Anne and I hope that you and your family are doing well in this seemingly never-ending pandemic. We are very pleased to say that we are both now fully vaccinated! I was "Modernized" while Anne was "Pfizerized!" We are still sticking close to home and following scientific and medical suggestions as the situation evolves. We are hopeful that folks can 'tough it out' a bit longer, so we can all return back to something that begins to approach normal as soon as possible.
In February I was asked by Claudia Rice, Manager of The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust, to see if I might have any 'happy snaps' from Ansel's birthday parties, as they were looking for an image or two to post on Instagram to commemorate his birthday. I said I was sure I had some, but it would take a bit of digging. Well that digging turned into an 'archeological excavation' of countless file boxes of materials related to my time and experience with Ansel – along with my early years in photography. We had these boxes stored in more than one storage unit, as well as different portions of our home. Anne and I would bring home or unearth a few boxes and begin to explore, as well as organize. That process is still ongoing! The 'excavation' activities generated boxes and piles of sorted materials throughout our studio and home. I found things that brought back memories that had long since faded into the dust of time. It has been an exciting process, and I continue to discover surprising and interesting items.
When I went to work for Ansel in 1979 my plan was to keep a journal. I recently discovered pages I wrote during my early weeks of employment. However Ansel, even though he was 77 years old at the time, (I was 26) and had just had open-heart surgery a few months earlier, worked at a pace that was hard to keep up with. I really could not find time to keep a journal. Since Ansel was a consultant for Polaroid Corporation we had an ample supply of Polaroid films of every conceivable type. I decided I would try to keep a visual journal with my Polaroid SX-70 camera, and Ansel was happy to provide me with film. I am not sure how many SX-70’s I have sorted through since my 'excavation' began, but it is certainly in the multiple hundreds. These images are in addition to 35mm, and some 120 size, black and white and color photographs I made during my time working for Ansel.
I have photographs that range from mundane everyday tasks such as organizing the workroom and darkroom, to more memorable events such as: birthdays and other festive celebrations; Ansel photographing President Carter and Vice President Mondale; Ansel's exhibition opening at the Museum of Modern Art; along with book signings, TV crew interviews, workshops, and so much more. The Adams' home was a vibrant crossroad of friends, photographers, musicians, artists, intellectuals, and truly interesting folks. Putting together the jigsaw puzzle of my time working with Ansel has really made me appreciate to an even greater degree how fortunate I was to have had such an amazing experience.
I wish I could say everything was fully organized, but that may never happen. I am pleased to report that my archive is in a much better state, and much more carefully protected, at this point. By the way I did find some cool 'happy snaps' from Ansel's 80th birthday bash 39 years ago, and they were posted on @anseladams Instagram account last February 20th, and I was pleased to repost them on my own account @johnsextonphoto.
I hope to share some of the SX-70 images from my visual journal with you in future installments of this eNewsletter.
ORIGINAL SILVER GELATIN PRINT BY JOHN AVAILABLE ONLINE AT DISCOUNTED PRICE
NEGATIVE TO BE RETIRED
I am pleased to offer this handmade silver gelatin print of my image Untitled, Beatty, Nevada at a special reduced price at the Ventana Editions online store. Once I have fulfilled all of the orders for this special print offer the negative will be retired, and will never be printed in any size as a silver gelatin print in the future. The normal gallery retail price for this 11x14" print is $1,000. From now through August 31, 2021 I am offering this 11x14" print for $700 - a 30% discount from the retail price. On September 1, 2021 the retail price for any remaining prints will increase to $2,000.
Untitled, Beatty, Nevada 1981
©1981 John Sexton. All rights reserved.
To learn more about the print, Untitled, Beatty, Nevada, or to place an order, follow this link:
In January 1981 I was teaching a workshop in Death Valley with my dear friend Henry Gilpin. Henry was a gifted photographer. He had the unique ability to distil a complex scene into a concisely organized visual statement. In addition, Henry was an amazing story teller and teacher. He had the great gift of explaining a complicated topic in an accurate, but easily understandable fashion. I first met Henry when I was a student, and he was an instructor, at Ansel's annual Yosemite workshop in 1973. We remained close friends, and taught many workshops together since that initial encounter.
During our multi-day workshop in Death Valley we made a trip to the ghost town of Rhyolite. One of our workshop participants had a vehicle that used diesel fuel, rather than gasoline. At that time there was no diesel fuel available for purchase in Death Valley. The participant had learned diesel fuel was available in the nearby town of Beatty, Nevada. We decided to take the whole workshop group there so we could get snacks and fuel for much lower prices than inside the National Monument (Death Valley became a National Park in 1994).
When we arrived at the gas station in Beatty, I pulled my van up to a shack behind the station. As I was shutting off the engine I saw a window frame in front of me where the glass had at some point been replaced by corrugated cardboard. The stains and deterioration of the cardboard, overlayed by the window screen, had a mysterious quality to me. So while the others were getting gas and snacks at the general store I set up my 4x5" view camera and made this photograph.
As I was busy making my photograph one of the participants returned from the nearby store with an "interesting" postcard (see below). I loved it! Everyone in the workshop loved it! The entire group wandered over to the store, and purchased every single copy of the postcard they had in stock - and they had quite a few!
Two years later I was back in Beatty, and visited the general store. The postcard display rack had an abundant supply of the Jackass postcards. My guess is that only a handful of the cards had been purchased since our workshop group bought their entire inventory in a matter of moments. I purchased a few more copies, as I loved sending them to friends while on photography trips! On a more recent visit they no longer handled the Any Jackass Can Take a Picture! postcard. What a loss!
Over the years I have had the opportunity to see how the corrugated cardboard has been holding up. From my point of view I think it was at its best on that January day back in 1981. I have photographed it a couple of times since, but in my opinion those efforts were not nearly as successful as the image included here. The last time Anne and I were in Beatty there was not much left of the disintegrating corrugated cardboard, but it was still hanging in there. It evidently had better durability than the postcard at the general store!
The print that you see is a considerable increase in contrast from the scene itself. I made the photograph on 4x5 Tri-X Professional film and gave it Normal +1 development to increase the contrast. It is printed on a slightly higher than normal contrast paper. The exposure was 1 second at f/45 with my 4x5" Linhof Technika camera.
I chose to refer to this image as Untitled because my purpose and hope for the photograph was not to document the disintegrating cardboard behind the window screen. That really had nothing to do with why I made this photograph. I was responding to the mysterious patterns of light and dark on the deteriorating cardboard behind the screen. We had not gone to Beatty with the idea of making photographs, but I am glad that I responded to the whim when I was presented with the unexpected opportunity.
This silver gelatin, selenium toned, print is approximately 13-5/16 x 10-1/8", personally printed by me (as are all my prints), processed to current archival standards, signed, mounted, and matted to 16x20" on 100 percent rag museum board. Prints will begin shipping on August 2, and all of the prints ordered will be shipped no later than October 31, 2021.
All prints are carefully prepared and packaged in specially designed protective shipping boxes, and shipped fully insured via UPS ground. If you have any questions about the print, please feel free to contact Anne at 831-659-3130, or email: email@example.com. Our office hours are Monday through Thursday from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm, Pacific Time.
You can see the image and place a secure online order for the print at the Ventana Editions web store:
ANSEL ADAMS PORTRAITS: BY and OF EXHIBITION
THE MONTEREY MUSEUM OF ART AUGUST 1 THROUGH SEPTEMBER 19, 2021
The nearby Monterey Museum of Art is presenting a new exhibition, Ansel Adams Portraits: By and Of, curated by Jeanne Falk Adams. The exhibition, on display in the Museum’s La Mirada facility, will highlight Adams’ unique role at the core of the creative community. It will examine his relationships with artists, conservationists, and photographers, revealing a side of Ansel rarely seen in the public. The exhibition will feature original photographs from both the Adams family private collection, and the collection of the Monterey Museum of Art. I am pleased to have a few of my Polaroid SX-70 happy snaps of Ansel included in the exhibition.
If you are planning to visit the exhibition, please note that the Museum’s La Mirada facility is only open on Sundays, from10 a.m. to 5 p.m. So the hours are very limited, and you can ONLY attend the exhibition with an advance ticket, which can be purchased online.
I am honored to be one of eight individuals presenting a Spotlight Tourof the exhibit. My presentation, about one hour in length, will be at 1 pm on Sunday, August 8, 2021. Due to COVID restrictions the number of attendees for the Spotlight Tours is limited. You must purchase a special Spotlight Tour ticket in advance to attend the presentation.
Ansel playing his beloved Mason & Hamlin piano
Carmel Highlands, California 1980
Ansel embracing his dear friend, and fellow photographer, Ruth Bernhard
Ansel’s annual Yosemite photography workshop, Yosemite Valley, California 1980
©1980 John Sexton. All rights reserved.
Here is a schedule of good friends who are also presenting Spotlight Tours, and the dates of their presentations. All of the Spotlight Tours begin at 1 pm. Aug 1 - Martha Casanave; Aug - 15 Greg Mettler; Aug 22 - Ken Parker; Aug 29 - Ted Orland; Sep 5 - Jeff Nixon; Sep 12 - Robin V. Robinson; and Sep 19 - Ann Jastrab.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (831) 372-5477 with any questions or for assistance in purchasing tickets.
ANSEL ADAMS: IN OUR TIME - PORTLAND ART MUSEUM
ONLINE EXHIBITION THROUGH AUGUST 1, 2021
The exhibition Ansel Adams in Our Time has made it’s only west coast stop at the Portland Art Museum, and will close on August 1, 2021. The exhibition, which was organized by the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, and curated for this exhibition by Julia Dolan, the Minor White Curator of Photography. The exhibit includes more than 100 of Ansel Adams’ prints. Adams images are contrasted with historical photographs and contemporary works by more than 20 present-day photographers. Due to the COVID pandemic the exhibition had multiple postponements at the Portland Art Museum. When it finally did open there were limitations on the number of visitors, and many reservations had to be cancelled. So Julia, and her talented staff, created an online exhibition experience that has an amazing amount of information about the exhibition, along with a number of interesting video segments.
The content provides anyone who spends time with the material an in-depth experience. After reading the informative and thought provoking text, and watching the videos, I am truly sorry that we were not able to see the exhibition in person. I would encourage you to visit the page, and to do so SOON as the online exhibition page will only be available for viewing through the close of the physical exhibition on August 1, 2021. So if you want to have virtual ‘peek’ you should do it NOW!
Here is a paragraph form the ‘Introduction’ section of the online exhibition, “This is an exhibition about legacy. In these galleries, more than 100 of Adams’s works appear in a new, dual conversation: with the nineteenth-century photographers who preceded him in the American West; and with photographers working today, drawn to some of the same places and tackling some of the same issues affecting the land—mining and energy, drought and fire, economic booms and busts, protected places and urban sprawl. A number of the contemporary photographers also explore issues of landscape and identity: who was traditionally welcome to photograph the landscape of the American West, who is most welcome in these spaces today, and how is access changing and expanding?”
The online exhibition will only be up through August 1, when the physical exhibition closes.
SURPRISES FROM THE ARCHIVES!
As I mentioned in my introduction Anne and I have been going through boxes and boxes of materials from the past. Did I mention there have been LOTS of boxes??? In the process we found some pretty neat 'stuff.' The materials included my high school photography assignments; college photography assignments; my teaching notes and files from the late 70's; my MANY workshop files; a massive amount of materials from my time spent working as Ansel's Photographic Assistant; and later as his Technical Consultant; thousands of 4x6-inch 'happy snaps' prints as well as Polaroid SX-70's. The experience was truly a 'blast from the past!'
As you might imagine there was a massive amount of mundane and today useless junk. There were more than few exclamations like, "Why did I keep this?" We shredded, recycled, discarded, donated, as well as organized, inventoried, re-boxed, stored, and protected, many items. We discovered things we had forgotten about. We found things we had been looking for 'forever,' and found supplies of posters we thought we were running low on. The studio, our offices, and much of our home turned into a sorting, organizing, and scanning facility. The work is far from done, but we have in the process cut down on the amount of 'stuff' that we have and more carefully stored and organized those treasures we did find.
One day at our storage space Anne called me over and asked, "Guess what I just found?" Behind a bunch of other boxes of books were a few boxes labeled "Places of Power - Signed by Walter Cronkite, Rob Pike and John Sexton." We kept digging and unearthed a box of "Recollections" and "Quiet Light" also clearly labeled "Signed by all 3 Authors." We have decided to offer a few of these unique and rare signed first edition books for sale at the Ventana Editions online store. In some instances there is a small quantity, and in other cases there are only a handful, of each title available. Make sure to explore the new Surprises from the Archives! section at the web store. I am sure we will be updating and changing the items for sale on a regular basis as we continue to explore what we refer to as our 'archeological dig.' We are both sure we will find some more 'jewels' among our 'stuff.' Maybe you would like to put some of our jewels in your treasure chest!
KODAK T-MAX RS FILM DEVELOPER R.I.P.
SAD NEWS AND HOPEFUL NEWS
As some readers may know I have used Kodak T-Max RS developer as my primary developer for processing my Kodak T-Max 100 and T-Max 400 sheet film. Sadly Kodak Professional Imaging Solutions recently confirmed that they have discontinued T-Max RS developer in all sizes. In addition, it is unlikely that the developer will be reintroduced in the foreseeable future. The primary reason cited for the discontinuance is that annual sales are less than the minimum manufacturing batch size. As is well known photographic chemicals - especially developers – do not get better with age.
Kodak will continue to manufacture Kodak T-Max developer going forward. There has always been some confusion related to the two developers. T-Max RS ('RS' stands for 'Replenishment System') was recommended for sheet film, as the regular T-Max developer was not. Both developers work fine with roll film. I was the one that discovered a problem with using the regular T-Max developer with sheet film. This was before the developer was introduced. I was working as a photographic consultant for Kodak, and in 1986 I had some T-Max sheet film that showed a strange iridescent 'haze' on the emulsion after processing in a prototype formula of regular T-Max developer. I had learned about dichroic fog in school, but had never seen it. I sent samples to the tech experts at Kodak, and they confirmed that it was indeed dichroic fog.
Dichroic fog, simply explained, is a type of fogging produced during development, especially when using developers with chemical solvent components. It is evident as a metallic layer which may appear red or green by reflected or transmitted light and consists of a very thin coating of metallic silver redeposited onto the film emulsion. The reason sheet film can have a greater tendency toward dichroic fog is that the film is exposed to air while in film holders, where roll film is usually wound upon itself tightly thus minimizing exposure to air. The exposure to air changes the structure of the silver gelatin emulsion.
Kodak quickly began work on a 'fix' for the problem. They were, at the same time, working on a version for commercial processing laboratories that would allow replenishment of the developer solution. T-Max RS was the developer that accomplished both goals.
Needless to say Anne and I - along with a number of friends and students - were devastated by this news.
Not long ago Kodak reformulated T-Max developer because of a change in the manufacturing procedures. The updated formula clearly states 'New Formula' and Kodak CAT # 1058718 on the bottle label. It is available from photographic retailers including our friends at Freestyle Photographic. I thought that the new formulation might minimize the chance of dichroic fog, although I had confirmed that it had not been a part of the reformulation process by Kodak. In addition, 15-plus years ago Kodak made a significant change in the manufacturing process of all Kodak black and white films. I thought there MIGHT be a possibility that the change in the manufacturing process of the film, and/or the change in the T-Max developer formula, could minimize the possibility of dichroic fog.
Last week Anne and I made some PRELIMINARY tests using the 'New Formula' T-Max developer on both Kodak T-Max 100 and T-Max 400 sheet film. We processed both recently exposed sheets - along with some old test negatives that were sitting in boxes for a few years. We anticipated we would see dichroic fog, but when we anxiously opened the Jobo Expert drum, we were pleasantly surprised to see good looking, clean, negatives. Please keep in mind that these were only PRELIMINARY tests, in our water supply, with our working procedures. That being said we are optimistic and encouraged.
If you have been using T-Max RS, and want to try some test with the 'New Formula' T-Max developer I suggest that you INCREASE your developing times by 7 to 10% from your times in T-Max RS. If you have experiences - good or bad - please let us know. We are keeping our fingers - and tripod legs - crossed!
LANCE HIDY ONLINE PRESENTATION
DESIGNING A BOOK WITH ANSEL ADAMS
During the past fifteen months Anne and I have tuned into a number of Zoom presentations. Most, but not all of these, have related to photography. Some have been interesting, and a few were - in our opinion - excellent. Anne and I found Lance Hidy's recent Zoom presentation, Designing A Book With Ansel Adams, to be one of the most enjoyable and informative of our Zoom experiences.
In 1978, Lance was chosen by Ansel to design the large and important book, Yosemite and the Range of Light. In the 53 minute video Lance relates the story of working with Ansel on the image selection and sequencing for the book. In addition, he discusses, in detail, his typographic thinking for the book.
Anne and I truly enjoyed attending the Zoom event live, and are sure the YouTube video will provide a similar experience. We both found the time flew by, and we learned so much. Most importantly, we felt that we learned a great deal about Lance, and his many amazing talents. In addition, we found Lance's presentation to be heartfelt, and inspiring. We hope you will too. If you watch the video you might even see a couple of my ‘happy snaps’ of Ansel!
You can watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DU7SPIBUIig.
WORKSHOP STORIES: CHANGED THROUGH PHOTOGRAPHY
Our longtime friend Elizabeth Opalenik contacted me about eighteen months ago with an idea she had for a book that would include stories from a large number of workshop instructors, along with a photograph by each of them. It seemed like a challenging endeavor in so many ways. As the project evolved the book grew in scope to include over 100 separate photographers and instructors from around the globe - including yours truly. It seemed like it might be an undertaking that would be more challenging than herding cats!
I knew that if anyone could accomplish this dream, it certainly would be Elizabeth. I am honored to be among the over 100 photographers included in her newly published – beautifully executed book - Workshop Stories: Changed Through Photography. The book is a sizable volume, and very handsomely printed on heavy high-quality paper. Each photographer has an essay and brief biographical sketch on the left page and a single image on the right. There is a foreword by our mutual friend, and photographic legend, Jay Maisel.
Here's an excerpt from the Elizabeth's Preface to the book:
"Each teacher was asked to tell a workshop story that influenced or inspired them personally – involving colleagues, peers, or students – whether funny, poignant, profound, or sad. These authentic stories are universal, and in them we find ourselves. More broadly, the goal of this book is not only to preserve memorable workshop experiences, but also to share the varied and unique images of the photographers who contributed their talents and expertise to these institutions."
Elizabeth should be very proud of what she has accomplished with this book. It is a jewel in her already impressive photographic career that has spanned decades of image-making and inspiring students. If you have taken photography workshops in the past, or are someone looking for photographic inspiration (as well as some good laughs!) then this is a book you should consider purchasing. The book has been a huge success, and as I understand things, the remaining supply is limited. So, don’t waste time if you would like to own a copy.
You can learn more about the book, and purchase it at www.workshopstories.com.
EXCERPTS FROM BOOTS' DIARY
Boots wants to thank all of you for taking the time to read the excerpts from his diary, that were posted in our September 2020 eNewsletter. Boots received a number of nice notes, and many encouraged him to share more of his writing. Below are a few excerpts that Boots selected himself.
Monday, March 1
I am worried about mom and dad. I don't think they have any friends any longer. They used to have people come over to our house. Sometimes there would be lots of people and they would stay for days. They would spend most of their time down in the darkroom and studio, and for breaks they would come up in the house. Sometimes they would even stay here for lunch and dinner. I wonder what happened? Nobody has been here at our house for a year. I don't miss the people. I like the peace and quiet, but I feel sorry for mom and dad that they have no friends at all – it is a good thing they have me!
Tuesday, March 9
Guess what! I got a new kitty door, and this one mom and dad can't open! It only opens up for me! I love it!!! It makes a clicking noise when I push at the door, and then it opens. It is magic! It is so cool! Mom and dad said it had something to do with a chip. I don't understand what they mean about a chip. I don't even like chips. I like my food, and I love rats - yumm!!!
Wednesday, March 10, 3:42 am
Something is wrong with my new door. It is now 3:42 am. Mom and dad are a sleep. I just went downstairs to check out my new door, and it would NOT open! I pushed and clawed at it, but it did not make that clicking noise, and did not open up. I am devastated!
Wednesday, March 10, 7:05 am
Whew! This morning my new door WORKS again. HURRAY! I heard a click from my door a moment ago, and went to check it out, and it worked! I am so relieved. I was worried all night. I didn't get any sleep! I am now off to my chair for a long nap as I have no desire to go outside, I just want my new door to work.
Friday, April 2
Okay. I need your help. Why does mom set an alarm for 6:30 every morning and then doesn't get up? The beeping sound is VERY annoying. She turns it off, and goes back to sleep. So now it's my responsibility to make sure that she and dad get up. I have found walking on top of mom and than laying down with my face so close to hers that my whiskers tickle her cheeks, and with lots of loud purring usually gets her attention. Sometimes I have to touch her face with my paw. That works really well too - especially if I have my claws out! Mom feeds me breakfast, so it is important that she doesn't oversleep!
Saturday, June 5
Hi Diary. It has been a long time since I shared my thoughts with you. I am feeling good! The weather has been nice, not too hot. I have been chilling out in my catnip on the back deck. This year it is huge and has lots of white blossoms with a hint of purple. To my surprise the hummingbirds even like it. Part of my day I hang out in dad's office. I have claimed dad's other office chair. It has an extra pad on the seat. It's very soft! Dad sometimes looks at me as if he is saying "this is my chair you know," but I pretend I don't see him. I think now it's officially my chair! Yes, it's definitely my chair!
Tuesday, June 8
The other day mom came into the living room. "What are you doing?" she said. Dad and I were lying on our tummies looking under the sofa. "Boots brought in a lizard, and it is under the sofa" dad said. Now she, too, is on the floor looking under the sofa. I love it when we all play together. It's so much fun. Mom gets the broom. I am in my ready position in case the lizard comes out - but no luck. Soon mom and dad get bored with the game. Why? We were just having so much fun! What am I going to do with the lizard now? I get sick if I eat it! Oh well, I'll find something else to do. I think I'll take a nap.
Friday, June 11
Dad has been bringing home lots of boxes. There are boxes everywhere in the living room. They smell funny! I am not sure what this is about, but it's kind of cool. He keeps telling stories to mom about someone named Ansel. I don't care about what is in the boxes, I just like boxes! I can hide behind them and when dad forgets to put the lid back on, I can jump in. They are also great for a kitty nap!
Monday, July 5
Oh boy, dad is getting weird. He has now named the 5 wild tom turkeys that hang around our house. There is Gimpy, he has limp, then there is Howard, Ernesto, Alfredo, and Lenny recently joined the group. Should I be concerned about dad? It does not seem normal - not even for humans or dad...
Thursday, July 22
Mom says I am picky. I only eat the food I like - who doesn't? Now she is frustrated with me because I will only drink water when I know it has just come out of the filtered tap. It's not like I ever see her drink old stale water. When she is thirsty she gets a glass and pours fresh water into it! I like my water right after I have finished my food, and I like it out on the back deck by my catnip, and I also want another bowl by my food dish - all freshly filled. I don't ask for much, and I know how important it is to remain hydrated! Well I gotta run, dad is calling me - it's dinner time!