When I came to Boston it was a black and white town, with a tint of brick. Usually dirty brick. Also it was a time of desegregation orders in the neighborhoods, busing, and tragically unfortunate violence. And more, a sometimes overwhelmingly gray place of cheap rents where months of exhaust–dirtied snow and the seemingly perpetual dark skies of a northeast coastal breeze dampened its traditions and a historic progressivism. What spring? But there was rock, and jazz. And pot–smoking youth. Mel King's rainbow campaign for mayor and the freshly redeveloped Quincy Market in the shadow of an old elevated central artery showed early stirrings of the new Boston.
In photography it was a B&W town and documentary de rigueur. New York had its New Color at MoMA. But color remained suspect, not abstract enough, not distanced, perhaps too emotional, although down at a school in Providence even Harry Callahan almost secretly pursued the potential of color in his art photography. That is, if photography could even yet be considered art. And Paul Simon had his Kodachrome and a Nikon camera. So did I. Not necessarily for a new color. Slide shows, my venues were Multimedia'74 on a 24 foot screen at the Church of the Covenant on the Public Garden, and a performance center in Concord when Jerry Ford was met by what was called the Peoples Bicentennial Commission. And of course I was a prolific shooter, the precise exposure critical to testing the limits of that light where the Kodachrome magic would happen. Some Victorians had actually complained that the gaudy color combinations in the Public Gardens were beyond good taste.
Kodachrome, invented in 1935 was the first popular color film. It brought color to the pages of Life Magazine. Recently we see Jack Delano's home front photography in Brockton Massachusetts for the Office of War Administration in 1940. For seventy–five years, it had a beautifully subtle palette with extremely fine grain. Fortunately a by–product of that original and complicated chemical processing, the film had to be returned to Kodak after exposure, was that the film uniquely had an excellent color permanence. That quality is essential to what I'm doing today. The now vintage prints I made at the time on Ilford Cibachrome, kind of a slide film applied to paper, have held up well. But the inherent contrast of film and paper often made the printing only marginally possible with too much of the film's subtlety compromised. The color depth and archival quality of the latest pigment ink printers are far superior. With scans able to record to the limit of the actual film grain, a computer provides the capacity for print control frankly beyond the imagination of that former analog darkroom. It's also good to come out of what was an unhealthy chemical darkness. Paper choices are also abundant. I have chosen a paper for its 400 year permanence and verisimilitude to the surface once most preferred by art photographers. Expressive neutrals, richly warm pastels, truth in earth tones, bright reds, varietal greens, shaping blues contribute to become these colors of memory.