Archive for May, 2006

Robert Balcomb’s “After Series”

Influenced by Vermeer’s “Milk Maid,” William Mortensen produced a signed three-color Pigment print of his own “Maid Pouring Milk,” or “Pouring Milk.” During my last visit to his Laguna Beach home studio in 1957 he saw how taken I was with the print and gave it to me. Much later, after Mortensen’s death, Myrdith Mortensen sent me a large box containing notes and samples of his Pigment Printing that he and collaborator George Dunham had amassed during their long sessions of developing the process, his answer to the old laborious Bromoil printing. In those notes were the three color prints (red, green, and black) he used in making the final print, along with several trial prints. I later donated the collection to the Center for Creative Photography at The University of Arizona in Tucson AZ.

Many of the notes and samples, along with an explanatory treatise, can be found in TheScreamOnline.

After several years I began my own attempts of producing similar prints depicting my interpretations of the works of the great master painters. My first model was a girl from Germany, whom wife Mary Balcomb fixed up with a head scarf. The result was a print that reminded me of another Vermeer, “Girl with a Pearl Earring.” That print began for me a series of studies that I have named my “After Series.” Click to see my “After Vermeer.”

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The Center for Creative Photography (CCP)

CCP is located at The University of Arizona, Tucson. Housed in its own three-story building, it contains over forty-thousand photographs of 20th and 21st Century American photographers, along with some of their writings and correspondence. In 1925 Ansel Adams donated a large collection of his prints, accepted as the Ansel Adams Archive, beginning the institution that it now is. Later, CCP was given a collection of writings and prints of William Mortensen, after his death, which resides as the William Mortensen Archive. All the collections at the Center are available for anyone interested in photography to see, by appointment.

In 2000, a friend told the Center’s archivist Amy Rule that my portraits display the Mortensen technique I had learned during a 1956 six-month study with WM. She invited me to show her my work, which CCP accepted as the Robert Balcomb Collection, including correspondence between me and Myrdith Mortensen, the beginnings of my biography of Mortensen, a camera he had given me, and later the box of Pigment notes and samples. The biography has metamorphosed into a book entitled Me and Mortensen, which I hope to publish late this summer.

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A Day with Jayne

In close to half-a-century of sittings the one that sticks out in my mind as the most unique is when Jayne Mansfield sat for a portrait at my studio in Albuquerque, New Mexico. What started out as a possible disaster resulted in a fine portrait — once I had cleared the room of her entourage. Read the full story in TheScreamOnline.

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