Sunday morning, we went out early to photograph at a waterfall that I had read about. Unfortunately, there was not a lot of water coming down to create a good cascade, so I was rather disappointed by what I found, though I did still shoot a couple of rolls of film.
Before I made the photos, however, another incident occurred: we saw a bear in the forest. It took me a while to see it after it had been spotted, but then there it was – a large, dark creature crossing the trail at a spot where we had been just minutes before. Then it was gone.
Still, it had its impact. It is one thing to read about the creatures inhabiting the woods, but it’s another to actually see something like a bear and come to the realization that we as people are not alone in nature’s realm. I don’t think a trip to the forest will ever be the same again.
Today is August 19. I remember what I was doing on this date last year – just as I remember what I was doing on this date 21 years ago.
On that earlier date, in 1995, I was at a workshop in Woodstock, New York, making my first art nude photographs. Last year on this date I was back at Woodstock with nine models and my good friend Dave Levingston to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the event. It was something that I had thought about doing for several years, and believe it or not, it actually happened!
I had thought of doing some photography today, too, but the schedules of the people I had hoped to work with wouldn’t permit it. However, I do have some photo sessions planned for the near future, so that will have to suffice.
As I have done for the past several years, beginning with my 15th anniversary, here is a selection of art nude photographs that I have made over the years, featuring one photograph from each year that I have photographed nudes.