Forage From Fire - an interview with Norma Quintana

Tragedy struck Northern California in 2017 when the Atlas Peak Wildfire ripped through Napa County. Entire communities were reduced to piles of ash and precious family treasures were lost forever.

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For photographer Norma Quintana, the remnants of her home provided a stark backdrop for mourning, healing, and a fascinating series of images.

Norma’s Forage From Fire series features photographs of her charred personal items, set against the black gloves that first-responders used to sift through the rubble.

Recently, we sat down with Norma to chat about her incredible career as a photographer, printing her work at Dickerman Prints, and her exhibition at SF Camerawork.

 

What was the first camera you remember using?

As far as I can remember, I had a camera on me all the time and recall having a 35mm KODAK INSTAMATIC 104 camera.  Color of course!


How did your love of photography grow?

My academic background is in Sociology.  I obtained a post graduate degree in the social science and justice.  I share this because my interest has always been in gathering and analyzing evidence.  Photography was a natural fit for me as I began to document. 

I learned the craft of photography class by class, shot 35 mm, black and white then moved on to a medium format camera. The Forage From Fire was done with the iPhone camera and is my first ever digital and color body of work.  The learning curve has been dramatic.

What is the most impactful photograph you've ever created?

Such a great question! I would say the Forage From Fire Glove image with a burned camera.

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You studied under Mary Ellen Mark, Graciela Iturbide, Sally Mann, and Shelby Lee Adams. How does their tutelage influence your photography today?

I learned a great deal from these icons! So many lessons!  Graciela Iturbide taught me compassion, Shelby Lee Adams: dedication and commitment to a project and Mary Ellen Mark, grit.  Sally Mann shared her wisdom.

What led you to co-found PhotoAlliance and how are you still involved with the organization today?

I had wanted to create and support a photography culture in the Bay Area. I was on the Board of Directors for up to 10 years and attend their amazing lecture series.  It is a jewel in the art community. (learn more about Photo Alliance here)

Your Forage From Fire series has gained a lot of media attention, and is currently featured in an exhibition at SF Camerawork.

Before jumping into the work itself, would you be willing to share a personal story from the Atlas Peak wildfire (that has nothing to do with photography)? 

Prior to the fire I had been consumed by Hurricane Maria.  My immediate family is from Puerto Rico.  As life would have it, I had been trying to reach my aunt and cousin who live on the island and had not been successful. I was on high alert. 

On the day I learned that we had lost my home and studio of over 25 years to the firestorm, I received a call from my aunt who was worried for my safety.  I learned she was safe and I shared that I had lost my home.  My aunt sent her blessings.

 

Forage From Fire is an incredibly personal project, focusing on personal items that were rescued from your home and studio. Can you share a bit of your inspiration for the series?

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The creation of Forage From Fire was uber organic and unplanned!  It was so innate in me to forage for recognizable items on the burned site. I remember thinking …. this is my personal 9-11. I was not really inspired but more compelled to document. The loss was about home.

How did you choose which objects to feature?

All the objects were found with the use of a sifter.  In my home I was the collector … so I knew the genesis of my physical world.  Also, I focused on what would fit with a glove.

You used an iPhone X to create the images in Forage From Fire. As someone who traditionally uses film as your medium, can you describe the experience of using such a different camera?

I have always believed that creating images is not about the camera!  With that in mind, I would say that the issue for me was the use of color.  Also, it is the first time I created work digitally.

Can you describe your process and setup for creating the images in Forage From Fire?

I foraged using a industrial respirator mask and a sifter created for me by a volunteer in a winery.  They knew there was going to be demand for people who were looking through their wreckage.  I recall finding artifacts and immediately wanting to photographed them and upon my return to the temporary home I was in… started to photograph as I always do… with available light .



There's a certain beauty in the contrast of your burned treasures against a black rubber glove. How did that concept come to be? Was everyone given those gloves when they returned to their home, or did you borrow a few from the cleanup crew?

The gloves were given to me by first responders.  We were all given masks and masks!  Initially, there was extensive smoke and everything destroyed.

You mention that your project has had a deep impact on those recovering from the trauma of the fire. Can you describe how that impact manifests itself?

I have heard from so many people that they find the images both staggering and hopeful… some even said liberating.  I believe they see a person who lost everything and had a story to tell. 

I have heard from strangers across the world… via social media platforms.  I have also received art books and prints from people who I have somehow touched with Forage From Fire.


 Seth Dickerman and Norma Quintana go through Forage From Fire test prints.

Seth Dickerman and Norma Quintana go through Forage From Fire test prints.

You have been working closely with Dickerman Prints to prepare your images for the Camerawork exhibition. Can you describe what that process has been like?

Working with Seth, Gabriel, and Garnell are my dream team. I knew I was in great hands when I learned they had started in the dark room. They approach the work as artisans.

 

Thanks again for your time. Before we go, do you have any words of wisdom for photographers starting their careers?

 

  • Remember that photographs are not taken they are created! 

  • Try everything: photojournalism, landscape, portraiture etc.

  • Study the work of other photographers.

  • Get your hands on photo artbooks.

  • Learn the craft of photography.

  • Photograph when you have something to say.

  

 Gabriel Aguilar and Norma Quintana with a framed print from Forage From Fire.

Gabriel Aguilar and Norma Quintana with a framed print from Forage From Fire.

Forage From Fire debuts at SF Camerawork on October 4. Learn more here. 

To view more of Norma’s work, visit normaiquintana.com 

Exploring the LGBTQ community with Saul Bromberger and Sandra Hoover

We had the pleasure of talking with local photographers – Saul Bromberger and Sandra Hoover – about their work and the LGBTQ community.

Saul and Sandra have been deeply involved with the LGBTQ moment since they first shot it back in the 1980's. This body of work has grown immensely over the years and became the focus of both of their careers. 

Their ultimate goal for this series was to show what it was like 25-30 years ago when the gay community was marching for it's civil rights, fighting AIDS, and coming together as a community; and, what's it's like now for many LGBTQ teens who we found to be confident, open, and happy to be who they are.


DICKERMAN PRINTS GALLERY:What inspired you to get involved with the movement? 

SAUL BROMBERGER: “Motivation for me started back in the 80’s when coverage of the movement was just beginning in local newspapers. At the time I worked for SF chronicle, and there were male photographers with telephoto lenses running around snapping shots. Working with a newspaper, I knew how photography could impact people’s lives.

The problem I saw was that most photographers would only focus on the nudity and the flamboyant nature of the movement; basically showcasing only the outrageous and crazy aspects of the community, but they didn’t focus on the actual community. It labeled the LGBTQ community as ‘crazy and wild,’ and this angered me.”


DPG: What did you want to portray by shooting the LGBTQ community? 

SB: "I wanted to tell people's stories by show casing the little moments that I witnessed. It was about showing the side where parents are supporting their children and the community. 

Back when we first started shooting the Pride movement, there was still a lingering ghost of AIDS.  I I wanted my photographs to help raise awareness about AIDS and the people dying from it. I wanted to bring light to the movement and show that it a civil rights movement before anything else, because that wasn't how it was being portrayed in the newspapers at the time."


DPG: Who are some of your biggest inspirations?

SB: "One of my biggest influences would be Eugene Smith. One of his most famous projects was working with Minamata disease (caused by mercury poisoning) in Japan. His dramatic photographic essay brought world attention to Minamata disease and conveyed the idea of passion and the hopefulness. This to me was incredible and life affirming and I wanted to incorporate this into my work. 

Another incredible influence I had would be Bruce Davidson. I was inspired by his project shooting scenes of urban poverty on East 100th Street in New York. He was aiming to bring change and awareness to a population that was often left ignored and deemed 'ghetto,' when there was so much more to it than that. He worked hard to balance the dire situations that residents lived in with moments of beauty and resilience. It was also a common thread throughout his life’s work."


DPG: You've been shooting Pride since the 80's, what do you think has changed the most about it over the years?

SB: "I think one of the biggest elements that has changed about Pride is that back in the 80's people were marching for their civil rights. People would wait all year for Pride to be with the one that they loved. Some people even risked losing their job if they were caught attending Pride by their work. 

In the last few years, ever since same sex marriage was legalized, I have noticed much more corporations have been involved. This is a great– don't get me wrong, but I feel like it's become more about promoting brands rather than be about the core of the movement itself, civil rights. 

This year; however, with the Trump administration, I've been seeing a lot more resistance and the come back of fighting for civil rights and equality for all."


Interested in shooting civil rights movements like Saul and Sandra?

Here are some tips to help you get started: 

1. Get close and once you feel like you're close, get closer! 
This will not only help keep your photos direct and less busy, but you will be able to capture the smaller details and moments that a lot of people miss when shooting with a telephoto lens.

2. It's about Interpreting a scene, how do you want people to feel?
Ask yourself why you are there with a camera. What is it that you want to capture while shooting?

3. Don't be afraid to talk to people! 
Introduce yourself and remember to always be respectful when shooting. It's about making connections with people and learning their story and capturing their light and love.

4. Timing is everything! 
Every good documentary photographer knows that it's about waiting for the story telling elements to come together and then shooting in the moment.

5. Bring different lenses. 
This will help create a diverse body of work and make capturing different images easier.


To learn more about Saul and Sandra's work and for contact information, please visit their website.

I’m in Love With a Photo Lab

There’s a magical place in San Francisco where creativity runs free and artists can grow in ways they never imagined.

It’s a place where world-famous photographers and aspiring iPhone shutterbugs work side-by-side, inspiring and learning from each other.

Dickerman Prints is a vortex where digital and analog photography continue to coexist. Where darkroom techniques are used in every Photoshop edit ... and where the laser printer uses darkroom chemistry to create old school-style prints from digital files.

Whether you’re an expert at post processing or have never retouched a photo in your life, the incredibly kind and patient staff are there to help guide you through the process. Plus, where else can you sit down at a computer and edit your photos in Photoshop or Lightroom while sipping on an organic espresso or tea … FOR FREE?!

 

I tell you, Dickerman Prints is one-of-a-kind.

At this point, I should probably confess that I’m completely biased. My love affair with Dickerman Prints started in 2010, after finishing up a year-long backpacking adventure. My hard drive was full of photos from around the world, and my head was filled with dreams of working as a professional photographer.

Behind the scenes at Dickerman Prints

That’s when I met Seth Dickerman - on a job interview to become the lab’s marketing director. To say that the opportunity changed my life is an understatement.

Every day, I watched Seth, Garnell, Gabriel, and Laura edit, enhance, remaster, and reimagine countless photos. Landscapes, cityscapes, portraits, old family photos, black and whites, vibrant colors, muted palates, film, digital … they worked their magic on everything!

Every time I looked over their shoulders, I learned something new. If I ever had any questions about their technique, all I had to do was ask. The best part about this generosity of information is that they readily offered it to anyone who walked in the door. I lovingly call this above-and-beyond service “The Dickerman Difference.”

 

The Dickerman Difference

The Dickerman Difference can be found in all the small touches. In the countless reprints until every minute detail is perfect. In the hours spent explaining the differences in inkjet papers — or in the effort put into even the most basic of scans. It’s evident in the ear-to-ear smile you get when holding a freshly printed photograph - and in the joy received when the complete stranger standing next to you compliments your work.

It’s tough being a photo lab in an era where printing photos is often considered a novelty. Yet here we are … staying alive when so many of our dear friends and colleagues are closing their doors. And thank goodness, because Dickerman Prints really is the heart and soul of photography in San Francisco.

As for me, 7+ years after my fateful interview, I owe more than I can express to Dickerman Prints and to Seth Dickerman. Even now that my family has moved to Santa Cruz, I still make sure to take regular drives up to SF to spend time in the lab. To surround myself with my lab family. To get inspired once again. And, to simply “be” in the most magical place I’ve ever know.

So thanks, Dickerman Prints. I truly, completely, and unabashedly love you!

 

About the Author

Greg Goodman is a photographic storyteller whose work has appeared in galleries, publications, airports, TV shows, and private collections around the world.

To see his work, please visit Adventures of a GoodMan: Photographic Storytelling by Greg Goodman

Nicholas Korkos & Communicating Truth

artist resident – Nicholas Korkos – opens up about his photography. 

" I don't hold back. My one goal is to communicate truth, the subject's and my own." 

Working on exposing the side less seen, Nick Korkos' inspiration lies within everyday occurrences and details ... the moon, streetlights, dancers gliding across the stage, a woman walking with her dog ... even a man staring into the lens.

Trying to dig deeper than just surface value, Nick communicates that what they all have in common is that there is more to them than is being shown.

As a member of the Dickerman Prints Artist-in-Residence program, Nick developed his Dance in Motion series, which explores the intimate and abstract world of dance studios across North America. 

Be sure to stop by the gallery before October 28 to see Nick's work in person.


DICKERman Prints Gallery: CAN YOU TELL US ONE OF YOUR FAVORITE STORIES FROM YOUR LIFE AS A PHOTOGRAPHER?

NICK KORKOS: "One night at the Esalen Institute, I went outside to photograph the incredible moon. I increased the shutter speed on the camera, and as  I went to take the photo, the camera slipped out of my hand.

The slip created a blur, and from that accident a whole series was born. Another side of my brain opened up and I thought, "This is my golden ticket!" Although that may have been a bit of a stretch, to a certain extent it was true; I started to see how a camera can be manipulated and how interesting it is to created the unrecognizable."

  From  Moon Series

From Moon Series


dpg: WAS PHOTOGRAPHY SOMETHING YOU WERE ALWAYS INTERESTED IN?

NK: "Always! As a kid I would buy disposable cameras like they were packs of gum. There's something about documenting moments, recording the look on someone's face or the colors in the sky, and then to always be able to look back and remember, that feels really powerful. "

  From    Aszure Barton & Artists

From Aszure Barton & Artists


DPG: Out of your three categories on your website (lifestyle, performance, and abstract) which would you say is your favorite, if you have one?  

NK: "I don't think I have one. Performance is thrilling and keeps you on your feet because it's collaborative and about showcasing every aspect - the characters/performers, costume, lighting, and set design and the intention of the piece. I love the pressure.

My abstract photos are the most freeing and personal, but portraiture is perhaps what sparks me most. There isn't anything more truthful than someone's face. Words are able to be twisted but the physical is hard to misinterpret."

  From  Portraits

From Portraits


DPG: Can you speak a little bit about your photographic relationship with your subjects? We’re interested in learning more about how photographers use different methods or techniques to get the images they want.

NK: "I try not to ask people to change. Someone's eyes or lips or jaw can tell us everything we ever needed to know. This of course ties into keep your subject comfortable and light, even if it's a heavier time.

 

I find it helpful to talk subjects through their feelings. Not asking someone to change for a photograph is the same as not asking someone to change for any other reason. It's a hard concept to grasp but once you do, trusts abounds. "

  From  Portraits

From Portraits


To learn more about Nicolas Korkos' work and for contact information, please visit his website. 

Sumeet Banerji & The Shroomscapes Series

By examining our world from the viewpoint of a Portobello Mushroom, Sumeet Banerji's Shroomscapes strives to challenge how we see and interpret beauty.

Each photograph begins with Sumeet zooming in on his fungal subjects, giving the viewer a new awareness of its structure and design.

Using only a cylindrical pinhole camera with 120mm film, Sumeet produces his images using a 2 hour exposure time. The result – beautiful, detailed photographs that leave you wanting more.

. . .

After spending the summer working on Shroomscapes during his residency at Dickerman Prints, Sumeet sat down with us to chat about photography, pinhole cameras, life, and mushrooms.

To experience Sumeet's work, please join us on Thursday, September 28, 2017, at Dickerman Prints Gallery for an opening night reception for The Residents. (RSVP HERE)

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DICKERMAN PRINTS GALLERYHow did you get started in photography?

SUMEET BANERJI: "As a child, I practiced drawing in an obsessive way. I was a little nuts. I felt it was foundational to establishing a visual language, like if I could learn how to draw, I would be able to speak through pictures. Drawing trains you how to communicate where things are in space. It makes you understand how to make something look large or small. When you study drawing, you are really learning how the human brain processes the visual field.

Drawing was my start in photography. I think that my photographic work now is often a deliberate manipulation of the perceived scale and viewpoints of things. These trends in my photographs are in large part due to my drawing practice."

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DPG: What does photography mean to you?

SB: "For me, it’s a kind of puzzle, a way to challenge the mind. You have to be able to look at a three dimensional visual field and have an intuition about how it is going to flatten visually. 

Using a pinhole camera with film, the way I shot the Shroomscapes, there was no viewfinder so I couldn’t see what I was doing at all. I calculated and visualized what I could–after that it was a complete mystery until I developed the film." 

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DPGWhat has your biggest challenge been as a photographer?

SB: "I want people to come back to my pictures many times and always find new things. That’s the basic aim: to make a picture that doesn’t lose its impact over time. I’ve found the best way to do this is through my editing process.

Often, I won't look at the pictures I've taken for a long time, creating the possibility of an emotional disconnection. It has to feel like someone else’s work before I can be objective. In the case of The Shroomscapes, I didn’t look at them for five years. If I look at work I’ve made after a long time and still feel an emotional connection to it, I put it out."
 

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DPGWith your shroomscape series- what was your process with the pinhole camera? What were some of the challenges of this project for you?

SB"The Shroomscapes are made with extremely low tech items. There is no post processing/manipulation. The prints show exactly what was captured on film. The images were made with a cylindrical box (pinhole camera), a portobello mushroom and 120mm film. The warping (in this case straightening) effect is from how the film was wound. The pinhole camera was put right inside the portobello mushroom, within an inch of the stalk so there was very little light. The film had to be exposed for two to three hours. 

It is a photographic take on the very old tradition of still life painting. The long exposures made it like oil painting where the image could be manipulated slowly and deliberately.

There is an essay called 'In Praise of Shadows' by the novelist Junichiro Tanizaki that talks about the beauty of shadows and dark spaces. I wanted to capture an image that was in almost total darkness, showing us something from the real world that we can only see through the photographic process–darkness and shadows.

The images that resulted were tonally delicate. Small shifts and inconsistencies in the printing dramatically change the impact of the images. Gabriel, Seth and Garnell at the studio were able to bring the pictures to life in the real world in a very special way."

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DPG: What is the future of this body of work?

SB: "I want to expand the series, take more Shroomscapes. Possibly a survey of different species of mushrooms taken with pinhole cameras. I also want to create a series of Cabbagescapes, Avocadoscapes, and maybe even Flowerscapes."

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DPGDo you have any new projects you’d like to tell us about?

SB: "I am starting to release my pictures in a series of volumes. It's going to be a collection of my photographic work in books with small pigment prints inserted into the books. It's a good way to see and own all the work in physical form.


Volume 1 contains four series (including the Shroomscapes) with essays and is coming out this month."

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To see more of Sumeet Banerji's work and for contact information, please visit his website.

Igniting A Revolution: An interview with Kelly Johnson

For fifteen years, Kelly Johnson has been documenting progressive movements. 

From the climate movement, to Black Lives Matter, the fight to increase minimum wage, Kelly Johnson aims to show humans healing the sick systems and institutions we ourselves created.

We recently sat down with Kelly to discuss her time as an artist-in-residence at Dickerman Prints, as well as her thoughts on photography, life, and the revolution. To experience Kelly's work, please join us for the opening night reception of The Residents.

Thursday, September 28, 2017
6:00 - 9:00pm
RSVP HERE


DICKERMAN PRINTS GALLERY: What portfolio or project are you currently working on during your residency at Dickerman Prints?

KELLY JOHNSON: "I am working on a project called Direct Action, depicting activists working for various issues by stopping business as usual."

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DPg: Can you tell us one of your favorite stories from your life as a photographer?

KJ"One of my favorite times I experienced as an activist/documentary photographer was my time at #Occupy SF. I slept in a tent in downtown SF for 3 months and built relationships with activists all over the bay."

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DPgI’m sure, like most of us, you have a point in time where photography caught a hold of you. When did you become a photographer in earnest?

KJ"As a child I moved 18 times by the time I was 18 so I was always saying goodbye to friends and family so I was always taking photos. When I was 21 I started working at a lab and getting shooting gigs and started my own business and one day I realized omg I’m a photographer. I was 25 at the time and have been shooting professionally ever since."

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DPg: Out of your movement portfolio, do you have one in particular that was your favorite to shoot?

KJ: "The bay bridge image is my most popular and famous image and I was very honored to be invited to that action. I will say I was so excited that I did not shoot that much that day so I was lucky to get such an iconic image."

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DPG: You do abstract painting as well. Which medium do you prefer and why? 

KJ"My abstract work is photoshop collage of images that I do various things to in photoshop. I have worked in oils and acrylic with collage but photoshop is so fun and unlimited."

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DPGDo you have any suggestions for those who want to get involved with shooting movements?

KJ"The reason I document the progressive movement is because it is the single most important movement in human history. The life and health of the species is resting on the success or failure of the humans who stand up to save us all. If we fail we are done here. So my advice is care."

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DPG: Any new projects that you have in the works? 

KJ"After being in the bay for 5 years now, I have decided to restart my portrait business here in the bay. I am very interested in working with local artists and doing editorial portraits that are interesting and unique, that the artist and I build in collaboration. I have already started working with a couple artists but have yet to start shooting."

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To see more of Kelly Johnson's work and for contact information, please visit her website.

 

 

 

 

 

An Interview with Jordan Reznick

Meet Jordan Reznick (pronoun: they) — photographer, scholar, activist, educator, and artist-in-residence at Dickerman Prints.

Jordan's passion is photographing communities of people with whom they are intimate: exploring both the agency and vulnerability of their subjects.

Jordan Reznick's Queer Babes series — which is the centerpiece of their residency at Dickerman Prints — was recently exhibited at Aperture Foundation in New York and Romer Young Gallery in San Francisco, as well as being honored with a feature in Vice i-D Magazine.

Some of Jordan's other work includes a series documenting a cooperative community in Oregon — where they lived — and an in-depth exploration of their immediate and extended family.

Jordan received a BFA in Photography from New York University, and an MFA in Photography and an MA in Visual & Critical Studies from California College of the Arts. Currently, Jordan is a PhD Candidate in Visual Studies at UC Santa Cruz.

To experience Jordan's work, please join us on Thursday, September 28, 2017, at Dickerman Prints Gallery for an opening night reception for The Residents. (RSVP HERE)


Dickerman prints gallery: WHEN DID YOU GET STARTED WITH PHOTOGRAPHY?

Jordan Reznick: "My father was a photographer. I grew up admiring his strange photographs and smelling darkroom chemicals. He taught me to use a manual camera when I was ten. I’ve been photographing ever since. "

   Oriah twists (2011),  from We Wish That We All Have a Wonderful Life

Oriah twists (2011), from We Wish That We All Have a Wonderful Life


DPG: WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE KIND OF PHOTOGRAPHY TO TAKE AND WHY? (EX. PORTRAITS, LANDSCAPES, ETC )

JR: "I take photographs of people. For years I avoided photographing people because of the power relationship involved and my own discomfort with the interaction—I’m pretty shy. However, over the years, I realized that all of my favorite photographs are photographs of people. In a photograph you can stare at some one in the face at length in a way you rarely can in person. Photographs of people captivate me in a way that landscapes never do. 

However, because of the power relationship involved and the politics of representation, I choose to only photograph people with whom I am intimate or have a shared sense of vulnerability. I want my images to be honest and vulnerable, and I also want my subjects to feel that they have power over how they’re represented."

   Rhae, San Francisco, California (2017),  from Queer Babes

Rhae, San Francisco, California (2017), from Queer Babes


DPG: WHAT PROJECT(S) ARE YOU WORKING ON DURING YOUR RESIDENCY AT DICKERMAN PRINTS?

JR: "I’m working on the Queer Babes project. It’s a portrait series that explores the complexity of gender identity and beauty within the queer and trans community today."

   Christiaan, Rosemead, California (2016),    from Queer Babes

Christiaan, Rosemead, California (2016), from Queer Babes


DPG: FOR YOUR QUEER BABES SERIES, DID YOU HAVE A PERSONAL CONNECTION TO THOSE YOU TOOK PHOTOGRAPHS OF? OR WERE THEY STRANGERS? IF YOU KNEW THEM, DID YOU COME UP WITH IDEAS BEFOREHAND OF HOW YOU WANTED TO SHOOT EACH INDIVIDUAL OR PERHAPS YOU COLLABORATED WITH THE MODEL?

JR: "I began the project by photographing my friends and lovers, but since then the project has expanded to include new people I meet and people that I had not met until approaching them about the project. Many people that I did not know before, I now count as my friends. I feel really lucky in that way. 

I photograph each person in or around their home when possible. I don’t plan the photograph beforehand, but try out several settings once I arrive for the shoot. There is sometimes a sort of collaboration about outfits and backgrounds, but it really depends on the person. Every shoot is an entirely different experience. Sometimes making photographs is only a small fraction of what we do."

   Eric, San Francisco, California (2016),    from Queer Babes

Eric, San Francisco, California (2016), from Queer Babes


DPG: WAS WE WISH THAT WE ALL HAVE A WONDERFUL LIFE SHOT IN A PARTICULAR PLACE? CAN YOU EXPLAIN A LITTLE BIT MORE ABOUT THIS PROJECT? 

JR: "We Wish That We All Have a Wonderful Life is a project exploring my family. I photographed my immediate and extended family in different parts of the country, exploring what it was like to photograph while experiencing shared vulnerability with my photographic subjects. I photograph from a place that is embedded within my relationships with my subjects rather than as an outside observer. "

   Mom's orange tree (2012),    from   We Wish That We All Have a Wonderful Life

Mom's orange tree (2012), from We Wish That We All Have a Wonderful Life


DPG: LAST BUT NOT LEAST, DO YOU HAVE ANY NEW PROJECTS YOU'D LIKE TO TELL US ABOUT?

JR: "I am working on developing a new project and all that I will say about it is that it’s pornographic, dirty, and fun." 


To see more of Jordan Reznick's work and for contact information, please visit their website.

The Power of Self-Representation: Deirdre Visser and Skywatchers

Dickerman Prints is grateful for the opportunity to have collaborated with the Skywatchers project - a multi-disciplinary endeavor that brings to light the complex interaction of social, political and economic forces in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood.

After printing a series of self-portraits for a recent Skywatchers exhibition, we had the pleasure of chatting with Deirdre Visser - Director of Community Engagement for Skywatchers, local Bay Area educator and curator at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS). Her latest project, "I am a Skywatcher, Too," communicates the stories of different subjects through self portraits.

To make the project as approachable as possible, Deirdre kept her setup simple — a white sheet in the corner of the Luggage Story Gallery and a digital camera on a tripod. 

After helping set the proper exposure, Deirdre would hand off the remote control shutter release and let her subjects become the photographer. Then, once they had created a collection of images, Deirdre would show them the photos and let them choose their favorites for printing.

 Deirdre Visser with the self portrait series 

Deirdre Visser with the self portrait series 


What does this project ultimately mean to you personally and how exactly did you get involved? 

"I got involved in the Tenderloin about 5 years ago through Anne Bluethenthal's Skywatchers program, an awesome multidisciplinary performance project in which neighborhood residents — particularly folks who live in Community Housing Partnership sites — work collaboratively with professional artists to create works that draw on the histories and concerns of the residents. Anne is a colleague and a dear friend, and Artistic Director of ABD Productions/Skywatchers. I started coming to Skywatcher events as the official photographer and as I got more involved in the program, I started helping with strategic planning and organizational development, but all of those processes are rooted in the Skywatcher community.

Two years ago I did a portrait project with Skywatcher participants, but in that case — though they chose their favorites, and wrote accompanying text pieces about what it means to be seen, and what passersby don't see — it was me making the photographs. It was always clear that the next step was to create the structure in which they would make self-portraits.

While I feel very much a part of this community in some ways, and love the collaborative work we do and the relationships we build, I don't have to daily confront the very deep challenges of the neighborhood."

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How did you get people to participate?

"Over three weeks before Christmas and Hanukkah, I opened up the space at Ellis and Leavenworth and invited neighbors to come make a portrait. We gave them an 8x10 print, and promised that all would be represented in a late January exhibition. 

I often headed out onto the streets of Ellis and Leavenworth, asking people to come into the gallery and take a photo ... welcoming anyone that wanted to participate. I also set up the same sheet, camera, and tripod scenario for the gallery's holiday party - and that inspired a few group portraits that became apart of the series."

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What kind of post work was done?

"Hardly any, if at all. Most of the time, I would send the images off to Seth Dickerman and let him work his magic with the images. " -Deirdre Visser

"This was a wonderful project to print.  These are very moving self portraits by people who do not normally have the means or wherewithal to have their portraits made at all. I was happy to use my skills to print these portraits with the care and attention which they deserve. I wanted them all to be heroes!" -Seth Dickerman, Photographic Printer 

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Besides Rita, is there anyone else you built a special connection with in particular? Or, did you become close with all your subjects? 

"I have an especially close relationship with Rita because I was in a position to help her navigate the health system at a crucial juncture in her life. It was a very intimate time over many months, as medical advocacy can be. While I love and respect many of the other Skywatcher ensemble members, Rita and I are a special case."


Do you believe that this project brings positive light to a community that is often ignored and associated with negative affiliations? ( ex. the Tenderloin is referred to as one of the roughest areas of SF )

"Folks who hold power in our society are much more able to control their own representation; my desire is to create the framework for everyone to have an opportunity to represent themselves. For this project I stood out on the sidewalk and invited neighbors to make a self-portrait in a very simple studio setting I created. Everyone got an 8x10, and through Seth's generosity, many participants got larger proof prints as well.

The Tenderloin is many things, and sometimes what's lost in the telling by those who don't live there is our shared humanity. I hope that viewers can see that in these images."


Do you have plans to continue this line of work or do you have another community building project in mind for the future?

"I don't yet have the next thing in mind, but I think we've started something that I'd like to build on. I also think there's room to consider a book project with these portraits, perhaps accompanied by their writing.

Next up on my plate with Skywatchers is a leadership training project which I am working with Anne and the Skywatcher team to design and implement. The intention is that participants increasingly take control of the program planning."

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More About Skywatchers: 

"More than five years ago Anne Bluethenthal and ABD Productions (ABD) initiated the Skywatchers project in collaboration with Community Housing Partnership (CHP) in order to engage formerly homeless residents of the Tenderloin in high quality creative experiences that illuminate their lives and stories.

The CHP residents, too often reduced to statistical data, become storytellers, co-creators, performers, and audience members—working in close collaboration with ABD dancers and associated artists.  The connectivity intrinsic to creative collaboration is helping participants build trust in each other, and nurturing the desire for self-efficacy.

The humanizing impact of sharing one’s own story, both to be heard and to see that story in a broader social context, creates the space for participating residents to imagine and manifest change."

Special Thanks to Darryl Smith at The Luggage Store for generously sharing the 509 Ellis space for both the shoot and the exhibition.