“Photography As ART” script shows how James creates his art using only light, camera, and optics, in addition to considerable logistical planning, technical experimentation, patience and dedication.
Major themes for creating a series of photographs can take months and years, but the creative search never ends. James always carries a camera and after “Aliens” looked to cellos, rose pedals and fallen leaves for inspiration, but where to take his art from here?
These shots were taken by Edgartown Pond on eight valuable acres I heard my Muse inherited from her grandmother. It included a small five-room rectangular single-story house where she lived. Its plain white shingled exterior covered an interior decorated in an eclectic color palette.
CUT to slow scans though zooms, pans and tilts of several less than fully successful versions from DOUBLE VISION. (Consider Double Vision music.)
This setting inspired DOUBLE VISION series.
I wanted to play with the idea of seeing double. In the following months I went about making my Muse, Cleveland, identical or fraternal twins in different scenarios, by taking two exposures on one-single piece of film. It was another way to explore different ways to tell stories visually, and each of the five rooms provided a setting for a visual story.
The first piece, ROOM OF BLUES, was created with the idea of the twin Muses waking in the morning after an evening slumber party with her twin self. To pull it off he had his View Camera suffer from ocular misalignment by using an external shutter, or one that was outside of the camera.
I built this external shutter after taking the ROOM OF BLUES, but for this shot I took a razor to a large piece of black velvet paper, cut it in half, placed it about eight inches in front of the camera lens, and aligned the seam of the cut to the vertical edge of the bedpost. After setting the right aperture, which is a critical aspect for success, I flipped up one half of the black velvet and exposed the Muse lying on her bed. Then with the shutter re-set, I reversed the flip of the black velvet, asked the Muse to move to the chair, and took the second exposure. In this way, I combined two halves of the film, one with her on the bed and the other with her on the chair.
I understood how critical it was to use the correct lens aperture at the right distance from the black velvet shutter, but to have the left and the right sides match up so seamlessly may be the true testament to left-right brain collaboration. More likely that dedication leads to blind luck. I always tell admirers it’s unlikely to be repeatable.
CUT back and dissolve through the actually less successful (less than perfect) versions from DOUBLE VISION.
The external shutter I made never worked out as well, and some other themes, although fun, required conventional darkroom blending to complete. Some other experimental photographer to give it a shot to perfect.
James took another approach in the making of CELLO SCULPTURE, for which again he used the View Camera.
CUT to a photo of Image 64, the CELLO SCULPTURE, but show it with the window blacked out and extra light coming through from the left.
The first exposure was taken using natural light coming into the room from a window at left. This would illuminate the Muse playing her cello. Prior to pressing the shutter, the window just to the left of her was blocked with black velvet paper, therefor not exposing what was outside.
CUT to a short video of the View camera shutter being re-set. CUT to a photo of Image 64, the CELLO SCULPTURE, but show it with the window in the photo open to see through to the Muse as a sculpture, and the room now dark (not completely) with no light coming from the left. CUT back to Image 64, the photograph as completed.
After taking this pose the shutter was re-set. Then the black velvet paper on the viewable window was removed and placed on the window that had provided the light for the first exposure. In other words, the light illuminating the inside was now blocked, leaving the room in the dark. Only the scene outside was now visible. To create that scene, he had his Muse pose herself outside like a garden sculpture to be seen through the window, and took a second exposure.
This photograph called MAKING UP used a similar approach, only in this one, the mirror was blackened out with the foreground lit for the first exposure. The mirror was cleared and lighting reversed for the second exposure showing the Muse relaxing in the tub with her cup of tea on the side. This bathroom was very small and controlling the light was a challenge.
The last among four favorites from this series is PEEK-A- BOO. He usually makes several versions. The theme for these is sneaking a peek at yourself. It’s also descriptive of the voyeuristic aspect of photography.
CUT again exemplify, unless there’s another suggestion, by blackening the through the door back portion of the photograph, then in reverse keeping the back portion lite and darkening the front, DISSOLVE to the final selected PEEK-A-BOO.
The process was like that of CHELLO SCULPTURE. The exposure of the foreground of her peeking was lit by a window on the left side. That window’s light was then blocked to darken this room, and a door was now opened at left in the background red room. The table lamp was turned on, the Muse moved to the chair (that had been there even in the first exposure) and the second exposure was taken. In the end I selected this version. Love it!
THE END of Scene Ten