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Interview and Q&A session at the School of Visual Arts Theater

From: Jerry Uelsmann & Maggie Taylor: This is not photography

Video: Interview and Q&A session at the School of Visual Arts Theater

Speaker 1: So Maggie now that you're spending more time on the computer and, Are you, I'm asking how do you work with Serendipity.

Interview and Q&A session at the School of Visual Arts Theater

Speaker 1: So Maggie now that you're spending more time on the computer and, and I'm wondering like, sometimes on the computer, I mean I do a lot of work on the computer to, and you still work in the dark room. And I notice on the computers if I don't do something I like then Command + Z. And, and, you know? In the darker one, we made a. Well, I'm not saying you made mistakes, but when I made mistakes, I'd have to, like. Whoa. Was that dictal, or what? Why did that look good? I like it. And, so, I felt like somebody who's the darker mind could make mistakes and learn from them.

Are you, I'm asking how do you work with Serendipity. Maggie: Yeah, I mean, there are many, many times that I make mistakes turning layers on and off, but it turns out to be a good thing, you know, you're clicking something, you have many, many layers already scanned in, and adjustment layers, and hue and saturation, and all these kind of things, and when I'm turning the little visibility icons on and off. I'll see something, I'll think, Oh, I never even thought about this as a blue night time image, or something like that. So, I like that and I try to work kind of fluently and quickly and I'm comfortable enough with Photoshop that I can do that.

And you just never know what you'll see, you have to sort of keep your mind open to it. Speaker 1: Right. Jerry: But ul, ultimately of course, you have to make decisions. I always say, when I've had, been involved with Photoshop people is, you know, say something good about Photoshop, it gives you an immense number of visual options. Say something bad about Photoshop, it gives you an immense number of visual options, you know. The, the point, in, in my process, which is maybe more limited options, it's still this ongoing questioning thing, and, you know, there's always a notion of when are you done? But you almost always have to go too far, where you suddenly realize, that this is in, in any significant way altering the image if I do this next step and then you back off and, you know.

But I, I do think, you know, one of the reasons I really love art is it cannot afford compromise, you know, why would you compromise on this thing you're creating? Now, people that work commercially, obviously they have to please a client but we're ultimately trying to, you know, please ourselves and find an image that resonates with us in some way. And in many cases, finding images that sustain their ministry for us that we don't know, you know, where did this come from or how did this happen an exciting phenomena to, to occur.

Speaker 1: Right now, we saw how you worked in the dark room. I thought Scott and David that being able to watch the processing, I mean for real, was really. Jerry: Amazing, under those dim lights. Speaker 1: Yeah, I mean were those prints real. Maggie: Totally real. Jerry: Yeah, they were real prints. Speaker 1: I thought that was amazing. Jerry: Those profiles where you saw the chins. Those were not real. Maggie: That was added after. Jerry: That was added. Oh, god. I hate that. Speaker 1: So I'm, so I'm imagining, you know, because the way you've set up your large and all that, you work on one image at a time until it's done.

Jerry: Right, right. Speaker 1: So I was wondering. Do you work on one image? Or do you sort of, go to this, go to that? Maggie: I work on like three to five images at a time it seems like. I don't set a particular limit but, if I'm just working on one thing I can get kind of bored with it. And so I'd rather work on one and then maybe the next day work on another one for a little while. And usually one is closer to being done, but another one or two are coming along or just starting out. It kind of works okay. And then if you have a deadline, you suddenly have a show you have, then those, like all five of those need to be done by four weeks from today sort of thing.

But I usually work on a like I'm one of those people that even in school did everything way early. I never stayed up all night for anything. So. Jerry: No. Maggie: I work in a long time frame and I know like the next show I have to have something for right now is January 12th or something, mid January. And I'm already kind of planning when I would need to be making proof prints and look at finishing things up. Speaker 1: All right. Now you mentioned prints, but you make all your own prints. Right? For the show? Maggie: Yes. Yes, since 2003 I've made all my own prints I used to work with someone else a long time ago in the very beginning when Iris Prints were still a thing like in 1997 or so, I worked with someone else, but I love having my own printer because I change my mind so much, so I, I need to be able to go back and tweak and change things up until the very end.

Speaker 1: Now, that's an interesting point. I mean, when you see things on the computer. I don't mean column management and things, but when you make the physical print, is there a different experience for you? Maggie: Oh sure, and it's every. I mean, I'm calibrated and all those sort of technical things set up really well in terms of, and I do that all myself. But it, it, there is always something when you see the finished print that you think, hm, I didn't think that, that thing was going to appear so small, or so large or so, this or that. So, yeah.

The last thing I do at the end of working is, I try to plan it out so that I'll make a print at whatever stage I am working on something, if I have something that's close enough to being done. Then I bring it over, one or two different- Maggie: - Versions of it and I put it on the kitchen counter while I'm cooking dinner. So then Jerry comes in and he can at least. Jerry: Well,. Maggie: He's forced to look at them then. He could give me some commentary on them. Jerry: But the, no, but the reality is, I said this many times, like when I'm, spent a long day in a darkroom, when I come out of the darkroom, I want my mother there. Oh, Jerry, that's so good, you know something like.

It's a, but the next day, I mean you've, you had this cognitive dissonance because you've spent so much time and energy creating this thing, there's a point in which you think it has to be good. And it's only after a day or two that you can go back and evaluate it and see how well, maybe if I change this it will work better or there's other little considerations you didn't think of at the time. Speaker 4: I saw that you were using negatives, but there wasn't any information regarding what size negatives you actually use? Jerry: I actually, we, well I used to tell people I loved shooting with the 35 millimeters camera.

But I always wanted a 35 millimeters camera that when you processed the film it swelled up to 4 by 5. Jerry: So my compromise is I use a 120 size film then a six, seven or six, nine format. Right now I'm shooting primarily with a Mamiya 7, and I still have an old bronic I use when I'm shooting stuff on the light table. I, I the 120 size film you know, properly process gives you excellent grain. I, you know, I was raised with this system and all this, and I want technically my prints to have the tonal range of like, Ansel Adams and.

But roll film for me, is the way to go. But I am jealous, when I'm with Maggie, and we go to the different places every ten shots, I was photographing in a separate parking, and I have to stop, and change the film, and all this. And you know, she's got this little camera going like this and so, she's only have 200 pictures left and, like, give me a break, huh? Oh, God. Speaker 5: I originally came to your work through Minor White. Jerry: Mm-hm. Speaker 5: And I'm wondering if you could talk a little bit more about working with him and. Jerry: Yeah. Speaker 5: It seems like you got both Jerry: Well, I, I hit him at a key time.

He, you know they hire them at the east and has back in 53 or 54, and then RIT was going from the two year to a four year program. And suddenly, you had this guy there who, one of our textbooks was then on the art of archery, you know its like, I mean it was just from another, different zone. At the same time, yet had such great respect for the man because he was so sensitive to things and so open in ways of viewing photography but the idea that you know, an image could function metaphorically, I mean the idea that you could make images for very personal reasons.

I mean these were concepts that were not widely being promoted in that time period, and, you know, I always felt that Minor, even though in a way we were very different, he was so kind to me when I'd ask these questions. I mention on thing, how when the spirit came down, he's showing some sequence, you know he would try to talk about these things that now I understand. I mean the, the, but he planted the seed for you, thinking about these things, you know, differently this, this assignment, doorways of ominous portent to this day, when I see some strange doorway to a place that's dark, I don't know how I'm ever going to use it, but you know, I photograph there was the door and the rock and, and I, I've used it, and it's like in an assignment I had when I was a.

You know an undergrad's a student under a minor I could talk a lot about him but he was a very, you know, I, I, I've credited these people in almost all my books because, I feel like I had teachers who in essence answered my questions with more interesting questions and you all hopefully have this I mean. Chance favors a prepared mind, and you intersect with these people and they, you know, expand your view of what the possibilities are. I have all along, you know, met people when I was a graduate student, Henry Holmes Smith had fought with Holy Nash up in Chicago, and you know, he was, he made images by pouring syrup on glass and refracting, refracting light through it.

You know, photo paper and you know, to see these people that you respect doing things that were radically than what was the norm. Really just you know, I don't know gave me the freedom, permission to you know, do some of the things that I do. And some, it's not dealt with on this film, but when I do talk about my work one of the things that happened with the miner White when he died a friend told me this, it's a longer story so I'll try to shorten it, but his last spoken words was there was a small boat waiting for him.

He was in the hospital. And from that I then made a homage to miner where I have an image where this small boat occurs and this happened at a lecture I gave in 1982 in Boston. But anyway, the small boat then has become for me a personal metaphor for a spiritual journey. So to this day, even when I sit in Central Park. Where they're doing the little sailboats. You know, there is the toy. I mean, I photographed some with reflections of the city. I don't know how I'll use it, but again, that fits into a theme that evolved over a period of time.

Speaker 6: And just a question, I guess, for Maggie. Do you consider transforming or trying to use the essence of a film stock? That you may have used earlier. Maggie: That's a good question and I think initially when I was first studying photography, I was working in black and white and I remember the very day someone told me that they will let me work in a color dark room, I was so thrilled I just felt freed by that because I was much more interested in color,. And I always felt very limited by the black and white.

So when I worked with color, I used color negative film, four by five Fuji, Fuji color negative film, and I do think that there is something about this sort of jeweled tones especially of greens and blues that would come out in that film. That to this day filters into my preferred color palette in some way. Is that kind of what you're thinking of? Speaker 6: Yes. Maggie: Yeah. So, I do think that there's a way that the type of color that the camera in that particular Fuji film saw has stayed in my mind and affects me and I find myself making adjustments to the images now digitally.

That do kind of relate to that. Speaker 7: I was wondering, how much time you guys spend working everyday and if you find it difficult to find a balance between making work and then being out and be inspired and you know, experiencing the world to make for work? Maggie: If we're at home, we basically spend all day, everyday doing something related to our work. Whether it's doing a little bit of desk work and then spending four or five hours working on a computer or Jerry spending six hours in the darkroom, that might be sort of typical.

But then when we travel, I can't be working on my images on the com, because I don't, my laptop can't deal with these big files. And he can't obviously be working, except shooting things. So it's, it is hard to find a balance and we're always happier when we are at home and we have a length of time that we can just be working. Speaker 8: I was just wondering, I'm really interested in how you two work together as, because in the film you see this great dynamic. How much of it is you working as an individual and how much do you guys grow and work together and what's that dynamic? Maggie: We tend to work more individually at first, and then when you're sort of midway through an image is when you want a little feedback.

Jerry: Yeah, right. Maggie: And generally we're not as receptive to the person's ideas really early on in working on something and if I find something and I say to him, This is a really cool little object, you should photograph it as a foreground. He'll say, no, I don't want to do that. Jerry: No, no way. It's the reverse. Maggie: And it's like. Jerry: Yeah. Maggie: The psychology of it seems to be resist and I resist this input at first and you have to kind of get 50% through working on an image and then you're receptive to, okay help me now. Jerry: Yeah. Speaker 1: All right. I want to thank Joe and Maggie for allowing us to not think about the hurricane or the Thank you very much.

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