Monday, August 15, 2011

Reimagining a Jewish Past That Never Was

08 15 11 For immediate release:

RA Friedman doesn’t mind being known around town as “the man with the old camera” or “the vintage photography guy.” Since the early 90’s he has been shooting with older instruments and exploring the unique look of the antique lens, He often creates time-traveling portraits at events using a seventy-year-old Graflex camera. Recently, a project funded via Kickstarter, that will happen in the coming months, led him to partner with EgoPo, a cutting-edge theatre group in Philadelphia, in a pairing that seemed destined to be. Friedman has evolved a startling set of publicity images for EgoPo’s 2011/2012 season, that on first blush look like they date from the 1920’s or 30’s but were taken barely over two weeks ago.

EgoPo has in the works a trio of Jewish-themed plays: The Diary of Anne Frank, The Golem, and The Dybbuk. Friedman’s background includes working with the photo collections at The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, and, since 2003, filling the role of audio technician and archivist at The Freedman Jewish Sound Archive at Penn. “Of course, many people know Frank’s diary, but working around Yiddish folklore and having developed an affinity and osmotic knowledge of the beauty of the Yiddish language, its literature and poetry, I was also familiar with The Dybbuk and The Golem. So all at once I was more connected to the material than most photographers, but also anxious about creating images that were worthy of the subject matter’s weighty legacy.”

The library, auditorium and gasolier-appointed grand stairway of The German Society, an elegant Victorian style building, made a perfect backdrop for photos that needed to have an early 20th century look. “The photography was really kind of ‘crash and grab,’ we only had a bit more than an hour to create five tableaux and right at the outset, all my lamps failed! I was literally trembling but luckily a kind of emergency autopilot kicked in. That the company members were incredibly cooperative and skillful helped beyond words. They even held their breaths so as to prevent blurriness in the long exposures!” “The image post-processing took over a week of dedicated mornings (and a few evenings) as I tweaked and printed each image. I used overlays taken from scans graciously provided by Library Company of Philadelphia to add to the war-torn look of the images. This was fast, I’ve been known to take a month to make a print that suits me!”

RA Friedman recently completed a giant zoetrope (primitive mechanical movie device) that centered on the history of the Seventh Street neighborhood in South Philadelphia as part of a Mural Arts project entitled Journeys South. Two of his recent works are scheduled for a show in September at The Merchant’s House Museum, Manhattan along with photographers that include Sally Mann. Additionally, he heads up Tsirkus Fotografika, a vintage portrait project that kicked off in 2008 and now has an archive of over 700 images: More info: and

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Vintage Digital Field Test

I'm generally neurotic about being prepared for shoots, so when the technology is completely new and untested, I'm doubly so. I schlepped the rig with the 210 Schneider lens, the Majestic tripod head, and the rig that trains the digital camera on the focusing screen of a 1950's Crown Graphic to Fitler Square, a nearby park. Being that there were no volunteers swarming to be photographed, I used auto-time.

There is still some flaring at the center of the image, but with the 210, it's greatly reduced. I used what I called "split development" in what is a knock-off of Lightroom that came with my camera. I underexposed at capture and then created two .tif files: one dark (to reign in the flare) and one normal for the rest of the image. I then layered and masked them in Photoshop and pretty much just freely hit the image mask with various grays in that I let blend. I think the overall effect was pretty decent. It kind of looks like a cross between Autochrome and old Kodachrome. I think it will work.