I spent the first half of last Sunday down at Newspace, having a ball, learning a lot, and getting another whomp upside the head.

For those of you who don’t know, Newspace is a non-profit photography center over on the southeast side of glassland, not too far from OMSI. They’re dedicated to promoting photographic art, and they offer classes, portfolio reviews and (best of all) some really cool studio, darkroom and gallery space.

I was there on Sunday to take a “digital cookbook” class. One of the problems with digital photography is that most people print the resulting photos with inkjet printers which, while offering pretty good quality, don’t really provide the depth and richness of old-fashioned darkroom prints. This class is about ways to hack printers, PhotoShop, and papers to get back to that quality level.

Many interesting discussions about varying workflow (the path the image takes from camera to computer to printer) and trying different papers for your prints.

Most fascinating (for me) so far is the focus on tweaking input/output technology. I’m finding a whole new world of hacked printer drivers, post-print processing and printer ink replacements. You can replace your printer’s color cartridges with grey inks for B&W photos, for example, or replace one or two colors in your cartridge set to produce, say, better flesh tones.

Many of the guys in this class use film cameras instead of digital. They then develop the film themselves using ages-old developer formulas, and scan the negatives into Photoshop. They say this extends the tonal gamuts and provides much richer information. For me, it seems a bit like turning penicillin back into bread mold, but hey–what do I know?

Yet while it’s not like I need yet another obssessive hobby, I am getting the urge to buy a couple of syringes and some pigment dyes…

The challenging part of the class was parading my “portfolio” in front of the instructor and fellow students, all professional photographers or artists. Lacking the others’ fancy black portfolios with the protective sleeves, or a lot of stories about my photographic vision, I simply laid my pics on the gallery table and explained the processes I go through, i.e., I take the photos, tweak them, print them out, and use them as the basis for sculpture.

Dead silence. Everybody’s looking at my photos, the walls, each other…anybody but me.

So I’m feeling like the beauty contestant my mom told me about, the one who ironed a shirt onstage as her “talent.” Just as I’m about to slink away, redfaced, with my poor little snaps, the instructor holds up a hand.

“I guess what I don’t get is why you’re making glass sculptures out of these. They can stand on their own; why don’t you just let them be art?” Nods all ’round, and we discuss this interesting notion. Their suggestions tumble in: Soften this highlight, print on that paper, use a real photo printer…

First ceramics, now photography. I get the feeling that, as far as glass sculpture is concerned, the world is trying to find me a new home…  sigh