Lets get caught up first.
My travels with Diana.
By Mark Sink
To sum this up this funny camera and her sisters has become far-reaching. Is it pop or a serious art movement? Is it a gimmick or a serious tool? Is it in a round of dismissal by the purists similar to the pictorialists being rubbed out by Newhall and Adams? I have struggled with negative perceptions of work by the camera throughout my career and to this day I still struggle including my own critical retrospection.
As most now know the Diana and her relatives to date have an immense cult following. I came in unknowingly well after the first wave peaked in the early 80s. Since then the movement has turned into a tidal wave. Over the last few years there has been many dozens of toy camera exhibitions. Some of the shows I participated in included the Hayward Arts Center in California that included a catalog, the Benham Gallery in Seattle that included works shops and Plastic Fantastic at E3 in NYC that has a wonderful web site …. Most recently I was a juror for the terribly named Krappy Kamera show where I combed through thousands of stunningly beautiful submissions.
Diana is a very romantic tool. The Camera can be a tool to become an instant pictorialist. Many successful toy camera users don’t like to be associated with the romance of the pictorialist photographers and they like to use the camera with a modern vision. Nancy Burson is one great example, Nancy Rexroth is another. Many use it for very personal visions and ideas and use a standard camera for most of they're other work. There are countless success stories with users of this tool. But through the decades I am finding I have refined my eye and become much more selective of what I consider successful.
You can not make a bad picture; the camera is too easy. Sadly many use it because they can’t make a good picture with glass so they depend on the effects the plastic creates. It can often make very cute w eak pictures look serious a seemingly much stronger. I see a dangerous similarity with Polaroid transfer. It's too easy to be arty; the majority of work I see is often empty of vision, personal style and craft. It started as a teaching tool but has spread into the a dangerous realm of interesting gimmickry with little pre-visualized concept among young photographers.
Ansel Adams once said most people have sharp lens but fuzzy concepts.
I won a Kodak Images in Silver Award in 1979 with images made by my first Diana. In a forgotten old box I found a Diana I used when I was a child in the 1960s inside was undeveloped the images I took of my mother from 15 years previous and me 4-ft shorter..It changed my life at least my direction in art school..I thought I had found a unique vision. I thought that it was the golden door. I soon was cut to size when a critic then told me.." oh the Diana ...how passe , lots of people have used the Diana" she told me to get t he catalog from Friends of Photography.The Diana Show...by David Featherstone...My bubble was burst.. It's a great catalog and Featherstone’s well-researched essay told the story of the camera and it’s beginnings. There I learned of Nancy Rexroth’s book Iowa and Mark Schwartz’s project of sending hundreds of cameras around the country to artists to shoot and return. These projects have proven to be some the earliest toy camera documents on record.
I have had a 26 year relationship with Diana. She was with me through my period at Warhol’s Factory (even though Andy hated the camera)...She got me into Vogue and Details and my first solo show in NYC in 86 -"Twelve Nudes and a Gargoyle-" The Diana was a huge hit in South America..the reverse technology movement never hit there the way it swept through the US, I guess they are struggling to get technology not discard it.. They seemed shocked and surprised with the notion that one can become successful in NYC using a toy camera.
As of recent I have tired of landscapes and single objects with Diana instead I am doing the historical swing back to the f64 world and I am on the road with larger formats, but still Diana is my camera of choice with nudes and fantasy staged work. I enjoy putting the plastic lens on new bodies, one of the best is sticking it on my old 4x5 Speed Graphic..My rebel Diana days are over. I have tired from getting in trouble from flashing the Diana in commercial settings... Smugness and need to flaunt the backwardness of plastic tools are over. Clients and art directors don't get the joke a lot of times, especially when they are being charged a large amount of money for the shoot...so now I generally have the blad on the tripod and sneak Diana in quietly.
My new projects involve making a sharp glass lensed photo but the content being Diana like, romantic and dreamy.... this has been much tougher. I also am inspired by my friend Adam Fuss with making a beautiful image using no camera at all.
The Diana is the greatest romantic. It’s a great wedding camera. Any time your at any great wonder of the world and you don’t have the load of gear or the time to shoot it better than a local postcard ....use Diana...they will be treasures and your 35mms will stay in the vacation tray.
Below is a wonderful statement on the Diana.
--Hirsch, Robert, Photographic Possibilities, Boston: Focal Press, 1991,
<<"The Diana questions many photographic axioms, such as "a photograph must be sharp," "a photograph must have maximum detail," and "a photograph must possess a complete range of tones to be considered good." The Diana challenges the photographer to see beyond the equipment and into the image. This camera also is easy to use. There is no need to use a light meter or to calculate shutter speeds and f-stops. Finally, the Diana summons up the Dadaist traditions of chance, surprise, and a willingness to see what can happen. This lack of control can free you from worrying about doing the "right" thing and always being "correct." Since the Diana is a toy, it allows you to look and react to the world with the simplicity and playfulness of a child.">>
A short list of my working collection of toy cameras.
Anny, Arrow, Arrow Flash, Asiana, Banier, Banner, Colorflash Deluxe, Debonair, Diana, Diana Deluxe, Diana F, Dionne F2, Dories, Flocon RF, Hi-Flash, Justen, Lina, Lina S, Mark L, MegoMatic, Merit, Mirage, Panax, Photon 120, Pioneer, Raleigh, Reliance, Rosko, Rover,See, Shakeys, Stellar, Stellar Flash, Tina, Traceflex, Tru-View, Valiant, Windsor, Zip, Zodiac.
The Diana camera was made in the 60s by the Great Wall Plastic Factory of Hong Kong..The importer, Power Sales Company of Willow Grove Penn. sold the Diana only by the case -144 cameras- at about 50 cents a camera.
Other Favorite toys..Most all from the thrift store and most recently e-bay on the internet.
Ansco panoramic, Action Sampler, Holga,,Sun Pet with matching yellow sun glasses,Doris,Bazooka,,Hulk Holgin,Bugs Bunny,Boy,Baby Brownie,Imperial Girl Scout, Corina, Lomos Monark, The whole early Kodak line..the 1920s and 30s Deco models are my favorites.
My Diana image artist statement:
The Diana Camera is a simple toy camera.
It is a tool to make art that is a reaction against the refined glass optics that control the way that we see the world around us, other than through our own eyes. Standard photographs are to sharp,too real , even super real . I feel the world isn’t that way, and you don’t see or remember it that way at least I don’t.
I am having a wonderful love affair exploring with Diana .
Because she is plastic ,she is very light and easy to take everywhere . Her looks are very non-offensive which allows one to be much more at ease with a Diana taking pictures rather than a big heavy technical marvel that looks like the military built.
I believe the most beautiful things in the world are the most simple. I get great satisfaction in producing such romantic , soft, yet powerful images with a camera that costs close to nothing.
I have both fine art and commercial … Commercial I have, fashion… like Grace Jones . corporate reports … on and on.
Then my art.
PDN has done a couple articals on the toy camera.
The list is the most important starting at the top.
Nancy Rexroth and another great one by the famous Arnold Gasson Shot #67….
. I have four or five different “Toy Camera” issues.. by Shots, started by the wonderful Dan Price.
Russell Joslin Published several articals on the Diana in Shots
Did the early early book “Iowa” She is the historical start…very important
Arnold Gasson is the first to use the Diana as a teaching tool .
There are some wonderful discussions about this in Shots mag
Nancy Burson (probably one of the most famous) portraits of children in the book “Faces”
Anne Arden McDonald has great work.
Nathan Cranston I think does great work.
Francis Schanberger Images on the beach
Eric Havelock-Bailie Potraits with a Diana he remodled to do close ups
email@example.com ph720 34739
Syrie Kovitz very young very talented self portraits
Mary Anne Lynch Her Marylyn Monroe series “the Dress”
telephone: 518-584-4612 or 718-857-6056
Tamaki Obuchi A wonderful photographer from Japan has done lots of Diana work.
Kristen Hatgi Very young has some wonderful work.
Jonathan Bailey Has been a solid Diana man for years.
Mark Katzman is a big time commercial shooter in St Louis . He used the Diana some.
Allan Detrich He has a informative site
Plastic Fantastic Magazine
I was just up at toycamera.com and the Toy Camera Handbook was finally published. You can see the details at
its goes on and on
Here is the best writing to date… 26 years ago
Pictures Through a Plastic Lens
by David Featherstone , copyright, The Diana Show , Friends of Photgraphy ,1980
It is the person behind the camera, rather than the machine itself, who creates the image. This, at least, is one of the paradigms of creative photography. Since the medium’s beginnings practitioners have readily accepted the refinements and improvements made on the basic black box and many contemporary photographers have embraced innovations as a means of expanding their visual explorations. Unfortunately, all too many photog raphers become consumed in the process of preparing to take the photograph; they typically end up with what Ansel Adams describes as a “sharp picture of a fuzzy concept.” Recognizing this and feeling that complicated machinery and careful technical calculations interfere with the basic intuitive picture-making process, some photographers have sought ways to make photographic seeing more immediate and direct.
Alienated by high-tech equipment, a remarkable number of photographers have chsoen to use an extre mely simple photographic machine, an inexpensive plastic “toy” camera with a plastic lens which produces images strangely relevant to contemporary photography. This camera is the Diana. It was introduced in the early 1960s, manufactured by the Great Wall Plastic Factory of Kowloon, Hong Kong, and imported by the Power Sales Company of Willow Grove, Pennsylvania. The importer sold the Diana only by the case--144 cameras--and the price in stores reportedly ranged from .89* to $3.00 per camera.
The Diana was marketed under a variety of names throughout the world, such as Arrow and Banner, although Diana appears to be the most widely dispersed brand name. In the mid-1960s students in the beginning photography classes at Ohio University in Athens began to use the Diana as a means of learning about photographic vision without being unduly concerned with machinery. The development of the Ohio University program was described in a January, 1971, Popular Photography article by Elizabeth Truxell, then Chairperson of Ë the University’s Photography Department. As educational use of the Diana spread to other photography programs during the 1970s, many photographers became intruiged with the aesthetic qualities of the pictures and started to use the camera for their own purposes.
Diana photographs have not been seen regularly in many exhibitions or publications. Perhaps wary of the reaction of the larger photographic community, photographers used their Diana images for personal exploration and continued to exhibit work done with more conventional cameras. A few did received recognition, particularly Nancy Rexroth, who had a portfolio included in the “Snapshot” issue of Aperture, (1974), and later published a book of her Diana photographs, Iowa (Violet Press, 1977). Another project that helped to popularize use of the Diana was Mark Schwartz’ “We Do The Rest.” Over a period of several years during the late 1970s Schwartz sent loaded Dianas to several hundred photographers throughout the country. They Ëwere requested to expose the roll of film and return the entire camera to him for processing and for inclusion in his final presentation. Apart from exhibitions in a few small galleries, use of the Diana has primarily developed as an underground activity. Its popularity has spread steadily, and when the invitation was extended for Diana photographs to be sent for consideration in this exhibition more than 100 photographers submitted portfolios.
This is an especially appropriate time for an exhibition and publication surveying the use of the Diana to be assembled. The manufacturer has discontinued production of the camera and, while some may be found in toy stores or flea markets, the final supplies are being quietly hoarded by those who know of its magic. Although other plastic cameras, even “improved” models, are available, none seem to have the qualities inherent in the Diana.
The Diana camera has been produced in several models. The standard version has a single shutter speed; oth Ëers have an additional “bulb” setting for time exposures. There is also a model with a built-in flash unit, the Diana F, which often suffers from random synchronization between the flash and shutter. All models have three aperture settings: sunny, sun with cluds and cloudy. The lens settings, designated by drawings on the lens barrel, tested to be f/16, f6.3 nd f4.5, respectively. The camera is also equipped with an adjustable focusing ring; distances are marked at 4 to 6 feet, 6 to 12 feet and 12 feet to infinity.
The camera accepts 120 roll film and makes 16 exposures on a roll. Image size is approximately two inches square, with the frame edges delineated indistinctly on the negative by a plastic frame inside the camera. The exact edge-pattern created by this frame varies from one camera to another. Although quality control was relatively good for an inexpensive camera, it was never the prime concern of the manufacturer. The shutter of one camera was scientifically tested at one tw Ëo-hundreth of a second, but others are thought to be closer to one-thirtieth. Often several cameras must be tried before one with a working shutter is found.
One of the more pleasing aspects of the camera’s operation is aural. The shutter makes a loud metallic snap as the single shutter blade is tripped, another as the release lever returns automatically to its always cocked position. (Double exposures are made easily.) In addition, the film-winding knob makes a distinctive and almost humorous clicking sound as the plastic ratchet is turned.
Light leaks, the patterns of which vary between cameras, are a major source of trouble using the Diana. Most photographers place a generous supply of tape along the seam between the camera back and body after loading the film. More tape is applied to the red transparent frame-counting window on the camera back. On some cameras it is also necessary to tape the joint where the lens is attached to the camera itself. Since the plastic film-winding as Ësembly does not always tighten the exposed film completely, many Diana photographers change film in darkness and wrap exposed rolls in foil to prevent fogging.
Optical abberations in the plastic lens add to the difficulties the Diana photographer faces. The low resolution of the lens limits the range of tonality recorded on black-and-white film. The effect is even more pronounced when color film is used; the colors transmitted by the lens, which is not color-corrected, are often surprising.
The degree of tonal separation, color distortion and spherical aberration in the lens also changes from one camera to another, and the negatives sometimes suffer from uneven exposure and flared highlights. Ironically, the simplicity with which exposures are made is counteracted once the photographer is in the darkroom. All of these problems can be overcome with perserverance, experimentation, and printing technique, of course, and the photographers who use the Diana accept and expect them.
No gen Ëeralizations about the work of the 43 photographers included in this book can apply to all, and it should be clear that their motivations for using the Diana differ widely and extend beyond the desire to be freed from complicated photographic machinery. When asked why they began work with the Dian, the majority of these artists mentioned the camera’s simplicity of operation as a means of freeing themselves visually and of encouraging spontaneity.
This interest by photographers in bringing a fresh point of view to their work is not an unusual or unexpected occurence. In a medium so deeply rooted in the technology of its making, it is not surprising that many photographers reach a point of techincal confinement which must be overcome in order for their personal creative growth to continue. The conflict is resolved in many ways; explorations of alternative print-production processes and major changes in subject concerns are examples. The search for visual spontaneity through use of a sim Ëple camera such as the Diana is yet another.
A number of these photographers were first exposed to the Diana camera in an educational situation. Some initially responded to photogrpahs made by others, seeing in them a quality they wished to pursue in their own work. A few found themselves wanting to photograph, but without a camera; the Diana being the cheapest picture-making device available. Still others received the camera as a jesting gift, only to turn to it when their high-tech equipment was stolen.
There is a strong element of absurdist theater inherent in the use of the Diana, a conceptual performance purposefully undertaken and enjoyed by the artists. Consider, for example, the experience of one photographer in securing a press pass for an Oakland Raiders footbal game and standing on the sidelines, Diana camera in hand, among paparazzi using an array of zoom lenses and motor drives. Or of another who, after listing her occupation as a photographer, proceeded through U.S. ËCustoms with her Diana. A third carried the Diana as his only cmaera on a foreign vacation, using it to photograph such often-pictured monuments as the pyramids of Egypt. Many photographers take delight in assuring incredulous viewers that yes, their finely-crafted images are, in fact, made with a $3.00 plastic toy.
On another level, there is a widepsread feeling of satisfaction gained in making viable, important and high quality photographic images using cheap, uncomplicated equipment in the face of a medium which seems to thrive on advanced technology. Innovations and technical improvements do find their way into Diana photography, however. Although many of the photographers have been content to use the camera as is, others have adapted it to their own aesthetic needs. The plastic construction of the camera allows changes to be made easily; the basic cost permits trial and error experimentation.
The most common adaptation is the addition of a tripod mount glued to the bottom of the Ë camera to allow time exposures in low light and to minimize camera movement. Several photographers have added mechanisms to allow use of external flash units, ranging in sophistication from Sindy Kipis’ use of a can opener taped to the camera to serve as a manually operated “hot-shoe” to Graydon Woods’ adaptation of a Diana F to accept electronic flash. Ardine Nelson has devised a method of inserting an “L”-screw into the lens barrel of the single-speed model to interrupt the shutter mechanism for time exposures. in order to prevent overlapping exposures on the film, Jim Alinder moved the exposure-counting window on the cmaera back from the 16-picture position and aligned it with the 12-per-roll series of numbers on the film’s paper backing.
Lili Lauritano cut away the plastic frame inside the camera to chieve a rectangular, rather than square, format. Carson Graves has taken this one step further by removing enough of the frame to allow the full cone of light passing through the len Ës to register horizontally on the film, creating extreme edge aberrations and extensive vignetting.
Even with these changes, it is the plastic lens itself which provides the primary aesthetic attraction of the Diana photograph, and despite other widely varying considerations, photographers are universally drawn to the optical qualities of the camera. Relatively sharp at the center of the field of view and becoming less sharp towards the edges of the frame, Diana photographs have a feeling of swirling motion around a central energy source. These pictures created through a plastic lens visually resemble, in part, the physical patterns of human vision. Our eyes focus on a relatively small area at any one instant and it is only by constant and rapid shifting of focus that the forms within an entire field of view are perceived. Artificial optical systems can only approximate this phenomenon. Images resulting from the “corrected” optics of refined lenses provide an illusion of a world we n Ëever see. The Diana lens, conversely, isolates a single “frame” of vision which occurs so quickly we are unaware of what is actually being seen. Trained to respond to the finely detailed images produced by traditional cameras, we often find the visual glimpse produced by the Diana to be incomplete and unnerving.
Questions of the photographic validity of one of these phenomena over the other, and of the merits of image sharpness in general, are hardly new to discussions of the medium. Sharpness is primarily an aspect of optics that has been assimilated as a concern of aesthetics. The degree of sharpness in any image is only one of many possibilities on a continuum which ranges from a totally incoherent blur to a clearly delineated representation. During the past 140 years photographers have designated different points along that continuum as prerequisite for successful photographs. Critics have adamantly attacked or defended those choices and succeeding photographers have either follow Ëed the conventions of the time or selected a new point on the continuum to express their photographic concerns.
Commercial portrait photographers in the late 19th century, for example, produced finely detailed likenesses of their sitters, capitalizing on photographic qualities the paintings which were their competition could not achieve. Their counterparts today use a softer, less crisp style. Many 19th century portraits made by well-known photographers such as Julia Margaret Cameron relied on unsharp imagery while portraits made by serious photographers today are likely to be clearly defined.
Overall image sharpness is not, of course, the only factor which has determined changes in photographic aesthetics, but it has defined the predominant direction of 20th century photography. The move by Alfred Stieglitz and Paul Strand away from pictorial imagery during the second decade of the century, a position later solidified by Edward Weston and the members of the f/64 group, remains a maj Ëor aesthetic parameter in contemporary photography.
Even though the optical effect of the Diana lens is similar to that of the lenses used by pictorial photographers in the early part of the century, the interests of Diana photographers do not include a re-creation of that aesthetic. There is, in fact, an historical awareness of that movement expressed by many of the artists here and a conscious effort made to avoid pictoralist imagery and to produce photographs which are decidedly contemporary in their visualization. Diana photographers are motivated by the search for an alternative mode of expression, not the duplication of a style explored by a previous generation of photographers.
The unique and magical optical effect of the plastic lens fins expression in these photographs in two ways. The first is through a formalist concern in which the image is structured to accentuate the importance of objects toward the sharper, center portion of the frame or to contrast unsharp positive an
d sharper negative space. The second results from a desire to present an image which, altered from our normal perception of objects, carries a distinct emotional charge. The two approaches are not mutually exclusive, of course; both are present to some degree in all of the images.
The concerns expressed in these photographs are as broad as any found in photography today. Though made through the plastic lens of the Diana camera, they are serious visual statements which belie the simplicity with which they were made.
Lens Baby …lensbaby.com
Subj: Diana Photoshop
Creating A Diana Effect
These are the steps for creating a "Diana Effect" using Adobe Photoshop. These steps work for all versions of Photoshop 3.0 and higher.
1. Open the image. Choose "Show Options" and "Show Channels" from the "Window" menu (it is in the"Palette" submenu in Photoshop 3.x) to show both the options and the channels palettes.
2. Choose the Gradient Tool
3. Set your foreground color to black and your background color to white.
4. Click on the little document icon in the bottom center of the Channels palette. This will create a new channel.
5. In the Options palette, choose "Foreground to Background", "Normal","100%" and "Radial". You may now close the options palette, if you wish.
6. Drag the gradient tool from the center of your image to any of the outer corners. This will create a gradient from black to white. The white areas will be affected the most by the upcoming filter: the black areas will not be affected. Any gray areas will be affected only partially.
7. Click on the "RGB", "CMYK", "Lab", or "Black" (only one of these will show) in the Channels palette to show your image again.
8. Choose "Load Selection" from the "Select" menu. Choose "#4" as the source channel, and "New Selection" from the radio buttons at the bottom. This will load the gradient in as a selection.
9. Choose "Hide Selection" from the "Select" menu to hide the marching ants.
10. Choose "Gaussian Blur..." from the "Blur" submenu of the "Filter" menu. Adjust the sliders until you like the effect. Click OK.
11. In order to distort the edges, use the "Radial Blur" filter (after doing step 10) with a small number.
12. When you like the effect, choose "None" from the "Select" menu.
Note: You can substitute any grayscale image for the gradient in step #6. The gradient was used only because it most closely creates the traditional "Diana Effect". Also, any filter can be used after step #9. The Gaussian Blur and Radial Blur were used because they create the traditional distortion characteristic of the "Diana Effect."
Interview with Mark Sink for shots magazine
by Russel Joslin
Mark Sink cut his teeth in New York City during the heady art-market boom days of the 1980's. Working professionally as a photographer, in both the commercial and fine art realms, Sink developed close ties to the art world. Realizing the potential and benefits of joining with groups of like-minded artists, he was, for a time, a part of the star-centric world of Andy Warhol's Factory scene.
Ultimately, he found a more favorable fit in Denver, Colorado and established his role in the art culture there. After settling, he began to orchestrate a number of ambitious, community-minded endeavors. He was one of the founders of Denver's Contemporary Art Museum, as well as the owner of the exhibition space and photography resource center, Gallery Sink. Both venues have grown considerably as he has continues to create a world for himself that is saturated with numerous photography and art-related interests.
In pursuing photography, Sink has essentially followed his family's vocation. He is strongly influenced by the life and work of his great-grandfather, James L. Breese. Breese was a notorious portrait photographer of New York high society in the mid-nineteenth century. Sink, following in his great-grandfather's footsteps, has also become known for organizing gatherings of photographers and artists.
Breese's photography has also informed Sink's on an aesthetic level. There are many striking parallels-primarily in their concern for capturing beauty on film. Sink's images, which he cites as being "more for the heart than the head", are often characterized by their soft and dreamlike qualities (for which he often aptly employs Diana and Holga cameras). Whether shooting nudes, flowers, landscapes or portraits, it is indeed his personalized vision of classical beauty that emerges as the core of Sink's photographs.
RUSSELL JOSLIN: How did you become involved with photography?
MARK SINK: It just stuck in art school, though I never really took any formal photography classes. I stumbled along, exploring unusual methods of making art objects, rather than studying the zone system. In the late 70's, it seemed very new to be irreverent with process. I followed my heart, not really questioning my direction. Later, with a little recognition and even some money, [my interest in photography] solidified. I am left-handed and dyslexic, so many things in school were a struggle for me, but art flowed and the camera was a great tool to use. I guess having artists as parents helped that too.
RJ: What artists or photographers have meant the most to you, in terms of informing or influencing your work?
MS: The artists that I have studied or worked for. Early on, it was Ruth Thorne Thompson, [who] set my track in thinking and working with reverse technology. Then came Andy Warhol and being around the Factory-having a chance to shoot a lot. [I was doing mostly] Polaroids-exploring our star-worship culture. Later, I studied my great-grandfather, James L. Breese and Joseph Sudek. That led me into a very gushy and romantic neo-pictorialist period. Then came Francesca Woodman, as well as all the staged artists from Prague, who greatly informed my work. Most recently, it has been Adam Fuss, Robert Heineken, and others making camera-less art.
RJ: Being around Andy Warhol's Factory and the artists there must have been an experience. Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat are "mythological" figures of sorts in the art world. What was your involvement with them? Or any of those in that circle?
MS: Jean-Michel and I photographed his work. I also spent quite a lot of time with him leading up to shows. It was very surreal-the drugs and money. I was pretty convinced [that] the market was going to fall out, that Warhol and Jean-Michel were over-hyped, over-producing, and over-pricing. I pulled back from being a "factory kid" after a couple of years. Andy never paid [me] anything, but I wanted to have him to promote and champion me as an artist. Many of my favorite stories of that time are of a critic who I spent a lot of time with, during the art boom of the 80's, Rene Ricard. He made and was the court critic for Julian Schnabel, Francesco Clemente, Keith Haring and others. He brought Basquiat into instant fame, single-handedly. I have a lot of shocking stories of how and why people were found. I'm still basically in stunned amazement of the power of the pen and how it forms our thought process about something or someone. I am very press dependent with my gallery and my Internet projects.
RJ: Having lived and worked in New York City for 12 years, before moving to Denver, what are your perceptions of being a photographer in both cities? What sorts of pros and cons would you attribute to being a photographer in each city?
MS: Well, New York is, of course, a very exciting place to be during your twenties and thirties. It was where I went to grad school and more. I miss it greatly. I wore many hats to survive as a working photographer and made vast amounts of money in the commercial world. But, creatively, I was very empty. [Therefore,] I concisely started to immerse myself into the gallery world, cataloguing artwork rather than clothing. I also started doing my personal art again. I bloomed, was very happy-and very broke. Also, it was very surreal being around the superstar art world, seeing fortunes trading hands for the flavor of the month. There seemed to be a very big gap between the haves and the have-nots. Denver began to look better and better with every visit. I had established a few galleries and agents, so I decided to move [where there would be a] higher quality lifestyle for the money. I purchased a 19th Century house in a bad neighborhood (the ethnic diversity felt most like New York City) and started my life here. The house jumped in value as the neighborhood gentrified, which allowed me to purchase my gallery building. I was very lucky that I wasn't pushed out of the neighborhood, like most of the other artists living there. In general, the old line, "it's easier to be a big fish in a small pond," was true for me, in Denver. For example, starting a contemporary art museum. That would have been a joke to try in New York City.
RJ: You Co-founded the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver, correct?
MS: Yes. The first chapter started with a conversation, with a friend of mine, in our community garden. [We felt that] we really needed a museum here, for contemporary art. So I formed a board, my friend put together the 5013C form and we headed off. It has been a hard, long haul, with many near collapses, until the pistons eventually started firing. We have had to fight the constant naysayers and counter productive critics and still do. It's mostly the insulated academics and big-money art supporters that cause the worse problems, which I find so very strange. It can all be very defeating and irritating sometimes. But there are talkers and there are doers. Sometimes you just have to roll up your sleeves, put your side blinders on and do what needs to be done-and things fall into place.
RJ: How is it going currently?
MS: Things are cooking now-we had the last laugh. We have been picking up speed and are busting a million dollar budget. In these times and with lots of art politics, that's a true feat. I'm very proud that MCA started with board meetings in my own backyard. I've learned mountains from this experience, which I have also applied to my gallery. Having started my own gallery, I am now immersed in even more politics.
RJ: How would you describe the direction of Gallery Sink?
MS: It was conceived and designed as a resource center, for the educational support and promotion of fine art photography. I exhibit regional and international cutting-edge fine art photography. The gallery has work available from over 150 photographers. We also occasionally exhibit painting and sculpture and [present] experimental music and performance as well. During the first half of the week, [Gallery Sink is] a commercial-photography studio. We serve clients with corporate needs, provide documentation of artwork services and do portrait, product, and fashion photography. We now have a new framing business, in a newly remodeled attached building.
RJ: What sort of advice would you give photographers who want to get their work shown in galleries?
MS: It's all a name game, getting an ear and eye on your work. This can be best achieved [by attending] the zillions of photo festival portfolio reviews around the world. When your work is reviewed, ask for suggestions of people that your work would be best received by. Then go to that person and say, "So and so said I should show you my work?" It's a name game. I review work at as many photography festivals as I can make it to. There are many great ones, all over the U.S. and the world (see www.festivaloflight.org). I have found some amazing talent that way-they're a great springboard for photographers. I'll be reviewing work at Photo Americas this spring.
RJ: Other than festivals, does anything else come to mind?
MS: Entering competitions is another way [that] many greats got going (see www.studionotes.org). I have also been having success with marketing my artist's work [using] inkjet printed books and enclosed CD's. I have found artists that way too. Some other ideas would be-to get grants, or to get a show in the spotlight (with a budget to promote it). Or put together a salon, or gathering of people whose work you admire in your area, curate it, and propose the work to galleries. [It is also important to] be professional.
RJ: When you critique work, can you pinpoint the things you're looking for? Or is it more a gut reaction?
MS: It's a gut reaction. My search has a very wide [range] in style. I like it best when the concept is thought out really well-not when the photographer is presenting a "work in progress." I hate it when an artist has a long list of apologies-like "these are just work prints" or "I've been meaning to get these mounted" or "I'm sorry these are hard to see, my book pages are all scratched." I like it when an artist has great respect for the treatment of a photograph-immaculately printed and presented, handled with great care; When they have a clear idea of what they're presenting and don't apologize for anything.
RJ: Tell me about your photographic group, the Denver Salon.
MS: We're in the process of healing now. We had a bit of a rift when the group was approached for an exhibition at the Denver Art Museum last year. Only a third of the group was curated into the show and egos were hurt. So I was dog meat, for canning members of the group for our big hometown show. The main museum curator had limited space and she chose the more exploratory and conceptual work. The staged and classical shooters in the group were left out and thus [feelings were] hurt. The whole show became the tale of some messy politics that were brewing. [Especially since] I was pushing "the powers that be," at the Denver Art Museum, demanding a photography department. All it did was make everyone mad at me. Things have settled down now, though and I am about to push our group for meetings again and start writing letters to the director of DAM again.
RJ: What is the general focus when you meet with the Denver Salon? What do you typically do and/or discuss?
MS: It is basically show and tell. We discuss new projects and news, or even more general interests like books and equipment. We dress up a little and sometimes have a great meal with wine.
RJ: What has being a part of these groups, or the leader of these groups meant to you personally as a photographer? How have they affected your work and the way you think about and/or approach photography?
MS: It has helped my work get noticed-[doing] the shows [that] we got as a group. I always felt I self-created this wave, that I could ride, realizing the power in numbers. The group hasn't changed my approach, other than the small style influences we have on each other's work.
RJ: Were the photography groups that your great-grandfather (James L. Breese) organized something that inspired the Denver Salon?
MS: Oh, yes, very much. I remember thinking, early on, how much I wanted to recreate one of his meetings.
RJ: Tell me about your great-grandfather.
MS: He is [one] among many wonderful and historically important photographers, who got left out of the history books. [This] can be fairly easily traced to Beaumont Newhall and Edward Weston. They hated many pictorialists and did their best to erase them from any of their writings. So, it's been a trail of rediscovery. Breese and William Fraser were photographers and founders of the New York Camera Club in the mid 1880's. Breese had a well-known studio, called the Carbon Studio. A lot of wild events happened there. The story of the photographer-line in my family goes much deeper though. Breese was the nephew of Samuel Finley Breese Morse, the "Father of American Photography." Few know that Morse was the first to present Daguerre's process, in the 1840's, to his colleagues, including Mathew Brady. All of this has been really exciting research for me, it keeps growing and growing-it's a book someday. The Internet has helped me with this research greatly.
RJ: Earlier, you referred to your "romantic, neo-pictorialist phase" and a lot of your work does recall a certain "classical" beauty, romanticism, pictorialism, etc. Is beauty enough in a photograph, or do you strive for more? Is it enough when you're considering the work of others?
MS: Gushy beauty is what got me going in art photography. I have used the phrase that my work is "more for the heart than the head." I'm a gushy romantic still. At the gallery, I regularly have floral shows. There is traditional landscape work there also. During the last several years, I have become more informed with the world of photography and I enjoy a much wider spectrum of styles. It's been fun exploring a few of those [styles] myself, recently.
RJ: Regarding your work with nudes, how would you say that your approach differs from when you're shooting some of your other common themes, such as landscapes or the floral images?
MS: My recent nudes are staged fantasy. [They reference] paintings and drawings of Greek tragedies, as a starting point. My large, color florals, are taken from the old Dutch master's paintings, so they are very allegorical too. But much of my single nudes, florals, Diana images of famous spots and things like that are just straight, gushy, romantic work. I still love doing that too.
RJ: Regarding the Diana camera, you've said, "I see a dangerous similarity with Polaroid transfer, it's too easy to be arty." I imagine that since you've used the Diana for much of your work, that this notion has presented a challenge for you-you're apparently working to push your work, to transcend the "easy" and cliché Diana photograph. What have you done to overcome this? In your work, what elements do you feel must be present in an image for it to transcend the "easy and arty" Diana image?
MS: Oh, Diana and Holga are very easy. One needs [to begin with] a good concept and then the choice of camera really doesn't matter. I find that using [toy cameras] removed from reality works really well. Meaning working in a studio, with a minimal backdrop-not much "busyness". That basically hides the effects of the camera. Most are surprised [when they learn that] my recent work was done with the Diana or Holga. I don't like [the Diana and Holga] much anymore for landscapes or social documentary work. It is so dishonest. The cheap, easy illusion feeling [that the camera creates] is distracting in many cases. So I've set a higher bar for myself. When I teach workshops now, I give away all my older methods. On my travels, I will still shoot the super-romantic and idealized wonders of the world with the Diana or Holga-those are big money makers. I am still living off images I made during my European trips in the 80's. I need to get back out and make some new ones.
RJ: You also teach photography?
MS: I teach workshops with the Diana, Holga and the digital camera for a couple of workshop groups: the Denver Darkroom and Working with Artists (www.denverdarkroom.com and www.workingwithartists.com). I was also given a part-time faculty position at Colorado University-they have some fresh blood for cheap. My favorite statement, in the syllabus, is that this may be the only class that you can get an "A" for failing. I'm really pushing chance and experimentation. I'm hoping that my passion will be infectious. I only wish the University wasn't so cheap with [the budget] for fine arts. It gets really depressing to see how [large] the sports budget is and the [relative] pittance the arts get.
RJ: This reminds me of a David Bowie interview I listened to once where he made a comment that stuck with me. He said that he was more concerned with "failing interestingly" than being "successful"-which kind of sounds like your teaching approach. What do you bring to the classroom and what is your general approach to teaching your students?
MS: I do have a little problem with using the word "failing", but it best describes the need to let go. Growing and truly exploring is like being on a trapeze. You're swinging, holding onto one ring, and you've got to reach out, let go of the first, and make it to the second ring. There is a moment where you're hanging in mid-air and you might go crashing down. That is what everyone is so afraid of, in our overly homogenized and safe world. But I say, "So what?" Jeez, let go-so what if you drop. Brush yourself off and try again! Get over it. You're not under the eye of Art Forum yet.
RJ: You wear so many hats that revolve around photography. Do you ever tire of photography-in terms of your own work, or looking at the work of others?
MS: Not really, regarding looking at other's work. I have become a bit of a snob in ways and recently have enjoyed drier intellectual and conceptual work. It's a natural progression, I think. But I haven't grown tired of encouraging developing work. As far as my personal work is concerned, I'm always afraid I'm going to tire of it, because I'm always seeing such great new work and ideas. As I see the different styles of work and my influences grow, it just makes me confused and insecure of who I am and where I fit in the canon. Also, it seems harder [for me] to get into the darkroom-but I'm pleased to say things keep jumping out and I still love dancing in the darkroom. I use the phrase "dancing in the darkroom" when something wonderful is coming up in the trays and that wonderful feeling rushes over you and you totally lose track of time. Knowing [that I still feel this] makes me very happy.
1) What is your definition of photography?
And god said let there be light…smile, all most anything that has to do with capturing and displaying images made with light and shadow. Simple reflections in glass are photographs to me. Melissa Kretschmer’s giant glass over black tar reflecting the environment where the piece is placed, I love that. Projection of images moving or not.
2) As an artist/photographer, what are you drawn to in terms of your own work?
The romantic image. I am drawn to beauty like a moth to light. I make work that is more for the heart then the head, super gushy universal beauty. I have been doing a lot of camera less work photograms and such. I also like the camera as a personal journal of sorts. I shoot hundreds many times thousands of images a week just of the day to day things I am up to.
3) As a gallery owner, what are you drawn to in the work of others?
Work with a unique voice .. Fine craft. I like work that talks to you… and keeps on talking. The many years of seeing and curating work I find I like more dry conceptual work.. I used to hate conceptual work .. but now I find I like it more these days.
I am on a new bend in curation. Anything goes like never before. I like random parallels that happen from pure chance that fall together perfectly. I like chance .. magic happens with chance. I am trying to apply that in curating. It is in response to all the work I see. There is such an explosion of photography like never before…millions of ways to search work from stumbleupon.com to flicker.com usefilm.com ..even myspace I have found amazing talent. I see and recommend artists to try the many forms on demand publishing… I Photo or Lulu.com. It’s a great cost effective way to submit work to a curator. Then I see thousands of portfolios at events like the Houston fotofest or photolucida and the brillant project 50 curators for fifty bucks (they send me a CD with 800 pdf portfolios to grade)(wish I thought of that). Cds come to my door dayly. I recommend PDF files for sending work out on CD. It’s the best and quickest way to view high quality images. I don’t recommended web sites with tons of Flash and tricks. Curators just want to get to the meat fast.
4) What is your definition of "now" in photography? What important factors are shaping the medium today?
Well are you sitting down? This could take the whole interview. We are in a very exciting time now. We are in a very strange time at this turn of the century. Companies like 100 year old Kodak and Nikon stopping making film cameras and the ending of fine art papers. It is sad … for traditionalists in other fine arts like painting will always have oil paints.. yet easily avalible chemical photography materials are rapidly coming to a close. Photography generally is now controlled by the computer and software companies. This is very sad to me. I compare the computer and software companies to the mafia it’s a corporate mafia. You pay to exist. They have us smitten and dazed and blinded with chasing more mega pixels and gigabytes. They are masters of planned obsolescence to a degree that is beyond annoying.. The days are over of buying a fine tool, a beautiful universal tool that you can give to your kids or grand kids. I have my great grand fathers 8x10 Deardorff camera from the 1880s it is compatiable with my modern film cassettes. My 26-year-old Hassleblad is still my camera of choice. My professional Fuji S2 is nearing the end of its life at year two.
Digital has giant ramifications on the way we see photography today. A photograph is no longer a statement of fact. I don’t think we fully understand the ramifications yet. Technically, It has given the everyone the tools to make and print images as well as the pros. Everyone has all the bells and whistles now. The only thing lacking now is a good concept. The web and on demand publishing have an amazing impact on photography. Like never before has the little guy had such a chance to be seen. At the same time that has created a momentum for people still wanting to be even more to be printed on paper or on a gallery wall. These changes also have created a giant bottle neck with publishers and curators receiving submissions. But on the other side it has greatly streamlined and made so easy the process to get work to periodical editors and publishers that are putting your work in print. It has created new giant communities sharing intersecting images and concepts.
Market trends now : It is said recently by top photography dealers editoning work is no longer an issue like before. Collectors of contemporary art are paying record high prices for photographs ever since the 2000 auction at Sotheby’s New York, Cindy Sherman’s 1989 (#209) sold for $269,750. Last year, Hiroshi Sugimoto’s 1999 Henry VIII , $744,000 . Others Thomas Demand, Rineke Dijkstra, Robert Frank, Goldin, Andreas Gursky, Irving Penn, Prince, Sherman, Thomas Struth, and Jeff Wall, each of whom has sold a photograph at auction for more than $150,000. I recently flipped through an art forum and was astonished how many of the blue chip galleries were advertising photography.
The rephotography movement, conceptual leaders like Prince and Sherrie Levine feels old now, antiquated by the new technologies.
Many young photographers that have used Photoshop and been film less all their lives now don’t have any questioning of purest ideals in the medium, the debate has waned, anything goes.
There are surprising movements back to the 1970s lots of young people being found by museums today are shooting new topographic work and intimate scenarios with traditional large format film favored for the extreme fine detail, names like Tim Davis, Doug DuBois, Jessica Todd Harper, Lisa Kereszi, Gillian Laub, An-my Lê, Darrin Mickey, Matthew Monteith, Nicholas Prior, Taryn Simon, and Brian Ulrich. google them.
Staged work is not as hot now as it was this past decade. Very straight dry people like William Eggleston and Stephen Shore and Joel Sternfeld are having a great effect on many emerging young people’s work I see being submitted.
It’s an exciting time for both photographers and curators.
Suggested reading on the subject of “Now”
Susan Bright’s Art Photography Now (Aperture, 2005) Charlotte Cotton’s The Photograph as Contemporary Art (Thames & Hudson, 2004)
David Campany’s Art and Photography (Phaidon, 2003).
5) Who are the most important artists/photographers to you and why?…
wow uff .. that changes day to day take a look at my gallery artist list they all had some sort important effect on me… but the most important?….People I worked with like Andy Warhol helped me look higher and believe in myself and explore. Ruth Throne Thompson was a teacher who planted the seeds of using reverse technology i.e. the pinhole camera and Diana camera that I have used all my life. Adam Fuss was reverse also.. Walter Chappell and his studies of form. Susan Lipper’s keen eye and her conceptual chronicles of her travels.
Man Ray I never met .. but he had a profound influence. His freedom of exploration of form and his love of beauty. Joseph Sudeck and the way he could take the closest thing to him and make great images.. like the “from my window series”. So simple and pure. So did coming across Francesca Woodman and her staged work. That greatly influenced me to start telling stories through staged fantasy she and Anne Arden McDonald are the reason I started my nymph series.
6) What is your purpose in using photography?
Most honest basic answer is probably ego. To feel good.. to make art. Technical Exploration. sensuous exploration. I like to take pictures just to see how they will look. I am a bit of a wallflower in social scenes and making friends. A camera I use to attach me to people socially. To make a journal of our time and my time here. To make a living.
1. One of my favorite questions to ask is, how and when do you begin on your path as a photographer? What are some of the key events in your life that lead you to the place you're at now?
My mother is a painter I fondly remember the smells of turpentine and her paint stained smock. My dad is an architect and always had cool pencils and drafting tables around. A big one was a music teacher (Ruth Steele) in elementary schools took me aside when I was falling back cause I was left handed and dyslexic. She whispered in my ear telling me I was going to be famous one day. She gave me assignments to paint the band stands ..Gave me a bolex film camera to make clay animations.. encouraged my doodling and gave me my first art show (age 8) in the school hallway.. That changed my life. It gave me belief in myself during the time I was in a system pushing me back a public school that didn’t understand my learning disorder.
Each level of education I was lucky to have someone that believed in me.. I find myself instilling inspiration to young people a lot today because of the inspiration I was given. Simple encouragement can really make a difference in a kids life.
As for photography I was taking art classes in printmaking and painting at Metro and CU denver. I was painting from photographic images and printing photo images. One in particular I was painting was and image of a nude stretched out on a dune by Walter Chappell (who is in the who up now at my gallery). Soon I found fine art photography. I had never really thought of using the camera to make experimental fine artwork. I was shown the pinhole camera and that is when I found my old Diana camera.
2. How has your vision as an artist/photographer evolved through the years?
Oh .. I was hungry to making art images with the camera at first..(late 1970s) locked in the school darkrooms late at night we experimented making work much like the Starn Twinns .. Creating and exploring. Being very irreverent, Pissing on prints, scratching the emulsions off, solarizing, making images from video stills (portable video was just a couple years old in the mid 70s) Around the end of school I found my art was wanted by the commercial world and I could make a living from it. So I headed off to into commercial land and soon moved to NY. I was making amazing money but after a while I became a bit wilted empty creatively with commercial assignments..plus I put my heart and guts on the line that was so short term in longevity.. meaning like a Ad or fashion spread was forgotten a month later. I soon wanted to make art again..something that lasted longer, so I rented a little room for a darkroom .. I made new work and bloomed again. I had my first one-person show at the sharp gallery NY. At that time instead of doing catalogs for fashion to I started doing catalogs working for galleries and artists. I shot for Marlboro gallery (about a dozen artists like Leg’e), Leo Castelli Robert Miller and Vreg Baghomian (jean Michel Basquiat and Warhol). This was a very exciting time meeting and shoot these super star artists. Durring the shoots of their work I would always do a portrait of them. Many of them I became friends with and did
3. Do you have a favorite subject matter to photograph and if so, why?
Not one many ..Beauty ..figures , flowers, Clouds, Shadows, odd objects… stadged fantasy. Portraits. I like the line “my work is more for the heart then the head.”
4. Tell me a little bit about your process, ie, technical details such as
equipment, lighting, developing or whathaveyou.
I have a darkroom in the basement.
I still love traditional chemical photography. I buy the best papers still avlilable. I like t-max fine grain .. I use kodak 160 nc for portraits it has very pleasing skin tones. I shoot 64t all the way up to 8x10” when documenting art.. I do Lots of slides still for artists. I love my small aim and shoot cameras. People forget that even a throw away camera is about 15 mega pixels (professional grade digital.) Like the rest of the world I am exploring digital. I am teaching myself. I buy lots of technical manuls to try and get myself up to speed. I have been testing extensively getting used to it. I’ve been figuring out the best work flow with RAW format…Work flow, formatting and storage is my newest mission to get right.
I found a wonderful lens I am using a lot now cause it’s a wonderful cross over from my plastic lensed Diana. Its called the lens baby. (www.lensbaby.com The kids that invented it are getting rich now… I see it all over the palce in big Ads now. Its so simple ..Just a lens on a flexible tube so to can bend your film plane like on a view camera. It’s really fun to use for portraits and commercial applications .. For instance I have been using it to shoot sports cars for a Porsch manufacturer. I pull it out for portraits often.
5. The Diana has obviously played a very important role in your development as an artist. Can you talk a little about that relationship and where you are now with it?
I have always enjoyed reverse technology. People tend to always think the better the camera the better the picture. I believe better the concept the better the picture. If you have a great concept the camera really doesn’t matter. The Diana is very easy sometimes to easy (I call it easy art) .. it helps out people that don’t have any concept or talent. Like Polaroid tranferes or now Scanner art. So I walk a fine line using plastic Diana camera. I believe if you have a good concept then the Diana can just inhance it romantasize it. My favorite best images people don’t know what kind of camera was used.
6. I realize that the time you spent at the Factory with Andy Warhol, et al, doesn't completely define you, but it's very very interesting and lends a certain sensationalism to er.. you. How did you get involved in that scene and what do you feel you've taken from those experiences?
Andy was an amazing jumping off point for me. Like I spoke ealier about my teachers that inspired me. It opened my eyes to breaking out of my bubble in Denver. I was kind of like in a closed circle creatively and it was a golden door out. He always introduced me as a “wonderful photographer” to really powerful people. This had a great effect on me made me believe in myself and made me see anything is possible if you just want it. It was a great period of growth for me. It was like that music teacher in elementary school. I think that is why I really pride myself in being a inspirasional teacher. I love taking kids that ware locked in a hole or bubble and making them realize they can do anything.. I always try and point out the things in their work that is really wonderful rather then dwell on what is not.
Andy was but a small part of the whole Factory sceene . Fred Hughes ran everything, he was Andy. Bob Cotacello,Bridged Berlin Pat Hackett were his scribes and goast writers. With his Mag Interview I work with Page Powell and the art director Mark Ballet.
But back to Andy … Here is an essay I wrote a few years ago (see attached)
7. Tell me about the MCA: how did you originally get involved and what's your involvement now?
In 1994-5 I met a wonderful artist Marina Graves in a community garden. She said to me “don’t you think we need a contemporary art museum?”” Mark you know a lot of people why don’t we start it. So in my back yard we had some of our first board meetings. We made a bumper sticker “ Wanted A Contemporary Art Museum” We then found out about a wealthy lady was also having meetings wanting to start a local art center so we joined her group..and carefully guided her into wanting a world class contemporary art museum. It was not an easy road.
8. Tell me about your great grandfather, James L. Breese and how his work
has perhaps shaped what you are doing now.
JLB has been an amazing jouney of re-discovery. Its been a long on going project researching him. We have so many paralles: He co-founded the Camera Club of NY. He was a portrait photographer and he documented art work for painters and sculptors. I do the same. He photographed woman and was always caught up in some sort of scandal with “lascivious intrigue”…same with me. See my bio on him below.
He inspired me to create the Denver Salon.
“ this is my statement for the group:
“”The Denver Salon was formed by 1993 to gather Denver fine art photographers that he admired who were pursuing higher ideals in the use of photography. The Denver Salon prides itself with presenting bold experiments--risky and reveealing subject matter as well as ambitious photo-installations. This group is committed to taking the art to new places.
In researching his great grandfather (James L. Breese), a photographer, who held midnight salons in New York City in the 1880’s Sink became enamored and wanted to emulate his legacy. Breese called his group “The Carbonites”, taken from the carbon print--a rare and difficult printing process Breese produced at his Carbon Studio. Like Breeses’ salons, The Denver Salon gathers to show work, discuss art, share ideas and techniques of artistic experimentation. The group likes to reconstruct the French salon sson scuss art and share ideas and techniques of artistic experimentation.The group likes to reconstruct the French salon setting which boasts a candelabra, draping curtains, and fine food, drink and discussion. Sink soon found that there was power in numbers and he started to successfully approach galleries and museums to host exhibits of the groups’ art work. The most recent of these efforts landed a show in NYC at the Artopia Gallery in January. “ I’ve always been aware that Denver has a particularly strong art community,” Sink says. “ And a powerfully strong core group of artists using photography as their medium.” Sink also likens Denver to Prague with similar “self-contained art movement not involved with the east or west but with its own quiet cultural hot bed that has been fermenting and growing for the last few decades with little national recognition.
9. How did Gallery Sink come about and where do you see it going (or not
going) in the future?
My gallery is building I had my studio in and I was offered to by it for an amazing price. This was a good karma rebate story. I didn’t know it at the time but it was owned by the father of a wonderful artist/painter Don Carleno. I had been buying his paintings on and off for years. Taking months to pay them off in 50 dollars increments. I put him in a wonderful museum show. My support of his son I guess really impressed him. So he offered it to me .. I mortgaged my house and put a down payment on it. That is when I started thinking about making it a gallery too. That was a busy period for me cause I was also the director of MCA/Denver at that point.
My plan was that I would have a simple gallery and resource center. Not really be a art dealer just put on good shows. But it turns out I cannot do both. It needs to be one or the other and I choose to be an artist again…thus I am selling my building and just privately deal work. I will still be curating around ..its in my blood. I am looking forward to curating some photography exhibitions MCA/Denver.
Here is my Statement on that:
Unless a miracle happens the Gallery Sink space is over soon. This is maybe my last show. I may have one more fire sale and maybe do a show of my work. (I was never going to show myself in my own space but now things are over its different).__I am extremely sad about this I put in a zillion billion hours remolding the place with my own two hands. I made it museum quality. Now to let it go is painful. But in all honesty I am excited at the same time. I am not a very good art dealer, and the thoughts of being free from this giant gorilla on my back are sweet. Its like I have been carrying an extremely heavy backpack and I am now going to take it off. Gorilla .. backpack you get the picture.__Its important to know I will still be privately consulting out of my home and a planned 1500 sq/ft studio/office I am building on the side of the house. I still will be a good source for photography. (I am not sending back my inventory). I will still be a member of the Denver Art Dealers Association. I maybe change my name with my new incarnation.__The main reason for the change is the basic operating costs are 40k more a year then when I started the gallery in 1998. (Taxes, utilities, insurance,) One example: all my insurance coverage in 1998 was $600 -$800 a year .Today its over $12,000.__And gallery sales have not increased 40k a year in sales.__Thus I am selling the building. If anyone is interested or knows anyone that might be before I list it let me know. (The up stairs has a beautiful view of both the city skyline and the Front Range).__Time to focus on Mark Sink and my work again. My gallery here Robin Rule and Robin Rice in NYC and others are pleased for they will be getting new work. I do have personal exciting news, I just signed a representation contract with Corbis ... a powerful picture agency, one of the best, and they represent the Andy Warhol foundation so I thought it would be a good fit. It's really getting my work out there in a big way. __Some plans are in the works to help Cydney Payton the director of Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, lots of curatorial projects...lots of things. You all know me; I will be very art active and causing trouble .
I can’t show my pictures now so I will try and tell them.
We met met on a crisp warm day September 1981 in Fort Collins, Colorado. I was an art student and bicycle racer. Andy was my hero. I found him almost by himself signing Komiko Powers posters in a CSU campus schoolroom. I plopped down right next to him and asked if I could help. I told him Craig Scott set me. It was a lucky moment, Bob and Chris were running around the school hunting for babe sightings. He touched my hand and told me to stay with him to and "we’ll find Chris". I shot many rolls of film in the first hour. Finishing the signage stack we went looking Chris. Found everyone. Bob and….and Fred.. Fred, Bob and I sat out in front of the art building and smoked a joint. Bob was cruising me. Andy toured his show with some well dressed people, we smoked pot . They told me to come back to the "Inn". Racing over there I was pulled over by the police …I told him in panic …I’ve been summonds to Andy Warhol! he let me go without a ticket. I screeched into there stay. Almost like a hello he was probing further now. Andy asked me for ideas for photos for his book America. I showed my recent bloody scrapes on my legs from a crash bicycle racing. I had to pull my shorts up to show him the injuries all the way up to my hip; He shot a whole roll in the parking lot of the motel. He liked other ideas too. We were standing there e shooting and several important people drove in …I think John Powers and the head of the school. He ran from them, We ran like children and hid in the motel room…now there…I was a slut..sort of. Bob told me Andy needed to take a nap… Andy then had the opening and the book signing. I stood in line for him to sign. I was a wonderful moment when it was my turn for the signature he signed dozens of pages choosing his favorite portraits. Then drew a money symbol with a penis in the blank inside cover. I then handed him my issue of the Kimiko Poster and he signed it to Craig Scott and me.…Craig the person that told me to go early and find Andy. Craig was to closeted to visit. Craig who Chris Makos found at Uncle Charlie’s in the village. Craig was cruising during time off while at the National Championships bicycle races in NY State. Craig who is now dead from aids is how I met Andy. i will alsways be thankful for that The next month I was on the masthead and payroll of Interview while crash learning the hierarchy and cast of his universe. Fred, Bob, Chris, Rupert, Bidgid, Pat, Edmond, Lucy all came into my life. It was a most exciting time.
The other day I found the recordings of many of our phone conversations. They are sort of meaning less because Andy taped everything with his mother ..but they are mine ..the phone ringing at the the factory Briid answering. And Andy taking the call…long talks of our projects ..he was always very very excited with lines like "oh that is sooo greeeat" Once he was painting with Jean Michel I interviewed him ..Dumb questions like what was Eddie really like; He changed the subject and in jested at telling a wild tale of our relationship. We were flirting. He said to tell the story of dinner with Mick Jagger and how we crossed swords in the urinal at the Odeon. How how Mic gave me his number to go bicycle riding. he reminded me of the party the host could careless Warhol and Mic were there. and how Mic gave me a big piece of hash in exchange for a joint Peter and Chris had given me earlier.Someday i will print the pictures of that evening
When first visiting the Factory in the early 1980s and seeing Andy's dizzy celebrity life style I was appalled and my romantic bubble burst. Everyone was uptight. It seemed to my young eyes Andy was not an artist any more because others made the mechanical art for him, a seemingly endless conveyer belt of work was being manufactured flooding the market. Effortless portraits were 25k and up, and he seemed tired of it all. Brigid and Pat were inventive scribes for his books. One time when leaving to lunch Fred Hughes begged Andy to discuss colors for an important portrait ready to be screened, "just make it arty" he whined and left. That was my first year in NYC. Upon spending more time in Andy world my respect soon reversed back to him being a super hero again. The genius and the title Factory became clear. His many explorations such as modeling, Andy Warhol TV, computers, the paintings for DIA and working with Jean Michel, Clemente all masterful. His sense of humor dark but true.
I made a lot of photographs of Andy really laughing and smiling, not cloaked. These I consider rare. A few others are in the Warhol Diaries. The Diaries, my account of a snowmobile accident below the Maroon Bells in Aspen is much different than his description of Jon Gould trying to kill him. I had zoomed past Andy and Jon dragging my hand in the snow. This caused snow to cover Jon’s goggles; he lost control crashing off a cliff with Andy falling off the back. Stunned thinking I had just killed the "Prince of Pop Art" I ran to the edge and down to help ending up instead taking pictures of Andy laughing in glee. We all went back to Jane Holtzers pad for a meal of Mexican TV dinners and ice cream on heated glazed donuts.
We took Andy to the over crowded Aspen Airport early. a lear jet several yards away fired its engines sending a aluminum latter flying like a leaf nearly taking us out. I then went back to Janes pad and had it all to my self for three days..I filled my car with hundreds of pounds of food they ahd left and lived off if it for months back at my studio in Denver.
Often I photographed Andy’s hands. Andy loved to hold hands. Holding his hand while walking or in a car are some of the most cherished moments I have. Once we walked past an alley and stopped to look a jumbled stack of boxes. They were beautiful with the evening light streaming across them. Andy signed several making them his. Holding hands while singing loud along with "Lets get Physical" by Olivia Newton John, rocking a little bright yellow econo rental Toyota in LA traffic. Stopping at a Calvin Klein poster so he could put his hand on the crouch of the underwear model. His hands holding money, his hands touching rare Navajo blankets or jewelry before purchase, his hands holding a hotdog at Danny’s Dogs on Melrose where none of the kids there knew who he was, his hands holding the beloved Minox camera or Big Shot Polaroid. Holding hands into the door of openings and parties was grand.
The things Andy was noticeably not good at:
Being behind, being early, getting a tan, spelling, skiing, drinking, being alone, keeping a secret, repairing things, letting workers vacation, paying workers well, paying for the meal when some one with more money was present, not worrying about his skin, not being envious, being old, going to hospitals.
After his death I left NY because he is whom I made my art for.
End notes on Mark Sink's great grandfather James L. Breese.
*James L. Breese and the Carbon Studio NYC
He was James L. Breese, best friend of architect Stanford White who did design work for both his New York townhouse and studio at 5 West 16th street and his Southampton country estate (both still standing). He was the nephew of the portrait artist, inventor of the telegraph and co-founder of the National Academy of Design, Samuel Finley Breese Morse ( aka "The father of American Photography"). He was a leading light in New York's turn-of-the-century social and artistic upper crust. James L. Breese owned and operated the Carbon Studio in partnership with pictorialist Rudolf Eickemeyer Jr., who later became a member of Alfred Stieglitz's The Photo Secession and The Linked Ring. Breese's then famous " One of 1001 Nights" salons would begin at midnight, at 5 West 16th, "at the foot of women's mile."Artists, writers and society secretly gathered for lascivious intrigue. The documented and published highlights were dresses catching fire to be extinguished with champagne, “The Pie Girl Dinner”, a naked sixteen year old girl to poping out of a pie, and "the girl in the red velvet swing." His circle of bohemian friends and guests included such remarkable personalities as Miss Emily Hoffman, the mother of Diana Vreeland, Dana Gibson, Louis Saint Gaudens, John Singer Sargent, Nicola Tesla, Otto Chushing, Miss Post, the Parsons, the DeForests, Evelyn Nesbit and many more. Together they staged elaborate historical party tableaux which Breese photographed for his private amusement. He was the founder and an active member of the NY Camera Club, won many awards, and was cataloged in Camera Notes many times. He and Stieglitz were the only two Americans (out of sixty American applicants) to be accepted in an exhibition in Vienna 1893, which Breese took first prize. He wrote and illustrated articles for Cosmopolitan (1894), one titled The Relationship Of Photography To Art.. He was heavily chronicled and his exhibitions reviewed during his day. The most noted was by critic Edward L. Wilson, who wrote of Breese and his work, "true and interesting picture qualities" and, "the leader of New York's new school." Another review by Sadakichi Hartman gushes about Breese and pans Steiglitz.(see review enclosed) Like so many of his contemporaries very little is known about him today. The well known historians, William Welling, Christian A. Peterson and the director of the National Portrait Gallery, Mary Panzer, have all made generous entries about Breese in their historical texts and publications of the period and they all agree there is much more to be unearthed and brought to light about this bohemian group that called themselves "The Carbonites”.
A cachet of Breese's extraordinary photographs--carbon prints, lantern slides and glass negatives-- mostly portraits of New York society in the 1890's has been recovered from the basement of a family descendant in Santa Fe, New Mexico and they are now available for display and publication for the very first time. Together with Mr.Breese's extensive and completely organized personal files, photographic chemical notes and newspaper archives they form a fascinating and unique portrait of a rarefied slice of turn-of-the-century New York.