Tag Archives: “The Photo Palace”

A Personal Tour of the Photo Palace Bus

“I smell a Smena 8”: those were the first words I heard from Anton Orlov as he emerged from the darkroom of The Photo Palace bus. Yes, THE Photo Palace bus of Kickstarter fame. You’ll recall, Anton and his former partner in this photographic adventure were raising money to take the bus around the country, putting on workshops and spreading the word that analogue photography is NOT dead. The Kickstarter project did not raise enough money and Anton’s original partner Ryan Kalem moved on, but the Photo Palace bus is touring the country, nonetheless.

My family was visiting Salem, MA, just like we do every year, as part of our annual summer vacation to New England. After a great lunch at Salem Beer Works, we turned a corner near the Peabody Essex Museum (which is currently hosting an Ansel Adams exhibit) and spotted the familiar shape and color of a school bus. It took me two seconds to realize it was the Photo Palace Bus and another minute to actually believe I was seeing it in person. I broke away from my family and explained it was a bit of photo geekery that I had to experience for myself. Fortunately, my oldest daughter Phoebe was just as excited.

After spying my Smena 8, Anton explained it was one of the first cameras he’d owned. After showing him my other camera, the Olympus XA4, I had to get a photo with the man who was responsible for this mobile monument to photography. It’s not the most flattering picture of my mid-section, especially considering I’m training for a triathlon, but I was so excited!

Anton had travelled from Maine, where a witch told him he needed to come to Salem. Check out his blog post about his Salem experience and you’ll see what a great adventure he had. Our personal tour of Gilli began in the darkroom, located in the rear. Anton covered the back windows with a very well-designed fabric and wood contraption that allows him to display pictures through the windows as well as block out all the light. Here is his printing area.

Three metal trays sit in a large plastic sink, supplied with water from 75 gallon tanks mounted beneath it all. Next, he busted out some insane glasses that were a cross between bifocals and a jeweler’s loupe. These he uses when hand coloring his prints.

Anton’s two enlargers are opposite the sink.

There’s also a door on the back right side of the bus, which is a good thing because it was HOT in that little room. Back in the main part of the bus it was revealed that a sink and stove were hidden beneath a table displaying old cameras and prints.

Near this area is a cabinet that holds a few batteries. There are others beneath the bus. They can’t be stowed in the main are because, in Anton’s words “they leak hydrogen”.

A little transistor radio perched atop a beautiful wooden table supplied some background music. The tabletop came from a guitar manufacturing place and the little Polaroid radio runs on the battery pack from the film cartridge.

My unexpected discovery of the Photo Palace bus was one of the highlights of my vacation. It was a thrill to meet Anton and see what he’s done to Gilli. Lots of folks visited the bus while I was there and to see them get excited about Polaroids and old film cameras was really cool.

Many people from the Peabody Essex were there as well. One man was giving out cards advertising a project called  “A Year of Photography”, in which you can participate via their website. It’s worth checking out.

Anton was so friendly and answered all my questions with enthusiasm. I’ll continue to follow his adventures and who knows? Maybe I’ll run into again in another part of the country.

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Phoebe’s Misadventures in Developing Film

Earlier this week I decided to tackle a pile of black and white film that’s been waiting to be developed for months. As I was setting up the chemicals my oldest daughter, Phoebe asked if she could help. Since I had four canisters to develop, each at different times, I readily accepted. I’ve been hesitant to let the kids help me with the developing process but at twelve-going-on-fourty-five-years-old, Phoebe is plenty mature enough to concentrate on the task at hand. Plus, I was excited to introduce her to this side of analogue photography.

With chemicals at the right temperature and the right kind of tunes on the iPod (funk and soul, of course!) we started dancing to the music as we agitated the film in the wetting stage.

Having Phoebe was really helpful. Our first two tanks had developing times that were 30 seconds apart, so I was able to start her developing process ahead of mine. With good timing and preparation we were able to finish the process together. Since I had four tanks to get through, it was a huge time saver.

I suppose the first clue that something was amiss would have been the dark, cola-like color of my developer, Ilfosol 3. I opened it about six months ago and it lives in my garage, which has seen a few temperature changes in that time. I’ve always stored my chemicals in the same place and I’ve used Ilfosol 3 when it was brown before, so I didn’t anticipate any problems, until I saw pink liquid drain out of the tank after the developing step.

Undeterred, it was on to the washing stage for both of our films.

I noticed our film looked kind of pinkish but stranger things have happened. It was when the Permawash turned bubble-gum pink that I knew something was wrong.

Yeah, that’s never happened. Still we plugged on, but when it was time for the final, magic step–the reveal of the pictures on the negatives–this is what we saw.

As the father in “A Christmas Story” says..”He looks like a big, pink nightmare”. I was frustrated. Not only were two rolls of film ruined, but Phoebe didn’t get to experience the fun of seeing the pictures on the film. I was sure she’d be my darkroom buddy forever after seeing pictures appear on the film because it’s such a great reward after all the mixing of chemicals, timing of steps and shaking of canisters.

I quickly went back over the process in my head. Maybe I didn’t dilute the developer properly? This time I made extra sure to be very, very careful when measuring and calculating. Here’s what the next two rolls looked like and where they ended up.

GRRR!!! Six rolls of film turned out to be really, pretty garbage. My fixer was fine, even after the process. Here’s a shot of Phoebe testing it when we were finished.

The stop bath, too, appeared normal. It was still the same lovely shade of yellow at the end of our session. I can only infer that the developer went bad in the garage. Fortunately, there was none left after our disastrous session.

I didn’t get upset, although I did express my disappointment to Phoebe. I told her how fun that moment is when you unwind the film and see your pictures. I told her I was bummed that she didn’t get the same experience. “Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. That’s just the way it goes with film” is what I told her. She was really great and told me the next time I had film to develop, she’d love to help.

Another thing that needs help? The Photo Palace Bus! I know I keep mentioning it but it’s such a worthwhile cause and with only four days left, they’re still really far behind in getting their funds together. Please, if you haven’t already, check out their Kickstarter page and consider supporting their cause.


Light Painting and Help The Photo Palace

Over the holidays I decided to try my hand at some light painting while walking along the streets of my town at night. For these shots I used my Smena 8 with Kodak Gold iso 400 film.

I was getting warmed up here. As you can see, it’s just a hand-held long-exposure shot, but I like the composition.

This one is zippy! I moved the camera in circles near a bare tree lit by LED lights.

The lights in this tree were further up in the sky. I must have used small, circular motions because the shapes made by the lights look like little snails.

These lights were at the top of a lamppost. They were the old-fashioned kind of lights with giant colored bulbs. You can really see the difference in color temperature between these and the LEDs.

I have more light painting shots on the way. I loaded my Canon 70’s film SLR with Fuji slide film (which I’m getting cross-processed) and am eager to see what I captured.

Remember the Photo Palace bus? Well I got this email from Anton, one of its creators:

Hi Friends,

Well with two weeks left in the funding campaign I really am hoping for a miracle. We are only 20% funded and somehow we are supposed to raise the rest in just 14 days.

I was going to make a video update talking about the educational component of the venture, but with 30 minutes left at my job (which is where I edited the last video because my computer is not powerful enough) my Final Cut file crashed and the info got lost so there’s no time to start over…

In the update I was going to say how many wonderful things we will offer to the film community at large: art shows where people can see a gum print and a tintype and a bromoil print, workshops on pinhole cameras and cyanotypes for kids, more involved classes for adults, lectures on the history of film and how it affected the developments in photography, setting up community dark rooms all over the country…. there was a lot there, but now it’s all lost in the digital realm (if I was working with film this would not have happened…). In any case – imagine me looking rather desperate in my packed-up darkroom pleading for help 🙂 It was going to be a good movie…

I really hope that this goes through and we’ll be able to get on the road by summertime. PLEASE help us out by doing another wave of postings here and there and everywhere about this project with a link to it. If you tell the people – ‘hey, I support this!’ they may listen closer and support it as well, right?

Below is the photo of Rollov Film Center – the space where I taught about a dozen students for the past year. It’s all cleaned up and ready for my departure. Please help make this campaign a success 🙂

Sincerely,
Anton

Yikes! Please help spread the word about this fantastic project and if you haven’t yet contributed to the fund, hop on over to their Kickstarter site and do so. It’s such a fantastic way to let people know that film is NOT obsolete and that there are lots of us who still love kickin’ it the lo-fi way. Besides, I really want to meet these two fellas when they come to my town!


The Photo Palace Needs Your Help

It all started in the early 1990’s as an idea to capture portraits of America but with the advent of digital photography, Anoton Orlov decided his traveling darkroom, called The Photo Palace Bus, could serve a higher purpose: to educate and spread the knowledge of traditional and silver based darkroom techniques. Now he and co-creator Ryan Kalem need your help to spread analogue love.

Orlov and Kalem, both graduates of San Jose State’s photography program, are trying to raise $16,000 by February 1, 2012 so they can take their 1978 vintage yellow school bus on the road. Visit their kickstarter site to support them. If they don’t reach their goal by February 1, they get ZERO DOLLARS so it’s important to get your pledge in before the deadline. This is a sketch of what they hope to create from the vintage bus.

The two main goals for The Photo Palace Bus, according to their kickstarter site are

• The Photo Palace will provide traditional photographic education and hands-on experience opportunities in every corner of the country. The goal is to preserve the traditions of analog photography.

• Using the north-light studio and incorporating street photography we will create a 10.000-negative portrait series about New Americana. From pop to fringe – all aspects of culture will be addressed via portraits accompanied by narration and quotes.

Impromptu and scheduled art exhibits; free lectures, demonstrations and workshops will be the core of The Photo Palace’s curriculum. Topics such as photo history, gelatin, silver and alternative printing techniques as well as studio and location photo techniques for portraiture and still life photography are just some of the subjects that will be covered.

The vintage yellow school bus will be equipped with darkroom equipment, a viewing area, a fold-out North-Light studio which can be installed on either side of the bus and living quarters on an upper-level, which will be created by installing the bodies of two VW buses on the roof of the school bus. Here are some Polaroids taken the day the two bought the bus.

Orlov and Kalem are following in the footsteps of some of the pioneers of the trade, most of which had no choice other than to have all their materials on-hand at all times. Early photo techniques, like wet-plate collodion, depended on having a darkroom set-up within feet of the place the photo was taken. Even after the invention of dry film photographers continued the tradition of setting up darkrooms in the field so they could be fully immersed and integrated with their projects.

Anton Orlov moved to California from Moscow when he was 17. His passion for photography has taken him to Central America, Asia and all across the continental US. He operates a darkroom facility in San Diego where he offers workspace to photographers and private lessons in analogue photography. His favorite camera is the Rolliflex TLR. These are a few of his works, which are being offered as thank you gifts.

Ryan Kalem works in primarily large-format photography. This format forces him to slow down the process and really think about all elements of the photo. During The Photo Palace’s tour, he will take up permanent residence in the bus, which will give him a deeper understanding of the area and people he is capturing. Here is one of his gelatin silver prints that is also being offered as a thank you gift.

You can follow the adventures of the construction of the project at The Photo Palace blog. This is a picture of their vision of the bus’ interior.

By becoming a backer you’re not only supporting The Photo Palace financially, you’re also helping to plan the route! Orlov and Kalem state that your pledge ensures that the vintage bus will be rolling into your town or wherever you want them to go. I don’t know about you but personally, I’ll be super-excited to meet the photographers and see the bus first hand when they roll into my little corner of the world. Until then, sit back and check out this video.

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/351976604/the-photo-palace-bus/widget/video.html


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