Perhaps the most meaningful personal shoot of the year comes every December. We sit down and talk about what the year meant and how to capture that in a photograph. How to express where we were at that time. I shoot the annual Ann Street Studio holiday card photograph in the same format each year, on a 4×5 film camera with black and white Ilford film.
This year’s image crossed continents twice from start to finish. It begins in France, taken in the afternoon light of Provence with flowers I bought at my little town’s Saturday farmer’s market. After I framed the flowers just so, I used two magazines to manipulate and block the natural light of part of the background and on some of the arrangement while the shutter stayed opened for 30seconds. I shot somewhere around 15 plates with variations on lighting and exposures then packed them up and brought the sheets of film back to New York with me to be hand processed at LTI.
As always, I took the processed film and contact sheets to my favorite darkroom lab in Boston which I pilgrimage to every winter and spent two days hand printing the set of 200 on Ilford warm tone fiber base paper.
I brought the final 200 back to France with me and spent days by the window light addressing each one, some with added personal notes, to be mailed out all over the world. It is a long process but one that brings me great joy in a digital age. To give someone a physical object you made with your heart, soul and abilities is like having a small piece of me in your home. The sense of pride I feel when people send me photos of the image framed in their home makes me feel grateful that I am a photographer. However, for the most part I don’t know what people do with them. I like to imagine someone using one as a bookmark to later discover again years from now. I like to fantasize a child or grandchild will come across one decades from now in an old box and feel a connection to me or at least to who I once was. They don’t have to know me personally but I hope they know my work.