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Why Blow-Up Is Still My Favorite Photography Film (even though it’s not really about photography)

I remember seeing the Michelangelo Antonioni film Blow-Up in a movie theatre back in 1967 just after its release. [1] I went with friends – we did this a lot in those days – Friday or Saturday night at the local theater in Chatsworth, California, right next to the same Mason Avenue Thrifty we visited every Thursday afternoon to scour the latest shipment of comic books. It never really mattered what was playing, we usually just went and saw what was showing. I am not even sure if I understood then what this film was really about. I saw it more as a mystery about a photographer (Thomas – played by David Hemmings) who thought he had witnessed and photographed a murder but was left without any proof of the crime when one of the subjects of these images (Jane – portrayed by Vanessa Redgrave), or her agents, broke into Thomas’ studio and stole the film, negatives, and all but one print. That last precious print is all that remains of the crime Thomas was convinced he had witnessed. Unable to convince anyone else without more, the remainder of film sees Thomas go through his own version of Five Steps of Grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) as he struggles to come to terms with this loss and the realization it brings. [2] Thomas and Jane [3] Read More

Irving Penn and Platinum Printing

Photographing a cake can be art, Irving Penn When I first took up photography and began to take it seriously, I was lucky enough to have included in the very first books I purchased (in addition to the usual how-to books on technique): 1) Stephen Shore’s Uncommon Places [8]; 2) Walker Evan’s American Photographs; [1]; and 3) Irving Penn’s Worlds in a Small Room [6]. Like the newly born bird who keeps close to those it first lays its eyes on, I have not (for better or worse) strayed too far from these early influences. My initial interest in Irving Penn was less about technique and more about subject matter; I found his images of indigenous peoples from many parts of the world fascinating and eye-opening to say the least. It also opened the door to much of his still life, fashion, and editorial work that he did later for the likes of Vogue. It was later on after developing my own interest in alternative/historical processes, and in particular, platinum and palladium printing, that I discovered that Irving Penn was one of the many photographers responsible for the resurgence in interest in these and other historical processes. Irving Penn, Truman Capote, 1965 [7] Read More