Mark Hahn Photography

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Franka Rolfix Photos

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After cleaning and adjusting my 1940’s Franka Rolfix folding camera, I took it out for a spin in the alley behind my local Ace Hardware (where I had to stop and buy some household stuff). The camera is about as small and pocketable as you can make a 6x9cm folding camera and a real joy to hold and shoot. The popup optical viewfinder is pretty bright and pleasant to use for framing shots. A camera like this is best suited for scenic shots and not for close ups because of the viewfinder has no parallax correction and lacks any kind of focusing aid—IE. you have to guess your focus distance. The Prontor-S shutter in mine is very crisp and accurate, even though somewhat limited. The Schneider Kreuznach 1:4.5/105mm lens is a fine coated lens—nothing special, but not a bad performer anyway, especially when you take into account the huge negative you get out of the camera.

You only get 8 exposures from a roll of 120 film with this camera, which doesn’t seem like much, but on the other hand, it forces you into giving your shots a lot more thought before pushing the shutter release! Unlike shooting with an iPhone or digital camera in general, other than the cost per shot, there’s also just the labor required for processing the film (especially if like me, you are doing the developing yourself).

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While it has really been years since I’ve done traditional darkroom work, I still remember how much I hated getting behind with my negatives. For instance, when shooting 35mm film, just two long 36 exposure rolls sitting in your camera bag could represent many hours of work. Maybe I’m just lazy, but I prefer going into the darkroom and only working up a few good prints. My plan for 120 is to shoot maybe a roll every week or two and then make prints from the best shots only.

Making prints first turns everything I’ve been doing for the last 20 years on its head. With digital or scanned film before that, the internet ports were mainly my “product” and then getting prints to match my virtual images was a secondary challenge. Early on, I explored exotic and experimental archival b&w printing, and after that, while embracing the world of color photography, I gave up home printing altogether for the repeatability (and mediocrity) of using a pro lab. I can’t say I ever hung work in a gallery that I wasn’t proud of, but the prints were still secondary.

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The three example shots here are the result of my third attempt to reacquaint myself with working in a darkroom. It’s amazing how much you lose after twenty years of disuse. These are scans of carefully printed contact prints. I am very happy with the feeling and quality. A traditionally printed contact print has a much different—and dare I say, “special” —quality than a digital print.

After making these prints, I showed them to my son and his girlfriend. His girlfriend’s immediate reaction was, “Wow! Look at all the detail!” Kids these days see almost everything on the internet, their phones or maybe digital prints. The tonality and detail in a medium format chemical print is at whole different level (not really captured here!). I was happy to hear her reaction because otherwise I was doubting whether it was real or if it was just me romanticizing the history of film photography.

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The reason I’m only posting 3 prints from my first roll of film in this camera here is because the latch on the camera is a little touchy to ensure that it is locked and while out shooting and midway through the roll, the back swung wide open in full sunlight! I won’t let that happen again! I think I was lucky only have lost three exposures.

There was one additional image that I probably could have included, but I somehow didn’t really connect with it, so I left it out. There was only one “bad” shot and that was because it was slightly crooked! Commiting to full-frame contact prints means the shots have to be composed perfectly in the camera!

These were shot on Ilford FP4+ film, but I plan on transitioning to Fomapan because I cannot see the new light grey numbers on the Ilford film through the ruby window.

I’m shooting more film in this camera currently, and have another 120 6×9 roll waiting to be developed that I shot in my Moskva-5.

Minox Time

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After a lot of upheaval in my life, ultimately ending in a big move, I needed to go through a lot of things from my past. One of these was putting my small Minox camera collection together. Seen above are the cameras. There is a Minox IIIs (far right), Minox B (middle rear), Minox C (far left) and the smallest Minox EC (center front). In the back is a nice example the Minox 35 GL and the collectors mini Leica M3 with the accessory flash gun.

It’s been almost twenty years since I’ve shot any of these cameras, even though there was a period of time before that when I was a total fanatic. So after putting them all together and packing up my Minox darkroom setup, it got me thinking of getting back into them.

It’s somehow hard for me to get back into 35mm film photography since digital has actually become “better” than that film format in most real terms, but these submini format cameras offer something much different–even if a large part of it comes down just to a personal challenge.

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Aside from the very limited Minox EC which I shot a lot of “snapshots” with when my daughter was very young, the Minox IIIs (shown above) was always my favorite for serious shooting. It is the most basic mechanical camera and you need to either guess your exposures or use a separate meter. (I always preferred using the Sunny-16 rule for my outdoor exposures).

My mint in box Minox B has a selenium meter (reworked by DAG),  but it always seemed to be so inaccurate that I would end up using my own guesses over the meter all the time. As a camera, it is probably the pinnacle of classic Minox evolution (Minox sold more of these than any other camera), but I still prefer the IIIs.

The Minox C is technologically the most evolved camera with both electronic exposure control and the ability to EV correct your shots (not to mention only advancing the film if a shot had been taken!), but the camera is very large by Minox standards.

The smallest of the group is the EC. It has a sharp fixed focus f5.6 lens and takes good photos of any subject roughly 4.5-18 feet away. It also has automatic exposure control. It is a great snapshot camera. The viewfinder is reasonably sharp, but nowhere near the brilliance of the older cameras which all have lovely brightlines and sparkling crisp optics.

While Minox film and developing is still available in the USA at bluemooncamera.com (along with a lot of other ancient film formats). The problem of course is that the cost of the film and developing gets to be cost-prohibitive for most people–around $50 for one roll of film with the prints and shipping.

I made myself a film splitter for cutting down 35mm film to Minox width to reload my old Minox cartridges. By doing this, I get four 36 exposure Minox films out of one 36 exposure 35mm roll.

Back in the day, I was always searching for the “best” film to shoot in a Minox and mostly used the now discontinued Kodak Technical Pan Film and developed it in an exotic Photographer’s Formulary developer, but this go around, I’m sticking to the KISS approach (keep it simple stupid!) and have loaded by cartridges with Kodak Tmax 100 and plan on developing in Tmax developer. While probably a bit pedestrian, Tmax 100 is considered the finest grained standard B&W film ever produced. And the few times I shot this combination in a 35mm camera, I got excellent tonality.

With my trusty IIIs in my pocket, I’ve been out starting to shoot new photos with it. After shooting digital for so long, it feels a bit odd, but pleasantly nostalgic. Part of me has to answer the question of why start shooing this now? Other than the nostalgia and challenge, I think there is a materiality aspect to the whole process that is lost in digital. Even though I will only be making small prints from the tiny Minox cameras, they will be my prints. I will cut down the paper and develop the film and make the prints (using my original Minox enlarger).

Also, the process of shooting a true B&W film instead of converting a color digital image into B&W forces you to make different choices right from the beginning. It forces you to see things differently. In a sense, for those not color blind, it forces an immediate abstraction of reality before you even snap the shutter!

Anyway, this is my re-introduction into Minox B&W film photography. We’ll see how far I go with it!

A Philosophy on Typesetting and Using LaTeX

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While starting to work on my Salton Sea photo book, I had a decision to make. What tools should I use to create the book with? In the past, I’ve defaulted to either Microsoft Word or Libre Office. Like many people, this seems like the natural choice because, while most word processors are not ideal for book typesetting and layout, they do have all the rudimentary functions needed to produce a decent final product. Also, the myth is that if you are already familiar with a word processor, it shouldn’t be that much harder to figure out how to click all the right buttons to layout a simple book.

Well, from experience, let me tell you, “It isn’t that simple!” In their quest to make a do-everything package, word processor makers end up producing a product that is sub-optimal for almost everything it does! So many important things to the desktop publisher are buried three dialog boxes deep and have poorly documented side effects. This is where the whole what-you-see-is-what-you-get promise falls flat! So when I started to think about this book project, the idea of having to choose between my two word processors I let out a huge groan of anticipated dread!

When I was a young art student going to the Chicago Art Institute, I would often spend my afternoons at the downtown Main Chicago Library just going through all the stacks and I was always fascinated by the subtleties of good book design, typography and typesetting. So much so, that I took a few basic classes while pursuing my fine art. This was a time when computers were just starting to reach the masses so most of what I learned was old-school font development on vellum or Letraset dry-transfer lettering on illustration board.

While looking through all the example books to learn about typesetting, part of me imaged if I was ever going to make a living from my arts education, perhaps it would be as a typesetter in a major publishing house. I had a Dickenson fantasy of sitting in the dark at a drafting table and working into the night to get my layouts just right. Of course, being a young artist hoping to be catapulted into art-star fame, I never really pursued what it would entail to get into this profession (or any other for that matter!)

But that never stopped me from being interested in the craft or appreciating a well laid out book. For the most part, I think that a truly beautiful book layout seems transparent to the reader — where everything seems like it’s just in the right place and that it was really simple to put it that way. I belief that the content should be designed for impact and not the layout.

While both the Bauhaus and the Russian Constructivists showed in their early efforts to develop a new aesthetic and train artists to serve in art’s new societal function, it is more in their graphics where they really shined. Both movements produced book cover and poster designs that are still a marvel to look at today. But when it came to layout and typography for actual books, their new methods for laying out the content, while applying the same aesthetics to their work, ended up producing books where the layout actually gets in the way of delivering the content — being kind of at odds with the “form follows function” directive.

In his 1923 book, Towards an Architecture, Le Corbusier discusses the abandonment of style in favor of an architecture based on function and a new aesthetic based on pure form that facilitated a natural interaction between humans and buildings. His principles can be directly applied to the typesetting of books. Le Corbusier describes it as, “build[ing] simple, effective structures that serve their purpose and are honest in construction.” “Regulating Lines,” and constructing forms around naturally pleasing and simple ratios with little or no embellishment can lead to a beauty of a structure that transcends style or fads — and really, a book can be seen as a structure or construction.

While appreciating the simplicity of creating a professional looking document in any one of the current word processors, it always felt like a fight to me. Part of it was my approach, but this seems to be somewhat common. When working in a GUI world of the word processor, I have always tended to get all my content into the application and then try to navigate the multi-level dialog boxes to hammer the content into the form I wanted.

When I was recently complaining about this to a friend (who is currently working on his PhD and uses LaTeX all the time), he started raving about how I should go to LaTeX too. I had never really heard of the package or how it works, but as I said, I was dreading the inevitable journey to the center of the word processor hell and was open to any alternative.

As it ends up, LaTeX is more an open-source typesetting programming language than an actual software package and is rather daunting to get started with. But last week, I made the commitment to both learn it and produce my Salton Sea photo book using it. After a couple frustrating days while getting started, I’ve now completely constructed the entire structure of the book! It feels like a real achievement — the type of feeling that I never got after doing my best with a word processor.

Conceptually, I’m finding that using LaTeX drove a fundamental change in how I saw the typesetting process because it shifted the process away from formatting content to building a book structure that content could be ported into. To me, this is a huge difference, even if somewhat abstract in nature. Part of this was due the ability to use previsualized parameterization and control of all placement variables and formatting commands and the ability to outline them all out in a single text file. The second being the manner I chose to debug my template — using self-generated Lipsum (dummy text) and gray rectangular placeholders for images. This let me focus exclusively on the actual typesetting and layout completely independent of the content.

In a sense, going this route let me revisit the joy that I had looking at the typesetting and layout in those old Chicago Main Library books. The whole process has become addictive, fine-tuning my book’s layout and parametrically shifting elements by fractions of a centimeter until they’re perfectly balanced to my eye. My inner OCD spirit is completely enthralled by the project!

 

 

 

 

The Blurry Line Between Then and Now – My Work in Solar Culture Gallery

After helping my mom sell her house in Michigan, I drove her old station wagon from Detroit to Tucson. Since Detroit was my hometown and this time was probably the last time I would ever be there, it was wrought with emotions and the 2000 mile road trip by myself was time for reflection. Due to timing, I was unable to get anyone to make the trip with me so it was almost downright sad. Just me and my little Recording King parlor guitar. I had broken my phone somewhere a long the way and I ended up liking the blurry photos that came from the camera and its broken lens so most the photos I took along the way were shot with the phone.

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These are from the set of photos I’m using for the cover of my next music CD (Forever and Nowhere) which I wrote and recorded entirely on this trip — sitting at the edge of some bed in a nondescript motel in the middle of nowhere. After completing the final mixing mastering of the 10 song album, I’ve decided that even in its spareness and rawness that it is perhaps my favorite. It’s just me, a small guitar, trucks roaring by and single takes of songs written in my head while driving. I think the whole thing became very beautiful and hypnotic, the words, the music and the photos.

I am showing these three new photographs in the gallery:

Come see the show if you are in town!

Opening Saturday 18 February 2018

6-9 PM

Solar Culture Gallery is located at 31 East Toole Avenue, Tucson, AZ 85701

All images and content copyrighted 2018 by Mark Hahn with all rights reserved.

Black Cat Crossed My Path

I’ve been down this alley in Miami, AZ many times before. There’s something about the vitality of the structures here that are simultaneously at the edge of collapse while being completely beautiful and full of life that I find comforting. It is the kind of place where I can imagine finding some alternative dream life in and where I might make one of these buildings into my home?

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Then a feral black cat crossed my path. I am superstitious about nearly all random occurrences, but I’ve never thought of black cats as bringing bad luck. More than anything, I somehow always relate to them, thinking that if I had the opportunity to return in a different form, that my choice would be to come back as a cat. The black cat I saw, was a little female and very timid. She looked at me before scurrying off between some metal garbage cans and a brick building.

I thought that if I lived on this alley, that I’d feed this little cat. Maybe she’d get tame enough to let me pet her before she’d dash away into the night. Just a pleasant chance meeting. It’s funny how sometimes it’s just the smallest fleeting moments that make you smile and happy.

While the pressures and responsibilities of my real life weigh on me daily – parenting my three children and shouldering the financial responsibilities that goes with that – sometimes it’s just my ability of imagining some carefree alternative life that gets me through the week. Maybe, if I was just an odd-ball artist living in one of these old buildings, I would find peace. I was never cut out for the pressures and responsibilities I have taken on, but all I can do is the best I can while I keep moving forward.

At this point, I also wonder how I’d manage if the pressure were suddenly removed. Would it feel like freedom or would it leave me lost? You get so used to a constant load that you can’t imagine it being taken off you. Maybe it doesn’t matter. We all put ourselves where we’re at by our actions, either consciously or unconsciously.

I have a lot of friends talking about early-retirement, what they plan to do when they are free from their jobs and how they feel like they’ve already worked too much and need to quit it all. When they ask me what I’m planning, I have to just honestly say I have no idea what I’m going to do or when. I’m just getting by week by week. The only reason I had to get my “day-job” was because I had kids and afterwards, things went pretty wrong in my life — not that I’m complaining, but they did. My kids are everything to me and when I finally depart from this life, I want them remembering that I was always there for them, emotionally and financially. That’s what keeps me working.

Maybe that’s why it’s so important to let myself dream of alternatives. Give myself small mental holidays from the stress and pressure. Dream about living on the edge of society, in a dirty industrial brick space with a steal door on an alley like this one in Miami, AZ. Dream about being the weird/friendly artist/musician crazy-cat-man.

But maybe it’s not the actual escape that’s important, but the mental one. The times to live a daydream. Think about the unreality of some alternative life. Maybe that’s ultimately where art, music and writing comes in. It provides the structure for emotional and mental escape from the day to day. Maybe it’s the spirit’s way to create balance in ourselves. No matter what, I find ways to create. I’ve just sent out the final draft of my third photo/essay book, From the Inside – The Forest Haven Asylum, which should be released shortly. I’m also working on the final production of my sixth full length music CD, Drive All Night, and I have numerous other creative projects in the works. Maybe it’s not about how good your life is, but how good the escape is. Maybe art is better when it’s the escape and not your life. I really don’t know any of this…

But as I watched this little black feral cat disappear between the trash cans, part of my inner spirit went with her. Part of me dreamed of being that little cat. Experiencing that total freedom. Another part of me appreciated that I could just experience seeing her and think about how it would be to be free.

And just because everything always connects… here’s a recent song I recorded about a lost cat:

Forest Haven Asylum – Solar Culture Gallery

forest_haven_small-3Opening Saturday 10 June 2017

6-9 PM

I think I needed some time before I could go back and do something with my photos from the Forest Haven Asylum. We spent three solid and intense days in the abandoned asylum and I took over a thousand photos. My goal was never to create a body of work that would shock or horrify the viewer, even though the facility had a brutal history and aspects of it are and were horrifying, but for me as an artist, I used the experience as a way to explore my own emotions though photography in a place where the archaeology could be used to transcend its past as well as my own past.

I have been immersing myself in this set of photos because I am very near to completely my photo/essay book project. While I’ll announce when the book is published here, I will say that I am happy with the final 120 photos that will be included and with my introductory essay. The experience of being here is one of those that I will never forget for many reasons.

I am showing these three new photographs in the gallery:

Come see the show if you are in town!

Solar Culture Gallery is located at 31 East Toole Avenue, Tucson, AZ 85701

All images and content copyrighted 2017 by Mark Hahn with all rights reserved.

The Possibilities are Endless – Benson, AZ

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The sun was going down on Benson when we stumbled on this little row of very old houses just beyond the railroad tracks that cut through town. It was impossible to tell if they were being torn down or being prepared for restoration. There were burned out foundations on the block and a pile of adobe bricks which looked like it had previously been a house. I shot off these photos in around ten minutes while the light held out.

Even though a few of the houses were wide open and we could easily have walked in, there was a cop circling around watching us and it was too dark inside to take photos anyway. I looked in some of the broken windows at the dark rooms inside and kind of liked being on the outside looking in, in a sense, it lent an abstract aspect of infinite possibilities for me. Of the shadowed interiors, I let my mind wander on what they could be.

As a structure, an old house can stir a feeling of new beginning or a place where you can write a fantasy destination onto the end of your life. New rooms and new situations can be found in the corners or shadows in these old houses. Perhaps, there is place where all the struggles and memories we’ve stored up in our minds can find a place to rest with us in one of these houses.

Houses all have their own personality. It comes from the basic architecture of the structure, the lives they’ve lead and the spirits who still linger — call them ghosts or whatever term you chose. My feeling for these houses were all very positive and I could imagine myself living happily in any of the smaller ones pictured. They’re only one block away from the locally owned ice cream parlor! The possibilities of finding a new life here would be endless. Those are good thoughts!

 

Winding Our Way Out of 2016

It’s the end of 2016. I keep hearing, “Now that everything has changed” and “I’m so glad this year has finally come to an end.” I turned off my phone and TV and NPR and headed out into the vast outback between Tucson and Phoenix, a space blanketed with epic landscapes carved by the ravages of nature and those of humankind. Most of the small towns — dots on the map really where clusters of trailers are strewn into small valleys — are inhabited by miners and fed by the local economies built around copper mining. Times have already been hard for these folks for the past couple years. I’d doubt they have felt anything related to the recent elections. They are screwed no matter what. Copper prices on the world market fluctuate and it directly impacts their lives. The attack ads aired on network TV probably had little impact on their hopes or dreams. I’m sure the majority of people sitting in front of their TVs were only hoping that the price of copper rose again to the levels required to get the mines running at full capacity and being offered as much overtime as they could handle.

Meanwhile, Christmas has come and gone and the majority of children in more urban areas opened up the mass of presents that they had been hoping for and expected — all the high priced high tech gadgets produced cheaply in China, Korea and Taiwan and ordered from Amazon or bought from the big box importer stores. It’s hard to imagine these families really feeling that their lives have suddenly changed.

What perhaps has changed is the sudden fear of change. The fear of the unknown. The fear that the types of upheavals that are hitting the small mining communities now (and hit the Rust Belt after the passage of NAFTA) will somehow hit the educated and privileged urban-suburban white collar workers. The same people that pretend they care about those who have been hit by the global economy, but who do nothing to change things.

At some level, none of us are really in the position to change anything other than ourselves. Getting out into world and leaving our small lives behind can sometimes put things into proper perspective. Do the clouds rushing by think that anything has changed? Does the sly coyote worry about what has changed since yesterday to today? What does the wind tell you when you stand on the top a deserted bluff and look out at the world around you?

I think it’s there to remind us of how small we are and how lucky we are to experience all the good things that happen to us everyday. Maybe some days it is just a stray feeling of happiness for seemingly no reason at all. Perhaps feeling close with someone else in some unexpected way. Or maybe, just noticing how the shadow of the mountains moves across the landscape.

Anyway, there have been surprises this year for sure and who knows what the next will bring, but if we hold onto the good we experience in spite of the negativity, fear and hatred being thrown around us everyday, things will be better for everyone. Wishing everyone a Happy New Year!

For times when things seem hard, I’ve written this song… Don’t Let It Get You Down!

Man with a Suitcase – Album Available Now!

Man with a Suitcase is available now in physical CD form and can be found on Amazon.com (eligible for Prime and SuperSaver shipping) or directly through my eStore. Digital sales are being handled by bandcamp — the entire album is also available for full preview streaming on bandcamp.

As always, thank you all for the support you give me, it really means a lot!

Also, for my online friends, I am offering a half price promo for the digital album download (discount code: “friends”).

Note: All photography and layout work done by me!

Solar Culture Gallery – Man With a Suitcase

Opening Saturday 11 June 2016

6-9 PM

I am showing these three new photographs in the gallery. They were used as the album art for the cover of my upcoming music CD, Man With a Suitcase. The first two are from Bombay Beach on the Salton Sea and the third from an abandoned motel in Wilcox, AZ.

Come see the show if you are in town!

Solar Culture Gallery is located at 31 East Toole Avenue, Tucson, AZ 85701

For more information, contact Mark Hahn at markhahnpublishing@gmail.com.

All images and content copyrighted 2016 by Mark Hahn with all rights reserved.