Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas message

Angel gives Mary the message

Photograph copyright Kipp Baker © 1979-2008

Originally titled, "The Message: 'Positive'" this image was created some 30+ years ago around that holiday time of year to announce the opening of my first commercial studio in Fort Worth, Texas. In light of some recent events, it seemed worth resurrecting.

The concept revolves around a number of different thoughts where philosophy, science, religion and reality crash into each other. Charged by the plug of cynicism in the approaching wired age - with a look to deep history driven by some of our most powerful religious icons, the image's intent challenges the dogma that either serves - or plagues - mankind.

Camera was a 35mm Canon F-1N; film Kodachrome 25, lit with studio strobes. Three passes of a single roll of film for multiple exposures were made in camera; 100mm and 28mm lenses used - and no Photoshop...

Styling and wardrobe were created by @Rosalyn Dias Bodycomb, now a painter/artist in New York City, New York. Her husband @Michael Bodycomb, now staff photographer for the Frick Museum (and formerly with the Kimbell Art Museum) assisted me as well. The late Ellen Broyles was the model for both angel and Mother Mary. We had a lot of fun with this...

Sunday, March 2, 2008

At the Museum...a contemplation

Copyright, Kipp Baker 2001-2008

Museums aren't always regarded in the best of terms. Some are considered stodgy, blocking the way of more modern thought or needlessly remaining conservative beyond their usefulness. Others are considered too liberal in the folly of "Modern Art," corrupting the minds of all - especially our children.

But I've always liked the museums. You visit enough of them - things tend to balance out, and you can see the creative boundlessness of humanity.

I especially like museums when they've provided a place for a photograph. Like the one here. This has special meaning to me on several levels...for starters, it was created inside the hallowed walls of a museum - the Amon Carter in Fort Worth.

Next, it began life with a camera and film no longer made. The venerable Polaroid SX-70 and Time-Zero film, are the only combo I know of that could produce the surface and palette you see here - as one physically - not electronically - manipulated.

Third, it depicts my mother (at the window) and sister (seated) in a pause - a restful interlude. What it may say to you, I have little idea - but in this day of an aging populace, its composition and shadows speak to me on the vagaries of dementia, and a caregiver helpless in simple observation...

...but that's just me.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

After Dark: The Elopement...
It's all wedded in perception

Copyright © Kipp Baker, 2005.

In the spring of 2004, barely over a year out of high school, my daughter announced to us she would most definitely marry a wonderful young man she'd met while testing - and rejecting - the pursuits of higher education at North Texas State University in Denton, Texas.

While delighted with her success at finding a life's mate...I must admit, I wasn't all that happy over the circumstance, but I resolved to give the fellow a chance.

As father of the bride, my next two years were filled with a variety of visions of the future - imagined images with the potential to become reality - one of which is portrayed here...

The courtship following was fraught with all the normal worries of mistakes and social faux pas one could possibly commit in the execution of such a momentous event. Such was the state of mind of my daughter, Kristin and wife, Bonnie. The worst of these generated a wedding of "perfect imperfections." The time of the wedding was posted in the invitation as an hour off. A fact not acknowledged until the day before the ceremony...

But that became easily explained.

Their normal issues of planning the marriage were compounded by the fact they'd both moved to New Orleans; he to complete his Masters in Family Counseling; she to dutifully follow her bliss. But fate took a decidedly dramatic turn when they - and their roommates fell victim to hurricane Katrina.

Home interior after Hurricane Katrina
When it was apparent the hurricane would bull's eye New Orleans, they made their way to our home in Fort Worth. But their rented home was only three blocks from the second levee break. We watched in stupified horror, on TV and on Google satellite maps - as water to the rafters destroyed everything. After that, realization there was an hour's difference in a social engagement seemed not such a big deal.

* * *

The Fort Worth Camera Club has been in existence for over 75 years. There's a lot of history there - not to mention photographs. I've only been a member since early 2003, but I've enjoyed the camaraderie tremendously.

We have "closed competitions" from time to time during the year - any images submitted must pay some allegiance to a concept or category dreamed up by the demented or sadistic board members elected the previous year.

I hope the board will forgive me saying that - because I enjoy these efforts tremendously.

Someone, who was not quite so obsessive-compulsive about their image making as I - asked me why I continued to be a member. It seemed they couldn't understand why a former professional would want to associate with amateurs. I attributed her question to a certain deficiency in Latin - since "amateur" - in the strictest sense, means someone who does it for the love of it...a term of praise, endearment and passion in my book. While flattered, I did my best to explain that newbies often ignored "rules" of photography - showing me new ways to see things. I felt it a duty to give back in teaching at least as much as I was taking - and if I could teach, I would - in completing that transaction - learn, too. It's what the marriage of education in the student + teacher experience is all about.

The photograph here, "The Elopement" is a direct result of the closed competition category "After Dark," my passion for photography and my love of the club. For all its flaws - and any society has plenty - the club is a wonderful collection of dear friends and people who care about their image - the best kind - the photographic image.

Many thanks to the models: My friend Tom Laskoski, who ecstatically played the father at the top of the ladder, and Joe and Amanda Newman, themselves about to become newlyweds. Because the Fuji 50 slide image was a bit too underexposed - or because Darren Huski's playful image of light streamers was so artfully composed - this image only garnered a second place ribbon that month...but it's symbolism and cultural narrative will always be foremost to me and a real first rate memory.

Monday, February 18, 2008

What's the angle?

Originally intended as a black and white print, this image works well... to color the thinking.

In this politically charged atmosphere of presidential politics, I think it says a lot. Despite its slant, there's the ring of truth to it, don't you think?

Well...what DO you think?

Vote your conscience, not your pocketbook.
You'll do OK...So will we all.

I don't care what anybody thinks.
Photograph copyright©Kipp Baker, 2005

kipp @

Thursday, February 7, 2008

78th Anniversary Show

If you've ever wondered about photographs as art - and not just documentation - you'll want to see this photography show by the Fort Worth Camera Club. This is your official invitation to come see work done by a number of photographers in the North Texas Area.

This group show of roughly 90 prints hangs in a wonderful gallery space (formerly the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth) and promises to engage the vision like never before. If you couldn't see it during the big Friday night hob-nob with the crowd - you missed a wonderful opportunity to talk directly with those involved, but please be sure to drop by the FWCAC (now the Fort Worth Community Arts Center) during its run of "visualized" persons, places, things and ideas.

You won't be disappointed.

See you there....

-- K
kipp @

Monday, February 4, 2008

The Great Idea - a Signature Image

Copyright©Kipp Baker, 1982-2007

The art director and I were new to each other.

He'd just started as senior art director with a new agency after working a number of years with what was sure to be their cross-town rival.

I was an up-and-coming photographer who wanted a chance to show what I could do. I'd already shot the Ben Hogan golf catalog for another art director with this same agency, so I had some credentials for tough lighting...

The original assignment was to be a small catalog of lamps for a formerly "wholesale only" lighting supply company moving into the retail market. One of the featured lamps was subtle in its color, delicate - and suggestive of a flower...a real challenge to photograph...I'll post it in a future blog.

But this art director was open to suggestion, new ideas and ambitious. We talked. After about an hour of illuminating discussions, he bought my ideas for both the lamp's treatment and this photograph of the bulb and socket, designed as the cover to the catalog. With rates agreed, the catalog was engaged. We had less than one week to complete the catalog to coordinate with other marketing efforts. We could stagger the film deliveries - but the first images had to be delivered within the week for ads designed for a regional magazine and its deadline.

At the time, I was also teaching photography at the local junior college. One of my students agreed to act as an assistant. He was eager and bright. We had a good rapport. The first day of pre-production went about as expected. Bill shopped for supplies and props, ran errands and constructed sets, while I came behind to shoot Polaroid and film tests to run to a nearby lab.

I'd instructed Bill to load the 4x5 sheet film (no "Ready-loads" in those days) and we began the shoot. The tests had been tight and we knew the bracket would give us great exposures. But when Bill came back from the lab with the dumbstruck look of that nightime deer in front of the car we've heard so much about...we knew something was terribly wrong. All the film was ugly - red-orange tinted and waaaay underexposed.

What I hadn't been bright enough to anticipate was Bill's unfamiliarity with 4x5 film and loading a film holder. Because the film was loaded backwards, our shots had been made through the base! The emulsion side had been turned away from the light. To meet the tight deadline, two days worth of shooting had to be reconstructed in one dark and very long day. After arranging a late night run with the lab, we reset, reloaded film, shot and delivered the work in time for the catalog.

But we still needed this final "Light Bulb and Socket" shot. There was no time for retouching and back then, Photoshop® didn't exist. The shot I'd promised demanded one piece of film. Due to its complexity and concept, I opted for an additional assistant. Bill didn't mind. Michael, a friend and fellow photographer was available to act as first assistant - to help wire the bulb and discuss all the parameters of good photographic grammar - sharpness, depth of field, proper exposures and the like. What you see here is our result. Shot with a 90mm Caltar II wide angle on 4x5 Ektachrome with studio strobes at about f/45.5 its been a signature shot of mine for over 20 years.

The syntax in the photograph was like a great short story - with an O'Henry surprise. The concept of a light bulb continuing to burn after separation from its power source demanded flawless brilliance in its execution to make its telling visual statement - the great idea of persevering is never considered a dim bulb.

Thanks, Michael - and Larry - both of you helped make this happen.

kipp @

Tabletops & Not So Tabletop - Catzilla

Copyright ©Kipp Baker, 2007. All rights reserved.

The assignment was, again, generated by the camera club's competition in closed category: Tabletops. Should be simple really - just construct a set for a photograph on a table top.

Only I'm such a contrarian.

I wanted to impress the viewer - a judge no less. I wanted to make it look as non-tabletop as possible and thereby stand out from the crowd. To be sure, the finished product has those elements, but the clues are overwhelming - this is a small set...It could have been made on a table...despite the exterior trappings and look of a high mountain desert in the southwestern US...

When judged, the print immediately drew gasps, guffaws and snickers (which, btw, is the cat's name - not Catzilla - [that's just to help the concept + visual effect.]) As the judge began his critique, he immediately began his discussion with a comment about heavily Photoshopping an image.

I shook my head, no... There was very little Photoshopping to this. The audience reacted and the immediate buzz and commotion drowned out any beneficial comments or observations the judge was making.

He didn't believe this wasn't "Photoshopped."

I didn't know why it mattered.

It was taken with a digital camera (Canon 20D, 10-22mm zoom and strobe lighting), but truth is - the only digital effects were to remove some sensor dust spots and lightly enhance the flash-bulb effect from the girl's toy camera. (It really does light up - but it's an incandescent bulb - like in a small flashlight - incorporated into the toy - and it only glows - it doesn't flash...) My cat - Snickers, AKA "Catzilla" had jumped up onto the table during my setup - and I decided to put him to work.

To me the cat made the image a perfectly humorous comment on our automobile culture and obsession with being tourists. Again, my photograph got modest points and no ribbon - but the stir of the crowd (about 120 good folk) made it all worthwhile and fun.

It's not often a photograph reaches the plateau where its elevation is well above a tabletop...but I think this one's a real butte.

kipp @

Friday, February 1, 2008

The Mask of Narcissus

...was self-assigned - created as an entry for our local camera club's "closed competition" category of Special Effects. There are some minimal Photoshop touches to clean off dust spots from the scan and ensure color, but essentially, this is what is on the film.

I spent a day or so thinking about what to do; gathering props; assembling it; shooting tests and another day actually creating the final shot in about 7-10 minutes - and all done on a single piece of transparency film (120mm Velvia 50) at twilight on a porch of my home.

Good thing about the time factor - the setup outside my home (no studio space then) was made during the only two days in February that were warm enough. The morning after the shot, and just after I had taken the set down, a nasty freezing rain storm hit. In two rolls of film, this one shot seemed uniquely best - there were others, but only 4-5 "similars" which were acceptable.

I was sad to discover I'd be unable to attend the competition's meeting when critiques were rendered, but it must have been fate to spare me the indignation. Our judge for the competition, the senior curator of photographs at the local museum, completely passed it over - giving it no ribbon, modest points, and is reported to have said, "well, we've all seen this one a million times..."

- go figure.

It contains every special effect I could think of to incorporate into a single shot:
  • Levitation
  • Light painting
  • Multiple strobe pops
  • Multiple exposures
  • In-focus + out-of-focus/blur effects
  • Star-burst filters
  • Gradation filters
  • Motion blur
  • Off axis composition
  • Constructed set effects
  • The odd mask for a subject
  • ...and a surreal mythological concept - quite relevant to today's culture...
...or so I thought.

Aside from its brethren exposures on the role, I'd never seen anything like it...
...but I'll keep trying.