Postcards from the Road

•January 24, 2013 • 1 Comment

I haven’t been around much at this site in quite a while, mostly because I’ve been working my ass off on historical projects lately, but I’ll have some new photographic material to post here soon. In the meantime, here are a couple of intriguing images from my travels following in General William Tecumseh Sherman’s footsteps across South Carolina over the past year.

Not at Home, near Moore's Crossroads, SC

“Not at Home,” abandoned farmstead near Moore’s Crossroads, SC

City on the Edge of Forever, Ridgeway, SC

“City on the Edge of Forever,” Ridgeway, SC

Stay tuned….

Frankie’s Forever Home

•August 30, 2011 • 2 Comments

So, remember that big announcement I mentioned a few days ago? Well, it’s time to make it. My wife, Teresa, and I have spent the past few days in Boone, NC, where we have decided to relocate in mid-September. We are making Boone the forever home of our decrepit but lovely, 17-year-old cat Frankie, and we are hoping that things will work out so that it can be our forever home, too. We love it here. There’s such a great vibe of ease and genuine kindness from nearly everyone we meet, and we find that nearly all of the things we miss from Columbia, the few things we could not find in Columbia, and everything we wanted but could never find in Northern Virginia are all concentrated in this little town in the mountains of North Carolina.

To start off our new life here, we signed a lease yesterday on an apartment in this beautiful, semi-detached house, which is located deep in the woods above a beautiful rushing creek yet just five minutes from downtown Boone.

I will be transporting my historical consulting business to Boone and continuing to do historical work throughout the Southeast for the foreseeable future. Photography solutions are in the works; the full darkroom in Fairfax (at my father’s house) will still be accessible to me, and travel will take me through there on a regular basis, but I’ll also be looking for an arrangement closer to our new home–perhaps a shared darkroom space downtown. But that’s still several months out, at best.

Once we are settled, though, I look forward to sharing much more photography with all of you. And those long-term projects I’ve mentioned in the past are still on track for late this year and early next year. Stay tuned.

Working on the Chain Gang

•August 24, 2011 • 1 Comment

I’ve been a bad little puppy about showing up here and filling folks in on what’s been happening lately, mostly because there is never time for anything these days, it seems. But…as I’ve been saying all year…big things are in the works. Stay tuned for an announcement in early September about forthcoming plans.

In the meantime, if you are a NOVA resident, I strongly encourage you to make it down to the Workhouse Arts Center for its annual BLOCK PARTY on September 3. During the afternoon (2 to 7pm), Teresa and I will be there selling various prints of mine from the past few years, including many of the images from the But One Man Alone… series, the few remaining images from the Eleusis series, and a handful of other works that may intrigue you. If you’ve never seen these images, you can get a sampling over there ========>. All work will be priced to sell, as we are not particularly keen on moving all of it again. (And yes, that should give you a hint about the big upcoming September announcement.) Work by other Workhouse artists will be available for sale as well, and 30% of all proceeds go directly into supporting education programs at the Workhouse.

Also that afternoon, from 5 to 7pm, is the “Friends and Family Exhibition Reception,” which features art pairings from Workhouse artists and a friend or family member of their choosing. Teresa and I entered these pieces, which were both shot on the same Agfa Click I camera. The Agfa Click I was a cheap Bakelite camera manufactured between 1958 and 1970 that takes 6×6 120 film, and this was our first time shooting with this particular camera. It’s fun, and one of Griffin’s favorites, too.

Anyway, we are delighted to make our images available for purchase, with a portion of the proceeds going to support programs at the Workhouse:


Eric Plaag, This Land Is Your Land (Seven Mile Bridge, Pigeon Key, FL), 2011


Teresa Plaag, This Land Is My Land (Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, OK), 2011

The Workhouse is a great place to visit, so make sure you wander on down for some fun in the prison yard!

Is that your answer, Old Man? I guess you’re a hard case, too.

•May 5, 2011 • Leave a Comment


(Image courtesy of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources)

Now, you may have heard the rumors, but I’m here to report that what they say is true.

I am indeed going to jail. The Workhouse, actually.

But before you freak out, I think you should sit down for a spell first and hear what I have to say.

It might be more interesting if I said this little stint in the big house had something to do with knocking the heads off parking meters, but actually, it’s all about making new art. This past month, I went through the jury process to become an Associate Artist at the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton, VA. Once the site of Virginia’s infamous Lorton Reformatory (which housed DC’s criminals–go figure), the Workhouse and the rest of the prison closed in the late 1990s. In 2004, the Lorton Arts Foundation secured permission from Fairfax County to begin transforming the property into a cultural arts center, which had its grand opening in 2008.

As an Associate Artist, I am not presently maintaining studio space on site, but I am exhibiting work on a monthly basis. This month I’m featuring two pieces from my August 2010 joint show with Marshall Hodge and Tricia Hatfield, an exhibition better known as The Illusion of Truth: Three Photographers on Implicit Memory. This month’s featured pieces include Eros #8: Ballad of the Sad Cafe and Aletheia #6: Consider the Alternative.

Eros #8: Ballad of the Sad Cafe

Aletheia #6: Consider the Alternative

Both pieces will be on exhibition through June 2 and are available for sale at $300 each.

So, if I’m not keeping a studio (and therefore a darkroom) at the Workhouse, then how will I be making new work?

Relax, I’m not going digital.

Beginning this month, I’m in the process of a massive overhaul of a storage space in the basement. By the end of June, I should have a full at-home darkroom up and running, with new work to follow in the late summer months. There are several hundred rolls of shot but undeveloped film awaiting my attention, and I’m looking forward to all that comes next. Also on the way are two other projects using found negatives and diary entries. I have previously blogged about the first, Other People’s Lives, on this site (scroll down for details), and it now appears that this project will take much of the next year and a half to complete in the manner that I think is most appropriate for exhibition. The other project, tentatively titled EC Penty and the Playboy of Essex, conflates the experiences of two vastly different groups of people into one visual narrative. I will say no more about it for now, other than that I can’t wait to exhibit it, hopefully near the end of this year or early in 2012.

Stay tuned. In the meantime, I don’t care if it rains or freezes….

Introducing “TheSplitScreen”

•May 5, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I am proud to announce (somewhat belatedly, I admit) the recent launch of a new film criticism blog site in partnership with my good friend Matt Smith. TheSplitScreen features new reviews, film criticism, and commentary, as well as occasional discussion of broader issues in media studies. Typically, each of us will post two or three articles each week, so there’s plenty to read about! Check it out and let us know what you think.

As a result of this development, movie reviews will no longer appear here in full, although I may occasionally post links here regarding new content at TheSplitScreen.

An Ethical Dilemma: When Enjoying the Really Funny and Quirky Might Also Mean Being an Accessory After the Fact

•March 22, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Recently, a Facebook “friend” posted a link to an assemblage of 50 photographs that defy explanation, which I in turn shared on my own Facebook newsfeed. After I emailed the site to my wife, she asked where the images came from–a question that, I confess, I had only briefly considered but did not research before enthusiastically passing them along.

Tracking down their most recent layer of origin, it turns out, was easy enough, and in the process, I thought I’d found my favorite new blog site of the moment. Black and WTF appears to be the brainchild of Matt Stopera, a 23-year-old New Yorker who solicits (or hunts down) weird and wacky black-and-white images from other web users. The images are fascinating and funny, and Stopera is good about citing a link with most of the images.

The only downside to this practice is that we often still don’t know–as my wife asked–where the images originally came from. The image shown above, for example, was copied from Stopera’s site, and he credits it (with a link) to “mlkshk,” a website that appears to do some image borrowing of its own, since they credit the image (with a link) to “Thrillist,” another website that appears to gank images from elsewhere and share them (this time without any credit to another image source).

Stopera isn’t to blame, of course, for the zany and labyrinthine nature of hyperlinks on blog sites, but his blog raises a question about the duty that we bloggers owe to the sources of our “borrowed” material. Is it enough to just say where we found it, or do we owe the original owner of the image something more than just giving credit to the (possible) thief who took it from him/her and posted it without permission?

I’d be interested in hearing the thoughts of my photo colleagues and other interested friends and lurkers….

Finding the Right Photo Book Company

•March 4, 2011 • Leave a Comment

As some of my close photographer friends know, I experimented a few years ago (late 2007) with publishing a collection of my photography, Ineffable Light, using Blurb’s photo editing and design software. While the results weren’t disastrous, they weren’t very satisfying, either. As a photographer who works exclusively in black and white capture and darkroom output, it was already a little frustrating to see grain turned into pixels. But what I wasn’t prepared for–after more than 100 hours spent on adjustments to my color profile (for black and white!), my gamma setting, and various other monitor and software concerns–was that I ended up with a book filled with images that were substantially darker than their originals, often digitally banded, and scarred by a very faint magenta hue. In spite of hundreds of dollars invested in the project, I put it on hold indefinitely, until I could find a digital publisher I and those interested in my work could be satisfied with AND afford.

Now that the insanity of the past year is finally settling down, I’m revisiting Ineffable Light and reconsidering the publisher question. Blurb has gone through several major updates, and countless reviews of late seem to reassure me that many of the problems I encountered three years ago have now been solved. In doing my research, however, I stumbled upon an outstanding, side-by-side review of POD publishers that fellow photographers might find helpful. The review dates to April 2010 but has been updated as of February 2011.

(The cover from the original, unpublished version of Ineffable Light)

So where does that leave me now? I was relieved to read that many of Blurb’s old problems didn’t surface for this guy, which echoed much of what I’ve read lately in other forums. I was also happy to learn that there’s a reliable, high-quality alternative in Inkubook, but I have to say that the pricing scheme would make my 110+ page book ridiculously expensive. So, Blurb, you’re going to get another shot from me.

Don’t screw it up this time.

For those who are keeping track, the revised version of Ineffable Light, which I hope to finish and FINALLY publish by summer, will include all images from the following series: “Eleusis,” “But One Man Alone…,” “Echoes of Narcissus,” “Eros” and “Aletheia,” and “Into the Dark.” Stay tuned….

 
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