Saving a Journal After it Goes Through the Wash

Posted in Uncategorized on 2013/11/27 by jimhairphotos

Saving a Journal After it Goes Through the Wash

For years I have kept notes when I make photographs in a small, inexpensive notebook. It fits in the back pocket of my pants and when I meet someone I can write down their contact info easily. I have also asked people I photograph to write their names in the book, and especially for someone who does not speak English, it has helped me to correctly understand their names.

I also ask for an email address so I can send copies of the photographs to the people who are willing to stand still for me.

Last week, my loving wife took my work pants and washed them for me, but did not notice my notebook. I had spent the morning photographing under the St. Johns bridge (an outing she declined) and when I came home to fix us breakfast, Vicki came in and said that I would be very unhappy, and handed me my journal.

Fig. 1. After washing it was a lump of pulp, and I was pretty sure it was lost. There is a pause of 24 hours between Fig. 1 and Fig. 2 while I was “pensive”. This journal covered the last six months and the first entries were from Santa Cruz and ended last week after we had settled in Portland. In those six months I had participated in a state-wide photoshoot, three trips back and forth between California and Oregon, a trip to Las Vegas to photograph artwork by a Chinese artist for a book, Death Valley, and hand-written addresses and names of all the people we met, including a husband and wife from Spain, young people from Poland, a father and his daughter from Quebec riding their bikes around America, and tourists from Japan. What obsessed me most was all the notes I had taken and allowed myself to forget: they were written down in the notebook and I could always refer to them later. I was most concerned about what I didn’t know I had lost, and the promises I had made to people to send them photographs that would not be sent.

Fig. 2 is a photograph of what the notebook looks like to start with, and the washed book after I had soaked it in a bath of luke-warm water. I gently pulled it back into shape, but saw that the paper was dissolving in the water as I touched it, so carefully made it as flat as I could and then placed it on wax paper.

Fig. 3 is after a few hours of carefully separating the pages with a dull knife, and placing small sheets of wax paper between them. At this point the paper felt like wet Kleenex, and I limited myself to two cups of coffee and the music of Radiohead while I carefully pulled the pages apart.

Fig. 4 is after placing the notebook in a room with a dehumidifier running continuously. Every few hours I rotated the book so the moisture could be removed evenly. I am careful to use a Gelly Roll or Pigma Micron pen when writing in the journal, and especially if I have someone else write in it, as the ink in these pens is waterproof when dry, and archival quality. The paper feels fairly brittle now, but the writing is clear, and I am transferring the notes to a spread sheet that I will print.

Fig. 5 shows the last two years of my notebooks, and my project for this weekend of transcribing addresses and emails.

Every night when I come home, I empty my pockets and kiss my wife.

Film or Digital?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on 2013/02/23 by jimhairphotos

It is a strange thing to live through changes that affect the way everything works.  When I was ten I believe my grandmother guided me to becoming a photographer, after the death of her favorite brother Jack.  He had been a photographer since high school and went on to become the Asian Bureau Chief for Life magazine in World War Two.  I was taken to the Naval Training Center Hobby Shop evenings and weekends, where I learned how to process film and make prints while my grandmother painted cast ceramic frogs that would end up in my grandfather’s garden, peering up from the dichondra that surrounded the goldfish pond.  My grandfather had created a fountain out of black painted cinder blocks that had a cement cast Thai Buddha sitting on top.  I never had the chance to ask my grandfather, a Pearl Harbor survivor and officer aboard the USS Enterprise throughout the war, why he had created a Japanese style garden in his backyard after the war, complete with koi, the Buddha, and a Torii Gate?

Generally we pass through life without asking questions about what we experience as it seems natural and just the way things are.  Photography is different.


Forty years I made photographs with a series of cameras and film, and the only question was color or black and white, or 35mm or large format?  It seemed like I shared this with generations with relatively few variations, until the end of the 1980’s and computers became a tool we used to change the way we did things.  Gradually film has been displaced by digital to the point where I am now wondering how much longer it will be possible to continue making photographs as I have for decades, or will I also have to accede to a new limit with the loss of even the possibility of using film?


Does it matter?  I have recently received a package containing twenty rolls of processed film from Blue Moon Camera and Machine in Portland, Oregon.  A decade ago, if I photographed an event in San Francisco I might have shot twenty rolls in a single day, but now these twenty represent the film I have used in the last six months, everything else having been documented digitally.  The act of making a photograph has changed as people used to have the patience to stand still while I adjusted focus and f-stop; now the meeting of a stranger, the exchange of a few words of introduction and granting permission, then making a photograph, are over in seconds.  Maybe there was the illusion of making a connection with someone in the past, of sharing a story and hearing about someone else’s life, if even for only a few minutes; now the limited exchange allows only for the sharing of superficial details.  It is now easier to make thousands of photographs in the time it took to make a few dozen just a few years ago, are the images we make now as significant as when our collecting was constrained?


If we are making superficial images of what we see and experience, what have we sacrificed in a deeper understanding of our world and the people we meet?  As the technology has improved, is there any difference in the quality of a film and a digital image?Image

Unwind Yarn Shop Sold to Bikers

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on 2012/12/24 by jimhairphotos

In 2006 Vicki and I closed up our lives in California to move to Indiana to care for her ailing parents. We came to love Richmond, Indiana for its history, the people we met, and the possibilities we dreamt could happen. In the six years we lived there we made very close friends and worked to make some of the things we dreamt happen. One of our successes was the Unwind Yarn Shop, located in an historic building on Main Street that had been neglected for years. We re-connected the electricity and removed the metal façade that covered the second and third floors allowing light and air and life back into the building.
Unwind Before and After
Unwind became a clean and safe place for (predominantly) women of all ages and social stations to gather and become good knitters as well as friends. Vicki learned to knit with her mother, and I feel Unwind was in a way a living memorial to Priscilla Hawley of her daughter’s love. I know it was with a heavy heart that Vicki left the successful business she created to return to our children in California.

After months of negotiations, and support from many groups in Richmond from the City, and Center City Organization, the SBA and West End Bank, we are very happy to announce the sale of Unwind to a young couple who have their own visions and dreams to build, and the energy and family support to accomplish their goals.

Samantha (Sam) and John are both knitters and weavers (and bikers) who will take Unwind and the building on Main Street that it was our honor to care for the last few years, to the next level. Vicki and I look forward to seeing the new changes these two young people will bring Downtown, and to the community.

Sam and John with Bike 2249v121110

April & May, 2012

Posted in Uncategorized on 2012/06/03 by jimhairphotos

I left Indiana, drove across the country stopping to see beloved friends Chen Yi and Zhou Long in Kansas City, and Jill Bell, and then Hong Wang and his beautiful wife Xiao Yen in Las Vegas, Gary Holt and Yon Soon in Berkeley, and arrived in San Francisco on April 1 for Bishop Joey, St. Stupid’s and Gail Harper. Drove to San Diego to visit my mom and meet my brother Art and his amazing family, then back to Berkeley to re-connect with friends and say farewell to Nina W. Deckert on April 14th. Vicki flew out and we enjoyed seeing her son Bill marry Ashley Ferreira on the 21st and also spend time with daughter Kate and her husbandJohn DoughertyVicki Hair flew home on May 2 and I started work full-time at Lenz Arts in Santa Cruz. My beautiful daughter Oriana Gliessman gave birth to Mateo Martin Gliessman on Saturday, May 12th, and then it got busy… I have found a small place in the redwoods above Santa Cruz, am working in the Art Materials industry again, and today re-connected to the internet with my PC (I’m not as iPhone facile as I’d hoped) and we took 3-week old Mateo to the beach. This is why I haven’t been able to reply to a number of friends who have sent me notes, but I am almost organized, and will try and be a better correspondent. At least for a month. In July I am hoping for another visit from the woman I adore, and then all bets are off.

Return to California

Posted in Uncategorized on 2012/05/29 by jimhairphotos

In 2006, Vicki and I placed our careers on hold and moved to Indiana to care for her parents; Keith and Priscilla Hawley.  After six years in Richmond we are returning to California.  I have accepted the job of Manager at Lenz Arts in Santa Cruz.  When I was a student at the University of California I used to buy my supplies there in the ‘70’s.  I had a few friends who told me it was the coolest place for artists to work, and now I have come full circle and can verify that they were telling the truth.  After 44 years in the retail business, Andy and Cynthia Lenz, and their sons Andrew and Matthew, have not only managed to survive, but have created an amazing resource for artists and crafters throughout Northern California.  I have worked continuously in the art materials industry since 1978 except for the years in Richmond.

An incentive for our return is that three out of four of our kids live in the San Francisco Bay Area, Vicki’s son Bill was married on April 21 and my daughter Oriana gave birth to our first grandson, Mateo Martin Gliessman, on May 12th in Santa Cruz.


After the passing of Vicki’s mom, we cared for her father who was a resident of Friends Fellowship, and over the years became involved with the Richmond community.  We purchased two commercial buildings downtown and invested in their restoration and reuse.  I worked on a number of projects that I hoped would improve the quality of life in Richmond, and Vicki opened Unwind Yarn Shop. 

The most recent project I have completed, and one of the most rewarding, is a series of thirty video interviews of Veterans for the Library of Congress through the office of Senator Lugar, at Ivy Tech College in Richmond and Muncie.

Vicki has worked long hours creating Unwind Yarn Shop, which sadly is now for sale.  Every year it has been more successful and has developed a following of knitters who have come regularly from Ohio and Illinois as well as throughout Indiana.

The community of Richmond, Indiana has also experienced a growth in business and creative reuse of historic buildings, so we are also sad to leave just as things are starting to take off.  The historic 1902 railroad depot designed by Daniel Burnham was saved by the community and is being restored, an early fire station, RFD #1 has been transformed into a BBQ and Blues club by two active duty Richmond firefighters, and the Model T Museum, which hosted the world-wide Centennial Celebration of the Ford Model T in 2008 has relocated to the Depot District and will be opening in the next few months.

We look forward to being close to our kids, and now a grandson, but in the six years we lived in Richmond, feel we are also leaving another family of friends and a community that unexpectedly became an important part of our lives.

Best Wishes,

Jim & Vicki Hair

Making Photographs

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 2012/03/02 by jimhairphotos

The introduction of a new image capturing device has again initiated discussion on what photography is? The thoughts below are in response to a story broadcast on NPR on March 1, 2012 reporting on the new image capturing device “Lytro” that creates digital photographic images that can be selectively focused after they have been captured. In the story the question was raised about how this would change the process of photography.

Conflict always creates interest, so positioning a new invention as the potential end to photography as we know it gets some attention, and inspired me to review some of what I know and enjoy about being a photographer this morning over a cup of coffee.

Just as the creation of paintings have evolved over time, so has the way we create a two dimensional representation of our world that we refer to as a photograph. The Impressionists are no less painters for their choice of method than the Fauves or Cubists or Realists. Leonardo and Picasso chose two very different ways to depict a woman in a portrait, but they are still artists and primarily painters as they create the illusion of a person by pushing pigments into a particular configuration on a two dimensional surface. Mary Cassatt and Georgia O’Keefe
chose different subjects, methods and materials, but they are still painters.

Choice has always been the primary variable in how an artist communicates a vision to the world, and it was the same for an Australian Aborgine who sought to describe the Dreamtime in pigments as the people who drew the bison on the caves at Lascaux. It is just the same for photographers and the way they choose their tools and communicate their view of reality. The image they create are photographs whether they use a large format film camera and create a dramatic portrait in light as Karsh has, or in multiple linked images as those of Chuck Close. The arrangement of a view of people in a photograph has ranged from the multiple layers created in printing in the 1850’s by Oscar Reijlander, to the “decisive moment” of Cartier-Bresson and Robert Capa from the 1930’s to 1960’s. A layering or collage of images has been used by photographers from the beginning, and the complex darkroom technique of Jerry Uelsmann has in recent decades been made possible for anyone by the popular use of Photoshop software in a digital darkroom. Post-processing of images is a term that is now used for dodging and burning and the effects that were once darkroom related, to the manipulations and enhancement of images by computer. Unique effects of film processing and darkroom technique that required alternate film development chemicals to create “cross-processing” is now accomplished by effects within the layers of an image by adjusting digital sliders for hue and saturation and tonality.

The creation of photographs is primarily a way for individuals to extend our vision of reality by manipulations of time and space. The introduction of the “Lytro” continues the ability of creators of photographs to choose another way to view the world; a new tool for expressing what they have seen that is worth documenting.

on my son’s 24th birthday

Posted in Uncategorized on 2011/09/02 by jimhairphotos

with my kids at Djerassi

with my kids at Djerassi

I have been very lucky with the kids who allowed me to be their father. I was an only child raised by my maternal grandparents in the 1950’s when it seemed like every other kid I knew were living in homes that more closely resembled Wally and Theodore’s, with a matching mom and dad. Looking back it turned out that I was inadvertently a lucky child, and my grandparents gave me gifts that I am still discovering, decades after their passing, but as a child, in the dark, I dreamt of my dad, and made a promise that when I had kids I would stay near them and be part of their lives.

When I told a good friend that I was about to become a father, his reaction was dismay and he explained that I could give up on being an “artist.” I disagreed and stated that my personal work would be all the richer for having children who would help me discover the world and people beyond the limitation of my own eyes and history, and this has come true. I have been places and met people I never would have, had I not had two great kids to open the doors they discovered, often doors I had not even seen.

I have been told that across cultures, a single man is the least trusted, and as I wandered with my daughter at my side, and initially carrying my son on my shoulders, I was allowed to experience and photograph people and events that I know would have been difficult had I tried on my own. My children have pursued their own paths for years now, but I attribute much of my manner in meeting people to the confidence I had when they were young. If you meet me now, you may not see them, but Oriana is holding my hand and I still feel Ben at my shoulder.