Tag Archives: sumatra


i am involved with a project with a few other photographers in rhode island …  the providence grid project. it was thought of by a photographer named paul shelasky. together withwarren eve, erik gould and me, we are photographing providence and its outskirts 1 square mile at a time. paul emails us a piece of map and we photograph what is there, or what isn’t there, people, place, things.

my last square was near india point park, including north main street. the bridge is no longer there and i took a series of images and this is what i got.

they are scans for now, but hopefully, like the other sets of series i have recently done, they will end up as prints.

providence from north main street, no bridge

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occupasusatuxet cove ( paswonquitte )

behind where i live is the cove
the real name for it is occupasusatuxet cove ( paswonquitte )
which means  -small cove on tidewater –
it is an inlet on narragansett bay.
low tide it is a mudflat, high tide …
salt marsh and thatch
some say you can see the ribs of boats run aground
i didn’t see much low or high tide ..
i walked through the thick briars and followed the stream where the large turtles climb up.
the grass was thick and wet
and the water was high

this is from a developing series
multiple images using a 4×5 box camera
( and eventually other things )
printed and presented together.
this groups is both tmx and tmy processed in coffee, in a tray .. all 16 views.

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i have been spending more time at chepiwanoxet island these days.
years ago it was an island, but when the gaulidette airplane factory was
there, they trucked in dirt and linked it to the cove. no one knows
what chepiwanoxet means. i have an old dictionary of new england place names
and their english translations and it refers to chepiwanoxet island as “devil’s island”.
a few years ago i spoke with a elder of the narragansetts and when i mentioned that name
he got very upset. he said if i wanted a clue to the island name’s meaning
go in the morning or evening, and look to the north, south, east and west,
and maybe i would learn from experiencing.

the other day i was there with my box camera, i walked and listened, i walked and looked.
these views are what i felt and saw when i was there. the bay was quiet,
and silently lapped the shoreline. the wind blew through the weeds and tall grass.
i saw potowomut ( land of fire ), and cowesset ( place of the small pines )
and everything was still.

i also have a copy of the dictionary roger williams created
so he could learn the narragansett language.
if offers some clues too, but spellings are different.
chépewess means a northern storme of war,
chepassotam mean dead sachim
and chepasquaw means dead woman …

maybe if it was the place of a fierce battle, or where many people may have died
or a place where one could be touched by the spirit world.
it seemed quiet and offered a place of reflection when i was there.

i plan on going back sometimes soon, maybe my camera will help me
learn the true meaning …


the sea was quiet and wind was whispering
the birds didn’t see me as they sunned
i walked the shoreline, scattered with the
remnants of staples and airplanes
and looked across to the other side

looking north south east and west

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paper, coffee glass and the sun

it is a long story but i will try to make it short  …

we returned from the mountains a few days ago, and i went into the darkroom soon after we got home.  i coated some paper with photo emulsion,
nothing i made myself, i haven’t done that since i was a university student,  it was emulsion from a bottle.  i coated 6 sheets of drawing paper some with emulsion that a scientist gave me, and some with some emulsion i had been saving, half used stored on a shelf for about 15 years.  i rummaged through my paper safe for a piece of glass and i coated it with some of the 15 year old emulsion as well.

i filled a 5 quart container with hot water from the tap, and got a plastic beaker and filled that too.  into the beaker the bottle went, and into the hot water the beaker went.  i got the paper ready and looked at the glass.  the glass was coated about 15 years ago, but i never did anything with it, so it just aged in the darkness of the paper safe waiting to be used.  the scientist’s emulsion was liquid by now, or part liquid, so i poured some out on the paper, and dragged a glass rod over it, one way and then back again.   the paper dried on the line.  i did this 2 more times and then did the same thing with the 15year old bottle.  while the papers hung to dry, i poured some of the emulsion into a wide jar that used to have cheese.  it was runny cheese so i thought it would be perfect to put runny emulsion in, so i did.
i got the hake brush and coated the plate with the emulsion.  two or three times until there was nothing left in the jar, and then i used the blow dryer and heated the glass.  it was dark outside so i could leave without worry the light outside would fog my paper or glass.

a few days before i made some photograms.  i used some outdated ( it really never is outdated ) azo paper, and materials i fashioned into small things and put it on the paper, and then a light.  i put the papers in coffee developer, and watched the paper go from white to dark in about 4 minutes.  they washed and dried overnight.

a day or two later i looked for something to print one of the photograms on, and i rummaged through the paper safe and found a piece of paper i had coated with emulsion maybe 15 years before, i had forgotten about it.  the emulsion gets better with age so i printed the image onto it and it looked great.  i took the newly made and dried paper and put it into the paper safe, i figured i wouldn’t forget it was there.  and i took the glass and put it into an envelope and a box.  i looked for a camera it would work with, but since the glass was about 4×6 it wasn’t going to be easy, i don’t have 4×6 cameras, only 4×5 …  so i used a camera i made last fall.  it is a 4×5 camera with a glass lens and hand made paper holders.  i set the camera up, and focused.  i took the glass out in the daylight and loaded it into the paper holder and left the camera open for 4 hours.

i took the glass out and  brought it to the scanner to see what the camera had recorded.  these sorts of images are singular.  they can’t be fixed or developed, or they will vanish or turn black, and they can’t be printed because the intense light will turn them grey and dark, so

i scan them.


















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more work from the graflex 3A

at the beginning of this year i bought a graflex 3A.  i wasn’t quite sure what i was going to do with it …

the shutter was old and finicky, and while i had been in touch with a graflex guru to rehabilitate the camera, i opted not to use the shutter at all.  the camera originally took 122A roll film that was more than 3″ in width, and included a special backing to write notes on the edge of the negative ( it is an “autographic” camera ).  some people convert these cameras to use 120 format film, which is about 2.5″ wide but without a working shutter i opted to use the camera only for shooting paper negatives.  i have been working with paper instead of film for years with large format cameras (4×5, 5×7, 8×10, 11×14).  the format of this camera is 3.25×5.5 ”
and i love the long rectangular format so this was going to be fun.

at first i put single sheets of 5×7 paper in the camera, it made a beautiful exposure centered on the 5×7 paper, and this would work well if i didn’t need to make more than one exposure at a time, or i had a way to exchange exposed paper for unexposed paper.   i scavenged a second film spool from another 3A camera i have, and i experimented to find the best way to make long rolls of paper.  first i rolled fiber paper.  i had a lot of wasted paper, and the emulsion tends to crack when cold or bent, so i soon  realized this wasn’t the best choice.  i found a box of old 8×10 resin coated paper and cut pieces in half.  they were perfect for the spools.  i took tape and connected 4 sheets of sliced paper end to end and then wound the paper onto a spool.  i taped the end  and left the paper for another day.  leaving it wound up gave a “memory” to the paper so it wouldn’t readily unwind itself in the camera.

i eventually put the spool of paper in the camera and taped the end to the receiving spool and closed the back.  there was no backing paper with numbers on it to remind me where to stop winding, so i just winged-it.  2.5 full revolutions seemed to be OK.  made a lens cap out of tape and cardboard and put it on the front of the lens and was ready to make some exposures.  the system worked well, and i have shot 2 rolls of paper so far.

after the paper is done, i go back to the darkroom and turn on the red light.  i unwind the paper from the receiving spool and put each sheet in a warm water bath to relax the curl.  then i put them one at a time in a 3.5 gallon container filled with used coffee developer i have run film through.  the coffee developer works great with paper negatives.  it is low contrast and slow.  the images appear at around 2 minutes and finish developing at about 4 minutes.

the images scan well, and print beautifully as contact prints.

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5th batch, made the coffee, drank the coffee then processed the film in it.

if you ever go to apug.org, you have read this already.

a few nights ago it was cold, batch 5 was cooked up and roasted to a not light, and not dark color.
it slept overnight in a glass jar, i think it once was a jelly jar, it was there so i used it.
i grabbed my mortar and pestle and threw a few beans in, then a few more and i began to crush them.
i realized from my first batch, that the fewer the beans the easier it is to crush them
so i took my time and threw a few beans at a time and pulverized them so they were probably a fine grind
if i were to judge by a burr grinder.
the powder was dumped out into a small tray and i added a few more beans.
they cracked and jumped out sometimes, they were hard and brittle.
i had been “trained” for many years to believe robusta beans were not very good
i was told they smelled bad when they were roasted, and the caffeine was harsh and jittery.

i looked at the beans as they powdered up and they didn’t look too bad.
they didn’t smell bad when they roasted either, but still i had to wonder how they were going to taste.

i was told by my bean-guy, a local master coffee roaster and all around guru they were from sumatra
and the people who were drinking it 4 or 5 years ago, well they never complained.
so at least these old, stale dry brittle beans had something going for them, besides working great as a film developer

i looked for my jezvah and threw a few teaspoons in.
i used to always drink turkish/greek/armenian/near eastern coffee and i love the process.

the stove was on and the powder hissed as it dried out a little bit on the.
i added the water, and waited.
i stirred a little
i waited some more.

slowly the bubbles formed and it rose the first time
i removed it from the heat and thought, 2 more times ..

the second time …

and the third time came and went as the other two.

i took the jezvah off the burner and let it sit while i sought a small cup and its saucer.
i poured it in and it smelled delicious.
i put a half teaspoon of sugar in it and stirred.

some people add as much sugar as coffee when they cook it.
i usually drink my coffee black but i was living it up so why not …

first i smelled it as it steamed.
floral, sweet earthy

i closed my eyes and took my first sip.

it was as delicious as it smelled.

when i was done, i photographed the jezvah, and turned the cup upside down to read it.
i turned it 3times and popped it from the plate.
thumbprint on the bottom and i looked
and looked and this is what i saw …

hills and mountains
birds flying over head
and the sun.

i put my jacket on an with the strength of 10 men, i shoveled some more of the driveway.
the birds flew overhead
as i moved mountains in the sun.

later, i spooled my film and it too drank from the same roast.
this is what it told me.













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5th batch, inside

tonight i decided to roast the beans on the stove, window open in a wok.
it was cold and snowy outside, so i opened the window and put the fan on.
the beans are old, so a lot of the moisture has left them, and as i roasted them,
i noticed some roasting faster than others.  i roasted-on …

first crack, second crack …

they are brown, dark brown,not black and carbonized.
when i have some film to process i will see how it works.

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4th batch

4th batch of coffee roasted

i am still using a hot plate and a pie tin, but i am thinking of buying a cast iron skillet or a wok to make my life a little easier.  the batch was roasted dark and carbonized.  i ground it up and brewed 12cups in the perk, and after a day or so i added the other ingredients for the developer.  it was cold when i mixed it so i had to make a water jacket to raise its temperature.  i filled a plastic bin with water and while i put the film on the metal reels, the coffee slowly got to usable temperature.

i poured water in the cylinders to wash off the backing on the film.  and after a few minutes poured the inky water out and the coffee in.  after 25-30 minutes i fixed the film and washed it, and hung it to dry.

i used kodak plus x and fuji across 100


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