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  #1  
Old May 23rd, 2012, 08:42 PM
Maris Rusis Maris Rusis is offline
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Default A moment ransomed against time.


My Mother's Kitchen

Gelatin-silver photograph on Agfa MCC 111 VC FB photographic paper exposed in contact with a 8"X10" Tmax 400 negative from a Tachihara 810HD triple extension field view camera fitted with a 121mm f8 Schneider Super-Angulon lens.

The kitchen and the dining space beyond are a budget 1960's design that was never changed apart from the floor which shows three different surfaces of vinyl and carpet.

This is my mother's kitchen the day after she departed on the ineluctable journey into mortality via a nursing home and various hospitals. The place is spotless, there is no dust. The funny mugs still line up above the door on the left. The refrigerator purrs quietly and the biscuit barrel on top of it contains chocolate creams. The kettle on the table invites tea-making and the bowl of fruit on the bench beyond beckons deliciously. Candles and candelabras are ready to hand if the lights fail at night. The heat is off and the room is cold but bright with the same morning light that has caressed the window and lace curtains for the last forty years. Her old spectacles are in their usual place on the bench. She has taken her new pair to the place she is going.

I ask myself in what state I would leave my house knowing that I will not be coming back. And you, what would you do?
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  #2  
Old May 23rd, 2012, 09:54 PM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Maris Rusis View Post

Gelatin-silver photograph on Agfa MCC 111 VC FB photographic paper exposed in contact with a 8"X10" Tmax 400 negative from a Tachihara 810HD triple extension field view camera fitted with a 121mm f8 Schneider Super-Angulon lens.
I'm impressed that the coverage is so good without any vignetting. So it must be that the extensions are really saving you, or does this lens have particularly wide coverage. My 150mm Super Symmar XL does get dark at the corners!



Maris Rusis: My Mother's Kitchen


Quote:
Originally Posted by Maris Rusis View Post
The kitchen and the dining space beyond are a budget 1960's design that was never changed apart from the floor which shows three different surfaces of vinyl and carpet.

This is my mother's kitchen the day after she departed on the ineluctable journey into mortality via a nursing home and various hospitals. The place is spotless, there is no dust. The funny mugs still line up above the door on the left. The refrigerator purrs quietly and the biscuit barrel on top of it contains chocolate creams. The kettle on the table invites tea-making and the bowl of fruit on the bench beyond beckons deliciously. Candles and candelabras are ready to hand if the lights fail at night. The heat is off and the room is cold but bright with the same morning light that has caressed the window and lace curtains for the last forty years. Her old spectacles are in their usual place on the bench. She has taken her new pair to the place she is going.
Well Maris, it has indeed stopped in time. I thought, when I first saw the picture, "what a nice modern kitchen. They are pretty up to date down-under!!" I was surpassed that it's actually vintage, LOL! Well, my POV might come from my very humble background. I think I have a modern kitchen but my son tells me "Gut it and get an up-to-date look!"


Quote:
Originally Posted by Maris Rusis View Post
I ask myself in what state I would leave my house knowing that I will not be coming back. And you, what would you do?
I had that terrible feeling leaving my mother at her hospital bed in Johannesburg, South Africa, knowing I'd never see her again alive! What does anything mean after that?

Asher
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  #3  
Old May 24th, 2012, 04:44 AM
Tom dinning Tom dinning is offline
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I'm sure the technical stuff is all very impressive, MAris but I'll just stick with the photo.
In a word: beautiful. The silence comes straight out of the sceeen at me. Even without the knowledge of its circumstances (which I didn't read until I had spent some time staring at the photo) I can hear someone creeping around in there, ruffling the curtains and running a cloth over the work bench. You have given this place a stability and depth befitting its life. A fitting tribute to your mother and a well presented statement of who she is. I might dare say its a portrait. I know a few mothers who would be right at home here, including mine, but she would probably run a broom over the floor irrespective of who or when it it was last swept.
Is that suds in the sink? I've got goose bumps.
Tom
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Old May 24th, 2012, 09:41 PM
Maris Rusis Maris Rusis is offline
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Thank you Asher and Tom for your comments.

There must be something about the slow pace of 8x10 camera-work which leaves time for the imagination to muse, ponder, brood, and perhaps fester.

First the technical stuff. The 121mm f8 Schneider Super-Angulon lens is not supposed to cover 8x10 but but it does with about 2mm to spare in the corners for infinity focus. Inside a room the focus is only a few metres and the lens coverage increases nicely. There is the unavoidable cosine to the fourth power illumination fall-off towards the edges of the negative but fortunately the final photograph, the positive, is a photograph of this negative plus a carefully wielded "burning card". The fall-off doesn't show. Similarly, the window is very dense on the negative but burning-in this area allows it to read right to the eye. You may note that the patch of light on the floor is blown out to white. I decided to let this area go because it is small, not a point of interest, and technically difficult to subdue with the chair and table legs passing through it. The fluorescent lamp over the dining area was switched on to place an "eye point" there but the one in the kitchen was left off as it would compete with the window light.

The sink does have suds in it but I put them there. Camera set-up was done well in advance of exposure so I could wait for the exact window light. This is the house I grew up in and I knew the biscuit barrel on the refrigerator could help with the waiting. Inside it was a new packet of chocolate creams. My mother had deliberately placed this little cache of hospitality for people she might never meet. I shivered slightly when I realised this was a Proustian madeleine moment as eloquent as any. Some biscuits and a cup of instant coffee later the light was getting good so I went to rinse the cup and plate and leave them on the sink to drain as usual. But that was too lazy!

My mother suffered from Parkinson's disease, the rigid version not the "shakes", and just tidying her kitchen must have taken all day. I washed, dried, and polished, that cup and plate and put them away perfectly; cup handle aligned with all the others. Then I left the suds in the sink, a hint of my presence, and made the exposure.

What had I done? Did I photograph to exorcise her presence and replace it with my own? Was it an offering, a distracting ritual, a palliative for me, or a sacrament? As I say, the imagination can fester.
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  #5  
Old May 29th, 2012, 02:40 PM
Mike Shimwell Mike Shimwell is offline
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Maris

Thanks for sharing this very evocative picture. The subject and your description make this a real and personal memorial. I think these times are worth memorialising as they mark our and our parents' passage through life. The sense you have invoked is similar to the feeling I had and importance I have attached to starting a short series of pictures of my father in law's garage/workshop, which has become unused and now sits idle as he has started to suffer from the impact of 'early stage' dementia.

I hope that the pictures, whilst rooted in the past, will help us remember the living when they are passed from us.

Mike
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Old May 31st, 2012, 10:14 AM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom dinning View Post
I'm sure the technical stuff is all very impressive, MAris but I'll just stick with the photo.
In a word: beautiful. The silence comes straight out of the sceeen at me. Even without the knowledge of its circumstances (which I didn't read until I had spent some time staring at the photo) I can hear someone creeping around in there, ruffling the curtains and running a cloth over the work bench. You have given this place a stability and depth befitting its life. A fitting tribute to your mother and a well presented statement of who she is. I might dare say its a portrait. I know a few mothers who would be right at home here, including mine, but she would probably run a broom over the floor irrespective of who or when it it was last swept.
Is that suds in the sink? I've got goose bumps.
Tom

Tom,

You have expressed so well for all of us the impact of Maris' picture. Thanks!

It's the brain of an unusually skilled wet darkroom dweller that makes possible the appearance of such life in an empty kitchen.

Most anyone else with a camera would have gotten a dull image. It's relatively easy to photograph a sunset or a mother nursing an infant and get howls of praise. Any camera will do! However, to conjure up people of a certain nature where there are none, requires not only the camera, but also imagination, skill, empathy, compassion and insight too. But even all that is not enough to make this picture inhabited.

The photographer then also needs to be able to weigh, rank and control the expression of every element to make the photograph reach out to us in the way it does.

Not many folk can do all that! :)

Asher
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Our purpose is getting to an impressive photograph. So we encourage browsing and then feedback. Consider a link to your galleries annotated, C&C welcomed. Images posted within OPF are assumed to be for Comment & Critique, unless otherwise designated.
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