Friday, December 31, 2010

Codex Maleficarum - handmade book

I hadn't mentioned it here, but I spent some time working on a new handmade book.  Completely unrelated to my Alchemical book series, this is called Codex Maleficarum, a work regarding witches and witchcraft.  The title is a reference to earlier books on the subject, including Malleus Maleficarum (from the 15th century) and Compendium Maleficarum (from the 17th).  Continuing in this tradition, I've treated the material similarly by compiling information from other sources and editing it to fit my own beliefs and biases.

The book is 96 pages and hardbound (approximately 11x11 inches).  It includes quite a few original photographs from my series "Earth Magic" (most of which I've not shown publicly yet), along with text and images collected from numerous sources. 

Please forgive the varying quality of these snapshots.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

family and cameras

It's easy for photographers to get carried away talking about gear.  I've done it, despite all efforts not to.  Some people seem to like talking about their camera more than they like using it.  Having said that, I'm about to write about cameras here.

This was my Christmas gift from my parents.  It's a Hasselblad, a camera I never thought I'd own.  More importantly, it was my mom's. 

I've written before about how my mother was a professional photographer, and how I used to use her darkroom when I was a teenager.  There is a bit of camera gifting history in my family.  My mom got her first camera from her grandfather.  My parents gave me my first camera for Christmas when I was six years old.  Since then, at least five of the cameras I've owned have come through my parents, generally being passed down from my mom.  The rest of them were stolen in 2006 when someone broke into my apartment, a month after I moved to Chicago.

This particular camera was originally a gift from my dad to my mom.  Now it's mine.  I feel honored.  I can't wait to use it.


I may not be posting a lot of new images here, but that doesn't mean that I'm not busy.  I've finished quite a few things recently.  It's just not time to share them yet.

Monday, November 29, 2010

busy as usual

I've been spending more time in the woods, taking photographs for the "Earth Magic" series.  Wet plate collodion is a kind of ridiculous process - you have to coat the glass plate with collodion, make it light sensitive, shoot the photograph and develop it all within around ten minutes.  So I've been lugging a bunch of gear into the wilderness and processing things in a cardboard box.  One nice thing about this is having deer surround you - at one point as many as eleven were keeping an eye on me.

I've used a lot of unconventional darkrooms before, but this is the first time that I've heard birds singing while developing images.

Long time internet friend Gea* visited last week, and we finally met in person after being in touch for at least 8 years.  She went into the woods to witness the deer herself.  I'm not sure, but she may have also taken a snapshot of me rolling around in a cardboard box on the ground, developing glass plates.

I'm still working on the "Symbiosis" series, and it's coming along very well.  A few rolls of film were shot last night.  I'm thinking that the series will be done before too long, though I know better than to assume too much.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

the things that I've been working on

*After 9 months of tests and studies, I've finally finished the first wave of images in the Symbiosis series.  Acrylic over small color prints.

*More wet plate photographs in the woods for "Earth Magic."  I've been in a lot of darkrooms over the years, but it's an entirely different experience to develop images in a cardboard box while birds sing and deer are staring at you.

*Started a new handmade book.  Not a part of the gigantic alchemical book series.  More information soon.

Also, received my copies of the Ural Umbo lp "Fog Tapes."  It's a wonderful album, and the packaging with my photography turned out very nice.  You can order the record here:

Monday, October 18, 2010

wet plate witchcraft in the woods

Yesterday I hauled a ridiculous amount of equipment and chemistry into a wooded area so that I could take some wet plate photographs for the "Earth Magic" series.  This involved me going across town with an 8x10 camera, tripod and other heavy and cumbersome gear.

And a cardboard box, to serve as a makeshift darkroom.

Things came along surprisingly well and I was able to take a lot of photographs without any major mishaps.  Not bad, considering it was my first time doing wet plates without the safety of running water or a nearby darkroom.  The location was beautiful and perfect for the photographs.  If you ignore the gang of ten year old boys on bicycles.

On the way home I realized that I'd officially made the transition into "functional hobo":  a pushcart loaded with bags and a cardboard box, hands blackened from a run-in with the silver nitrate bath that the plates are dipped in, and a container full of wine and alcohol bottles (used to hold chemistry).  Maybe I should make an attempt to look a little less sketchy next time.

I'll post some images from yesterday soon.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

starting over (again)

After much work on the most recent incarnation of the Symbiosis series, I decided to start over.  Again.  I've lost track of how many incarnations there have been in the past 8 months.  There have been 11x14 photographs with oil pastels, 4x6 foot collages on unstretched canvas with oil paint, 11x14 photographs with oil paint and 16x20 photographs with acrylic paint.

On Wednesday I photographed artist Steven Johnson Leyba.  Wet plate portraits.  He was in town for an exhibition he was in.  We've been friends for around a decade and have worked on collaborations a few times in the past.  I'll post images as soon as I'm able to print them.

Later on Wednesday, I took more color photographs for the Symbiosis series (which, to be honest, I'm thinking I need to re-name).  On Friday I got into the color darkroom to make test prints, then did some quick painting with acrylics.  I'm very happy with how they're turning out so far.  A very different feel.
I'm thinking that I'm going to keep them small.  Intimate.

Tonight Jane and I are planning on seeing Wolvserpent and Locrian.  Last summer I photographed Locrian in anticipation of their upcoming release on Utech Records, "The Crystal World." 

Look at the Utech website to see Justin Bartlett's great cover artwork for "The Crystal World."

Monday, September 27, 2010


I've been working on the "Symbiosis" series for around nine months now.  I believe that I've been through seven sets of tests/studies.  I was very excited about the most recent, but after putting them on the wall and looking at them objectively I've decided that I can do even better.  So I'm starting over - a few more rolls of film this week, another couple of rounds in the color darkroom and more time hunched over prints with a paintbrush.

In other news, my photographs grace the new record by Ural Umbo.  This is going to be a great release.

Information on Hammer Smashed Sound.

I've also been working on some other design projects.  Planning some things.  Coming up with new ideas but trying not to get ahead of myself.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sunday, September 19, 2010

painting progress

Retouching color photographs the old fashioned way.

No, I'm not using an easel.  In fact, it's startling that I'm not doing this while laying on the ground.  Maybe I'm finally growing up.

The first few images in the Symbiosis series are coming along quite nicely.  I've also been attempting to design an album cover for an old friend's music project.

Autumn has begun to settle in here in Chicago.  It made me panic a bit, as I haven't been able to finish nearly as much of the Earth Magic series as I'd like, and since the wet plate process favors natural sunlight it seems that I should get to work immediately before the city is covered in snow.  I started to worry the other day, but it is supposedly my "witch" series.  Jane reminded me that Autumn is most definitely the "season of the witch."  Still, I'd better to to work right away.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Every once in a while I'm reminded how much computers destroy artwork.

I toned some prints from the "Earth Magic" series.  I always do this, as it makes them more archivally stable and enhances the blacks.  Looking back over the prints I was reminded how much is lost when artwork (even photographs) are viewed on a computer monitor. 

Sunday I was going to take more photographs for this series, but scheduling didn't work out.  I stayed at home and painted some things for the "Symbiosis" series.  Last night involved more painting.  There are currently three pieces I'm working on simultaneously.  I'm being secretive with these, but I'll post some images when I feel like the time is right.

An interesting thing happens when working on two projects at once.  When I make a lot of progress on one series, instead of being content I kick myself for not getting more done on the other.  It's a good thing though, keeping me motivated.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

tapes, painting, etc.

Three days ago I started painting on the final "Symbiosis" prints.  I've made a good amount of progress on two of them so far.  I don't know why, but I started using an egg carton as a palette.
It was so hot out that my paints were drying up almost immediately.  A bit of a struggle.  The second time this week that I've had to adjust things due to the heat.

Playing with cassette recorders.  Two tapes + a pedal or two, turning a bass guitar into a murky rumbling drone.  Was it what I wanted?  I haven't decided yet.

Also:  my new custom box for sensitizing wet plates.  Bad photo.  But it's opaque black acrylic.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

productive times

I've been able to get a lot done over the past few days.

On Friday I had the opportunity to go through a deceased man's photo estate.  Then I acquired a power supply for my second 4-track cassette recorder (which I got for free from a yard sale in the neighborhood).  I played around with listening to some of my older recordings simultaneously while making dinner.  Talk of a new music project.  Kicking around some ideas.

On Saturday I was able to get into the color darkroom to print the full sized 16x20 photographs for the "Symbiosis" series.  I got impatient and worked on two different photographs simulatenously on two separate enlargers.  Here is one stage of my printing notes:

This got considerably more hectic shortly after this was taken.

I was able to get great prints of the first four images for this series.  I'm very excited to get started painting on them.

This morning Jane and I woke up and had some iced coffee, then I set things up to take wet plate photographs.  We took several photos with the "Earth Magic" series in mind (which I've been offhandedly calling my "witch" series).  The first couple of images were a bit foggy until I realized that I needed to modify my chemistry to fit the hot weather here.

Then Jane put on her new dress that she got last weekend.  She didn't even realize until later that it's covered in witches.  Synchronicity!

Well, maybe they're just ladies harvesting things.  But still - check out those pointy hats!

When using the wet plate collodion process, you get to use all kinds of fun chemicals.  One of them is silver nitrate, which makes your glass plate sensitive to light.  If you don't wear gloves, you get black fingers.  So I have black fingers.

Cel phone photo taken while thinking of a better photograph from the past.  I think it was Edward Weston holding hands with one of his lady partners.  The identities were blurry at first, until you realized that what first appeared to be nail polish was actually his (Weston's?) fingernails stained black from developing prints in amidol.  Does anyone know of this photograph?  I can't find it anywhere.  Anyhow, this is my and Jane's hands after taking photographs in the kitchen.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

finally using this thing

I've decided to finally start using this journal.  I realized that I've been working on multiple projects at once, and maybe I should document the process.  I'm assuming that there are some people out there who would like to follow my progress, and I wouldn't mind documenting these things for myself. 

The two main projects that I've been working on lately are "Symbiosis" and "Earth Magic."  "Symbiosis" is a mixed media color series that I've been planning for over six months now.  I've made multiple series of tests/studies while making a three page-long list worth of influences and references.  Some of these studies are on my website ( or on my Facebook page.

The other series that I've been working on is "Earth Magic," which I'm photographing with the wet plate collodion process.  Examples of this series can also be seen on the two above links.

My girlfriend Jane has been fighting strep throat.  So last night we watched a movie that was so bad that it was vastly improved by watching it again at half speed.  I would highly recommend this approach to redeeming terrible cinema.  Then I painted on some of my proof sheets while she attacked some reading homework.  She would tell me about things she was reading (regarding the history of the library system) while I painted on tiny photographs.

Today when I got home from work, more painting.  I think that this might officially constitute the fifth series of studies for Symbiosis.

This weekend I hope to get into the color darkroom to print the full 16x20 images for this series, as well as take new photographs for "Earth Magic."

Friday, August 20, 2010


It was pointed out to me that I originally posted an incorrect link to my new artist interview blog. 
The correct link to Transmute is:

There are several interviews up now, with several more coming soon.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Transmute - artist interview blog

I've started a new blog where I give artists a list of standard questions. Inside the minds of artists that I think are worth paying attention to.


The first artist to be interviewed is Terence Hannum, Chicago based visual and audio artist.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Earth Magic (#2)

Darkroom print from glass plate negative. A darkroom accident led to the shattering of this negative, leaving me with only 4 available prints. I am signing and numbering these as an edition and offering 3 of them for sale (reserving one for exhibition). # 1/4 is already spoken for. Please contact me if you are interested in one of the other two prints available.

And.. join my Facebook group:

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

interview / feature

I have an interview and feature in the online magazine N-Sphere, and a gallery on the Spheres website which includes new work. Take a look!

The Spheres