The New55 Capture Frame

The 545i makes a terrific “Capture Frame” — a light-weight, mostly flat and portable frame that I use for exposing my New55 PN instant 4×5 positive-negative film.

Here you can see I have cannibalized an old Polaroid 545i holder by removing the Gate and the Roller Assembly. I have kept the Finger mechanism (which holds and releases the metal Clip of the film packet). The Roller Assembly is bulky and heavy, and the Gate mechanism in a used holder is often warn or bent to the point of interfering with successful instant photography. Although one needs a working 545, 545i or 545 Pro to process New55 PN, I use another good holder back at the studio just for processing The Pull.

The New55 Capture Frame can be rescued from a troublesome old holder with a fouled Roller Assembly or Gate. The lighter-weight 545i is ideal but the 545 will work too. It packs neatly and unobtrusively with your film, loupe and light meter and will simplify your workflow in the field with New55 FILM.

Szarkowski on Curators

John Szarkowski wrote the afterword to his friend’s 1970 book, Lee Friedlander, Self Portrait. As a photographer and lover of photographers and lover of the landscape — a midwesterner with a down-home practical intelligence and an exquisite communcator — Szarkowski didn’t have much time for the over-intellectualization of photography.






“The program might have proceeded smoothly toward its goal if Friedlander had not been invited, but he was. He was also, if my memory serves me correctly, the first speaker on the program. I use the word speaker in the nominal sense, for he began by saying that he had nothing to say about his pictures, but had brought three Carousel trays of slides — three hundred and sixty pictures — to show, and would be happy to try to answer any questions the audience might have. The pictures were carefully and intelligently chosen, and arranged chronologically, and the slides were beautifully made, so that it would have been possible to lean back and take pleasure in the view that an important twentieth-century artist had formed to describe the evolution of his own career. But this would have been rewarding only to those who believe that pictures have a life, and a life history, of their own. To those (perhaps half of those assembled) who believed that it was the function of pictures to provide ancillary proof to truths that might be formulated by wise blind men, it was deeply disturbing to be asked to sit and watch pictures without dialogue of sub-titles for ten minutes, then fifteen minutes, without having been given a text that one could agree with, or disagree with, or agree with in part, with wise, witty, delightful exceptions, citing St Augustine or Groucho Marx or Walter Benjamin or Jacques Derrida or others who, however innocent of any complicity with or even knowledge of the sins or the provisional triumphs of photography, were called upon to bear witness to its ultimate possibilities. Friedlander (perhaps innocently, or perhaps with some higher Metternichian sophistication) had momentarily foiled the philosophers and the politicians and the social scientists by giving them nothing but pictures, which was not quite the grist their mills needed.”

At the intersection of fast & slow: Christiane Baumgartner


Hallo. I’m Christiane Baumgartner.

This piece is called Transall. It’s a German word for military transport plane that can transport soldiers, tanks, to bring some emergency relief supplies if there is a crisis somewhere in the world. And I made it as a woodcut out of a photograph I have found in a newspaper years ago.

I had to take two very large pieces of plywood because the plywood didn’t come as long as I needed. I did put the image in the computer, print it out in the same size as I did want to have it and then I took carbon paper and traced it onto the wood. And this altogether took 10 months.

I had the feeling that the whole world speeds up, we are using the internet to communicate and we are expecting an answer immediately. And that’s why I was thinking about the old techniques we had learned in Leipzig years ago already before the Wall came down, and in a way I’m using the last reproduction technique — photography or, now, even video — to create an image in the first and earliest and slowest reproduction technique.

When I watched people seeing my work, it was really nice to see them going a few steps toward the image because when you are close you just see the line grain; you don’t see the image. Then, they have to go back to see the image and this happens in your brain. You know, to combine the line and the gray tones together to [make] the total picture? I like to have people realize that it’s handmade.

WORKING NOTES for the exhibition

SAMUEL WEST HISER | works in progress opens Friday, July 6th (2012) in the Photography Gallery at the Workout & Tennis Center, Airport Road, West Tisbury. The show runs through the month of July. Gallery open daily.

"Ag Hall fr Northeast" | copper plate photogravure

My teacher, Kathy Rose, says that learning how to print is learning how to see. She says they are the same thing. Standing next to her in the darkroom in January 2009, I thought I knew exactly what she was saying.

After weeks going back out in the field, I determined that making photographs slowly, with deliberate care, is like learning to crawl all over again. So much of quotidian experience calls upon an acquired technique of numbing, canceling and filtering out useless information or, rather, information for which we reckon no immediate need. The reverse-engineering of such a habit takes unbelievable energy and the kind of dedicated practice one uses when learning to read or learning how to play paradiddles evenly.

To engage the shape, the hue and paradox of our environment with discretion and without distraction is to bring the universe inside.

My teacher, Kathy – she meant learning to print is learning to see deeply. For me this means learning to be still.

Tembo Wengi #4 | digital print


The images presented here were made with either a Hasselblad 500 C/M, Pentax 6×7, Sinar Norma, Graflex Crown Graphic, a Holga or a Canon 1D MkII.

All the black & white work, captured on film, is done with normal lenses and the color work, all captured digitally, is done with a long telephoto.


These artist’s proofs are from three different projects. The trees are from the chapters of a book called Bilder von Baümen (Pictures of Trees). The East African elephants are material from a family trip to Tanzania in August 2011 in the Tarangire and Ruaha national parks.

"Gate J" | gelatin silver print

The elephants comprise the series entitled Tembo Wengi (Herd of Elephants). The barns are from a documentary series for photogravure called Buildings: Spirit, Soil & Soul.

At the last minute, prints were added to the show from a fourth project, soccer photographs of the New England Revolution in MLS. These seemed suitable for the Men’s Locker Room.


Fomapan/Arista, Kodak Tri-X, Fuji Acros, Rollei Retro, Efke in formats 4×5, 6×7, 6×6 & APS-H cropping digital sensor.


The darkroom monochrome proofs were split-grade printed with the enlarger upon Ilford RC Variable Contrast paper.

The digital prints are from Canon RAW files which were exposure- and color-managed in Adobe Lightroom and printed with Epson Claria inks on an Epson 1400 on MOAB Entrada Rag paper. I work to keep colors true in the camera by using a custom white-balance, set for each lighting change with a grey card; this minimizes the need for color-enhancement in post-processing.

I am learning copper plate photogravure from Paul Taylor (Renaissance Press) using his technique of plate making from an Epson/Pictorico digital transparency positive. The one -gravure featured here is printed on Arches Cover with a 50/50 mix of Charbonnel and Stiff Black inks.

Samuel West Hiser
West Tisbury

Pictures for Airports

Artist’s Statement

Unconsciously in Autumn 2009, I turned to the trees.
I don’t know why, perhaps for their strength and
certainty. While we tend to think of ourselves in
a wasting decline, the local trees are not. They have
come back after a long hiatus.

In old and not-so-old landscape photographs of
Martha’s Vineyard — from the 1930’s or even the
1960’s — you can see sheep meadows (occasionally
with sheep); there are precious few trees and none of
any real size. From the time when Captain Mayhew
taught the Bible to the Wampanoag people, through
about the Wright Brothers, the Vineyard had been
gradually clear-cut, shorn of its indigenous wood to
supply the raw material for living, for making houses,
boats and providing fuel to fire bricks.

These pictures are the mirror of my gratitude for the
return of the trees here, for hope in the resilient Earth
and hope for an improving understanding of our
inseparate place in nature.

They are metaphors of integration, reflections of the
landscape as a cognitive terrain – mind in the field &
field in the mind. These design patterns (textured
cylinders in immersive space) mimic the brain’s
feeble use of its background data-store, the
subconscious-primeval; and they mock our inability
to handle more than a few pieces of information in
the fore of consciousness at a single time. This is a
visual adaptation of Tor Nørretranders’ penetrating
exegesis of cognition in The User Illusion.

Pictures for Airports: The images started out as a way
to calibrate my vintage light meter and evolved in my
mind through a book of photogravures to 12-foot
square monochrome transparencies to be backlit and
positioned in the gangways and gates of an
international airport, to function like large
advertisements without words.

Medium is film: Fuji Neopan 100 and Efke 100.

Samuel West Hiser
West Tisbury, Massachusetts 2012

When Gene Smith met Harold Feinstein

Photography is a poetry that photographers write for each other.  They speak a Mimetic vernacular intended for all ears, but picked up only by the few equipped with the most-refined antennae.  So, you can expect that the authors of the strongest stuff will sooner or later find one another, like water seeking its own level.

This is true of the meeting of souls captured wonderfully in Jim Hughes’ biography, W. Eugene Smith: Shadow & Subtance: The Life and Work of an American Photographer.

The book is required reading for those who take photography seriously as a means of creative expression. On the nightstand it should supercede Barthes’ Camera Lucida or that awful collection by Sontag on grounds of practical & psychological utility. For myself, it was a page-turner that I carried around for a week, and its messages and details inhabit my dreams.

Beginning on page 286 …

Harold Feinstein first met Gene in late 1949, when Gene was preparing to go to England.  At the time, Feinstein was a precocious eighteen-year-old with a growing portfolio of photographs of people who inhabited, if only temporarily, a microcosm of life called Coney Island.  The teaming Brooklyn neighborhood of arcades and roller-coasters and sun-baked beachfront was Feinstein’s “home town,” and he had been documenting it with a camera since he’d discovered photography three years earlier.

Gene took an immediate liking to the pudgy, bespectacled youngster with the straight-on style: not only did Harold know how to make good black-and-white prints, but he had already mastered the fine art of ferricyanide bleaching.

“I was going around to various photographers, showing my work,” Feinstein recalls of his early job-hnting efforts. “I had gone to see Arnold Newman, and he understood immediately that I wasn’t good assistant material. But he liked my work and said, ‘You know, you have to meet Gene Smith. He’s crazy but he’s great.’ I had never heard of him.

“Arnold called Gene up, and I went up to see him at a big apartment studio on 74th. Cameras were scattered all over the place, prints were piled up. Anywhere you went there was a treasure. I was terribly impressed.

“Gene told me he was getting ready to go do Spain. I don’t know whether he considered me as someone who could be an assistant, but I was eighteen and planning to get married, and too much in love to think about such a trip.”

During the year following “Spanish Village” [which ran in the LIFE magazine issue 9 April 1951]