Tag Archives: photoworks


James Gandofini ( Tony Soprano) died yesterday, and the big news today on Twitter is that Instagram has video. The Instagram news is breaking stronger than a hurricane. Well, I don’t like dorky storm chasers, and I don’t much care for video.  Yes, I know what Vine is. It’s in Napa Valley.  Alright, let me begin again. The length of a Vine platform video is about the same as well, it takes Tony to….say, bada-bing.   To be fair and not a complete ignoramus, I realize there is lots of creativity packed into those 6-8 seconds. new meaning to the term “quickie” indeed.

For me, if you tied all the vines made in one day into one big video, it could never compare to even the worst Sopranos episode. So, all the chatter today is getting in the way of me saying, “aririviderci” to an old friend.  Maybe someone will use Vine to make a tribute to Tony.  A bullet to the head, some baked ziti, kiss the wife goodnight.  Cut, the End.

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Mobile Phoney

Much to the dismay of instant gratification seekers (myself included), Instagram went offline last night around 7pm or so. I heard it had something to do with horrible weather back East. That makes sense since the server is in the clouds..ha ha As a result of this calamity, you were all deprived off a rare glimpse of yet another nice sunset from my balcony overlooking the ocean. You are currently missing an aerial view of my pristine cup of morning joe in a vintage Eames coffee cup. Later on you may miss my $6.00 one ounce food truck taco. And God Forbid, if this outage continues, you will not bear witness to me grinning, wearing a panda hat at the Giants v Reds baseball game.

I recently met someone who is a member of AMPt. Don’t know why the “t” is a small letter, but these are some “advanced” mobile phone shooters using lots of cool apps to make some pretty interesting images. I almost bought a piece in an art show from this person. I think this is fine as long as we all understand that the lines of photography have been blurred. You still need some skill to take a good mobile image. Framing, composition and the way we see the world still count, but that is really where the praise should end. Filters and digital masks or whatever they are called is really cheating. I use them all the time, and I feel kind of silly doing it. Slippery slope indeed as there are some impressive artificially created beauties that I “like” on a regular basis.

Is it sad that Facebook bought Instagram, or is it a message to mobile photographers to use a real camera? I used my Rolleiflex the other day, and it was one of the worst rolls of film I ever shot. I threw out the negatives and proudly posted my mobile shots instead. A wake up call for me for sure, especially when I see 12 year old kids posting HDR pouty lip pictures. We’re all in the same soup now, and it’s hard to control the taste.

If I’m being honest I have to say that I do really enjoy Instagram. It’s up to me to carry my Nikon in the same way I carry my phone regardless of convenience or lighting. I’ll never get used to mobile images of cats,or the obligatory “here’s my toes in the waters of some island beach.” Maybe the outage was a good thing as it reminded me that I am way too attached to my camera phone. Gotta go, we’re back online and my lunch is waiting….


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Hello Tarek



So Tarek has come to work with us here at the shop. His presence is most welcome, as he brings with him a certain charm and wit that meshes quite well with the rest of the oddballs here.

Our boss asked him to write a little tidbit about himself to introduce him to the internet world, and he came up with this fantastic itemized list of facts, which you all may find as great as I do…

“I started at Photoworks in February and immediately knew how to pronounce “giclée” from my upbringing in my native (bilingual) land of Canada.  Off-duty I enjoy shooting candid photos of strangers and listening to records and the radio.  I am a very cheap person — and therefore I like to develop my own film, spend weekends at flea markets and eat 1/2 sandwiches from M & L (editor’s note: M & L is around the corner from PW, everyone should go there at least once, free cookies!)

I like it when you drop off lots of film — it motivates the young Canuck!


• I have lived in six different cities but this is my first stay in the U.S.A..  I am trying to fit in by not using Canadian words like washroom, double-double (coffee talk for 2 creams/2 sugars) and tuque (winter hat).

• I helped run a community/college radio station for the last 2.5 years in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.  I managed 65+ shows and over 150 volunteers — definitely a good training for meeting all the different customer styles at PW.

• I own a goat sweater. (Editor’s note: This is a great sweater, he’s never worn it to work… Why?)

• My favorite films are Kodak Tri-X and Fuji 800Z.

• I once fainted in my home darkroom — no ventilation and a fast-approaching deadline for a bunch of 16 x 20″ prints are a bad combo.

• I prefer street photography.  Unstaged, candid moments are my favorite.  Trying to capture a strong image from something you can’t control is addictive…a good way to explore the city too.

• I once spent a lot of time in laundry mats and documented what I saw. (Editor’s note: This is actually very interesting and the artistic statement is worth a read!)

• A customer called me Tarmac on the phone and repeated this creative interpretation when meeting me at the store.  It was beautiful.


He meant to write:

“Lots of love,


Welcome to the shop buddy.


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Photoworks 6

Our newest edition of the PHOTOWORKS zine will be coming out later this week. This issue is a tad different than the previous prints- we’ve included some bios and interviews with each featured photographer. Here is an excerpt from photographer Matt Sawyer’s bio:

“I think that experiencing an image frozen in time is not simply one less dimension, but fundamentally a different kind of thing than experiencing the sensation of sight or watching a video or movie. As we look into the world around us, we are being flooded with sensory information from almost 180 degrees in front of us. This information is correlated also to what we’re hearing, smelling and touching. By carving out a small fraction of that information into a photograph, freezing it in time, and detaching it from other sensory experiences, I think that it allows a strong sense of memory to be invoked as our minds attempt to grasp it and make sense of it. It’s almost as if your mind is tracking forward in time until the photograph is viewed; it is then arrested and sometimes reels backwards into memory or nostalgia as the photograph is taken in.”

You can find the rest of his lovely thoughts and photographs in Issue 6, which will be sold in store for $8.

Hope your week is going swimmingly everyone!


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Holiday Greetings From Hannah

Hey everybody, this is Hannah, that clerk from the counter-

I’m doing a guest blog post as dh has been drowning in pesky responsibilities.

I’m not as witty as he is, but I’ll do my best here.


Of course the theme of this particular post is the holidays, though I myself don’t feel like they’re really here again. I’m remembering last December- sitting at the crappy end of a huge table in a garage behind my grandparent’s house with 30 drunk and boisterous family members, I believe I ended up taking my dessert to go and falling asleep early in my old bedroom. It was a very low point of my 20th year (yes, I’m really young).


In any case, it is with the most grateful of spirits that I have thrown myself into the holiday season at Photoworks. As much as the twentieth customer in ten minutes asking me to rush their prints makes me want to chuck the computer over the counter, I love it here. I realize that there are many people that have worked at photo labs before, and some people are completely over it, sick of it, whatever, but I’m the happiest I’ve been in two years.

dh was suspicious when he first hired me this summer; he gave me a quiz on film types and I probably scraped a C- at best. He went on the word of our dear clerk J, the cheerful-beyond-belief type, who I’ve been a friend of for some time, and by some miracle I landed a great job.

I showed up on my first day of work with a tiny alphabetized notebook of film types and their different merits, and proceeded to nerd my way to a nice comfortable position at the shop, and I still learn something new most days. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to properly thank dh for taking a chance on me, but hey, maybe I can at least inspire a little holiday cheer with the notion of a very happy employee. Who ever heard of that?


As far as the rest of the staff goes, who can say how they feel (though I could sing my praises for our other brown-haired girl at the counter, who is a genuine lady of ladies). All I know is I’m happy as a clam, and compared to last Christmas, working overtime to fill online orders is no bother for me at all. Not to mention the fun new merchandising I’m working on with the Impossible films (we are a partner store now!) and our hero Kile Brekke who has been refurbishing the Polaroid Land Cameras dh finds here and there- which we are actually selling! It’s so inspiring to see something I’m sure most of us thought was a goner become a Christmas present again.

I hope my positivity isn’t making anyone sick; I can just imagine the majority of our staff reading this and thinking I’m crazy, or an ass-kisser, but I’m just genuinely pleased to finally be happy to go to work.

The Intrepid Photo Clerk. photo by Jim Safka


Happy Holidays,


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Like A Kid In A Camera Store

I grew up in the sixties and seventies in Southern California and my father, an avid photographer used to take me to many camera stores.  He bought me my first Kodak Instamatic when I was nine, and though it is long gone, it has been replaced by an exact replica, as  I now collect cameras.  These old camera stores were cool with all the iconography and signage of the era, the  Kodak displays, and the faint smell of stop bath from the back room.  My dad could spend an hour chatting f-stops and fixer dilution with the guy behind the counter.  Maybe he’d pickup a new wide angle lens, or a yellow filter, or maybe just some lens cleaning tissue.  There are few such places left, but most have gone from darkrooms to self serve kiosks, and from negatives to pixels. The only cameras marketed to kids today are based on lame cartoon characters, though back in the day there were of plenty Barbie cameras too. ( we can argue Barbie v Dora The Explorer later)

Along with the recent resurgence of film has come a new generation of analog camera lovers.  When you combine that with return of “Polaroid” style instant films and Polaroid camera users you get kind of a Father and Son meeting all over again.  At Photoworks, I thought it would be fun to sell a few used cameras.  I started out with some Polaroids, and now have all sorts of used film cameras.  I can’t keep the stuff on the shelves, and the whole vibe of the shop has picked up with the new camera offerings.

Now I’m searching eBay for SX-70 cameras, and old signs to decorate the shop.  Everyday some new camera comes in the mail.  I clean them up, put them on display, and then they are gone.  For the first time in 23 years, I have people asking me for a ” 28mm nikkor” as if I’m an actual camera store.  I say, “let me check in the back for you,” even though there is no “back.”  So, I am clearly enjoying all of this camera business, and something about it has rekindled some nostalgia in me.   Maybe we’ll have to bring back the old darkroom, now that would make my Dad proud.

Come to Papa

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The Sweet Bird Of Youth

This post has little to do with the Tennessee Williams play or the Paul Newman film based on the title.  I just like the phrase, and since I’ve turned fifty I’ve become horribly nostalgic.  I have a new employee at Photoworks.  He is in his early twenties, and I hate him because he has such a bright future.  Just kidding.  I can say he has a bright future because he is so genuinely enthusiastic about his job, and has such an upbeat outlook on life and the pursuit of photography.  When I go to a chain store I get a false “have a nice day” greeting even though it might be 11:00 at night.  “J” as I will refer to him greets every customer with sincerity and when he says, “how is your day going?”  He actually really wants to know.  I’ve had some other staff here in the past that would not bother to make eye contact, and the typical camera store worker is pretty detached and at best a snob.  Why is J smiling all the time, why don’t I smile more?  Shit, I own the joint.  Now the kid is not perfect, half the crap on his ipod is annoying and I’m not even sure I like his photos, oh and he’s running a bit of tab on his own work, but who cares?

I can’t just pigeonhole J’s attitude as youthful exuberance, because there are plenty of mean 23 year old’s walking around town scowling.  I can only say that this “kid” gets it, and that he actually loves film photography so much that he can’t wait to tell every customer about the fine grain of Ektar 100.  So at 50 years old, and after standing in the same spot for 23 years, I am getting some new energy for my job in the form of J’s positive attitude.

Customer service, what a concept.

                                                                                             Just Happy To Be Here

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Classy Class Photos

It was class photo day recently for my son’s kindergarten class.   We sort of dressed him up a bit for the occasion knowing that we probably won’t buy any of the obligatory packages offered by the “photographers.”   Almost all of us still have at least one hilarious class photo from the fourth grade or thereabouts.  We laugh at how funny we look, but in the end we treasure these pictures for the nostalgia and even the historical fashions of the period.

Yours Truly, the handsome devil top right.

I for one, am happy to validate my pre pubescent  memory of Miss Born who was indeed a stone cold fox.   So here is how this works now.  There are no class photos.  Instead, each child is photographed individually and then a composite is made of the class.  Why??  Are the kids so wound up on sugar that they cannot stand still for five minutes?  This is wrong on about a million levels.  Part of the greatness of the class photo is to see the one kid who is looking the wrong way because chances are that kid is still looking the wrong way even today.  The new class photos are contrived, impersonal, and lacking in any photographic aesthetic.  Not to mention that the final product is a crap ass electronic image printed on some flimsy costco paper, totally killing any hope of tactile pleasure.  The company in charge also shoots some additional poses of your kid, ala shopping mall style with a cheezy background.  The photos are sent home in an envelope that says, “look, love, buy.”  Really, I looked and puked.

what have they done to my baby!

If you look closely at the above you will see that the face is out of focus, and the pose is  just bizarre.  That ain’t how my kid smiles.  And sorry, but is that a hand drawn sun in the background?  I know we all think we can do better these days, and people need to make a living, but sorry this will not do.

I’m adding one more image here, my father’s class photo of which I have the actual 16×20 hand made print.  These are young men who were probably hit with a stick if they didn’t sit up straight, but the final product is a work of art, shot on a large format camera, meticulously crafted.  Not exactly realistic for today’s working school photographer, and therein lies the problem.  There are no longer any actual photographers, only button pushers, trained on a computer, not a camera.  Boohoo.

Pops, first row middle.

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I Shoot Film Because It Doesn’t Shoot Back

I was browsing through Flickr and I came across this cool photographer, http://www.rhettredelings.com   In his bio he writes, “I shoot film because it doesn’t shoot back.”   I don’t know if the phrase inspired me or if I’m pleased to see another bald guy with a film camera.  Nonetheless, I wish to expand on Rhetts’ notion.  I will try and avoid quoting from the ” I hate digital handbook.”  I’m a photographer who doesn’t want to know.  I’d rather find out later if what I shoot is worth a damn.  The immediacy of digital is of little interest to me.  It’s like an unwrapped Christmas gift.  Seeing my results right away would influence the process for me, make me adjust my thinking instead of working with instinct and some basic knowledge.  It would almost be like having someone looking over my shoulder with critique or unworthy praise.

Please do not write me and say that I am an old school dork.  I get the obvious merits of digital photography, and the amazing images that are being shot every second around the world speak volumes.  I just prefer to meander about, taking one shot an hour, maybe it takes a week to go through a roll of film.  I’d rather not be confronted with hundreds of sunset photos hoping for one good image.  I usually get at least one winner for every twelve exposures.  I am also a pacifist, and I like the non threatening nature of analog photography.   Ooops, I think I just implied that digital scares me.

How silly is that?

one out of twelve ain't bad

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The World Series of Photo Printing

The World Series is back in San Francisco and suddenly EVERYONE is a Giants fan.  All of my staff is dressed in orange and black.  I think the game starts at 4:30 and I bet everyone will find a way to finish their work for the day and get out of here.  It’s amazing how 8 hours of work can be finished in 4 hours given the proper motivation.  They say this game is good for the local economy, but I’d wager there will be more cell phone cameras then DSLR’s at the game tonight.   Maybe I could setup a photo printing kiosk inside of MoMo’s bar  across from the ballpark.

The ticket prices this year are astronomical, so that only the corporate rich and famous can attend.  If you are a season ticket holder and can resist the temptation to sell your coveted laminate then you will attend the game as well.  In 2002 I was one of those rich guys who overpaid and went to a game.  I brought my Nikon FM2 and 300mm lens and photographed all of the action as The Anaheim Angels spoiled the party.  I sat next to a guy who laughed at me when he heard the sound of my shutter.  He said film was “dead” and that I had better change my business plan in a hurry.  I said that digital was a fad that would soon pass.  Turned out he was a corporate executive for O Photo.  He wore a three piece suit and looked like a colossal schmuck with his Angles hat and commemorative 40 ounce Budweiser plastic cup.  He also said that in 10 years time, people will no longer print photos.  Prophetic indeed.   Well digital photography is more then a fad, but people still print, especially when I offer an online sale!   Hey, I figured out a way to make a buck on the Series.

So stay tuned to Photoworks for the big World Series sale, and tip your cap and raise your glass of Anchor Steam beer to the San Francisco Giants.

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