Sensory Experience of Perception


My studio

My studio and darkroom

Art is Really Important

Gurdon Miller background image on

Enlarger_darkroomSheep Barn on The Ranch-I have never taken a photography course. I am, however, not self-taught. 

John Kasnetsis, a coworker in the city of Los Angeles, heard of my interest in large format photography and recommended The Daybooks of Edward Weston, The Zone VI Workshop, and Ansel Adams’s three books, The Camera, The Negative, and The Print. Following his suggestion I bought those books and studied them. I give copies of The Zone VI Workshop to individuals interested in photography. I keep copies of The Negative and The Print in my darkroom 

We discussed photographs and photography for several years on our daily bus ride from City Hall. John critiqued hundreds of my negatives and prints. He described studying with Frederick Sommers in Prescott, Arizona, and with Fred Archer and Ansel Adams in Hollywood and recounted the origin of the zone system of metering and exposure control in classes taught by Archer and Adams. 

John Richardson, photographer and member of the Arroyo Arts Collective, and I have photographed together for several years. I learn much by observing how John works, and from many  discussions of what is worth taking a picture of.


Tension Between Axes

photo: Roadside tree

Marmion Way off ramp, Arroyo Pkwy.

photo: Boneyard Noyo
Boneyard, Noyo Harbor

Kamol Tassananchalee, other Thai artists, and I, standing in front of some of my paintings. Chiang Mai University, 2006.

hubble deepDigital image of a portion of the universe 14 billion light years from Earth

I use photographs as artworks, snapshots, to document places or events, and to illustrate objects or ideas. 

I use digital images for many purposes. I am ambivalent about using them to make artwork and have not yet done so.



                       Circular Forms 

Circular forms are everywhere - stray cells floating in the aqueous humor, images occurring along the nerve path from the cornea to the brain, port holes, plates and bowls, wheels, large disks of silver and gold at Meso-American worship sites, tic-tac-toe, the Tropic of Capricorn and all the other lines of latiude and longitude, petroglyphs, the sun, planets, moons, the hole in the roof of the Pantheon, Venus in the night sky, orbits, large formations billions of light years on the other side of the the universe, Zen circles, rice crackers, black holes.

Headlands Coffee House, Fort Bragg

There are a number of circular forms in my paintings on the wall of the Headlands Coffee House in Fort Bragg, California

This circular form represents an Einstein ring several billion light years beyond our  galaxy. It was captured at wavelengths beyond the visible portion of the spectrum and digitally transformed into an image we can see. I have used this arbitrary image as the starting point for several paintings.

Humans cannot see the object represented by the image. Paintings encouraged by it cannot be said to meaningfully resemble it. 

The three photographs below have a rectilinear compositional format reminiscent of Richard Diebekorn's  landscape-inspired Ocean Park paintings.

Sheep Barn on The Ranch

The photograph to the left is of the interior of the sheep barn on The Ranch,  a commune north of San Francisco, where friends of mine have lived and where my high school girlfriend raised her children and operated a day care program.

The photograph has a rich textured surface revealing the character of the wood, ground, and the sheared wool faintly visible in the background. The jumble of ordinary objects precludes a sentimental or picturesque reading of the image.

18th Century House

I made this photograph in the Little Tokyo district of downtown Los Angeles. I liked the juxtaposition of the graffiti - SHOW YA, which was sprayed on freehand, and 50 BUCKS, which was stenciled. The building was on a parking lot behind the last location of the Atomic Cafe, frequented by LA artists, poets, and writers.

When the proprietors of the Atomic Cafe retired, Bibi Hansen and Sean Carrillo rented the building and operated  Cafe Troy there for a few years.  They hosted an exhibition of my photographs. 

 The SHOWYA 50 BUCKS building was demolished for parking. Troy was replaced by a Señor Fish restaurant.

I was driving along a back road in central Ohio and I saw a partly dismantled 18th Century building. The owner said I could photograph the interior. Uneven lighting and extreme contrast make this 16''x20'' enlargement from a 4''x5''negative difficult to print.


Limmat where it flows into the Zürichsee 

This digital snapshot is pleasing to look at.  It may be  a fine art print


I began taking photographs with a roll film camera when I was in grammar school. At some point I switched to 35 mm cameras. I have since the 1970's used Leica range finder and SLR cameras.

About 30 years ago I became interested in large format photography, primarily for the  ability afforded the photographer to manipulate the film plane and lens board and thereby control of depth of field and parallax. I became captivated by the aesthetic control made possible by camera movements and darkroom procedures, and the potential they afforded for artistic expression.

 I began a still on-going study the mechanics and history of large format photography.

 [link to books page]  

I initially developed and printed photographs in the bathroom. I subsequently moved my equipment into a darkroom which I shared with two other photographers. As soon as I bought my studio building on the Mendocino coast I set up my darkroom there and intend to keep it there for as long as I continue to work.

Around 1993, I bought a copy of California and the West, the account written by Charis Wilson of the two-year Guggenheim-sponsored photographic project she undertook with Edward Weston in 1937 and 1938. I have bought and passed along copies to friends.

I examined the one thousand prints the Huntington Library bought from Weston. When I read the Huntington’s copy of Charis Wilson’s typescript of California and the West, I learned that David Brower was one of the climbers that Wilson mentioned as having been on their excursion to Lake Ediza with Adams and his assistant, Ron Partridge.

I interviewed David Brower and Ron Partridge in their residences in Berkeley about the trip.


My first large format camera was a Cambo 4x5 monorail. I then bought a Deardorf 4x5 field camera. 

I subsequently acquired a Canham 7x17 panoramic format camera, a Deardorff 11x14 and a Deardorff 8x20. 

Large format cameras are essentially 19th century machines. You can work on them with hand tools and a basic knowledge of woodworking. 

I acquired an early Deardorff 8x10, which lacked front tilt and shift movements. With parts and much help and advice from Ken Hough, a Deardorff factory-trained technician and photographer, I disassembled and refinished the 8x10 and installed the necessary parts to bring it up modern specifications. Rebuilding that camera gave me the knowledge and skills to repair other cameras needing refurbishing or repair. 

While carrying the 7x17 in the woods, I slipped on a wet rock and landed on top of the camera, breaking the wooden frame. With simple tools and modest woodworking competence I was able to repair it with a few hours work.



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updated: 18 May 2018 (m)
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