Dave (Ludwigs) left the studio on Troost for a shoot, and I was working in the darkroom when Cherie told me an art director had called needing a COB shot of a wheelchair – immediately. She called to have a chair delivered from Abbey Rents while I set up the white seamless and rolled Dave’s 50-pound hand-welded plumbing-pipe-and-tracing-paper soft box over, fired up the Balcars, slapped a Polaroid back on the RB67 with a 50mm lens, plugged in the sync cord and shot an exposure test.
3 minutes after the chair arrived the first (and only) exposure of the chair on 665 was clearing in sodium sulfite, followed by a quick rinse and blast from the low setting on a hair dryer. Smacked into the Beseler 45 MCRX a little damp I printed onto 8×10 RC paper with some cards positioned on the paper to mask out the studio. Followed by a little bleaching around the edges of the wet print with q-tips to ensure a clean cut out, I ran the hair dryer again and we messengered the finished print to the agency – an hour after the call.
I always liked the shot and intended to make a proper silver print someday – but the coated pos part of the Polaroid from 1974 is the only copy that remains.
A lot has changed since then – gone or scarce – Abbey Rents, Polaroid, Balcar, Mamiya, most chemical darkrooms, and unfortunately my incredibly significant mentor, employer and full-fledged-university in commercial/advertising photography David Ludwigs – may God rest his soul. Although it may be lost on new photographers, this story is about CREDIBILITY.
It’s about the part of photography that didn’t change when cameras went digital. It’s about problem solving and creativity and meeting deadlines and making a unique image of a mundane subject and about calling all that up on command – no excuses – which is what being a PROFESSIONAL is all about. “Professional Photographer” – a term that today gets you little respect and even less remuneration because “…everyone is a photographer”. Well you know what – they’re not.
David Hurn said “… you are not a photographer because you are interested in photography.” I say “You are not a photographer just because you take pictures.”
I wanted to share the story about this image because, in addition to the multi-thousand-dollar film shoots and big-production projects I’ve been responsible for in my life, this seemingly insignificant chicken-salad-out-of-chicken-shit still photo that I shot in 1974 tapped my skills, built my toolbox and contributed just as much to my life as a photographer and an artist.
© 2014 Mark Berndt | All Rights Reserved