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       The galleries on this site are organized roughly around the camera I used to make the images. But, before I get to the cameras, I want to talk about printing, as it is essential to what I do. Before I came to Singapore, I spent some time at the Awagami Paper Factory in Tokushima, Japan, as an artist-in-residence. They gave me the opportunity to work with their gorgeous, handmade inkjet paper called "Bizan." It is a really wonderful paper to print on and, having a pretty free hand at the residency, helped me to really learn how to work with it. As you can see in the picture above, the paper has a dickle edge, being handmade. What you can't see is the surface texture or the substantial weight of the paper itself.. It is pricey but it saves me mounting or framing costs as I can hang the paper as is, which also allows the audience access to the print surface without any glass or plexi covering. The printer I am using now is an Epson 7880. I began these black and white prints when the 7600 was current. In order to get any kind of neutral grayscale images in those days, I had to use a RIP (raster image processor). the one that really did the job for me was Imageprint from Colorbyte Software. Early on, I struggled mightely trying to get a black that wasn't green but just couldn't get it done without the RIP. There are other, cheaper paths available but Imageprint worked for me.

      I am also working with an Eposn 10600 in which I switched inks from color to a K6 set from Jon Cone. I also have had to learn how to use StudioPrint, a very complex but powerful RIP. It allows (forces) you to make what are essentially profiles for each paper that you use. In doing so, you get almost complete control of ink lay-down and image density. I am now printing on Canson Rag Phototographic, a really beautiful paper from France. All this is the result of a grant I was given from the school where I teach in Singapore.

       I usually work with one camera and one lens until I get restless and want to change the kind of picture that I am making or until some new subject matter forces me to change my working methods.

nikon sp

      The early 35 mm work was done with a Nikon SP, the rangefinder Nikon. One night a friend and I, in a moment of drunken stupidity, decided to 'baptize' our cameras (it seemed like a good idea at the time). He had a Leica M4 while I had my SP. We were drinking beer and poured a glassful over each camera. The next day I woke shuddering with a hangover and scared to death that I had destroyed my camera. I broke it down as far as I could and wiped clean as much as I was able. After putting it back together, I fired the shutter and damned if it didn't work fine. My friend had to take his into the shop for a very expensive cleaning. I loved that camera!
Those 35mm pictures were all shot on Kodak Recording Film, an extremely high-speed film that is loaded with silver. In conjunction with lots of exposure and a rich development, you get images that are heavily grained. I loved that grain. For me, it was light crystallized. The film also had an incredible latitude. I never had to worry about exposures no matter the light conditions. This work got me a National Endowment for the Arts Photographer's Fellowship. With that money I went to Japan the first time.  I took a boat from San Francisco to Yokohama, ten days of horizon watching. It was a great trip.


      After arriving in Japan in 1976, I tried to continue the same style work but discovered that I needed access to my old darkroom to be able to produce images that looked the same. I needed the chemistry, the enlarger (Leitz Focomat) and the paper (Agfa Portrega), none of which I had in Japan. I sold my SP and experimented with 4x5 and contact prints but eventually decided on a twin lens Mamiya C330. It was the portability and the ease of film handling that swung my decision. I started using Tri-X film and doing everything in a more conventional way. I was happy with the change, as I really wanted to get away from that grain in my pictures. I felt like I was seeing it all the time. I used that camera until I returned to the USA when I traded it (and some money) for a Hasselblad. The pictures didn't change much as the cameras are essentially the same. At least, I used them as if they were.

makina plaubel

      The next big change for me was going back to a rangefinder but keeping a larger negative. I traded my Hasselblad in on a Makina Plaubel which gives a 6x7 (2 1/4 x 2 3/4) negative. I also began shooting color. I did a series of pictures in Civil War Battle Sites and in Baltimore and Indiana. Most of the color work I have done was with this camera.

      Until I returned to Japan in 1996, I worked in the darkroom, continually fascinated by the process. I became, I think, a skilled printer both in black and white and color. I eventually taught myself the dye transfer color process but teaching photography and coming to Japan both conspired to make me change. When I was teaching, I had to spend all day and many evenings in or around the darkroom. When it came time to do my own work, I couldn't drive myself back into the dark any more. After my family and I left the USA and returned to Japan, there simply wasn't space for a separate room for wet darkroom work. I spent a while doing things only for the web. I used Photoshop, MS Word and early web design software to make image and text pieces that I would upload onto my web site almost daily. There is one gallery, the Digital Images one, where the pictures are all either done with a digital camera (a small Fuji) or are scanned prints or negatives. The pictures are then opened and manipulated in Photoshop and combined with my poetry.
      Since early in my work, I had wanted to print with ink. I tried photogravure and photolithography while I was art school. Both of them were technically too demanding at the time. Darkroom printing was tough enough. Gradually, as the Internet became more and more filled with commercial information, I began looking again at printing techniques I could use. My working situation also changed (I was hired by a Japanese university) so that I was able to get a Nikon 8000 film scanner and then an Epson 7600 printer. I use archival inks and paper (Ultrachromes and Moab Entrada) and can thus make prints that rival black and white silver prints for long-term stability. Photoshop/Lightroom has replaced the darkroom. The university also sent me to study with Jon Cone, at Cone Editions, John Paul Caponigro in Maine. I also was Artist-in-Residence at Awagami Paper in Tokushima. All of them were great experiences and I am really grateful to Kawasaki University MW for their support.


      As I reconnected with two-dimensional work, I also added a new camera, a Konica-Minolta RF that reminded me of my old SP. I loved that camera and began a series of pictures that eventually became the book, ”Two Fish, Out of Water.” I also worked with an M2 for this series. the lens were interchangable and I loved having two bodies from two great cameras. When that series played out for me, I once again looked for a way to change my work. I went back to medium format looking for a larger negative to work with. I discovered a camera I could get pretty cheap. It was 645 and, most interestingly for me, had a vertical viewing window. It was a Fuji 645. It has a fixed semi-wide angle lens that is really sharp. It is a very simple, tough camera and served me very well. I did the series “Pictures from the Real World” with this camera.

fuji 645

      The film I used through all of this Japanese work is Fuji 400 ISO stuff I developed in dilute Rodinal. Both the 35 and 120 film were treated the same; long, slow development so that I could take advantage of the “plating” action and adjacency effect. Later on, I switched developers to TFX developer from Photographer’s Formulary. Rodinal had gotten very hard to find and the TFX turned out to be even sharper that what I had been able to get before.    

bronica rf

      I added a Bronica 645 RF to my camera stock. I was looking to get a more contemporary lens and this one is really sharp. When this camera was released it got some rough reviews. The lens weren’t all that fast (f4) and there were only three of them but that didn’t bother me. All I needed was normal and wide and the speed was sufficient. The work I did at the end of my sojourn in Japan was done with this camera as well as all the film-based work I have done since coming to Singapore and Southeast Asia. 

      There is one more addition to this list: the most recent (2011) change, I have succumbed to the digital. As I mentioned earlier, I have been working inside the computer since 94 or 95. I have been printing with inkjet since 98. For ten years I scanned my film. I am very proud of the work I have been able to do with this method. I have yet to decide whether the seamless digital workflow will suit me but here it is: I bought a Leica M 8.2. I have since sold that and bought an M9. It is a beautiful camera and with the 28mm Elmarit lens, it is the smoothest lens/camera combination I have ever had. The lens I used with the M2 and the Konica-Minolta also fit the 9. The images are just stunning. I don’t miss the scanning and contact print making I had to do with film. Lightroom is a wonderful place to do the image manipulation. My only concern is the fact that the whole thing is so “weightless”; there are no physical impediments to slow you down, let you think. I have always loved the physicality of chemical photography. I will have to see how I feel about this new paradigm. Oh, if you get the urge to get an M9, there is one essential add-on I think you will need: the Thumb's Up thumb grip. It makes a huge difference in handheld stability.

      I hope this work is of interest to you. It is available for exhibition and for sale. Contact information is as follows:

Paul Kohl
9A Nanyang View
Nanyang Technological University
Singapore 637458
Tel: 65 9654 9305

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