May 2015



It is hard to imagine it has been six months since my last eNewsletter. I have said this before in this publication, but I continue to be amazed at how time seems to fly faster and faster. These days it almost seems as if it's hypersonic!

Anne and I both seem to keep busier than ever working in the darkroom, processing film, and making prints. In January, we returned to Venice, Italy on yet another photographic trip. Through the generosity of our friends, Marco and Luisella, along with lots airline miles, we have been very fortunate to be able to once again visit this incredible city. We especially like the winter time. There are very few tourists, the light is beautiful, and the weather is normally not too bad - it is cold, but if you dress accordingly, it is not a problem. We will share more about this project, along with some images, in a future eNewsletter.

Spring was busy with workshops as well completing multiple printing projects in the darkroom. While snow hammered the East Coast we here on the West Coast had virtually no precipitation. Normally, the hills around us do not change from green to golden until May, but already in early March the hills around us had changed. Due to the drought we have had to cut back on the days in the darkroom in order to save water.

All of these things, along with some writing projects, have kept us "out of trouble." I recently decided to print a negative that is an "old friend" for the last time in silver. I am pleased to offer my image Two Chairs as the latest in my Special Collectors Edition print series. Details are included below.

I hope you find some things of interest in this eNewsletter. If you have friends you think might find the content of the newsletter of interest, please feel free to share this publication, in its entirety, with them.

Wishing you a great summer ahead,




In the early 1980s, while working as Ansel's photographic assistant, I gave a tour of his darkroom to the legendary photographer André Kertész. On the wall in the workroom, André noticed an exhibition poster of my Two Chairs image. This was the first photography poster I had ever had done, and Ansel had requested that I hang a copy in his studio. André told me he liked the image "very much," which needless to say made my day… actually made my week!

I am pleased to offer this print of Two Chairs at a special discount price to my eNewsletter readers. I have not had this negative in the enlarger for over two decades. It is definitely one of my most challenging negatives to print. I have always preferred the Two Chairs print in a smaller, more intimate, size – perhaps because it began its life as a 4x5-inch Polaroid. My favorite print size for this image is 8x10" and that is the size of this special print offering. The retail price for an 8x10" print of this image is $1,000. From now until June 30, 2015, I am offering this 8x10" print for $800 - a 20% discount from the retail price. 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. On July 1, 2015 the retail price for any remaining prints will increase to $2,000.

To place a secure online order for this print, follow this link: Ventana Editions web store


Two Chairs by John Sexotn

Two Chairs, Bodie, California
©1977 John Sexton. All rights reserved.

This print is approximately 7-1/2 x 9-3/8", personally printed by me (as are all my prints), processed to current archival standards, signed, mounted, and matted to 14x17" on 100 percent rag museum board. When I complete the prints I need to make at this time, the negative will be retired for traditional silver printing, and will never again be printed tin any size as a silver gelatin print.

Prints will begin shipping on June 15. All of the prints ordered will be shipped no later than July 31, 2015. All prints are carefully prepared and packaged in specially designed protective shipping boxes, and shipped fully insured via UPS ground.

I often say on workshops that nearly all good photographs require that good fortune or luck is on your side. Over the years many of my favorite images seem to involve some type of unexpected occurrence or unanticipated result. Such is the case with my image of Two Chairs which I made nearly thirty-eight years ago in the ghost town of Bodie, while teaching a workshop with my friends Bruce Barnbaum and Ray McSavaney. When we taught together we would separate the participants into three smaller groups for the portfolio review sessions. By the conclusion of the workshop each participant would have received three separate commentaries, one from each of the instructors. We felt this was a unique strength in the workshops we taught together, and on many of those workshops we carried this into the field as well.

On this particular October day, each of us took the group we had been with for the portfolio review sessions on the prior day, and spent some time with those participants in the field. I took my group into one of the buildings that was open in Bodie. We sat around the table you see in the photograph and discussed the idea of trying to reveal your feelings in your photographs. In those days, thanks to the generosity of Polaroid Corporation we had a generous supply of Polaroid film for our own photography, as well as for use by workshop participants. I gave the assignment to my group that each of the participants should make a photograph within the confines of this small building using Polaroid 4x5 film. During my years studying photography in college there were a few times when I was given assignments that I suspected the instructors had never completed themselves. My feeling was, if they had done the assignment themselves, they never would have given it in the first place! So I decided that I should participate in the assignment as well.

One of the workshop participants, who was seated at the table was interesting to me, so I asked if I could make his portrait. He kindly agreed, but as I was organizing and studying the image on the ground glass I was less convinced that the photograph was going to work as an effective portrait. The resulting Polaroid Type 52 print proved this to me. I delicately asked the workshop participant if he could help improve my photograph by removing himself from it! I made another exposure on Polaroid of just the two chairs and table – no person. I was much happier with this image. To me it had a universal quality without a person seated in one of the chairs.

In 1977 I had discontinued the practice of making notes while photographing. In my youthful exuberance I thought such notes were a time-consuming "burden." I had made notes for about a year and a half after attending Ansel's Yosemite workshop in 1973, where he encouraged us to make careful records while exposing our negatives. I guess I had the feeling that I "knew it all," as I had been doing photography seriously for over three years! If I had been making notes, I would be able to determine with much greater certainty what caused both of my Kodak Tri-X negatives to be underexposed. I THINK it's because I did not reset my spotmeter from the ISO of 640, which I used for Polaroid Type 52 film, to and ISO of 200, which was my speed for normally developed Kodak Tri-X Professional film. In any event I ended up with a thin negative. As much as the technical aspects of the negative disappointed me, I was very pleased with the organization of the image and the feelings it generated within me. I immediately started printing the negative using a high contrast paper (Grade 4), and it was included in the 1978 Owens Valley Photography Workshops flyer a few months later.

I am very pleased with the new prints I am currently making, but I am reminded of the difficulty of working with such a challenging negative. Working on a high contrast paper exaggerates not only the contrast, which is needed with this negative, but also exaggerates any slight variations in the execution of the print. So consistency and concentration are of great importance. The Two Chairs image was featured in the July/August 1982 issue of Camera Arts magazine. The making of the negative and the steps necessary in printmaking – at that time – are in the article The Genesis of a Fine Print, which I co-wrote with Steve Pollock for the magazine. Though the black and white reproductions are rather dull and "washed out," I'm still pleased with the way the article turned out. It accompanied another article, Isolations, by the late Robert Baker, who served as the editor on The New Ansel Adams Photography Series. Bob and I worked closely together on that book project with Ansel, and his article included was a good compliment to the article about Two Chairs. This was the first time that I had received such extensive coverage in a highly regarded photography magazine. I guess in a way my image Two Chairs helped launch my career – at least in terms of name and image recognition. If you'd like to read both articles, they're available for download, as a single PDF file, at my web site here.



I am sure that most readers of my newsletter are familiar with Sally Mann's name, as well as her photographs. It might surprise you to know that Sally and I have been friends for nearly forty-two years. We first met in 1973 at Ansel's two-week long workshop in Yosemite. Though we have not seen one another in person for over four decades, we have communicated from time to time about various topics. Years ago I recall a phone conversation we had where we shared our mutual love/hate relationship with Agfa Record Rapid photographic paper. We both agreed that the paper was fantastic when it was good, but horrendous when it was bad, and problematic batches were encountered far too frequently.

Anne and I are looking forward to seeing Sally next Wednesday evening, May 27, 2015, when she will be making a presentation at the Nourse Theater in San Francisco. Sally Mann: In Conversation with Steven Wynn is part of the City Arts & Lecture Series. You can learn more about the event, and purchase tickets, online here: I am sure it will be a stimulating, and interesting evening.


Sally Mann Hold Still


As a number of readers likely already know from all of her recent media attention, Sally has a new book, Hold Still, that has just been published. It is however quite different from her previous books. Her new book Hold Still is a personal and revealing memoir, which in my opinion is superbly and honestly written. Here is the link to an amazing essay that was adapted from Hold Still recently featured in online in The New York Times.

I strongly encourage you to read Sally's text in its entirety. It is clear to me that Sally's mastery with words is as incisive and honest as is her intuitive direction of the photographic process. The book is illustrated with many photographs, drawings, and letters. The 482 pages of this intimate chronicle will engage any reader.

Here are links for two different reviews of Hold Still from the New York Times, which describe the book in greater detail

Anne and I have been enjoying Hold Still, for the past week. We have both been looking for more time to spend with the book, but life has been providing us with unexpected, and time-consuming surprises. I think readers of my eNewsletter will find Sally's prose and the memories of her fascinating life to be of great interest, and may serve as an inspiration for tuning and refining the ultimate photographic tool – the photographer's soul. I anticipate that this book will be a huge success, and deservedly so.

You can find Sally's new book at any bookseller, and of course at




I am honored to have two photographs included in the Taken With Water;: Photographs of Yosemite in Spring exhibition at the Ansel Adams Gallery. Along with my own photographs, the exhibition will include work by Ansel Adams, Mark Citret, Charles Cramer, Michael Frye, William Neill, Alan Ross, and Keith Walklet.


Foam On Water by John Sexton

Foam On Water, Yosemite National Park, California
©1974 John Sexton. All rights reserved.


This is what Evan Russel, the curator at The Ansel Adam Gallery wrote about the exhibition:

Yosemite National Park would not have come to pass if not for the overwhelming tenacity and power of water. From the glaciers that carved the valley to the rivers that refined it, water has played a vital role in the geologic and ecological architectures that are touchstones of the park, and trademarks of the National Park system. To celebrate this great element of nature, The Ansel Adams Gallery will be hosting a new exhibition, Taken With Water, featuring a compilation of images from a variety of artists. This exhibition will open on May 18 and run through June 28, 2015. And with water taking center stage in both state and national debates, we hope you stop by the gallery to appreciate the beauty of this precious resource.



I am thrilled that eleven of my prints have been added to the impressive permanent collection of photographs at The Huntington Library in San Marino, California. My images are part of a wonderful group of prints recently donated to The Huntington by our longtime friends Jack and Beverly Waltman. Those of you who have participated in my Fine Tuning The Expressive Print workshop over the years will remember Jack and Beverly. Jack assisted me on many of those workshops, and Beverly was always along as a vibrant workshop group member. Jack is an amazingly talented photographer in his own right. Anne and I feel fortunate to have a number of Jack's prints in our own humble, but treasured, photographic collection.

Here is more information on their recent donation to The Huntington.



Here is what The Huntington said about the donarion, "Jack and Beverly Waltman donated a collection of 73 fine art photographs focused on the landscape work of Ansel Adams and later artists working "in the school of" Adams. In addition to images by Adams (and prints made by his longtime darkroom assistant, Alan Ross), there are photographs by Henry Gilpin, Ray McSavaney, John Sexton, and Don Worth, as well as single images by such luminaries as Berenice Abbott, Ruth Bernhard, Walker Evans, William Garnett, Brett Weston, and Edward Weston."

Along with Jack and Beverly's donation, The Huntington also received a donation of ALL seven of Ansel's Portfolios, as well as a large collection photographs by my friend William Current. You can read more about those donations here. The Huntington's permanent collection of photographs is impressive in size, and more importantly, in the quality of images that are contained in the collection. I feel honored to be in such great company.

You can read more about the recent donations to The Huntington's photographic collection here.





We welcome Photographic Solutions as John Sexton Photography Workshop's latest associate partner. In the late 1980's I first purchased a product called PEC-12 from Light Impressions. PEC-12 is a non-water based film and print cleaner. I have found it extremely helpful in removing some stubborn marks on negatives not soluble with other types of film cleaners. However, my first approach to removing unwanted marks on film is to simply re-wash the film, followed by a bath in distilled water with Edwal LFN as a wetting agent. If the marks don't dissolve in water, then they will need a stronger solvent of some sort, and I have found PEC-12 to be extremely effective in such situations. PEC-12 works very well in situations where you might have some type of foreign material on a print. I have used it with great success in restoring photographs that have been brought to me after they have had some type of mis-handling during their life.

Along with PEC-12, I have used PEC PADs since their introduction. PEC PADs are lint-free and pure pads that will not scratch most materials. They are perfect for use with PEC-12 and anytime you need to wipe apply distilled water, or any type of cleaner, to a fragile surface.



Recently, when Anne and I were replacing the filters in the variable contrast heads on one of our Omega LPL enlargers, as one of the filters had cracked, we encountered a situation of "gunk" that was on the new filters. I tried my normal film cleaner and simply could not remove it. I remembered I had recently purchased Eclipse Optic Cleaning Fluid, but had not yet used it. I tried it and it worked beautifully. I was so impressed that I contacted David Stone, the owner of Photographic Solutions, to compliment him on his product. That conversation led to our new partnership.

Eclipse is a very effective lens cleaner. It can also be used for many digital camera sensors. Photographic Solutions offers a number of cleaning and maintenance tools for digital cameras. PEC-12, PEC PADs, and Eclipse, as well as the pre-moistened E-Wipes which are fantastic to keep in your photographic "tool kit. It's great to work with people who are dedicated to quality and serving the needs of photographers - like David and his company, Photographic Solutions.





When the legendary cellist Pablo Casals was asked, at age 93,
why he continued to practice the cello three hours a day, he replied,
“I’m beginning to notice some improvement.”



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John Sexton
Post Office Box 2338
Carmel Valley, CA 93924
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John Sexton. All rights reserved.

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