Henry Wessel : photography
May 22, 2006 9:58 AM   Subscribe

Henry Wessel is an American photographer and Professor at San Francisco Art Institute who works with just one camera and just one type of film to capture the American West [NYT]. More specifically, he is interested in documenting light.
posted by grapefruitmoon (19 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
hmm, just doesn't do it for me.
posted by doctor_negative at 10:27 AM on May 22, 2006

a Leica with a 28-millimeter lens, and one type of film, Tri-X, which allows a full range of tones

Be that as it may, Tri-X doesn't capture color.
posted by jdfan at 11:00 AM on May 22, 2006

Doesn't do anything for me either. Give me some August Sander, Diane Arbus or Ansel Adams.
posted by bim at 11:11 AM on May 22, 2006

And you would use Plus-X to capture the full range of tones.
posted by StickyCarpet at 11:12 AM on May 22, 2006

Even the pictures with people in them are lacking life. Meh.
posted by TheGoldenOne at 11:27 AM on May 22, 2006

“Tones” is a fairly normal way of talking about black and white photos; it just means shades of gray. Almost any monochrome film can render most of the values in an ordinary scene, but some films will make them look especially full and smooth, and these might be referred to as getting good tones.
posted by vruba at 12:58 PM on May 22, 2006

"Wessel." Hehe.
posted by smackfu at 1:13 PM on May 22, 2006

Does he work in Alameda?
posted by pmbuko at 1:26 PM on May 22, 2006

He works with medium format cameras (Mamiya 7 if I recall) for his color work.

He comes out of the new topographics and social landscape movements at the end of the sixties, early seventies - Robert Adams, Baltz, Arbus, Davidson, Friedlander, Lyon, Winogrand, etc - most of which in turn came out of Frank. I was his student at SFAI, and his TA. He's a great teacher, very focussed.

"My primary function as a photographer is to describe, with a camera, how something looks as a photograph."

The "Real Estate" pics are mostly Richmond.
posted by johngumbo at 1:38 PM on May 22, 2006

Maybe I just miss some secret artsy thing when I look at images like these. Art schools, after all, produce lots of photography like this, so I suppose my ignorance is a real possibility.

This social landscape style seems to be based on a theme, like Henry Wessel’s bungalows. I know we're suppose to see magic there, but the repeated candy colored houses just leaves me empty

But then, truthfully, I’m probably just jealous. Wessel's prints are shown and sold all over the planet, while my own photographs lament in a dark closet. In fact I should thank the professor.

It’s seeing the success of photographers like him, that moved me to scan my Sixties portfolio into digital. Putting my photographs where my mouth is, I posted those shots here in the projects section on May 16.
posted by BillyElmore at 2:00 PM on May 22, 2006

I have to say i'm pretty keen on this stuff , especially the real estate section - photographing them as homes rather than houses , very , very clever indeed.
I like the way he describes his process of taking photographs - my achilles heel is im not able to give similar descriptions at the moment , so it's very helpful.
I find it a bit annoying that you have to come out with some sort of thesis on why you took a certain photo though - i had a dreadful art school interview with a man dressed entirely in black recently (a Postmodern Johnny Cash from Shettleston), you couldnt actually understand what he was saying after about 3 words , but this chap makes a lot of sense to me , someone move him to Scotland !

Chaps , i'll be looking at your photos forthwith , fairs fair , heres mine .
posted by sgt.serenity at 2:51 PM on May 22, 2006

I like them. I like how they're quiet. I feel like the images are just asking me to look - notice - this for just a moment.
posted by dog food sugar at 3:28 PM on May 22, 2006

Uninspired and uninteresting photos.
posted by blaneyphoto at 5:00 PM on May 22, 2006

I particularly like the Real Estate series- the way the candy colored little houses bounce out from their shadowed neighbors with all their angles bristling in high relief. For a split second, you almost want one, and then you realize the windows are covered with plywood or there's an abandoned cooler on the lawn out front. These images are probably the best these ratty little homes have ever looked...

In the same vein, the Night Walk, LA photos make ordinary, sunburnt and tired suburbia look inviting and warm. His technique may be very simple and the photos not very exciting, but I find interesting the way he shows the light affecting the subject of the photograph, highlighting the ordinary- and that somehow making it special for a brief moment.
posted by oneirodynia at 7:55 PM on May 22, 2006

Some very nice work there, sgt.serenity. I was surprised and impressed.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:53 PM on May 22, 2006

He works with medium format cameras (Mamiya 7 if I recall) for his color work.

So he doesn't work with just one camera and one type of film at all?

I'm disappointed. I like the idea of someone exploring self-imposed constraints, a la Adams or Cartier Bresson.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:58 PM on May 22, 2006

I think the B&W work is all Leica and Tri-X. If I remember what he said correctly, he shoots it at 100 and pulls two stops. Beautiful prints - very long silvery tonal range. Not sure if that process was the same for the night walk series, though, since the prints are so different.

Color work was printed larger, so he went with MF, negative film. He shot with the Mamiya and also with the Fuji 6X9, but (here my memory may be reversed) found the Mamiya to be sharper so he sold his Fuji. I don't think he prints his own color.

Constraints are great until they get in the way.
posted by johngumbo at 9:04 AM on May 23, 2006

Todd Hido is a photographer who's really mastered the "house at night" thing that Wessel seems to do every once in awhile. I like his stuff. His new nudes series are pretty badass too.
posted by fishfucker at 4:53 PM on May 31, 2006

Gah. This is the article I meant to link to. It's in the eastbay express, not the weekly.
posted by fishfucker at 4:55 PM on May 31, 2006

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