**Ye Olde Darkroom**
After six years of not printing traditional silver gelatin photographs I’ve set up my darkroom again. Since I stopped printing I have been reluctant to sell silver prints, but I had a client that wanted one I was out of. I thought, in these pandemic times, or anytime really, I can not afford not to print it. So last weekend I got all the things not related to the darkroom out and cleaned everything from top to bottom. Tuesday I made my first print. It was like riding a bike. I was little clumsy, and things were not exactly in place, but by the time I found the right contrast and exposure, the intuitiveness was right there. In this sense, I believe I understand what a musician must feel like when she is one with her instrument and the band. In some ways it is easier than digital. Digitally, you can easily overuse all the control and option. Chemical darkroom is simply contrast, where to hold back light, and where to add more. That being said, coming from silver printing has really helped the way I approach digital printing. I’ve always tried to make my digital images look like they were shot on film. After printing, the real fun is toning. It’s very experimental, and you just never know exactly how it’s going to turn out. Each print can be very unique and one of a kind. The late great Bill Wittliff and I traded recipes before I quit, and I still have them. I was reading one and his humor came through. It said: "Agitate, you'll be good at this". I am waiting for fresh chemicals to arrive to start a new phase of my life’s work.
**I Am Such A Loser**
There are a few things that bother me about the aging process. One is, body parts hurt for what seems like no reason at all. Last week my arm hurt so bad I could barely sleep. Thank you Ibuprofin, my drug of choice. The other is the inherit forgetfulness. My doctor said it is normal, and losing your keys is not bad, not knowing what your keys do is. On January 27, I was at a store and paid with a credit card. That was the last time I saw my money clip that contained my credit cards, cash, driver’s license. I looked everywhere at least three times. I put ads in our local papers. I felt like I was actually going through the five stages of loss. I kept checking my credit card accounts to see if there were charges I did not make, and there wasn’t, which lead me to believe it must still be around. Then two weeks later, I was going through my new backpack, and discovered this little secret compartment. I opened it, and there’s my money clip. I was as happy as if I had gotten a big refund check from the IRS. I'd been carrying it around the whole time. Now, if I could just find that Hasselblad 50mm lens, my second pair of glasses, and who knows what else I don’t remember that I lost.
I woke up missing Charles Bowden the other day, so much so, that I started to listen to his audiobook “Murder City” because he narrated it and I could hear his voice. For those of you that don’t know, Charles was the authority on what was going on in Juarez in the mid 90’s. I first met his work from a story he wrote for the New Yorker called “While You Were Sleeping.” It was the first account of woman being abducted from the maquiladoras. They were being raped and killed. In the press the magic number was always 300, but it was in the thousands. I called Charles after I read it and we had a lengthy conversation. A few years later I was in my gallery at the computer and this guy came in, and was looking around. I usually just say hello and leave people alone. He looked at my images for a long time and finally he says “I’m Charles Bowden” I said why didn’t you tell me when you walked in. He came home with me and we drank and talked, and he spent the night. Charles and I remained friends, but I was never as close to him as I thought I should have been, and I regret it. I never made a good portrait of him, and in some ways I feel like I let him down by not immersing myself in what was going on in Juarez. I did go over there a few times and photographed the maquiladoras and the shanty towns, but honestly I was scared. These are self inflicted feelings, Charles never said or even implied it, in fact he paid me the biggest compliment and I keep it on my website.
"Don't bother to take photographs in Big Bend. James Evans owns the place and frankly you should simply buy his books and save yourself some time. He not only has what it looks like, he has what it feels like and means. This is a very rare thing." ~ Charles Bowden”
Charles died young, only 69, and I never got to say goodbye. I think it was unexpected, but we weren’t close enough for me to really know.
Here is another great quote from him, and I don’t know if he just said this to me or it is a published one. For several years I applied for a grant:
"The Guggenheim is a crap shoot. I won one long ago. Basically they are cowards who give awards to timid academics who should have been strangled at birth”.
It made me feel OK about not getting one.
Charles was a man’s man. He was a smoking, drinking, and to me, hard living writer. With everything he knew and published about Juarez, I thought he would eventually have his mouth shut by someone in the Juarez drug business, but he died in his own bed, and I am hoping it was a peaceful end.
Charles produced an amazing body of work, and he was truly the only writer that told the world what was going on at the border.
Here is a partial list of his books:
Down By the River
Some of the Dead are Still Breathing
Blues for Cannibals
Killing the Hidden Waters
The Red Caddy
The Charles Bowden Reader
Frog Mountain Blues
The Sonoran Desert
A Shadow in The City
Thank you all for the support you have given me over the years and especially in these pandemic times.
Happy Full Moon. Get Outside