CURRENCY: by Seth Dickerman

a pop-up exhibition

Large-format photographic prints by Seth Dickerman


1141 Howard Street, SF

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About the Work

The coins and bills from which these portraits were photographed are history books in disguise.  They bear witness to change: physical, historical and philosophical.  Our perception of these presidents has changed over time, as have these artifacts which carry their images.

These images have traveled a circuitous path.  Each began as a portrait drawn, painted, or photographed directly from their living subject.  These portraits were then rendered, as line drawings for bills, or as sculptural reliefs for coins.

These renderings were then greatly reduced, and used to make printing plates or minting dyes, which were subsequently used to produce the bills and coins.  They were endowed with monetary value, and sent out into the world.

They have been passed from person to person, place to place, past to present. Spent and saved, gained and lost, each has been marked by its own unfathomable journey.

Currency was featured in the SF Chronicle


Technical Information - a Journey Continued

The coins and bills were photographed at extremely high magnification with a 4x5” view camera and black and white film (the coin an inch or two in front of the camera lens, and the film as much as 16” behind the lens).  A miniature spotlight was positioned with the sharply focused filament of the bulb grazing the surface of the coin.  The slight ridge on the edge of the coin created the initial shadow, allowing the features of the portrait to be lit in bright relief.  The portraits on the bills were made the same way, with the light source less sharply focused.

The resulting 4x5” negatives were then projected by means of a photographic enlarger to make 20x24” silver gelatin prints.  These prints were subsequently scanned digitally and enlarged again to make the archival pigment prints in this exhibition.  In the case of the 40x50” prints, the bills have been enlarged by 3,500%, and the coins have been enlarged by ratios from 6000% to 10,000%.  At this scale the coins would average 6 feet in diameter,  and the bills would be nearly 8 feet tall by 18 feet wide.

Artist’s Statement

My interest in images of presidents began in childhood.  In the early 1960’s, iconic images of  American presidents were ubiquitous.  We didn’t have the constant stream of dramatic imagery then that we have now - there were fewer idols, fewer heroes.

The Presidency was generally respected and celebrated. It was a simpler and more optimistic time in America.  By the 1960's much changed.  The Viet Nam war raged on, and Richard Nixon was president.  I began photographing Nixon from television and newspapers and have been exploring presidential imagery ever since.

The seed of this particular project was planted on a spring day in 1986, when I was struck by the dignity of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s portrait on a silver dime.

This was during the administration of Ronald Reagan, whose cheerful portraits seemed to me to be those of a fictional character, at best. I decided then to photograph FDR on his dime, in part to illustrate the contrast with Reagan.

The tainted election of a smirking George W. Bush in 2000 brought what one might have thought to be the ultimate insult to the institution of the presidency.  I began to look more deeply at the presidents on our currency - a rather obvious link between money and power.  I made the 10 photographs in this series, printing them as 20x24” silver-gelatin prints.

I had thought the project finished - until the shocking and tainted election of Donald Trump in 2016 induced me to revisit the project.

I have used digital tools to go deeper into the work, by exposing greater detail, by increasing scale, and by further manipulating light and shadow in ways that I could not do in the darkroom.

When the 20x24’s were first shown in San Francisco, in 2000, it did not strike me as especially significant that these images of presidents were all of white men.  Today, 19 years later, the significance of this is painfully apparent. Despite setbacks, much progress has been made since then - and we clearly have good reason to believe that a female presidency is at last in sight.

May we recover from this benighted administration, and learn from our past!

Seth Dickerman
January, 2019


14 Never-Before-Seen Photos of Louis Armstrong

 Photograph by Robert Cameron Photograph by Robert Cameron

Photographing Louis Armstrong in 1941

Given free-reign to move around on stage during the performance, Robert Cameron used a 4x5” press camera — fitted with a slow burning flash unit — to make his exposures. Since it was fairly dark inside the St. Louis club, he had to focus by estimating the camera distance from the subject. The opening of the lens determined the amount of exposure the film would receive. Each exposure was made on a single sheet of 4x5” film.

When Cameron later showed the jazz legend a portrait of him improvising on stage with saliva dripping down his chin, Armstrong said to him,

"This is the best picture ever taken of me actually playing. All them others are of me just holding the trumpet up to my lips."

A Debut — 74 Years in-the-making

ArtSpan's annual Open Studios event at Dickerman Prints marks the first time in 74 years that the entire collection of photographs from that evening are being presented in contact sheet form, at the same size as the negatives.

Together, the collection offers a timeless glimpse into the music scene of a bygone era. Concurrently, it shows Armstrong doing what he was born to do: practicing an original art form that grew out of the African experience in America.

According to Tim Hall, proprietor of the photographic estate of Robert Cameron,

“The historical significance of these images has never escaped me, but it is only recently that I have had the time to do these photographs justice. As each exposure was radically different from one another, I had to work rather diligently to ensure that the groups of photos would reproduce uniformly."


Robert Cameron (April 21, 1911 – November 10, 2009) was a famed American photographer and author of numerous books featuring aerial photographs of cities throughout the globe.

His career began as a photographic journalist for the Des Moines Register in 193. During the Second World War he worked as a photographer for the United States Department of War. He founded the publishing company Cameron and Company in 1964 with the publication of The Drinking Man's Diet, which went on to sell over 2.4 million copies worldwide in 13 different languages.

bio source: wikipedia

Portraits of Jews in Wartime Amsterdam - Powerful, Captivating, Profound and Haunting

Dickerman Prints was honored to be selected to print a remarkable, historic exhibition which can be viewed at the Goethe Institut in San Francisco now through April 17, 2015. This is the premier exhibition of the work of photographer Annemie Wolff.

 Judith Trijtel - 1943 Copyright: Monica Kaltenschnee Judith Trijtel - 1943 Copyright: Monica Kaltenschnee

Lost Stories, Found Images

Violence, persecution, unrest and fear were the norm for Jews living in 1943 Amsterdam. Yellow Stars of David were to be worn at all times, and at any moment one could be arrested by the Gestapo and be sent to a Concentration Camp.

Yet, in the midst of chaos, photographer Annemie Wolff’s portrait sessions offered people a reason to get dressed up and smile: if only for a brief moment in time.

Six decades later, one hundred rolls of film were discovered in an attic; each roll containing profound portraits of Amsterdam’s Jewish population.

Perhaps the most haunting and captivating aspect of these photographs are the smiles and optimistic gazes that grace the faces of these people. Included are children, infants, and adults of all ages, many of them wearing that Yellow Star of David.

Little is known about the history of these portraits; which leaves us us to ponder the question of their purpose. Why, at such an incredibly tense time in the middle of a war, would people have pictures taken of themselves and their loved ones? Also, what did Wolff plan to do with the prints and why were the rolls untouched until now?

Some mysteries have been solved; the box of negatives include a register detailing the names of all of the subjects.  Dutch researchers continue to trace the identity and fascinating stories of the individuals depicted. Most of the images in this show include captions which detail what is known of the histories of their subjects. While about half of the portrait subjects survived the war, these images represent the last trace of the many others who perished in the camps.

 Hilde Jacobsthal - 1943 Copyright: Monica Kaltenschnee Hilde Jacobsthal - 1943 Copyright: Monica Kaltenschnee

Lost Stories, Found Images: Portraits of Jews in Wartime Amsterdam provides a means of learning, exploration, and creating a space to discuss our collective history, how it affects our current lives, and how we can pass it on to future generations. The compelling images provide an unforgettable experience for viewers to delve into the past, present, and future of the Jewish and human experience.

. . .

About the Printing of the Show 

All the photographs exhibited in Lost Stories, Found Images: Portraits of Jews in Wartime Amsterdam were prepared and printed by Seth Dickerman.

As Seth wrote to Simon Kool, the show's Dutch curator,

“I am deeply moved to be involved in producing Annemie Wolff’s portraits. These images are truly great, completely heartbreaking and almost unbearably profound.”

Seth’s approach was to print this work as if he were printing it for Annemie herself.

“These portraits are beautifully made and wonderfully lit. They are also extremely professional. There can be no mystery as to how she would want them printed - which would likewise be professionally, and consistently - with fully detailed highlights, open shadows, and most importantly,  to always work to help the subject look his or her very best.”

Seth feels grateful and fortunate to have the opportunity to print such powerful and moving work. Having printed work by both Vivian Meier and Annemie Wolff within the span of a year has been “a privilege.”

. . .

On Display through April 17, 2015

After months of work, we proudly invite you to experience Annemie’s work for yourself at Lost Stories, Found Images: Portraits of Jews in Wartime Amsterdam. The exhibition is supplemented by a number of activities, film screenings, and lectures.

Goethe Institut
530 Bush Street, ART Lounge
San Francisco, California

To learn more about the exhibition and attendant program, please visit

 Annemie Wolff - Self Portrait Copyright: Monica Kaltenschnee Annemie Wolff - Self Portrait Copyright: Monica Kaltenschnee

All photographs on this page are copyright: Monica Kaltenschnee

In Focus - Alin Dragulin

Not sure if we like the images from Portland based commercial photographer Alin Dragulin better or his bio better. Guess "butt double for Bruce Springsteen" does look pretty good on your resume!

1978 Born in Bucharest, Romania 
1984 Moved to NYC, studied stickball 
2009 Was a butt double for Bruce Springsteen 

Now lives in Portland Oregon, 
works as local in San Francisco and Los Angeles 

Fabiano Rodrigues' Moroccan Self Portraits

Sao Paulo, Brazil based photographer and ex-professional skateboarder Fabiano Rodrigues has been working on his B&W self-portrait series for a few years now photographing himself skateboarding in surreal grand scenescapes.

His latest collection was shot while traveling through Morocco photographing in museums, mosques and Roman ruins like Marrakech, Fes, Meknes and Casablanca.

Wonderful Detroit by Bill Rauhauser

We all know that Detroit is decades away from its gleaming glorious past. As the great city continues its sad fall from grace, we love to look back at photographs like these shot by local Detroit photographer Bill Rauhauser, now 95 years old, who started shooting with the plastic 35mm camera he bought for 39 cents when in high school.

Rauhauser says, "Photography was something that was in my blood. I was able to use the extra time and inspiration to walk the streets of Detroit at the time and build up a large body of work while it was still a really beautiful city".

Barbara Hazen's Series "Perfectly Imperfect" Wins 2nd Place

We would like to congratulate Mill Valley based photographer and Dickerman Prints client Barbara Hazen on her second place Galleriest’s Choice award at The Center in Santa Fe, NM for their “Choice Awards” which recognizes outstanding photographers working in all processes and subject matter.

Barbara’s beautiful black and white images in the series “Perfectly Imperfect” illustrate her perspective on feminine beauty. When her daughter asked her if she thought she was pretty it inspired Barbara to reflect on what beauty meant to her. Barbara writes, “In short, my answer was that I felt that I was ‘perfectly imperfect’, because beauty comes from within. I feel that beauty is far more complicated than our physical selves, but rather includes our mental, intellectual, emotional, spiritual and social selves as well. This is what I wanted to capture in photographs of women–their inner beauty emerging out of their physical body.”

The World’s First Digital Camera by Kodak and Steve Sasson

Ever wonder when and where the first digital camera came from? Well, in 1975 an engineer at Eastman Kodak named Steve Sasson produced the very fist digital camera pictured here. How did it work? Sasson writes:

"It had a lens that we took from a used parts bin from the Super 8 movie camera production line downstairs from our little lab on the second floor in Bldg 4. On the side of our portable contraption, we shoehorned in a portable digital cassette instrumentation recorder. Add to that 16 nickel cadmium batteries, a highly temperamental new type of CCD imaging area array, an a/d converter implementation stolen from a digital voltmeter application, several dozen digital and analog circuits all wired together on approximately half a dozen circuit boards, and you have our interpretation of what a portable all electronic still camera might look like."

The 8 pound camera recorded 0.01 megapixel black and white photos to a cassette tape. The first photograph took 23 seconds to create.

To play back images, data was read from the tape and then displayed on a television set:

Corey Arnold, Fisherman/ Photographer

Was just thinking about our old friend Corey Arnold, the brilliant photographer and commercial fisherman, who hails from Portland when he's not traveling the world fishing and shooting. We were going to do a short interview with him, but it’s going to have to wait as he’s off in Alaska for the salmon fishing season. In the meantime, enjoy a sampling from this talented photographer - For more beautiful and amazing images:

Also, be sure to view his recent feature with Time Magazine on why Sea Lions are starving to death along the California coast. Arnold visits the Marin Mammal Center for this photo essay.

Bradley Garrett “Place Hacker” Extraordinaire

Bradley Garrett is a daring, skilled, trespassing photographer. Here are some of his images from his book, titled Explore Everything: Place Hacking the City.