We send our warmest greetings to you with hopes that you are having a healthy and fruitful year.
We are grateful for your interest in and support of our work. As part of our audience, you complete a circle and make a valuable contribution to the creative process and to the making of our art.
With much violent and extreme weather occurring all around us, we've happily had another mild winter here in Bucks County—and very few days when we were unable to cross our stream (the only access to our property by vehicle). We had one memorable occasion, however, when nature's unforgiving forces challenged our determination, ingenuity, and muscles in pursuit of a creative escape from being trapped at an inopportune time. We were motivated by our need to meet several appointments in another city. With our steep driveway secured under a shield of ice and a pouring rain that had rendered the stream un-fordable by the combination of high water and polished, intractable ice on either side of the crossing, we were unable to get either of our 4-wheel drive vehicles through the rising water. We made arrangements to rent a car from town and to have one of their drivers come out to meet us at a neighbor's house that had access to a county road that had been cleared. There ensued three slippery trips on foot down the lane and over two fields and through the woods (about 1/3 mile) with all the heavy print cases and luggage in tow. Each had to be waterproofed in plastic bags (still raining) before we cleverly launched them on a garden cart. The plastic performed well each time the cart overturned. (To tell the truth, Michael did all the carrying because I was still recovering from a pulled muscle across my ribs as a result of my overturning the fire truck down a small hillside off of our icy lane the week before. But that's another story. Yes, the fire truck recovered, and I have too.)
Two hours later and halfway to our destination, in clear skies, sunshine, and warmer temperatures, it seemed as if the previous hours had happened in another season and far away.
We realize as we get caught up from our winter sojourn in the darkroom that it is again time to fill you in on what we have been doing photographically over the past year, to tell you about the many things this year promises, and to share some thoughts with you about an aspect of our working in photography.
For us, it is a dichotomous age. We have one foot happily resting in an earlier time where we make photographs with old-fashioned and cumbersome cameras, somewhat rare lenses, an old-formula film that was discontinued a few years ago, and a contact printing paper that is now barely extant after being in production for over a hundred years. And we use a rapidly-becoming-old-fashioned and outdated darkroom—one that continues, however, to be an efficient and productive haven furnished with neither computers nor PhotoShop.
On the other hand (and foot), we are racing forward into the new age and we thrill to the possi-bilities that the electronic media offers, not the least of which will be our Web site, soon to be on-line. At michaelandpaula.com you will be able (by early fall at the latest, and perhaps much sooner) to view many more photographs than we can possibly carry with us as we travel, find schedules of our exhibitions, lectures, and workshops, and more of our writing. Because of our travel schedule the web site may start slowly, but we will add new photographs and update it regularly even when we are on the road so that you can follow, at least somewhat, our photography adventures.
We were inclined to think about these diverse worlds recently when we read two articles in the New Yorker—one about a company called Restoration Hardware, the other consisting of a number of book reviews—about a culture-wide yearning for "authenticity" and the return to the higher quality associated with carefully and artfully crafted objects. We began thinking about how that relates to our photographs and to our activity and stance as photographers, particularly in light of this increasingly digital and post-modern age. Today, while postmodernism reigns in the art world (as it has for about two decades), we are, as we have always been, unreconstructed and unapologetic modernists. We believe there is deep and true value in primary, direct experience, as opposed to the mediated experience one gets from, well, the media. It follows that we believe there is such a thing as authentic authorial experience. We also believe there is such a thing as quality and that it inheres in the work of art, regardless of cultural context.
Though informed by intelligence, our photographs are not about, nor have they ever been about, "ideas." For many years now one has heard artists talking about ideas as the source of pictures, not only in photography, but in other mediums as well. In this regard we agree with the art historian Sir Herbert Read who once said, "If one has ideas to express, the proper medium is language." And one critic, whose name we no longer recall, stated that if art were about ideas, all you would have to do is get the idea, and once you did, there would be no need to look at the art. Being the modernists that we are, we believe that the primary function of visual art is to be looked at, and through the visual experience, to stimulate thought and to give visual pleasure.
To that end and in the context of the renaissance of "authenticity," we thought you might be interested in knowing about the particular materials—our film and photographic paper—that contribute to the look of our photographs and to the experience of looking at them. We are not unaware of the risk in discussing this. Many years ago a photographer, when questioning the stream of technical data given with photographs that were reproduced in magazines, commented on how ridiculous it seemed by noting that writers never talked about the brand of typewriter they used. For the most part, his observations were right on the mark. But because film and paper directly determine the qualities of the finished print, we thought you might like to know why we deem them significant.
We use Super XX film. In 1995, we learned that this Kodak film, the last of the old-style emulsions and the film with the longest tonal scale was permanently being taken out of production. With trepidation yet determination, we purchased what could be our lifetime supply. Although we are still paying for this film four years later, and it may seem that we have gone well beyond the seemingly rational, we have never doubted our decision. Were we to use any other film we would be unable to get the long and subtle tonal scale we can achieve when working in the bright-light conditions we love so much.
Our photographic paper, Azo, which is also made by Kodak, is the last of the silver-chloride contact printing papers. One can achieve a longer and smoother tonal scale from the old silver-chloride formulas, and Azo has the longest tonal scale of any photographic paper in use today. We dearly hope this paper will continue to be manufactured, as we would rather not have a virtual repeat of the film purchase. With Azo, we are able to make prints that have a distinguishing and strong presence to them, and we believe that the combination of this paper and Super XX film yields prints that are as fine as we can possibly make them.
We were reminded and reassured of this recently when we met with a gallery owner who commented that he had "never seen prints as beautiful as these." His experience with fine photographs was undoubtedly limited, but we do hope, nonetheless, that you find the experience of looking at our photographs gratifying and pleasurable.
In 1998 our photographing took us to several new places: During the summer we traveled and photographed in New England, mostly in Maine, where we spent time on the coast and also drove inland to the very top of the state. In the early fall, we worked in Minnesota and other places in the Midwest. Later we photographed in Big Bend National Park in southwest Texas. Although Paula is a native Texan, this was her first trip there.
During last year, Paula's High Plains Farm exhibition was shown in Montana, Texas, and Kansas. This exhibition is still traveling, and is currently at the Institute of Texan Cultures at the University of Texas in San Antonio. In June and July it will be at the Mulvane Art Museum in Topeka, Kansas.
We were both well represented in the exhibition, American Farm, at the Candace Perich Gallery in Katonah, New York, and at the new headquarters of American Farmland Trust in Washington, D.C.
Although we didn't have any new books come out last year, we each had portfolios published in a fine publication that we had not previously known—LensWork Quarterly. Paula had a series of photographs from High Plains Farm published in Issue #23. Michael's photographs and writing were published in issue #24. Based on his statement, "I have always believed that it is how one sees rather than what one sees that makes any photograph interesting," Michael had photographs of the natural landscape printed opposite photographs of the urban environment. Many of these photographs were reproduced here for the first time.
In addition, LensWork Quarterly produced a CD-ROM of each issue that included hour-long interviews with each of us. At their web site (www.lensworkquarterly.com) the published photographs along with many others can be seen, and the interviews on CD-ROM can be heard on-line for subscribers.
In the fall of this year, Michael's book, The Students of Deep Springs College will be published. It is now in the final design and editing stages.
Michael's series of articles for ViewCamera magazine continues with his latest article, Developing Film by Inspection, which will appear in the May/June issue, and he continues to work on his books for photographers. Since these are books of text, work on them gets squeezed in around photography, and may require considerable time before completion.
Europe and Workshops:
In the spring we will ship our old Land Rover to Europe where we will photograph for a month in Tuscany and for two months altogether. The only other time we photographed in Europe was when we taught a workshop at the Academy of Film and Photography in Prague in 1994. On that trip, however, we had only a few days for photographing.
The impetus for going to Europe was an invitation from our good friend, Burkhardt Kiegeland, founder of Lotus View Camera (a company that makes fine view cameras), to teach a workshop (May 19–23) and to have a joint exhibition (May 22 –July 4) at the Lotus Fine Art Gallery Ostermiething, Austria, which is near Salzburg. That was all the excuse we needed to plan a serious and extended trip.
It hasn't been a practice of ours to teach workshops (the one in Prague being a singular exception), but this year is shaping up differently. In addition to the workshop near Salzburg, we will be doing one in Salt Lake City from July 6 to 11. This workshop, organized by the photographer Tillman Crane and sponsored by the Waterford Institute, will be devoted to the use of extra-large formats. The various camera manufacturers will have their cameras on hand for participants to try out. If you have ever wanted to work with an extra-large camera—8x10 up to 20x24—this will be a great time to do so. For information, contact Tillman Crane at 801-576-4914.
We will also be teaching two workshops here at our home/studio in Bucks County. The first, July 30–August 1, will be on Vision and Technique and will be for intermediate and advanced photographers. It will cover everything needed for those who want to make better photographs. Our aim is to make it the last workshop of its type anyone would ever need. The other, August 6–8, will be about Making and Publishing a Photography Book. Both workshops will run from Friday evening through Sunday afternoon.
And from September 24–October 4, again under the auspices of Lotus View Camera, we will be leading a photography tour to some of our favorite places in the Southwest. Places such as Canyon de Chelly may be familiar to many of you, but some of the others are obscure locations that are difficult to find and get to. In addition to being an intense photographing experience, we will be staying at the best motels and will be eating at the finest restaurants available in each area. This exclusive trip is designed primarily for those who want to photograph in some of "the best places," but who can never find the time to locate or travel to them, plus make all the arrangements. This high-end trip promises to be unusual and exciting.
Contact us for full details if you would like to attend any of these workshops or if you would like to join us on our Southwest tour in September. (Our current e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. When our web site goes online, our e-mail address will be email@example.com)
Until now we have often photographed while being together, occasionally even working side by side, but we have never photographed jointly or collaboratively. But now, at the end of this month, we begin our first collaboration. We will be making a series of photographs together, and if the photographs prove worthy, we will both be signing them. "And what will you be photographing?" you might ask. We would like to tell you, but unfortunately, we can't reveal that just yet.
And, perhaps most exciting of all, our major and long-hoped-for project, photographing rural America from the back roads, may finally get underway later this year.
This year we expect to be photographing out West as well as in Europe. We hope we can connect with you at some point during our travels. And do remember that you are always welcome to visit us here in the country.
We send you our best wishes and warm regards,
Michael and Paula
P.S. The addendum provides information about our books, exhibition catalogues, portfolios, posters, and (singular) video. Since last year there have been some changes to quantities and prices and some additions.
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. There are some changes in quantities remaining or in the price, and there are some additions from last year. Those are denoted with an asterisk.
PHOTOGRAPHS: Silver Chloride Contact Prints
Michael: 8 x 10 $1,250. * Paula: 8 x 10 $800.
8 x 20 $1,500. 5 x 7 $600.
18 x 22 $2,500. 4 x 5 $600.
Michael is no longer printing negatives made prior to 1976. His 8" x 10" photographs made in 1975 or earlier are individually priced, starting at $1,500 and going to $10,000.
The price for Michael's 2' x 5' enlargements, made directly from his 8" x 20" negatives, remains at $3,500 except for one print for which half the edition has sold. That print is priced at $5,000.
BOOKS and CATALOGUES:
• Landscapes 1975–1979: Michael's first book, printed in a signed and numbered, limited edition of 600 two-volume sets. Only thirty-three 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 priced at $750. When only twenty-five sets remain the price will go to $1,000.
• Landscapes 1975–1979: An exhibition Catalogue with the same title as the book, but with different reproductions (12). This catalogue is now rare; only twenty copies remain. We have seen used copies for sale for $35. It is still only $25 from us.
• 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 Inter-national Museum of Photography at George Eastman House. 176 duotone reproductions. $85.
• Princeton: An exhibition catalogue with five reproductions and a fine essay by Richard Trenner. This is also a rare catalogue. Only thirty copies remain. $20.
Natural Connections: Photographs by Paula Chamlee: Paula's first book—photographs of the natural landscape 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 in a signed and numbered limited edition of only 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.
Brochures for the books are available on request.
• High Plains Farm: A Unique Portfolio: An edition of fifteen portfolios published by Lodima Press in 1996, each containing twelve photographs archivally mounted and overmatted, and 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. Only one portfolio remains. Price available on request.
San Francisco: Twenty Corner Markets and One in the Middle of the Block: An edition of three portfolios published by Lodima Press in 1997, each containing twenty-one 8" x 10" photographs archivally mounted and overmatted, and 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.
• Eight Landscape Photographs: An edition of twenty portfolios plus two artist's proofs published by Regnis Press in 1983, each containing eight 8" x 20" photographs archivally mounted and overmatted, and two sheets of deckle edged Arches paper printed letterpress. The portfolio comes in a handmade box covered in heavy linen. Upon completion of this portfolio, the negatives were retired; no further prints will be made from them. Two portfolios remain. Price available on request.
• Twelve Photographs 1967–1969: Self published in 1970 in an edition of twenty-five, this portfolio contains a representative selection of Michael's work from this period. The 8" x 10" archivally mounted photographs and two sheets of Arches paper printed letterpress come in a custom-made portfolio case covered in heavy linen. Seven portfolios remain. Price available on request.
The four High Plains Farm posters are exquisitely printed in 300 line-screen duotone on heavy cover stock and were run through the press an additional and fourth time for extra luster and brilliance. Size: 19" x 26" for three of the posters and 19" x 27" for the fourth. Posters: $25 each or $80 for all four. A limited edition of signed and numbered posters is also available at $50 each or $125 for all four. We will send reproductions of the four images upon request.
The PBS half-hour documentary film, High Plains Farm: Paula Chamlee, produced by KACV-TV is available from us for only $25.