Annual Newsletters

Our newsletter.


This letter is sent to our friends who have taken an interest in our photographs and books to let them know of our activities in the world of photography. Because of your purchase of the Limited Edition of Paula's book, High Plains Farm, we have added you to our newsletter list. Since we didn't send out a newsletter last year, we would like to include you at this time.

This letter is sent to our friends who have taken an interest in our photographs and books to let them know of our activities in the world of photography. Because of your purchase of the Limited Edition of Paula's books, High Plains Farm, and San Francisco: Twenty Corner Markets and One in the Middle of the Block, we have added you to our newsletter list. Since we didn't send out a newsletter last year, we would like to include you at this time.

This letter is sent to our friends who have taken an interest in our photographs and books to let them know of our activities in the world of photography. Because of your purchase of the Limited Edition of Paula's book, San Francisco: Twenty Corner Markets and One in the Middle of the Block, we would like to include you at this time.

Some brief background: We are full-time photographers and spend much of our time on the road, dividing it between making new photographs and calling on curators, collectors, and others who have an interest in our photographs. We support ourselves entirely from the sale of our prints, primarily by direct meetings rather than through gallery sales (although we welcome gallery sales, too). This is the eighteenth year for these newsletters (begun by Michael in 1979), and in 1990, when we married and began traveling and photographing together, it became "our" newsletter. Welcome.
Warm greetings to you!

Our home here in the country in Bucks County is often under a blanket of snow at the time of writing our annual newsletters, but this year El Niño has provided us with the mildest winter on record, one that has brought premature budding to the trees, blooming spring flowers, the early song of robins, and very confused Canadian geese. We're enjoying it while we can.

We, of course, prefer personal and individual contact over a newsletter-type communication, but since we are unable to see you on a regular basis, we hope this letter will help fill the gap. Since the crush of work last year kept us from writing our annual letter, we will now try to fill you in on some of our photographic activities over the past two years. And please forgive as we write in that annoying combination of simultaneous first person/third person construction that seems to be the only equitable way to write jointly.

* * *
We have both long felt that the act of working as an artist is not complete until the work of art has been given for viewing. It is not given as a need for affirmation, but as a need for connection with an audience. For us, there is something life-giving and energizing about that connection in its essential nature of mutual benefit and inspiration for both the maker and the viewer. Although we never think of how others will respond to our photographs at the time we are making them, we know that the responses of others will be, in some way, a part of the creative process.

Artists are essentially givers, and there needs to an audience to receive the gifts. That audience need not be a large one, but it is essential that there are at least a few who are sympathetic and understanding of the artist's intentions, whether they like the work or not. Part of the reason Vincent Van Gogh went mad is that he had no audience at all. Were we living on a desert island—even if we had all of our cameras, lenses, film, and paper—we would not make photographs if we thought they would never be seen by anyone else. As part of our audience, you make a valuable contribution to the creative process and to the making of our art.

We found that writing this letter to you generated another discussion between us about the nature of our lives as working artists, and provoked our thinking about what stimulates our inspirations and engenders fresh vision. In his 1973 book, Looking at Photographs, John Szarkowski, former curator of photography at the Museum of Modern Art, wrote, "In photography, . . . only a very few workers have been able to maintain the vitality and plasticity of their conception over a full working lifetime. The genuinely creative period of most photographers has rarely exceeded ten or fifteen years." Szarkowski's observation has often given us cause to reflect upon our own creative periods. It also serves as a perennial challenge.

Michael has been photographing now for thirty-two years, and Paula for thirteen years—and our challenge, always, is to extend our genuinely creative period. We try to be aware that each day offers a new experience even if, on the surface, the nature of our activity seems rote. In the seeming familiarity of walking through the woods and down the beautiful country lanes where we live, we find the experience can be filled with newness and provide an abundance of fresh sensory awakenings if we are expansive and "tuned in." And as we read new books, listen to new music, begin new friendships and renew old ones, we find opportunities that lead us to learn new things that provide expanded awareness of the world about us.

Now, on the eve of another photography year (a photography year seems to begin sometime in March when we leave the darkroom after our annual winter hibernation there), and prepare to head out on the road again with our photographing projects, we are writing to bring you up to date on our recent photographic activities and our plans for 1998. Since we last wrote to you, our most demanding activity has involved making books, and we'll start there.

High Plains Farm: In November of 1996, in conjunction with the opening of a major traveling exhibition at the Amarillo Museum of Art, we published Paula's second book, High Plains Farm. We are happy to report that the book and exhibition have met with much success. Some of the reviewer's comments have been staggeringly wonderful. One went so far as to say, " . . .we doubt if another book of a such a subject can ever be duplicated." Another, commenting on the similarity in some ways of the subject of the High Plains Farm photographs with those of Wright Morris in The Home Place, said that, "I found the tone of Morris's book to be unexpectedly nostalgic. Chamlee's wonderful photographs are much more incisive." And another wrote, "High Plains Farm is one of those impossible-to-describe treasures that invites you to look again, and again, and again."

San Francisco: Twenty Corner Markets and One in the Middle of the Block: In the spring of 1996, we both photographed in San Francisco. Paula's photographs there resulted in her third book, San Francisco: Twenty Corner Markets and One in the Middle of the Block, published this past November. This book has also met with much success. In less than three months after publication, the edition of 550 was already 60% sold out. We expect that this will be our first book to go out of print. If you never received the book announcement or forgot to order a copy, please let us know. This small gem of a book is already a collector's item.

The Students of Deep Springs College: Michael is currently at work on his new book, The Students of Deep Springs College. We returned to Deep Springs in the spring of 1996 for him to make additional photographs. (He taught there in the fall of 1995.) We expect to have the Deep Springs book designed and ready to go to press before summer, although the actual printing may not take place until sometime in 1999. First, we plan to meet with the trustees of Deep Springs College and invite them to participate in the funding of the book for the benefit of the school. We would like to see the lion's share of the profits from the book go to the college. We think that "the first book about the most unusual and arguably the best college in America" has potential for great success. We expect to meet with the trustees in October and hope they will think so, too.

Other Books: Michael is at work on other books as well, books mainly for photographers. One of them is about photographic vision and technique. Many photographers have urged him to write about his knowledge from thirty-two years in photography, so he has set the task in motion with early morning vigils with his muses and the Mac. Final publication date will depend on other photographic activities, but we'll keep you posted.

The High Plains Farm exhibition has been traveling to museums in the Plains states. This year it will be in museums in Montana, Kansas (3), and Texas (2). For most of you, the venues are probably too far away, but some of you may be able to catch it at the Tyler Museum of Art, in Tyler, Texas, from April 18–May 31, 1998, or at the Institute of Texan Cultures in San Antonio from February 9–March 16, 1999. Altogether, nine venues have been scheduled and the exhibition will be traveling well into 1999.

Notable among our exhibitions during the past two years were the occasions of our first joint exhibitions. One was at the Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University from January 25–March 16, 1997. Curated by Nancy Green, the Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs, it consisted of two separate galleries of photographs from each of us (from High Plains Farm for Paula, and from A Visual Journey for Michael), and a third gallery combining other bodies of our work and comparing our vision. Our other joint exhibition was at the Columbus Museum of Art in Columbus, Ohio from February 15–June 1, 1997. Curated and organized by John Fergus-Jean, Curator of Photography, this exhibition of our landscape photographs brilliantly (we thought) compared and contrasted our approaches to photographing similar subject matter—something many of you have commented on.
The photographs from Paula's series, San Francisco: Twenty Corner Markets and One in the Middle of the Block opened at the Scott Nichols Gallery in San Francisco on December 4 and was up through the end of January this year. Sam Whiting of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote a short and glowing feature about the exhibition.

High Plains Farm Posters and video:
When Paula's High Plains Farm exhibition opened in November of 1996 at the Amarillo Museum of Art, we had a beautiful set of four posters made for the occasion. We had planned to send an illustrated brochure to you, but the expenses incurred in publishing the book exceeded our expectations and we were unable to print the brochure—but we do have these exquisite posters. They were printed by Gardner Lithograph in Los Angeles who has printed three of our other books. They are printed in a superior method that involves an additional and fourth run through the printing press for extra luster and brilliance. (See last page for details.)

KACV-TV, the PBS station in Amarillo made a wonderful half-hour documentary film about Paula and the High Plains Farm project and photographs. We were fortunate to be able to have professional copies made and they are available from us at a very reasonable price. (Again, see last page for details.)

In conjunction with her last two books, Paula has published two portfolios. The first was High Plains Farm: A Unique Portfolio. Taking a cue from our Special Edition books, where the purchaser can choose any photograph from the book, this portfolio expanded that concept. The purchaser can select any twelve photographs of their own favorites from the entire High Plains Farm series for their portfolio. Paula then carefully sequences the photographs they have selected and writes the specific titles on a pre-printed letterpress sheet. There is also a letterpress sheet stating that the portfolio was especially prepared for that owner. The edition of the High Plains Farm portfolio is fifteen. Only three are still available. (See last page for details.)

San Francisco: Twenty Corner Markets and One in the Middle of the Block: This portfolio consists of twenty-one original photographs—all of the photographs reproduced in the book, and three letterpress sheets. This portfolio was produced in an edition of three. Only two are still available. (See last page for details.)

In 1997, Cite , The Architecture and Design Review of Houston (published by the Rice Design Alliance), produced a special 25th anniversary double issue devoted to "Texas Places." They used the work of Texas authors and artists exclusively and featured a large spread of Paula's High Plains Farm photographs and writing. And one of her photographs was chosen for the cover.

Published articles:
Michael is writing a series of articles about photography—articles about the nature of photographic vision and also articles about technical matters. The first of these, "How to print on 100-year old paper: The Azo and Amidol Story," was published in View Camera magazine in their July/August '96 issue. The second article, "On Printing—and why there is no such thing as a difficult negative to print," will appear in their May/June '98 issue. His third article for View Camera, "Advances in Archival Storage," an article about a new archival mounting material, is forthcoming.

Calumet Newsletter:
A few years ago, Calumet, the big mail order photography supply and equipment company in Chicago, began producing a small newsletter apart from their product catalogs, one devoted entirely to the art of photography. Issue #6 was devoted to our work. Although the newsletter reproduced eight of our photographs, the real substance is in our writing. The editor of Calumet Photographic particularly wanted to publish Michael's Letter to a Young Photographer, originally planned for a publication in Germany. (To this day, we are not sure if that publication actually occurred). Paula's writing is in answer to the editor's question about how she perceives the connective thread between her photographs in Natural Connections and High Plains Farm. We are enclosing this issue of Calumet Photographic as a gift to you along with this newsletter.

We continue to pursue the needed funding for our Back Roads of America project. That effort has absorbed a huge amount of our time. We are making some progress, but there is still more to do as the project is so large and complex. We are persistent and hopeful.

* * *
This year we will continue photographing near home as we have been doing off and on this past year. We also plan to photograph in the South, in New England, and out West again. We'll be in the South in the spring, New England for part of the summer and expect to head out West in the fall. We look forward to seeing you on one of those trips.
And, once again, know that you are welcome to visit us here. We are in the country not far from Philadelphia or New York. There are always new photographs to see and Paula is one of the world's great cooks.

We hope this letter finds you very well and we send our best wishes and warm regards,

Michael and Paula


Many of you have requested updates on our print prices for your information and records. Current prices for our prints, books, portfolios, posters, and video follow:

Michael: 8x10 $1,250 Paula: 8x10 $750 8x20 $1,500 5x7 $500 18x22 $2,500 4x5 $500

Michael is no longer printing negatives made prior to 1976. His 8x10-inch photographs made in 1975 or earlier are individually priced, starting at $1,500 and going to $10,000.
The price for Michael's 2'x5' enlargements, made directly from his 8"x20" negatives, remains at $3,500 except for one print for which half the edition has sold. That print is priced at $5,000.

Landscapes 1975–1979: Michael's first book, printed in a signed and numbered, limited edition of 600 two-volume sets. Only forty-one sets remain. They sell regularly, and we expect they will be gone in the not-too-distant future. If you have wanted a copy but just never got around to ordering it, please let us know and we will reserve one for you. Landscapes 1975–1979, with an original photograph as the frontispiece, letterpress text, and tipped-in plates, is a rare and beautiful set of books for fine book and photography collectors. Published in 1981, it was awarded "Best Photographic Book of the Year" at the International Festival of Photography in Arles, France. These sets are now priced at $750.

Michael A. Smith: A Visual Journey: Photographs From Twenty-Five Years: Published in 1992, this book accompanied Michael's twenty-five year retrospective exhibition at the International House of Photography at George Eastman House. 176 duotone reproductions. $75.

Natural Connections: Photographs by Paula Chamlee: Paula's first book of photographs of the natural landscape and accompanied by selected writings from her journals. Printed in Laser Silver-Lit Tones™, 42 tritone reproductions, published in 1994. $50.
High Plains Farm: Published in 1996, a book of Paula's photographs and writing about the farm where she grew up on the High Plains of the Texas Panhandle. 81 duotone reproductions. $60.

San Francisco: Twenty Corner Markets and One in the Middle of the Block: Paula's third book, published in 1997. Printed only in a signed and numbered limited edition of 550 copies. 21 duotone reproductions and hand-tipped plate on the cover. $50.
The last four books all have a few Special Limited Editions remaining. For each, the purchaser may choose any photograph in the book. Prices are available upon request.

High Plains Farm: A Unique Portfolio: An edition of fifteen portfolios, each containing twelve original photographs mounted and overmatted, four sheets of deckle edged Arches paper printed letterpress. Each purchaser chooses their twelve favorites from the entire High Plains Farm series. The portfolio comes in a handmade box covered in heavy Italian linen. Three portfolios remain. Price available on request.

ADDENDUM TO NEWSLETTER, page 2 March, 1998

San Francisco: Twenty Corner Markets and One in the Middle of the Block: An edition of three portfolios, each containing twenty-one original photographs mounted and overmatted, three sheets of deckle edged Arches paper printed letterpress. The portfolio comes in a handmade box covered in heavy Italian linen. Two portfolios remain. Price available on request.

The four High Plains Farm posters are exquisitely printed on heavy cover stock and are run through the press an additional and fourth time for extra luster and brilliance. Size: 19"x26" for three of the posters and 19"x27" for the fourth. A set of all four: $80. Individual posters: $25. We will send reproductions of each of the four images upon request. A limited edition of signed and numbered posters is also available.

The PBS half-hour documentary film, High Plains Farm: Paula Chamlee, produced by KACV-TV is available from us for only $25.

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Poetics of Vision: The Minneapolis Institute of Arts
The In 1997, exhibited photographs from the collection of Harry M. Drake collection. An exquisite hard-cover limited-edition catalogue reproducing some of the photographs and brief biographies was published on the occasion. We felt it a great honor that both of us were included.
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In 1996 Paula was honored with a major grant from the Leeway foundation for "Excellence in Photography."
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