And Now For Something Completely Different!
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Sunday, April 17, 2016
By Kent Barker

I moved to Dallas in 1978 to become a commercial photographer. My first job after moving to the 'big city' was as a full time assistant to advertising photograher Chuck Untersee. Chuck had a huge studio near Love Field in Dallas and I learned a great deal from him.  When I wasn't working at the studio (which didn't happen much because I worked my buns off for that guy) I wandered around the downtown parts of Dallas & Ft. Worth with my old wooden Burke & James view camera. I was looking for one thing specifically...literal images that when when "seen" properly, would frame up as abstractions. It was a self made assignment that resonated with me and I remember even today how much I enjoyed those outings. Recently, I came across a few of the old negatives and had them scanned.  Below are three of my favorites.

 

 

I made this photograph in a part of downtown Dallas know as "Deep Ellum". In the 20's, 30's and 40's, the area was full of black music clubs and a haven for artists like Blind Lemon Jefferson, Robert Johnson and Lead Belly. When I arrived on the scene it was pretty much a ghost town and as such, interesting to me visually. The photo that you see here is of a glass window set in a warehouse door.  The glass had been painted white on both sides and over time, the inhabitants had scratched out a center hole to see out of.  The rest of the marks were graffiti type scratches made over many years. The image is completely literal and yet presents as a wonderfully abstract composition.  

 

 

My first apartment in Dallas was just off of Central about a block from Knox Street. It was an old complex and the 'covered parking' was nothing more than an old wooden shed. My parking space was #3 and the image that you see above is what I looked at everytime I pulled in.  It finally occurred to me one day that this simple scene was exactly what I was looking for. I loved the image that resulted and believe that it still holds up admirably in the present.

 

 

Every now and then, as photographers, we happen upon a truly remarkable image.  Such is the case with the final photograph persented here.  It is a completely literal image...and yet is so perfect in it's abstraction that it feels more like an illustration or a painting created from someone's imagination. 

The story behind it is as follows.  While driving to Ft.Worth to visit the Amon Carter museum, I ended up in the downtown area.  Cruising along... I looked to my left and stopped dead in my tracks.  There on the side of a building was an image I could not believe!  Someone was in the process of painting an adverstisement, but all that had been accomplished was an empty rectangle!  I had my view camera and a tripod in the car, so I pulled over and and jumped out.  Everything was perfect, but the composition I was interested in was too high to frame correctly.  I looked around desperately and could see a perfectly centered parking space in the lot next to the building.  Zipped into it, extended my tripd to it's full extention and jumped up onto the roof.  I then adjusted the lens and film planes on the camera to be parallel to the wall and raised the lens as high as possible.  The extra height was just enough and I was able to record the image you see above! 

My recent drum scan from the 4x5 negative came out beautifully and the prints created this afternon on Hahnemueller Photo Rag are exquiste. I don't always say this...but the inkjet prints of this particular image are hands down better than the originals (silver prints).  Love that! 

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Margarita Birnbaum - That's such a great photograph. Love your blog! The photos are fun to see and the stories are such a treat.