Wayne Hinshaw column: Gold Hill vintage photo exhibit

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 10, 2014

Fine Arts Black and White photography, art photography, a Gold Hill photo exhibit this Saturday and Sunday? What does all this mean?
I have been a photographer all my adult life, but I always had a problem defining what fine arts photography or art photography might be in regard to the photojournalism photography that I practice.
With the announcement of a photo exhibit in the E.H. Montgomery General Store in Gold Hill on Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m., I needed to know more about this process. Vivian Hopkins, who operates the E.H. Montgomery General Store with her husband, pointed me to photographer Martin Lafferty.
Visiting with Martin in his home, we had a long talk about the show and photography in general. Martin started his adult career in the textile industry after graduation from Davidson College. At Davidson, he was the yearbook photographer and did photos for the public relations department much like I did at Catawba College. Martin left the textile industry after 20 years at age 47 and became a banker.
In 1990, he responded to an advertisement in the Concord Tribune calling for anyone interested in black and white photography to come to a meeting. Missing his college days of photography, while still a banker, he again returned to his love of photography. He said, “It was just a hobby. I did two weddings that were a disaster, so I decided to stick with black and white photography. I once met Ansel Adams just to shake his hand, but I studied his work and I loved it.”
At that meeting in Concord, six photographers with similar feelings formed a group called Vintage Photography Guild of North Carolina. All agreed that their “goal was to improve the level of black and white photography. We wanted to help people improve at whatever level they might be.”
“At the time we started the group, vintage photography was about the photo process. Now I am 72 years old and vintage might be about the age of the photographers,” chuckled Martin.
Members of the group who will exhibit in Gold Hill are Wayne Wrights and Elizabeth McAdams from Salisbury, Clarence Nolley and Chris Andrews from Concord, Gerry Zapka from Matthews, and Martin Laffertry from Landis.
The group loves going to Gold Hill on photos shoots together. They have had four to six Saturday mornings there taking photos. They go their separate ways in Gold Hill making black and white photos. “When we come back together after four hours of shooting, none of us ever shoot the same picture twice,” continued Martin.
In praise of Gold Hill, Martin said, “The old wooden buildings are gorgeous. We love going down there. It is a unique place. It is a star in Rowan’s crown.”
Martin pulled out his 4×5 “Zone 6” camera and we took it to the back yard to set it up. It weighs 12-14 pounds with a tripod. He used to use his 8X10 camera for the shoots, but the camera, holders, and lens fill two bags and weigh about 70 pounds, so this camera is getting left at home more and more these days. He often uses a Canon 5D MK digital camera today.
His process, when shooting with the 4×5 camera, is like this: loads the film holders with Ilford HP5 ISO 400 film and makes the photo. He processes the film reducing the ISO to 200. He scans the 4×5 black and white negative into his computer to tone the image and to dodge and burn (lighten and darken) parts of the image. Next, he makes a digital black and white negative from the computer, then goes into the chemical wet darkroom to make a print on Ilford Multi-grade luster photography paper.
Back to the Gold Hill exhibit discussion. Each photographer will provide two 11×14 vintage prints in 16×20 matts and about 20 5×7 black and white prints in matts. Martin will have a set of 5x7s and a set of 8×10 prints. Some of his prints will be “silver prints” from the wet chemical darkroom and some will be digital prints.
Each print will have a certificate on the back stating that is a fine arts black and white image and signed by the photographer.
Martin said, “People won’t have $150 to $200 for prints, but they will have $15-$20 for prints. We want everyone who comes to be able to leave with a print. Vivian (Hopkins) has been so nice helping us, we want to promote Gold Hill with the smaller prints.”
Vivian Hopkins said this about the photographers: “I am a huge fan of black and white photography. Since they started coming down (to Gold Hill) we have become friends. I have a great respect for what they do, and I appreciate them preserving the black and white photography process.”
Oh, yes, I promised a discussion about Fine Arts Vintage Photography or art photography. Martin says it is fine arts, “when someone would sit down with an easel to paint. That kind of photo image is a fine arts image also. I don’t think of fine arts images having people in them like the work you do in photojournalism. Street photography is not fine arts work even though it can be very good work.”
That is a pretty good definition. I did more research on the definition.
A photographer of fine arts has the vision of an artist. A fine arts image will be subjective, showing the emotional attachment of the photographer to the subject, whereas photojournalism is more objective in that its intent is to record visually an event. Fine arts images are intended to complete the creative vision of the photographer.
Okay, good. Now art photography is more difficult to describe. Most think the photographer is trying to produce a picture that has more to it than just a realistic image. It has to be a photo that is personal and expresses a feeling or mood.
You figure it out for yourself. Martin Lafferty and I tried to understand what we do. We agreed that what we do is different but both are “good.”
The Vintage Photo Exhibit at the E.H. Montgomery General Store in Gold Hill will be this Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. There will be a reception for the six photographers on Sunday at the store from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.